The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for infants to be kept in their parents’ bedroom at night for six months to a year to reduce the risk of sleep-related death. The new recommendations say babies should sleep on a separate surface, in a crib or bassinet, and never on something soft. The group says it updated its safe-sleep guidance because of studies suggesting that room-sharing reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by as much as 50 percent.
Women drink nearly as much as men
More men than women use and abuse alcohol, but the gender gap is narrowing. Researchers extracted data from 68 studies of alcohol consumption published worldwide from 1948 to 2014. They divided alcohol use into three broad categories: any alcohol use, problematic alcohol use, and alcohol-related harms. The study, in BMJ Open, found that in all three categories, the difference between men and women is greater in older cohorts. Men born between 1911 and 1915 were 2.4 times as likely to use alcohol as women, 2.7 times as likely to abuse it, and 3.6 times as likely to suffer alcohol-related health problems. By contrast, in the youngest group, born between 1991 and 2000, men were 1.1 times as likely as women to use, 1.2 times as likely to abuse, and 1.3 times as likely to suffer from alcohol’s ill effects.
Placebos ease back pain, even if you know
A placebo can be highly effective for pain — even when the patient knows it is a placebo, a study found. Portuguese researchers recruited 83 people with chronic back pain. They explained to them that a placebo was an inactive substance, like a sugar pill, that contained no medication. Then they randomly assigned the patients to either treatment as usual (in almost all cases, this was pain medication), or treatment plus the placebo. The group that got their regular treatment had an average 9 percent reduction in usual pain and a 16 percent reduction in maximum pain. But the placebo group averaged a 30 percent reduction in both usual and maximum pain.
Hepatitis C-infected kidneys may cut wait
A bold experiment is giving some patients a chance at cutting years off their wait for a kidney transplant if they agree to a drastic-sounding option — getting an organ almost sure to infect them with hepatitis C. Betting on new medications that promise to cure hepatitis C, two leading transplant centers aim to use organs that today go to waste, a bid to put a dent in the nation’s long transplant waiting list. Pilot studies are underway to test transplanting kidneys from deceased donors with hepatitis C into recipients who don’t have that virus. If the research pans out, hundreds more kidneys — and maybe hearts and lungs, too — could be transplanted every year.