Is “Non-Toxic” Nail Polish Really Non-Toxic? Maybe Not, Study Shows

Nail polishes have been linked to birth defects, thyroid problems, obesity, cancer, and allergic reactions. That’s why many people specifically shop for polishes labeled “non-toxic.” But as past research shows, even nail polishes marketed as non-toxic may contain chemicals that are harmful to your health. [1]

Study co-author Anna Young, a doctoral student at Harvard University, said: [2]

“It’s sort of like playing a game of chemical Whac-A-Mole, where 1 toxic chemical is removed and you end up chasing down the next potentially harmful chemical substituted in.”

It’s not just the nail polish industry that does this; it’s also commonplace in the pesticide and plastics industry.

Supposedly non-toxic nail polishes appeared on the market in the early 2000’s, when many companies began labeling products “3-free.” The phrase signifies that the product is free of:

  • Dibutyl phthalate, a plasticizer used to enhance a polish’s texture and function. It has been linked to reproductive and developmental problems.
  • Toluene, a known nervous system disruptor.
  • Formaldehyde, a carcinogen.

Some nail polish companies took things several steps further by removing even more chemicals, labeling their products “5-free,” “10-free,” and even “13-free.” This, however, does little to educate buyers about which chemicals have been removed and which chemicals have replaced them. That is what Young and her colleagues set out to find.

40 Nail Polishes Tested

For the study, the team purchased and tested the contents of 40 nail polishes from 12 different brands, labeled 3-free all the way up to 13-free.

The study didn’t name the brands, but 2 of the tested brands made up a combined 15% of the nail polish market.

Young said:

“We found that the meaning of these claims isn’t standardized across brands, and there’s no clear information on whether these nail polishes are actually less toxic. Sometimes, when 1 known harmful chemical was removed, the polish instead contained another similar chemical that may be just as toxic.”

Most of the 5-free polishes lacked the same handful of ingredients; however, Young and her team found far less consistency among polishes labeled 10-free and above. The brands varied in how they adhered to the claims on their labels.

None of the samples were found to contain dibutyl phthalate. But polishes with a range of labels tested positive for at least 1 of 2 other plasticizers linked with health problems. One polish was found to contain one of the chemicals its label claimed to exclude.

(Click for larger version.) Figure 1. Product label definitions for investigated nail polish product lines. Note: The blue color represents the ingredients that are removed from the product line, according to the label. Potential plasticizer ingredients are underlined. Nonplasticizer ingredients are not underlined. No. of nail polish brands refers to the number of brands that had a nail polish product line with that particular product label. *These two ingredients were reported to count as one exclusion. **Fragrances can contain plasticizer chemicals.

Just because a nail polish claims to exclude multiple substances, that doesn’t mean it’s safer than one that makes no such claims.

The findings applied to some of the most popular nail polish brands in the industry. Though the samples weren’t representative of the entire nail polish market, Young said the findings are relevant to anyone who likes to add a colorful hue to their nails.

Amusingly, some of the nail polishes the Harvard researchers analyzed excluded ingredients that pose no health risks at all, such as gluten, wheat, fat, and “animal-derived ingredients.” You only have to worry about those if you plan on drinking your nail polish. [1]

(Click for larger version.) Figure 2. Side-by-side comparison of concentrations (?g/g) of TPHP (top) vs DEHP (bottom) for 40 nail polish samples.

It’s not clear how much exposure it takes to affect a person’s health, but nail salon employees, in particular, should be concerned about the potential health risks of their job. [2]

Young said:

“This is especially important for the over 400,000 nail salon workers in the U.S. who could be exposed on a daily basis, for many years, to chemicals that have been linked to health effects on fertility, the reproductive system, fetal development, thyroid function, and possibly even obesity or cancer.”

Young and her fellow authors said that nail polish makers should focus more on excluding entire classes of ingredients – including phthalates and organophosphates – rather than individual compounds. [1]

They wrote:

“Then, certified labels could be useful tools for educating nail polish users, nail salon owners, and nail salon workers about toxic chemicals and how to make best purchasing decisions.”

The study was published in 2018 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology – so hopefully things have changed since then. Either way, be reminded that product labels and claims aren’t always so truthful or accurate.

Sources:

[1] Health

[2] Time

Is “Non-Toxic” Nail Polish Really Non-Toxic? Maybe Not, Study Shows

Nail polishes have been linked to birth defects, thyroid problems, obesity, cancer, and allergic reactions. That’s why many people specifically shop for polishes labeled “non-toxic.” But as past research shows, even nail polishes marketed as non-toxic may contain chemicals that are harmful to your health. [1]

Study co-author Anna Young, a doctoral student at Harvard University, said: [2]

“It’s sort of like playing a game of chemical Whac-A-Mole, where 1 toxic chemical is removed and you end up chasing down the next potentially harmful chemical substituted in.”

It’s not just the nail polish industry that does this; it’s also commonplace in the pesticide and plastics industry.

Supposedly non-toxic nail polishes appeared on the market in the early 2000’s, when many companies began labeling products “3-free.” The phrase signifies that the product is free of:

  • Dibutyl phthalate, a plasticizer used to enhance a polish’s texture and function. It has been linked to reproductive and developmental problems.
  • Toluene, a known nervous system disruptor.
  • Formaldehyde, a carcinogen.

Some nail polish companies took things several steps further by removing even more chemicals, labeling their products “5-free,” “10-free,” and even “13-free.” This, however, does little to educate buyers about which chemicals have been removed and which chemicals have replaced them. That is what Young and her colleagues set out to find.

40 Nail Polishes Tested

For the study, the team purchased and tested the contents of 40 nail polishes from 12 different brands, labeled 3-free all the way up to 13-free.

The study didn’t name the brands, but 2 of the tested brands made up a combined 15% of the nail polish market.

Young said:

“We found that the meaning of these claims isn’t standardized across brands, and there’s no clear information on whether these nail polishes are actually less toxic. Sometimes, when 1 known harmful chemical was removed, the polish instead contained another similar chemical that may be just as toxic.”

Most of the 5-free polishes lacked the same handful of ingredients; however, Young and her team found far less consistency among polishes labeled 10-free and above. The brands varied in how they adhered to the claims on their labels.

None of the samples were found to contain dibutyl phthalate. But polishes with a range of labels tested positive for at least 1 of 2 other plasticizers linked with health problems. One polish was found to contain one of the chemicals its label claimed to exclude.

(Click for larger version.) Figure 1. Product label definitions for investigated nail polish product lines. Note: The blue color represents the ingredients that are removed from the product line, according to the label. Potential plasticizer ingredients are underlined. Nonplasticizer ingredients are not underlined. No. of nail polish brands refers to the number of brands that had a nail polish product line with that particular product label. *These two ingredients were reported to count as one exclusion. **Fragrances can contain plasticizer chemicals.

Just because a nail polish claims to exclude multiple substances, that doesn’t mean it’s safer than one that makes no such claims.

The findings applied to some of the most popular nail polish brands in the industry. Though the samples weren’t representative of the entire nail polish market, Young said the findings are relevant to anyone who likes to add a colorful hue to their nails.

Amusingly, some of the nail polishes the Harvard researchers analyzed excluded ingredients that pose no health risks at all, such as gluten, wheat, fat, and “animal-derived ingredients.” You only have to worry about those if you plan on drinking your nail polish. [1]

(Click for larger version.) Figure 2. Side-by-side comparison of concentrations (?g/g) of TPHP (top) vs DEHP (bottom) for 40 nail polish samples.

It’s not clear how much exposure it takes to affect a person’s health, but nail salon employees, in particular, should be concerned about the potential health risks of their job. [2]

Young said:

“This is especially important for the over 400,000 nail salon workers in the U.S. who could be exposed on a daily basis, for many years, to chemicals that have been linked to health effects on fertility, the reproductive system, fetal development, thyroid function, and possibly even obesity or cancer.”

Young and her fellow authors said that nail polish makers should focus more on excluding entire classes of ingredients – including phthalates and organophosphates – rather than individual compounds. [1]

They wrote:

“Then, certified labels could be useful tools for educating nail polish users, nail salon owners, and nail salon workers about toxic chemicals and how to make best purchasing decisions.”

The study was published in 2018 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology – so hopefully things have changed since then. Either way, be reminded that product labels and claims aren’t always so truthful or accurate.

Sources:

[1] Health

[2] Time

Acetaminophen may Increase Stroke Risk in People with Diabetes

Many people reach for a couple of acetaminophen tablets (acetaminophen is the main active ingredient in Tylenol) for a headache and other minor aches and pains. It’s easy to think that you’re safe taking a drug that is so readily available in pharmacies and supermarkets, but for people with diabetes, taking acetaminophen may increase the risk of having a stroke.

According to a recent study, approximately 5% of people who took acetaminophen suffered strokes, compared to 4% who didn’t take acetaminophen but had strokes. However, people in the study who had diabetes suffered even more strokes.

Study author Philippe Gerard, a researcher at Gérontopôle, Centre Hospitalo-Universitaire de Toulouse, said:

“My personal message to the people in my everyday practice is that any drug they take may have some form of harmful side effect unknown to them, even those they can buy over the counter.”

Researchers conducted the study to explore the link between acetaminophen and cardiac events in older people living in nursing homes in France. In the end, no connection was uncovered.

Overall, the researchers found that acetaminophen is a safe pain reliever for older adults, but people with diabetes should be more wary of taking the medicines containing the drug.

The study concluded with:

“Despite old age, polypharmacy, and polymorbidity, acetaminophen was found safe for most, but not all, of our NH study population. Pain management in NHs is a health priority, and acetaminophen remains a good therapeutic choice as a first?line analgesic. More studies are needed on older diabetic patients.”

It should also be noted that it is remarkably easy to overdose on acetaminophen, and the drug is associated with kidney damage and acute liver failure.

Read: Over-the-Counter Painkillers can Increase Risk of 2nd Heart Attack, Death

Gerard said:

“It is always best to check with your healthcare provider before you take any new medication, and make sure you’re taking the dose that’s right for you.”

The study was published March 26 in the online version of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Source:

[1] UPI

Acetaminophen may Increase Stroke Risk in People with Diabetes

Many people reach for a couple of acetaminophen tablets (acetaminophen is the main active ingredient in Tylenol) for a headache and other minor aches and pains. It’s easy to think that you’re safe taking a drug that is so readily available in pharmacies and supermarkets, but for people with diabetes, taking acetaminophen may increase the risk of having a stroke.

According to a recent study, approximately 5% of people who took acetaminophen suffered strokes, compared to 4% who didn’t take acetaminophen but had strokes. However, people in the study who had diabetes suffered even more strokes.

Study author Philippe Gerard, a researcher at Gérontopôle, Centre Hospitalo-Universitaire de Toulouse, said:

“My personal message to the people in my everyday practice is that any drug they take may have some form of harmful side effect unknown to them, even those they can buy over the counter.”

Researchers conducted the study to explore the link between acetaminophen and cardiac events in older people living in nursing homes in France. In the end, no connection was uncovered.

Overall, the researchers found that acetaminophen is a safe pain reliever for older adults, but people with diabetes should be more wary of taking the medicines containing the drug.

The study concluded with:

“Despite old age, polypharmacy, and polymorbidity, acetaminophen was found safe for most, but not all, of our NH study population. Pain management in NHs is a health priority, and acetaminophen remains a good therapeutic choice as a first?line analgesic. More studies are needed on older diabetic patients.”

It should also be noted that it is remarkably easy to overdose on acetaminophen, and the drug is associated with kidney damage and acute liver failure.

Read: Over-the-Counter Painkillers can Increase Risk of 2nd Heart Attack, Death

Gerard said:

“It is always best to check with your healthcare provider before you take any new medication, and make sure you’re taking the dose that’s right for you.”

The study was published March 26 in the online version of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Source:

[1] UPI

Fat-Shaming Doesn’t Work and Can Increase Health Risks

If you think harping on someone about their weight will convince them to drop some pounds, you couldn’t be more wrong. Not only does it not work, but it may also raise their risk for heart disease and other health problems.

As someone who has battled the bulge, it seems ridiculous to me that anyone would even think that shaming an obese person would have any positive effect. And as someone who has counseled people in 12-step recovery, I can tell you that pressuring someone or making fun of someone with a weight problem – which is often a sign of an eating problem – only makes things worse.

If someone is burying their problems in food, harping on it only makes them withdraw even more into food.

To me, it’s obvious. But plenty of people – too many people – think fat-shaming is effective.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia found that overweight women who believe negative messages about their bodies – called “weight-bias internalization” – had higher rates of metabolic syndrome, a combination of health problems that increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Dr. Rebecca Puhl, deputy director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity said that the increased risk shows that weight stigma and fat-shaming “go much deeper than the inappropriate remarks or hurt feelings.” [1]

Overweight and obese people are often viewed as lazy, unattractive, incompetent, and lacking willpower. That doesn’t give heavy people a sense of motivation and confidence; it leaves them feeling hopeless and stigmatized. Depressed, really. And we know that depression can make you physically sick.

Published in the journal Obesity, the study suggests that it’s not just the stigmatizing, but also the level of a person’s reaction to fat-shaming, that can cause health woes.

The Research

Researchers asked 159 adults how much they devalued and blamed themselves when they were stigmatized for their weight. The team also looked at how often metabolic syndrome was diagnosed among the participants.

In all, 51 of the participants met the criteria for metabolic syndrome. Those who felt the most devalued and had the highest levels of self-blame were approximately 46% more likely to have metabolic syndrome. Those participants were also found to be 6 times as likely to have high triglycerides. [1], [2]

People with the highest levels of internalizing devaluation and self-blame – in other words, they really took those nasty words and stereotypes to heart – had 3 times the risk of metabolic syndrome, compared with the lowest-level group.

The study lends support to earlier research, said Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C. He said:

“Numerous studies have shown that experiencing weight stigma increases stress hormones, blood pressure, inflammation and ultimately increases the risk of several diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.” [1]

For example, studies have shown that being fat-shamed can cause increased inflammation and stress-hormone levels in the body. People who dislike themselves also have a harder time exercising and eating healthy. [2]

All of that “poking fun” at obese people has also been linked to binge eating, as I mentioned, and premature death.

Rebecca L. Pearl, PhD, said:

“There is a misconception that sometimes a little bit of stigma is necessary to motivate people to lose weight. But time and time again, research shows that this is just not the case.” [2]

So, what does all of this mean? Firstly, that you have to love yourself before you can make positive changes for your health. And secondly, it’s not OK to shame overweight people. And if you’re one of the people being stigmatized for your weight, the problem lies with the person stigmatizing you not you!

Pearl added:

“People with obesity are portrayed in negative ways in the media; there’s bullying at school and on social networks; people even feel judged by family members or in health-care settings.

Rather than blaming and shaming people and being dismissive of their struggle, we need to work collaboratively to set goals to improve health behaviors.” [2]

You Should Still Try to Make Improvements for Your Health

Now, none of this is to say that if you’re overweight or obese, you should stay that way just because you have a positive self-image. Excess weight isn’t healthy. Even if you don’t have health problems now, chances are if you don’t lose weight, you’ll develop them in the future.

If you struggle with your weight and struggle with how you feel about yourself, set small, attainable goals to help you shed the pounds. Give yourself reasons to pat yourself on the back and tangible successes to encourage you along the way.

Sources:

[1] HealthDay

[2] Health

Fat-Shaming Doesn’t Work and Can Increase Health Risks

If you think harping on someone about their weight will convince them to drop some pounds, you couldn’t be more wrong. Not only does it not work, but it may also raise their risk for heart disease and other health problems.

As someone who has battled the bulge, it seems ridiculous to me that anyone would even think that shaming an obese person would have any positive effect. And as someone who has counseled people in 12-step recovery, I can tell you that pressuring someone or making fun of someone with a weight problem – which is often a sign of an eating problem – only makes things worse.

If someone is burying their problems in food, harping on it only makes them withdraw even more into food.

To me, it’s obvious. But plenty of people – too many people – think fat-shaming is effective.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia found that overweight women who believe negative messages about their bodies – called “weight-bias internalization” – had higher rates of metabolic syndrome, a combination of health problems that increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Dr. Rebecca Puhl, deputy director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity said that the increased risk shows that weight stigma and fat-shaming “go much deeper than the inappropriate remarks or hurt feelings.” [1]

Overweight and obese people are often viewed as lazy, unattractive, incompetent, and lacking willpower. That doesn’t give heavy people a sense of motivation and confidence; it leaves them feeling hopeless and stigmatized. Depressed, really. And we know that depression can make you physically sick.

Published in the journal Obesity, the study suggests that it’s not just the stigmatizing, but also the level of a person’s reaction to fat-shaming, that can cause health woes.

The Research

Researchers asked 159 adults how much they devalued and blamed themselves when they were stigmatized for their weight. The team also looked at how often metabolic syndrome was diagnosed among the participants.

In all, 51 of the participants met the criteria for metabolic syndrome. Those who felt the most devalued and had the highest levels of self-blame were approximately 46% more likely to have metabolic syndrome. Those participants were also found to be 6 times as likely to have high triglycerides. [1], [2]

People with the highest levels of internalizing devaluation and self-blame – in other words, they really took those nasty words and stereotypes to heart – had 3 times the risk of metabolic syndrome, compared with the lowest-level group.

The study lends support to earlier research, said Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C. He said:

“Numerous studies have shown that experiencing weight stigma increases stress hormones, blood pressure, inflammation and ultimately increases the risk of several diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.” [1]

For example, studies have shown that being fat-shamed can cause increased inflammation and stress-hormone levels in the body. People who dislike themselves also have a harder time exercising and eating healthy. [2]

All of that “poking fun” at obese people has also been linked to binge eating, as I mentioned, and premature death.

Rebecca L. Pearl, PhD, said:

“There is a misconception that sometimes a little bit of stigma is necessary to motivate people to lose weight. But time and time again, research shows that this is just not the case.” [2]

So, what does all of this mean? Firstly, that you have to love yourself before you can make positive changes for your health. And secondly, it’s not OK to shame overweight people. And if you’re one of the people being stigmatized for your weight, the problem lies with the person stigmatizing you not you!

Pearl added:

“People with obesity are portrayed in negative ways in the media; there’s bullying at school and on social networks; people even feel judged by family members or in health-care settings.

Rather than blaming and shaming people and being dismissive of their struggle, we need to work collaboratively to set goals to improve health behaviors.” [2]

You Should Still Try to Make Improvements for Your Health

Now, none of this is to say that if you’re overweight or obese, you should stay that way just because you have a positive self-image. Excess weight isn’t healthy. Even if you don’t have health problems now, chances are if you don’t lose weight, you’ll develop them in the future.

If you struggle with your weight and struggle with how you feel about yourself, set small, attainable goals to help you shed the pounds. Give yourself reasons to pat yourself on the back and tangible successes to encourage you along the way.

Sources:

[1] HealthDay

[2] Health

Dementia Rates in the U.S. Fell 24% from 2000 to 2012, But…

The thought of developing dementia in old age is terrifying for many, especially if they’ve watched a loved one suffer under its grip. A bit of good news, though; a study in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that overall dementia rates in the United States fell 24% from 2000 to 2012. That means about one million fewer Americans had the condition. [1]

Dr. Kenneth Langa, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and a coauthor of the new study, said:

“It’s definitely good news. Even without a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or a new medication, there are things that we can do socially and medically and behaviorally that can significantly reduce the risk.”

The term “dementia” refers to a loss of memory or other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease, caused by a buildup of plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, is the most common form of dementia. Vascular dementia, which can occur after a person has suffered a stroke, is the 2nd most common form of dementia.

Source: Alzheimer’s San Diego

Determining the Numbers

The study, which began in 1992, looked at over 21,000 adults over age 50. Data were collected on the individuals every two years. Researchers conducted detailed interviews with the participants about their health, income, cognitive ability, and life circumstances. The investigators also conducted physical tests and body measurements, and took blood and saliva samples. They discovered the following:

  • Dementia prevalence among adults 65 and older decreased from 11.6% in 2000 to 8.8% in 2012
  • Participants who had more education had the lowest rates of dementia
  • The average years of education increased significantly from 11.8 years in 2000 to 12.7 years in 2012.
  • The drop in dementia prevalence occurred despite a significant age- and sex-adjusted increase in between the data-collection years in the cardiovascular risk profile (e.g., prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity) among older U.S. adults.

Read: How to Stay Sharp and Avoid Dementia as You Age

Contributing Factors to the Decline

The reasons behind the drop in dementia rates aren’t clear, but there are some findings that stand out.

The JAMA study shows – as do past studies – that both early education and lifelong education appear to help keep the mind healthy and sharp. The authors suggest that perhaps education ought to be viewed as “a potent strategy for the primary prevention of dementia in both high- and low-income countries around the world.”

In fact, according to the authors, past studies have shown that:

“…the relationships among education, brain biology, and cognitive function are complex and likely multidirectional; for instance, a number of recent population-based studies have shown genetic links with level of educational attainment and with the risk of cognitive decline in later life.”

Additionally, highly educated individuals are more likely to not smoke, to get more exercise, and to eat a healthier diet. This is also true of people who have more cognitively complex occupations.

Source: Public Health England

Better access to healthcare also played a role in the decline, the researchers wrote.

Dementia is Still a Serious Problem

The advice embedded in the results is clear: stay active, both physically and mentally. Never stop learning. Eat right. Don’t smoke. More people are getting the message that staying propped up in front of the TV is hazardous to health, and are heeding the warning.

Overall, the drop in dementia rates could be largely due to the better control of cardiovascular risk factors, like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Keith Fargo is the director of scientific programs and outreach, medical and scientific relations, at the Alzheimer’s Association. He said:

“If you control those risk factors, it’s natural to expect that rates of vascular dementia will go down. It’s also reasonable to expect that Alzheimer’s-related dementia may go down as well because now, instead of having both, you have Alzheimer’s in an overall healthier brain.” [2]

Read: How Music ‘Radically’ Improves the Brain, Dementia, and Alzheimer’s

However, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss remain a huge public health challenge and a significant financial burden. There are currently about five million Americans suffering with dementia. As people continue to live longer, that number is expected to triple by 2050. [1]

The number of Americans over age 65 is expected to double by 2050, to 84 million. That means that even if the percentage of elderly people who develop dementia is smaller than previously estimated, the total number of Americans with dementia will continue to increase, according to Fargo. He said:

“Alzheimer’s is going to remain the public health crisis of our time, even with modestly reduced rates.”

Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Center for Cognitive Health at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said:

“What we need now is to educate middle-aged people, since that’s where the risk factors are most important. Unfortunately, as the baby boomers turn 80, I worry that the silver tsunami will swamp this benefit.” [2]

Sources:

[1] CNN

[2] UPI

Alert.Psychnews

Alzheimer’s San Diego

Public Health England

Dementia Rates in the U.S. Fell 24% from 2000 to 2012, But…

The thought of developing dementia in old age is terrifying for many, especially if they’ve watched a loved one suffer under its grip. A bit of good news, though; a study in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that overall dementia rates in the United States fell 24% from 2000 to 2012. That means about one million fewer Americans had the condition. [1]

Dr. Kenneth Langa, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and a coauthor of the new study, said:

“It’s definitely good news. Even without a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or a new medication, there are things that we can do socially and medically and behaviorally that can significantly reduce the risk.”

The term “dementia” refers to a loss of memory or other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease, caused by a buildup of plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, is the most common form of dementia. Vascular dementia, which can occur after a person has suffered a stroke, is the 2nd most common form of dementia.

Source: Alzheimer’s San Diego

Determining the Numbers

The study, which began in 1992, looked at over 21,000 adults over age 50. Data were collected on the individuals every two years. Researchers conducted detailed interviews with the participants about their health, income, cognitive ability, and life circumstances. The investigators also conducted physical tests and body measurements, and took blood and saliva samples. They discovered the following:

  • Dementia prevalence among adults 65 and older decreased from 11.6% in 2000 to 8.8% in 2012
  • Participants who had more education had the lowest rates of dementia
  • The average years of education increased significantly from 11.8 years in 2000 to 12.7 years in 2012.
  • The drop in dementia prevalence occurred despite a significant age- and sex-adjusted increase in between the data-collection years in the cardiovascular risk profile (e.g., prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity) among older U.S. adults.

Read: How to Stay Sharp and Avoid Dementia as You Age

Contributing Factors to the Decline

The reasons behind the drop in dementia rates aren’t clear, but there are some findings that stand out.

The JAMA study shows – as do past studies – that both early education and lifelong education appear to help keep the mind healthy and sharp. The authors suggest that perhaps education ought to be viewed as “a potent strategy for the primary prevention of dementia in both high- and low-income countries around the world.”

In fact, according to the authors, past studies have shown that:

“…the relationships among education, brain biology, and cognitive function are complex and likely multidirectional; for instance, a number of recent population-based studies have shown genetic links with level of educational attainment and with the risk of cognitive decline in later life.”

Additionally, highly educated individuals are more likely to not smoke, to get more exercise, and to eat a healthier diet. This is also true of people who have more cognitively complex occupations.

Source: Public Health England

Better access to healthcare also played a role in the decline, the researchers wrote.

Dementia is Still a Serious Problem

The advice embedded in the results is clear: stay active, both physically and mentally. Never stop learning. Eat right. Don’t smoke. More people are getting the message that staying propped up in front of the TV is hazardous to health, and are heeding the warning.

Overall, the drop in dementia rates could be largely due to the better control of cardiovascular risk factors, like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Keith Fargo is the director of scientific programs and outreach, medical and scientific relations, at the Alzheimer’s Association. He said:

“If you control those risk factors, it’s natural to expect that rates of vascular dementia will go down. It’s also reasonable to expect that Alzheimer’s-related dementia may go down as well because now, instead of having both, you have Alzheimer’s in an overall healthier brain.” [2]

Read: How Music ‘Radically’ Improves the Brain, Dementia, and Alzheimer’s

However, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss remain a huge public health challenge and a significant financial burden. There are currently about five million Americans suffering with dementia. As people continue to live longer, that number is expected to triple by 2050. [1]

The number of Americans over age 65 is expected to double by 2050, to 84 million. That means that even if the percentage of elderly people who develop dementia is smaller than previously estimated, the total number of Americans with dementia will continue to increase, according to Fargo. He said:

“Alzheimer’s is going to remain the public health crisis of our time, even with modestly reduced rates.”

Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Center for Cognitive Health at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said:

“What we need now is to educate middle-aged people, since that’s where the risk factors are most important. Unfortunately, as the baby boomers turn 80, I worry that the silver tsunami will swamp this benefit.” [2]

Sources:

[1] CNN

[2] UPI

Alert.Psychnews

Alzheimer’s San Diego

Public Health England

A Third of Fast-Food Packaging Contains Dangerous Chemicals

Most people are aware that fast-food has no redeeming qualities, but never give a second thought to the paper their burgers come wrapped in. But even fast-food packaging can make you sick, as pointed out by research published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters. This is yet another example of how fast-food wrappers contain dangerous chemicals – called fluorinated chemicals. [1]

Researchers tested 400 fast-food packages from various restaurants in the U.S. and found that more than a third of them contained poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. These chemicals are everywhere – in non-stick pans, pizza boxes, cell phones, and even in backpacks. In fast-food wrappers, they are used as a coating to repel moisture. [2]

Two PFAS – perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) – have been shown to cause:

  • Testicular and kidney cancer
  • Liver malfunction
  • Hormonal changes
  • Thyroid disruption
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Lower birth weight and size
Source: Run Healthy Lifestyle

Xenia Trier, a chemist at the European Environment Agency who was not involved with the study, says:

“These chemicals are very convenient. You can use something like paper. If it’s untreated it will soak fat, it will soak water. As such it’s not very efficient as a food container. If you impregnate these food containers with these [chemicals] they get this magic—they work for everything.” [1]

She adds that, “unfortunately we do know they are quite toxic and have been associated with many diseases.”

Past studies have shown that PFASs on food packaging can seep into your food, said Laurel Schaider, a research scientist at the Silent Spring Institute and one of the authors of the paper.

She said:

“These studies have found that the extent of migration depends on the temperature of the food, the type of food and how long the food is in contact with the paper. And it depends on which specific chemical” is in the packaging. [2]

In 2011, after the FDA reviewed packaging materials, several manufacturers voluntarily agreed to stop using PFASs in their food packaging products. The presence of elements of fluorine may not be manufacturers’ fault, the researchers say. Rather, it may have entered the system from the use of recycled materials. [3]

Recently, the FDA has been urged once again to launch a study into the consequences of using chemicals like phthalates in food packagingThis is more proof that our food packaging is tainted with toxins.

Would You Like Toxins With That?

For the study, which involved researchers from 5 different institutions, more than 400 samples of fast-food packaging was collected from 27 leading U.S. food chains, and divided into 6 categories:

  • Food contact paper (sandwich wrappers and pastry bags)
  • Food contact paperboard (pizza and French fry boxes)
  • Non-contact paper (outer bags)
  • Paper cups
  • Other beverage containers (milk and juice containers)
  • Miscellaneous (lids) [2]

Food contact papers were divided into 3 categories:

  • Sandwiches
  • Burgers
  • Fried foods

Of the food contact papers tested, 46% tested positive for fluorine, a marker of PFASs. Food contact paperboard came in 2nd, at 20%, followed by other beverage containers at 16%. All of the other categories tested negative for fluorine.

Tex-Mex food packaging and dessert and bread wrappers were the worst offenders, and were more likely to contain fluorine than other categories of food packaging. [3]

Avoiding PFASs

Hopefully you don’t eat fast-food often, but even if you’re a once-in-a-while diet cheater, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from PFASs:

  • Take food out of its packaging immediately.
  • Ask that your fries of dessert be served in a paper cup or noncontact paper bag – that outer bag that all your items are usually put into when you get your food. [2]

There are plenty of fluorine-free products that manufacturers can use, so if the idea of eating something that was wrapped in chemicals used to main raincoats bothers you, pressure your fast-food chains to cut out PFASs.

Schaider says:

“I think that this study provides yet another reason to support the idea that eating more fresh food and more home-cooked meals is better for our health, but it’s hard to avoid the convenience of fast food, especially in people’s busy lives.”

Sources:

[1] Popular Science

[2] CNN

[3] Consumer Affairs

Run Healthy Lifestyle