Health briefs

  • Updated: March 22, 2014 - 8:55 PM
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File - This Thursday, Nov. 24, 2005 file photo shows organic cocoa beans in storage at a factory in Ocumare de la Costa, 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Caracas, Venezuela. A large-scale study is being launched in 2014 to see if pills containing the nutrients in dark chocolate can help prevent heart attacks and strokes. It is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Mars Inc., maker of M&M’s and Snickers bars. The candy company has patented a way to extract flavanols from cocoa in high concentration and put them in capsules. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

testing chocolate for heart health

It won’t be nearly as much fun as eating candy bars, but a big study is being launched to see if pills containing the nutrients in dark chocolate can help prevent heart attacks and strokes. The pills are so packed with nutrients that you’d have to eat a gazillion candy bars to get the amount being tested in this study, which will enroll 18,000 men and women nationwide. The idea is to see whether there are health benefits from chocolate’s ingredients minus the sugar and fat, said Dr. JoAnn Manson, preventive medicine chief at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. It will be the first large test of cocoa flavonols, which in previous smaller studies improved blood pressure, cholesterol, artery health and other heart-related factors. The study will be sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the candy company Mars Inc.

E-Cigarettes may be gateway device

E-cigarettes facing scrutiny by U.S. regulators received a new slap on the wrist from scientists: A report suggests the devices may be a gateway to old-fashioned, cancer-causing smokes for teens. Youths who reported ever using an e-cigarette had six times the odds of smoking a traditional cigarette than those who never tried the device, said a study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. E-cigarette use didn’t stop young smokers from partaking in regular cigarettes, as well. The global market for e-cigarettes may top $5 billion this year, said Euromonitor International estimates. “E-cigarettes are likely to be gateway devices for nicotine addiction among youth, opening up a whole new market for tobacco,” said Lauren Dutra, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at San Francisco.

new doubts about fat and heart risk

An exhaustive analysis by a team of international scientists found no evidence that eating saturated fat increased heart attacks and other cardiac events. For decades, health officials have urged the public to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats in nuts, fish, seeds and vegetable oils. But the research in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine did not find that people who ate higher levels of saturated fat had more heart disease than those who ate less. Nor did it find less disease in those eating higher amounts of unsaturated fat. Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said the findings should not be taken as “a green light” to eat more steak, butter and other foods rich in saturated fat. He said that looking at individual fats and other nutrient groups in isolation could be misleading, because when people cut down on fats they tend to eat more bread, cold cereal and other refined carbohydrates that can also be bad for cardiovascular health. But he said, “The single macronutrient approach is outdated. I think future dietary guidelines will put more and more emphasis on real food” and less on limits on ingredients.

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  • From left: a filtered tobacco cigarette, an NJOY brand e-cigarette, a blu brand e-cigarette and a LuxuryLites brand e-hookah, in New York, March 4, 2014. Products virtually identical to e-cigarettes are known by names like e-hookahs or vaping pens, thwarting efforts by health officials to track their use, especially among young people.(Tony Cenicola/The New York Times)

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