Coronavirus Outbreak: Timeline and Updates on What’s Happening

It started in the most populous city in central China, Wuhan, where 300 people were first reported to be infected with a new coronavirus. Now, it has spread throughout China and several other countries in Asia and has even dipped into Europe, North America, and Australia. What will happen next?

Scroll down if you want to get straight to the current coronavirus timeline (updated daily).

What is the Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are actually a family of viruses. Common types of these viruses mimic the common cold while also causing various respiratory issues. Other forms of coronavirus can be much more severe, and may even lead to death. Here are some of the possible symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Trouble breathing
  • In more extreme cases, leading to pneumonia or bronchitis

Interestingly, most people have been infected at least once in their lives, as reported by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The viruses cause illness in both people and animals, but typically only spread either from person-to-person or animal-to-animal – rarely would an animal coronavirus evolve or mutate to the extent of infecting people. But China may be experiencing one of those rare cases, as Chinese authorities report most patients in the Wuhan City outbreak have been linked to a large seafood and animal market.

Now, here is a rough timeline of everything that has happened concerning the coronavirus. We’ll continue to report on new outbreaks or quarantines, while keeping this piece updates as well.

A Rough Timeline of Current Coronavirus News

  • On December 31st, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) is alerted by Chinese authorities that pneumonia-like sickness cases are circulating in the city of Wuhan – the largest city in Hubei, a province in Central China. People are quarantined and investigations ensue.
  • The CDC pinpoint a large seafood and animal market where the cases may have originated, leading the market to be closed on January 1st, 2020.
  • Comes January 9th, when the WHO reveals that the coronavirus currently circulating is not a known type, which is causing elevated concern. By this time, 59 people have been reportedly affected by the virus, with 7 of them being in serious condition.
  • The first person dies in China on January 11th, while the number of people sickened gets reduced overall.
  • On January 13th, the virus travels outside of China’s borders, hitting Thailand.
  • Two days later, on January 15th, China’s health commission says that the virus hasn’t definitively been transmitted from human-to-human, though it can’t be ruled out.
  • A case of the virus hits Japan on January 16th.
  • A second person dies in Wuhan on January 17th. The CDC announces tighter protocols for screening individuals at 3 airports: San Francisco, New York’s JFK, and Los Angeles.
  • By January 21st, 6 people have died and the sick-count rises to 200+ in China as it spreads throughout the country. By this time, it has made an appearance in China, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.
  • Also by January 21st, the first case of coronavirus was discovered in the United States in the state of Washington. The man landed in the states from Wuhan on January 15th. Following the news, the Washington State Department of Health made a decision to monitor 43 people who had close contact with the man. This is in Snohomish County.
  • Around this time, it was reported that the Chinese government quarantined the city of Wuhan and voiced plans to shut down the airport and public transportation. Approximately 17 people have died and another 500+ sickened.
  • The virus is known as 2019-nCoV.
  • Citing how the Chinese government covered up information regarding the SARS outbreak from 2002-2004 (the government hid initial SARS cases for 4 months), Chinese citizens fear the government is currently hiding some information about the coronavirus. According to the New York Times, the first case of the virus was actually reported on December 8th – not December 31st. Wuhan officials “insisted that it was controlled and treatable.” China censors are said to be scrubbing the internet. What’s more, police said that 8 people who posted on social media about the virus were ‘spreading rumors.’ More on that in the link – you should check it out.
  • Health authorities in Texas start to investigate a suspected coronavirus case on January 23rd, according to the local health department.
  • Numerous reports come out on January 24th regarding updates on the virus and how China and other countries are reacting. On or around January 24th, 14 people were tested for the virus in the United Kingdom. By now a reported 26 people in China have died from the virus, though the WHO says that most of those who have died from coronavirus “had underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes or cardiovascular disease.”
  • Japan buckles down in preparation for people to travel into the country in celebration of the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Rat. Airports have more intense screenings, airlines are urged to distribute health declarations, and businesses warn employees of the oncoming visits. Also by this time, the health ministry in Tokyo revealed the 2nd case of the virus in the country.
  • Reports come in about a 2nd coronavirus case in Chicago. The CDC also start investigating another 61 potential cases from 22 states.
  • Also on the 24th, China goes into lock-down by shutting tourist attractions and public transportation systems. Part of the Great Wall of China as well as Disneyland in Shanghai close. Fourteen cities housing a total of 40 million people also go into some form of lock-down. Further, China announces that it will be building a 1,000-bed hospital (in just 10 days) dedicated to those struck with the virus.
  • Australian authorities announce the first case to reach Australia’s second smallest state, Victoria.
  • An infection-count estimate becomes voiced by health experts, suggesting that as many as 9,700 people could be infected, which is ‘far more than the 600-count stated by other officials.’
  • A Chinese doctor named Wang Guangfa fears that the virus spread to him through the eyes. Experts confirm that this is indeed possible if you touch your eyes with contaminated hands.
  • By January 25th, 2 more cases have been confirmed in France. As well, the virus has taken 41 lives and infected more than 900 people worldwide, China restricts travel for 35 million people, and other areas go on lock-down as concerns and mistrust grow among the public.
  • A doctor is reported dead from the virus. As of 1200 GMT on the 25th, the death toll in China reaches 42, with another estimated 1,372 being infected. The Chinese president Xi Jinping warns of ‘grave situation,’ while the U.S. evacuates its citizens from Wuhan.
  • Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam declares a virus emergency, extending school cancellations until February 17 and canceling all official visits to mainland China.
  • Canada reports that a “presumptive” case of the virus has been discovered in Ontario, which would mark the first instance of the virus in Canada. Not long after, a case of coronavirus is indeed confirmed in the country.
  • Now, it’s said that the virus killed 56 people and sickened at least 1,975, most of which have taken place in China.
  • China’s National Health Commission (NHC) announces that the virus is contagious even in its incubation period – referring to the time which passes between first exposure and when symptoms first appear. What’s more, the coronavirus is growing stronger with its ability to spread, leading scientist to keep a close eye on possible mutations.
  • On the 26th, Reuters reports on a group of masked protesters in Hong Kong who set fire to a newly-built building which was to be used for quarantine.

EWG Report: Your Tap Water is Contaminated with Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’

Here’s something you may not know: tens of millions of people in the United States have been drinking toxic tap water contaminated with unregulated fluoridated chemicals – chemicals which have been linked to cancer, liver and kidney toxicity, hormone disruption, and more.

In early 2018, the Environmental Working Group released a report revealing that up to 16 million Americans could be exposed to water contaminated with perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – a class of toxic chemicals that includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The report showed that there is known PFAS pollution from ’94 sites in 22 states, including industrial plants and dumps, military air bases, civilian airports and fire training sites’ – including the tap water pollution for 16 million people across 33 states and Puerto Rico.

 

Interestingly, that report was just the start of it. Soon, that 16 million figured got bumped up to 110 million! That’s right, 110 million people could be exposed via more than 1,500 drinking water systems throughout the United States.

Now, a new extensive report from the EWG goes into depth on the true nature of this widespread water contamination.

Current data suggests that PFAS are present in tap water in 44 locations spanning 31 states and Washington D.C. These stats are miles ahead of previous findings, showing that any reporting of PFAS contamination has been drastically underestimated, both by the Environmental Working Group’s previous reports and even reports generated by official government bodies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Actually, the EWG’s research surpasses that of the EPA, finding more widespread contamination that even exceeds ‘safe’ levels set by the EPA. In 2016, the EPA released a non-enforceable ‘lifetime health advisory’ in drinking water of 70 parts per trillion (PPT), indicating that levels below 70 PPT were safe. However, by both EWG and other independent study standards, ‘safe’ levels for PFAS in drinking water should be more like 1 PPT – markedly lower than 70 PPT.

This soft, non-enforced rule has caused some states, including California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Vermont, and New Jersey to set their own standards. This is what states have to do when the EPA, knowing about this contamination issue since 2001, takes little action on addressing it.

Why You Should Avoid These Chemicals Whenever Possible

Unlike other chemicals PFAS never actually break down once released into the environment, leading them to be dubbed ‘forever chemicals.’ As mentioned earlier, exposure to these chemicals may cause a host of health issues, including (but not limited to):

  • Cancer
  • Immune system suppression
  • Thyroid issues and other hormone disruptions
  • Infant developmental issues
  • Liver damage

What Products Contain PFAS?

Many products are made with these compounds. They are most known for being used in the product of non-stick cookware (yikes), but are also used to make stain-resistant sofas and carpets, waterproof clothing and mattresses, and could even be in food packaging. What’s more, due to their ability to help reduce friction, other industries including aerospace, automotive, building and construction, and electronics use these chemicals.

Here is a quick list of where you might find PFAS:

  • Non-stick cookware
  • Food packaging, such as microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers
  • Stain resistant carpets and furniture
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Waterproof mattresses
  • Outdoor gear with a “durable water repellent” coating

How to Reduce Exposure to PFAS

While others may say differently and it’s great to avoid toxins whenever possible, I wouldn’t go as far to live in a bubble or overly stress about this. If you did, you might literally go insane. With that said, here are some steps to take if you want to reduce exposure to PFAS:

  • Most clear and simple in my book – don’t use non-stick cookware. If you choose to continue using non-stick cookware, be careful not to let it heat to above 450ºF
  • Stay away from fast food packaging (a good all-around tip) and microwaved popcorn
  • Avoid stain-resistance carpets or furniture – and don’t use anything yourself that would make it stain resistant!
  • Avoid other stain-resistant products such as treated shoes, luggage, and camping and sporting equipment
  • Avoid personal-care products made with Teflon™ or containing ingredients that include the words “fluoro” or “perfluoro.” You might find this in floss or cosmetics

A Broccoli Anti-Aging Enzyme may Hold the Fountain of Youth

If you’re looking to turn back the hands of time, look no further than broccoli. Love it or hate it, this common cruciferous veggie contains a natural compound called nicotinamide mononucleotide, which has been shown to have a potent anti-aging effect on mice that “could be translated to humans.” [1]

A team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis write in Cell Metabolism that nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) made the cells of lab mice act younger than they were when it was added to the rodents’ drinking water. NMN is an enzyme that plays a key role in energy metabolism, and it’s found in broccoli.

NMN boosted the mice’s metabolism. They gained less age-related weight, improved their eyesight, and improved their blood sugar levels. The mice even avoided some of the genetic changes associated with aging.

The study didn’t track how long the furry little critters survived, but at least they lived their lives healthily. One can only assume they outlived mice that weren’t given NMN.

If your knee-jerk reaction to broccoli is to dry-heave, fear not: NMN is also found in other vegetables, including cucumbers, cabbage, and edamame.

Nicotinamide Mononucleotide Could Benefit Humans Too

What’s more, the benefits associated with the enzyme likely apply to humans, according to Dr. Shin-Ichiro Imai, professor of developmental biology and medicine at Washington University and senior author of the paper.

In fact, Imai is so encouraged by the results that he’s launching an early study on people, using NMN supplements in pill form.

He explained:

“If you do the math, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible entirely but probably very difficult to get the whole amount [you need] simply from natural foods.

It’s clear that in humans and in rodents, we lose energy with age. We are losing the enzyme NMN. But if we can bypass that process by adding NMN, we can make energy again. These results provide a very important foundation for the human studies.” [2]

Related: Could Broccoli Protect Against Radiation Sickness?

Other Reasons to Make Friends with Broccoli

If you’re not overly concerned about drinking from (or nibbling on) the fountain of youth, there are plenty of other reasons to chow down on broccoli. For example, broccoli’s ability to lower blood sugar makes it a great food option for people who have diabetes.

Broccoli has also been shown to cut the risk of cardiovascular disease and promote heart health by preventing inflammation and atherosclerosis in the arteries. Additionally, research has found that broccoli has the ability to help to prevent cancer, including leukemia.

It’s worth throwing a handful of broccoli (and therefore nicotinamide mononucleotide) on your salad, or, if that idea turns you off, pulverize some into a hearty soup!

Additional Sources:

[1] New York Daily News

[2] Time

ScienceDaily

Exciting: New ‘Seaweed-Based’ Alzheimer’s Drug Shows Extreme Promise

It has been nearly 20 years since a new drug has been developed to combat Alzheimer’s disease. Thankfully, it won’t be another 20 years until such a feat is accomplished, as a new drug called Oligomannate has been approved for the treatment of “mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and improving cognitive function.” Only thing is – the approval takes place in China, and has yet to go through the proper channels to become approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Dementia, used to describe a decline in cognitive function and memory, is said to be one of the costliest conditions we’re facing today. The prevalence of dementia is shocking, with an estimated 50 million people worldwide living with the condition in 2017. Worse, this number will almost double every 20 years.

Unfortunately, there has been little headway in terms of medical advancement in reliably treating and preventing the disease. Of course, we’ve made strides in discovering what might be the root causes and how to combat those root causes, but no real solution has yet to surface from the medical field.

As explained by Dr. Ronald Petersen, it’s hypothesized that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the presence of plaques and tangles in the brain. These plaques, known as amyloid plaques, build up in the brain in much the same way that plaques can build up in our arteries, causing the neural pathways to be slowed and damaged. Further, once these amyloid plaques are misprocessed and present in the brain, it leads to the misprocessing of something known as tau proteins, which leads to tangles in the brain, the death of nerve cells, and ultimately, dementia.

A Glimmer of Hope – Seaweed

In 1997, Geng Meiyu at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other researchers discovered how a sugar found in seaweed could somehow play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. What they didn’t realize was that more than 20 years later the research would expand into something that could be extremely exciting for the world at large.

Interestingly, it has been observed that there’s a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s among those who eat lots of seaweed, leading the researchers to hone in on the possible preventative connection.

Geng Meiyu and researchers published a paper outlining how the molecule found in seaweed reduces the formation of a protein harmful to neurons while also regulating the bacterium colonies in the gut to reduce the risk of brain inflammation. This means that Oligomannate not only relieves individuals of dementia symptoms, but also targets what is said to be the root cause of the disease – the amyloid plaques.

Though we should know by now that gut health influences our body on every level, this research “doubles down” on just how strong the connection between the gut and brain health truly is.

“These results advance our understanding of the mechanisms that play a role in Alzheimer’s disease and imply that the gut microbiome is a valid target for the development of therapies,” neurologist Philip Scheltens, who advises Green Valley and heads the Alzheimer Center Amsterdam, said in the statement.

For more than 20 years, pharmaceutical companies have invested hundreds of billions of dollars on Alzheimer’s drugs. South China Morning Post reports that more than 320 drugs were brought to clinical trial, with only 5 being approved for clinical use to relieve dementia symptoms. Unfortunately, none of them rose above the challenge that is Alzheimer’s, leading to the closure of numerous Alzheimer’s-related programs.

Though Oligomannate will be approved “very soon” in China, it will have to go through numerous hurdles to get approval by other government bodies to be used in places like Europe and the U.S.

Alzheimer’s is scary. Though everyone should practice every natural, preventative solution as possible, such as exercising regularly, training your brain with mental exercises, and consuming brain-healthy coconut oil, it’s exciting to see any advancement into treating an ailment we have largely failed at treating.

It’s a Mindset: In Order to Get Fit, You Must THINK of Yourself as Fit

If you know you’re not as physically active as you should be, stop thinking about it and start doing something about it. People who view themselves as lazy compared to others are more likely to die at a younger age, even if their actual activity levels were the same. [1]

That means people who thought they were less active than their peers likely weren’t reaping the full benefits of exercise, all because of their negative attitude.

Lead author Octavia Zahrt, a Stanford PhD student in organizational behavior, says she knows firsthand how negative self-talk and toxic comparisons can make a solid effort seem lazy.

She explained:

“I am from Germany, and back there I felt really good about my activity level. I biked to work, and went to the gym maybe once a week.”

Zahrt says that when she moved to California, she was suddenly “surrounded by people who exercise all the time. Compared to them I felt really inactive, and I developed what I know now was a really negative mindset about my physical activity.”

The ‘Side Effects’ of Negative Attitudes

That feeling of inadequacy led Zahrt and her faculty adviser, Alia Crum, PhD, to study the possible effects of such an attitude on long-term health. The duo analyzed data from more than 61,000 adults who were surveyed between 1990 and 2006 followed until 2011.

The participants were asked about their activity levels, and some were given accelerometers to wear so they could track their real-time activity for a week. All of the volunteers were also asked, “Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about as active as other persons your age?”

The researchers found that those who believed they were less active than others were 71% more likely to die during the study’s follow-up period. That was the case even after the team adjusted for disability, general health status, and demographics, plus actual activity levels.

Pretty heavy stuff when you think about it – you could be bending and lifting a lot at work, or weeding the garden and mowing the lawn every weekend and still have a startling higher risk of death just because you don’t consider those activities “exercise” and you don’t consider yourself “fit.”

The researchers found that, most of the time, the participants underestimated their activity levels when comparing themselves to others.

Zahrt said:

“It can be easy to compare how much exercise we get with the people around us, as opposed to what’s recommended for everyone. Plus, a lot of people think that exercise has to mean running or going to the gym, and they don’t give themselves credit for all of the other activity they do – cleaning their house, walking to the store, carrying their kids, those sorts of things.”

I hate to credit a saying that’s become so cliché, but in this case, it’s gospel truth: Attitude is everything.

Crum first studied the “placebo effect” of exercise a decade ago. She explained:

“These women were getting lots of exercise, but when we asked them they didn’t have the mindset that their work was good exercise.” [2]

The participants – all hotel attendants – were given a presentation explaining that all the heavy lifting, walking, and physical labor they did at work was good exercise. Then, Crum and her teammates tracked the women for a month.

Crum said:

“The women who started to look at their work as good exercise had improvements in blood pressure and body fat.”

She added:

“What’s surprising to me is how robust the accumulated evidence is on the power of mindset in shaping our health, and yet people are still so shocked when they hear results like this.” [1]

Yes – How You Think Affects Your Health (and much More)

People shouldn’t be shocked because there is a ridiculous amount of scientific evidence that how you think affects your health, for better or for worse. Seriously, let’s look at just a few examples.

In the End…

You have to see yourself as an active person, but be careful; it would be so simple to actually backslide and become less active than you should be. It’s important to recognize the activeness revolving around certain activities, but be sure not to over-estimate the value of those activities and then avoid other exercises because of it.

One more thing – and I’ll be blunt… If your idea of “exercise” is walking to the fridge, or going to the mall once a month, telling yourself you’re plenty active won’t make it so. You deserve to be realistic with yourself.

Crum said:

“This is not an excuse to just stop doing anything but believe you’re doing everything. It’s a reminder that, yes, you should work to get active in your life – but you should also be mindful of those negative thoughts that can creep in and the effects they might have.

Just because you didn’t get to that Spin class or that fancy new fitness class, doesn’t mean you’re not as healthy as those who do.” [1]

Zahrt agreed, adding:

“If we can change our perceptions to view all activity as good activity, we think that could be a first and really important step to improving our health.”

Sources:

[1] Health

[2] NPR

These Common Household Toxins are Poisoning Children

People relax on sofas and walk across their kitchen floors without giving it a second thought, but a study shows that toxic chemicals used in furniture and vinyl flooring to make them fire-resistant could be poisoning children. [1]

The problem is most prevalent in public housing where scientists say children have toxin levels in their blood and urine up to 15 times higher than those who aren’t exposed.

The flame-retardant chemicals, called PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), are linked to neurodevelopmental delays, obesity, endocrine and thyroid disruption, cancer, and other diseases.

Flame Retardants: 5 Dangerous Facts About These Toxins

Despite efforts to reduce the prevalence of PBDEs, they continue to persist, said Dr. Heather Stapleton of Duke University.

The full scope of the dangers posed by polybrominated diphenyl ethers is unknown because few studies have investigated how or if the chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstreams of children who are exposed to them.

Stapleton said:

“There are concerns that these chemicals could affect the developing brain.

In homes with flame retardants, particularly for children who spend most of their time indoors, they have widespread exposure, for example in household dust.”

PBDEs fall under the umbrella term semi-volatile organic compounds. They are found in electronics, furniture, and building materials. In pieces of furniture like sofas, they are found in the foam inside of the cushions.

In the past, PBDEs were used in most couches, rugs, and TVs. Research shows these chemicals can stunt the development of the brain and reproductive system. Phthalates, used in vinyl flooring and carpets, as well as food packaging, have been linked to obesity because the chemicals change the way the body stores fat.

Source: Environmental Working Group
Source: Environmental Working Group

Improvements are Being Made, But…

In the United States, great strides have been made to reduce the prevalence of PBDEs. When Stapleton first tested consumer products for the fire-retardants, 80% contained PBDEs. Her most recent tests showed about 20% of consumer products contained the toxins.

But U.S. regulators have stopped short of banning PBDEs and they continue to persist in the environment, particularly in public housing, where older flooring, furniture, and other products have not been swapped out for safer ones.

What’s more, the toxins keep showing up in unexpected places, including in farmed fish, even though both the U.S. and European Union (EU) have placed restrictions on PBDEs in fish-farming waters.

The Study

For the study, which began in 2014, Stapleton and her colleagues analyzed indoor dust and air from inside the homes of 190 families and 203 children, along with foam from inside furniture. They collected blood and urine samples from the children to test for the prevalence of PBDEs. [2]

Stapleton said:

“We quantified 44 biomarkers of exposure to phthalates, organophosphate esters, brominated flame retardants, parabens, phenols, antibacterial agents, and perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).”

Children from homes with vinyl flooring had levels of benzyl butyl phthalate metabolite – a chemical linked to respiratory and skin conditions, multiple myeloma, and other health problems – in their urine that were 15 times higher compared with children who were not exposed. [1]

Children who lived in homes that had a sofa in the main living area that had PBDEs in the foam had a 6-fold higher concentration of PBDEs in their blood.

PBDEs are still so prevalent that they have even shown up in marine organisms in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. The toxins can linger for years and bind to other particles in the water that can carry them throughout the ocean. Studies have found that PBDEs and other organic pollutants are prevalent in fish worldwide.

Children may suffer the ill effects of PBDEs even if they haven’t been directly exposed to it. A study published in 2017 found that prenatal exposure to the chemicals may lead to lower IQ scores in children.

Reducing Exposure to Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers

Like anything else, know that we’re always bombarded with toxins from various sources; it isn’t great, but in some respect, it’s simply part of our lives and society – unless you want to live in a bubble. So while I wouldn’t overly stress about this, it’s good to know that these toxins do exist, and there are some simple things you can do to reduce exposure without stressing yourself into a jumbled ball of yarn.

Source: Environmental Working Group

Sources:

[1] Daily Mail

[2] Earth

Images Source:

Environmental Working Group

With 79.4 Million Obese Citizens, the U.S. is Leading in Obesity

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that 2.2 billion people worldwide suffer from health problems due to being overweight or obese. Oh, and the United States was the 3rd fattest country on Earth. [1]

China is more populated than the U.S., yet the U.S. has more ‘obese’ citizens – 79.4 million compared with 57.3 million. [2]

Approximately 30% of the world’s population lives with excess body weight, and 10% of those individuals qualify as obese. People were classified as overweight if their body mass index (BMI) was between 25 and 29, while obesity was defined as having a BMI of 30 or over. [1]

Researchers wrote that the findings represent “a growing and disturbing global public health crisis.”

When looking at the 100 most populated countries, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the U.S. had the highest obesity rates, at 27.5%, 26.8%, and 26.5% of people respectively having a BMI over 30. [3]

Source: Weight of the Nation

For the study released just 2 years ago, the Global Burden of Disease 2015 Obesity Collaborators analyzed data on 68.5 million people to establish body weight trends from 1980 to 2015, and to get a more complete picture of the obesity crises’ effect on the world.

Seventy countries saw their obesity rates double since 1980, and the rates of people carrying unhealthy, excess weight has increased in almost all other nations. Overall, almost 108 million children are now considered obese, and over 600 million adults.

The authors wrote:

“Although the prevalence of obesity among children has been lower than among adults, the rate of increase in childhood obesity in many countries was greater than that of adults.”

The U.S. had the highest childhood obesity rate of the 100 most populated nations, with 12.7% of children classified as obese. The remaining top 5 included Saudi Arabia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and Chile.

The researchers also found that weight-related illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, had claimed the lives of 4 million people in 2015, and that number is only expected to rise.

Read: Obesity Found to Spark 500,000 Cancer Cases Annually

Ashkan Afshin, lead author of the study, said:

“Excess body weight is one of the most challenging public health problems of our time, affecting nearly one in every three people. Over the past decade, numerous interventions have been evaluated, but very little evidence exists about their long-term effectiveness.

Over the next 10 years, we will closely with the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in monitoring and evaluating the progress of countries in controlling overweight and obesity. Moreover, we will share data and findings with scientists, policymakers, and other stakeholders seeking evidence-based strategies to address this problem.”

Why Are So Many People Battling Excess Weight?

Urbanization, poor diets, and reduced physical activity are believed to be the primary drivers behind increasing obesity rates. Though researchers found fewer obese children than adults, the rates at which their numbers increased was greater. That means today’s children will have lived more years with a high BMI. [2]

Assistant professor or global health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Goodarz Danaei said:

“This re-emphasizes what we already know about the obesity epidemic. But it raises the alarm that we may be facing a wave of obesity in the coming years across high and low-income countries.

We don’t really know what the long-term effects will be if exposed to high BMI over 20, 30, 40 years. It may be larger than we have already seen.”

What is the Root of Increasing Obesity Levels?

China, Saudi Arabia, and the United States are wealthy countries, but that didn’t seem to make a difference in the study. Obesity levels increased among all the nations studied, regardless of income.

The authors wrote:

“Changes in the food environment and food systems are probably major drivers. Increased availability, accessibility, and affordability of energy dense foods, along with intense marketing of such foods, could explain excess energy intake and weight gain among different populations.”

This is especially true for people who live in cities, which are often home to food deserts.

What is a food desert? It’s an area of the country where there are mini-marts on practically every street corner, but few or no supermarkets to speak of. Mini-marts offer snacks, sodas, candy, and lots of fattening prepared foods, but no fresh produce or other healthful foods. As of 2015, as many as 23.5 million people in the U.S. lived in food deserts.

Much of the time, people who grow up in a food desert know little about healthy eating, or how to prepare healthful foods. A lack of education is as much a problem as a lack of nourishing foods.

Source: Be First food Friendly

Read: Chance of Obesity, Diabetes Rises When McDonald’s is Nearby

Additionally, urbanization has led to reduced levels and opportunities for physical activity, though the authors said these are “unlikely to be major contributors.”

Whatever the cause, people who don’t take their weight seriously could be in for years of needless suffering and early death.

Said study co-author Dr. Christopher Murray:

“The people who shrug off weight gain do so at their own risk – risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions.”

Sources:

[1] USA Today

[2] CNN

[3] Newsweek

Weight of the Nation

Be First Food Friendly

Antibiotics for Kidney Stones is a BAD Idea, Research Says

Taking antibiotics for kidney stones is probably a bad idea. A review of almost 300,000 patient records from the United Kingdom (UK) revealed higher rates of kidney stones in people who took 5 categories of oral antibiotics, including broad-spectrum penicillins and fluoroquinolones, which include Cipro. [1]

Broad-spectrum penicillins are antibiotics containing both penicillin and another active ingredient.

The study doesn’t prove that antibiotics cause kidney stones, but that would be a logical assumption to make based on previously-published studies. The findings of the review were concerning enough that pediatric urologist Gregory E. Tasian said that he would consider looking for alternatives to the antibiotics shown to cause kidney stones whenever feasible.

“These findings just add weight to the large body of evidence that antibiotics should be prescribed for appropriate reasons and used judiciously.” [1]

Read: Supplementary Calcium, Not Dietary, Linked to Kidney Stones

In as many as one-third of cases, antibiotics are prescribed for conditions the drugs can’t treat, such as a virus. This, in addition to potentially upping the risk of kidney stones, is a known contributor to drug resistance and superbugs.

In the study, researchers reviewed the records of patients who developed kidney stones at least 3 months after taking antibiotics. Since stones can take weeks to months to develop, the researchers excluded any patients who might have developed them for other reasons.

The strongest link between antibiotics and kidney stones was found in sulfa drugs, including Bactrim. Patients who took sulfa antibiotics were more than twice as likely to develop kidney stones within 3-12 months after finishing a course of the drugs compared to people who hadn’t taken the medicines.

A slightly weaker link was found between kidney stones and 4 other categories of antibiotics:

  • Cephalosporins
  • Fluoroquinolones (Cipro, Flagyl)
  • Nitrofurantoin (sold as Macrobid)
  • Broad-spectrum penicillins

The risks were especially high for children younger than 18. [2]

Patients who took broad-spectrum penicillins were found to be 30% more likely to develop kidney stones within 3-12 months of finishing the medicines than those who did not take the antibiotics. No link was found between regular penicillin and antibiotics. [1]

According to Joshua M. Stern, a New York urologist who was not part of the study, the relationship between the five categories of antibiotics and kidney stones is a complicated one; but it’s likely that antibiotics disrupt the microbiome in such a way that it creates an ideal environment for the formation of stones.

“This study really shows at a large scale that antibiotics are associated with increased kidney stone risk.” [1]

The findings remained consistent even when the study subjects were taking other medications or suffered from other conditions that might predispose them to kidney stones, according to Tasian.

Read: 7 Natural Home Remedies for Kidney Stones

Apart from the pain that kidney stones can cause, there are other risks involved with them, too, including a higher risk of high blood pressure, decreased bone density, and heart disease. Tasian called for more research to determine whether those disorders are also associated with antibiotic use.

Fortunately, the microbiome does a pretty good job of protecting and regenerating itself. In the study, the risk of kidney stones did decline somewhat over time, suggesting that the patients’ internal bacteria had started to recover.

Remember: Don’t take antibiotics for kidney stones!

The full details of the research can be found in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Sources:

[1] Philly

[2] The New York Times

U.S. Life Expectancy Drops Amid Rising Suicide, Drug Overdose Rates

Life expectancy in the United States has dropped 2 years in a row. Yikes.

In this piece, I’d like to cover the in-depth reports outlining 2017, and then we will get into the overview for 2018 in the next piece. Three reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that in 2017, it was the longest decline in U.S. life expectancy at birth since World War I. Sadly, the dismal reports show that rising suicide and drug overdose rates were among the main contributors to the decline.

Source: CDC

Between 1915 and 1918, WWI and a flu pandemic killed 675,000 people in the U.S. and an estimated 50 million people worldwide. That was the last time there was such a startling drop in the number of years Americans could expect to live. In most developed nations, life expectancy has continued to climb over the decades.

The reports suggest that American society is quite sick.

Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC director, said: [2]

“Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable.”

Source: CDC

Joshua M. Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said: [1]

“I think this is a very dismal picture of health in the United States. Life expectancy is improving in many places in the world. It shouldn’t be declining in the United States.”

S.V. Subramanian, a professor of population health and geography at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, asked:

“After 3 years of stagnation and decline, what do we do now? Do we say this is the new normal? Or can we say this is a tractable problem?”

Source: CDC

An American born in 2017 can expect to live 78.6 years at birth, down 1/10 of a year from 2016, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Men can expect to live 76.1 years, down 1/10 of a year from 2016. Life expectancy for women remains unchanged from 2016, at 81.1 years.

Drugs are Still Doing Americans In

The overall number of fatal drug overdoses rose from 63,632 in 2016 to 70,237 in 2017 – an annual record. Opioids sold on the street caused 47,600 overdoses in 2017 – another record, driven largely by an increase in fentanyl deaths. President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency in August, 2017 [2]

The number of fatal drug overdoses has more than quadrupled since 1999. Deaths from opioids were nearly 6 times greater in 2017 than they were in 1999.

There was no increase in overdose deaths from legal painkillers in 2017. As well, heroin overdoses did not rise. Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the Center for Health Statistics, said that efforts to keep legal painkillers off the streets and out of the hands of drug dealers, as well as prescription drug monitoring programs, may have contributed to the steady numbers.

Source: CDC

Authorities have been cracking down on so-called “pill mills,” unscrupulous doctors, and states have been going after drug companies that belched out suspicious amounts of pills to states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

Anderson also credits the wider availability of the opioid antidote naloxone, efforts to educate substance abusers as they leave jail, more treatment programs, and expanded Medicaid programs for the lack of an increase in legal opioid and heroin overdoses.

As 2018 draws to a close, provisional data for the first 4 months of the year hints at a plateau in overdoses and possibly a slight decline.

But the plateau in heroin deaths doesn’t necessarily mean fewer people are dying from hard drugs. According to Sharfstein, it reflects the fact that fentanyl has overtaken heroin on the illicit drug market.

In fact, the reports show that fentanyl-related deaths climbed from 19,413 in 2016 to 28,466 in 2017.

Source: CDC

Yet, despite all this death and chaos, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently decided to approve a powerful new opioid that is 5 to 10 times more potent than fentanyl.

West Virginia continues to lead the nation in overdose deaths, followed by Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia, the data show. The state least affected by drug overdoses was Nebraska, where there were just 8.1 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 residents. By comparison, West Virginia had 57.8 overdose deaths per 100,000 residents.

Yikes.

Life Expectancy Cut Short … on Purpose

Source: CDC

As doctors and researchers work to find ways to expand Americans’ life expectancy, it seems that many Americans simply want to “check out” and do so by taking their own life.

Suicide has been the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. for the last decade, increasing from 10 suicides per 100,000 people in 1999 to 14 suicides per 100,000 people in 2017. Female suicides increased more sharply than male suicides, though more men than women die by suicide each year.

Between 1999 and 2017, the male suicide rate increased by 26% – from about 18 suicides per 100,000 to almost 22 per 100,000.

The suicide rate among women during that period rose from 4 suicides per 100,000 to nearly 6 per 100,000, or 53%. Women between the ages of 45 and 64 experienced the highest suicide rates in both 1999 (6 suicides per 100,000) and 2017 (nearly 10 suicides per 100,000).

Source: CDC

Suicide rates in rural counties were significantly higher than in urban counties.

Redfield said:

“We must all work together to reverse this trend and help ensure that all Americans live longer and healthier.”

He added that the CDC “is committed to putting science into action and to protect U.S. health.”

This news is obviously unfortunate, but hopefully with more awareness being risen around the country, we can collectively take measures improve quality of life across the board.

Sources:

[1] The Washington Post

[2] CNN