Researchers Link Climbing Obesity Rate to Lack of Exercise

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Researchers at the Stanford University Medical Center say that the surge in the American obesity rate is linked to a lack of exercise, not a dramatic change in the overall number of calories consumed.

The study was conducted using data from national health surveys from 1988 through 2010, and led researchers to link "huge increases in both obesity and inactivity." Data was culled from 17,430 survey participants between 1988 and 1994 and 5,000 each year between 1995 and 2010. Each participant was asked to record the frequency, duration and intensity of their exercise over the last month.

Researchers defined "ideal" exercise as over 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or over 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise.

The study only found a link between lack of activity and obesity, not a causation.

In 1988, just 19 percent of women and 11 percent of men reported no physical activity -- figures that climbed to 52 percent and 43 percent respectively by 2010. During that same time, obesity rates climbed from 25 percent among women and 20 percent in men to 35 percent in both women and men.


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Delaware Dad Delivers Early Bundle of Joy on Busy Highway

Creatas/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- A Delaware woman is recovering after her newborn daughter arrived slightly earlier than expected.

Joe and Melissa Alan were on their way to the hospital with Melissa  in labor, when the expectant mom realized they weren't going to make it to the birthing center.

“It hit fast, it came fast and we did not have any time to get up there,” Melissa Alan told ABC News affiliate WPVI-TV in Philadelphia.

The couple was attempting an hour drive from their home to their planned birthing center but their daughter had other plans.

“Forty minutes down the road I told him to stop. We had to deliver there,” Melissa told WPVI-TV. “I knew I was giving birth in my car.”

Fortunately, Joe Alan managed to stay relatively calm during the whole ordeal. After helping his wife into the back seat so she could safely deliver the baby, he called 911.

“I saw [my daughter's] head and that’s when it hit me, 'We’re having a baby,'” Joe told WPVI, who said the 911 operator was able to walk him through the delivery process. “I was yelling, ‘We’re having a baby on the side of Route 1.’”

In spite of the drama, Bayleigh Kait was delivered safely just a minute after the couple pulled over. Both mother and daughter are doing fine, although the couple’s car might need a little help.

On Joe Alan’s Facebook page, the new father asked “So .... Who knows a good vehicle interior detailer?”


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Can World Cup Heartbreak Affect Your Health?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As Brazilian fans start to recover from their devastating loss to Germany in the World Cup semifinals, experts say that heartbroken fans should be sure to take care of themselves as losing can come at a cost greater than national pride.

A 2013 study published in Psychological Science journal found that fans were more likely to eat high fat and high calorie meals after their team lost an important game. Researchers looked at the eating habits of 726 people in cities with National Football League teams.

In cities where a team lost, fans consoled themselves by eating 10 percent more calories than a normal Monday and 16 percent more saturated fat, according to The Telegraph.

A similar study by the same authors conducted a study with 78 French sports fans and found when fans -- especially soccer fans -- wrote about a game their favorite team had lost, they ended up reaching for comfort food.

While experts have long known that people can overeat when they’re emotional, it wasn’t clear if simply losing the big game would qualify.

According to the study’s lead author and Ph.D candidate in marketing at the INSTEAD business school in Paris, Yann Cornil, the researchers were surprised with how clear the findings were.

“The research was usually done in a lab in which people watch sad movies and we look at how much we eat,” said lead author Yann Cornil. “It’s not very realistic. We were not sure in collecting real world data would replicate the results.”

But binging after a loss isn’t the only way a game can affect the health of devoted fans. Yann pointed out a 2011 study that examined traffic patterns after college and basketball games and found that nerve-rattling, close games could result in a rise in fatalities by as much as 133 percent.

Dr. Todd Peters, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Vanderbilt Medical Center, said the biggest fans will often strongly identify with a team and this can be even more pronounced during international competitions where a sense of national pride also unifies fans.

“There’s the associating with the players, but also saying ‘This is us against the world,’ in the competition,” said Peters. “People will identify with certain player attributes or identity of a team…it’s that key piece that does bring up the level of emotions you see in defeat.”

Peters said it might just be game, but that fans can experience the same emotional devastation as going through a break-up, including depression and anger.

“When there is a loss it is almost like a break-up,” said Peters. “The team can no longer go on. You have to wait another four years to experience it again.”


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Doctors Call: End Warning on Antidepressants or Risk Suicides

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Mental health experts are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to remove its most severe label -- the so-called “black box warning” -- on all categories of antidepressants because it has been “highly correlated” with a more than 33 percent jump in suicide attempts over the last decade as doctors and patients who could benefit from the drugs have shied away from using them.

A June study published in the BMJ backs up previous research that shows a link between fears about the use of antidepressants and young people taking their lives.

The data is “startling,” said Dr. Gene Beresin, executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, which is affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital.

“A black box earning means parents and doctors must be aware and monitor,” he told ABC News. “But that’s the next closest thing to prohibition."

“If an infection, asthma, or heart condition increased 30 percent over the last decade, the public would go ballistic,” said Beresin. “The FDA would have been under massive attack from all sectors of the population if any other medical condition escalated in this manner. ...Everyone would be scrambling to reduce any and all possible risk factors.”

In 2003, the FDA reviewed clinical trial data on 2,200 children who had been treated with SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a widely prescribed class of antidepressants. It noted a 4 percent increase in “suicide thinking and behavior” among those aged 18 to 24 during the first two months of treatment.

In October 2004, the FDA issued its most serious warning on all categories of antidepressants, indicating a suicide risk in children and adolescents with major depressive disorders. In 2006, the warning was extended to young adults up to 25 and recommended that doctors “must balance this risk with the clinical need.”

But the FDA study was limited in scope, according to psychiatrist Beresin. One of the side effects of SSRIs is “a certain amount of agitated behavior, but there were no attempted suicides and no deaths.”

“Teens may be suicidal anyway -- that was worrisome,” he said. “But nobody died and nobody killed themselves."

Beresin and other mental health professionals have argued that the perceived risks of antidepressants elicited fear among parents and general practitioners, the doctors who typically first diagnose mental disorders. And they say many young people who could have benefited from the drugs went untreated.

Suicide rates have been rising steadily for five years, according to The American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide rates among those 15-24 increased from 10.5 deaths per 100,000 in 2010, to 10.9 in 2011.

The foundation has opposed the FDA warning, urging a “more balanced approach” to the labeling. “The warning was very extreme given the data they were analyzing at the time," said its chief medical officer, Dr. Christine Moutier. "We have major problems with the way the FDA interpreted the data.”

“The sad thing about the black box warning has been the tremendous effort made in the last 15 to 20 years,” Moutier said of studies that showed a relationship between depression and elevated risk of heart attacks. “It was one of the pivotal findings was on many impacts on the body. It started to validate it as a psychological illness and not just what happens when a person is thrown into stress.”

She said the study results showing a new increase in suicides as a result of FDA warnings are “a step backwards in terms of treatment of this common health condition.”

But the FDA stands firm on what it officially calls its "box warning." Agency spokeswoman Sandy Walsh said the label is “an important risk signal.

“The labels also say that ‘suicide is a known risk of depression and certain other psychiatric disorders, and these disorders themselves are the strongest predictors of suicide,’” she wrote ABC News in an email. “It should be emphasized that the warnings on the drugs do not say not to treat depression, they say suicidality is a risk in young people, and so the clinician should monitor the young patient when starting, or increasing the dose, of these drugs.”

“The warnings do not suggest avoiding the drugs,” said Walsh. “The FDA has not tried to discourage use of antidepressant drugs in people who may benefit from them. And, the current labeling and patient medication guides remind physicians and caregivers of the monitoring that is needed for patients taking these medications. The FDA has tried to balance the suicidality warning language with a reminder that depression is a serious illness that itself is the major risk factor for suicidal thoughts and actions.

“At this time nothing indicates a need for change in the boxed warning on these drugs, which urges attention to patients starting treatment, which the FDA feels is still good advice.”

The latest BMJ study was carried out by Harvard University’s Department of Population and Medicine and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. It analyzed data on more than 7 million patients in the U.S. Mental Health research network between 2000 and 2010.

It noted a 24 percent decrease in antidepressant prescriptions among young adults and a 33.7 percent increase in suicide attempts by drug overdose alone in the two years following the black box warning.

The study showed no jump in such attempts among adults older than 29. Completed suicides did not change for any group, although researchers said the chance of completing suicide by overdose is rare, so this was an expected result.

A 2007 study published in the American Psychiatry Journal of Psychiatry backs up the most recent research. It examined prescriptions of SSRIs from 2003 to 2005 in patients up to the age of 19 in both the United States and The Netherlands, right after the FDA warning. It noted a 22 percent drop in prescriptions and a 14 percent rise in actual completed suicides, not just attempts.

In The Netherlands, the drop in prescriptions was similar, but the rise is suicide rates was 49 percent. Both countries showed only an increase in suicides among young people, not adults. Researchers said they believed the warning was premature.

The National Institute of Mental Health states that the benefits of antidepressants “likely outweigh their risks to children and adolescents with major depression and anxiety disorders.”

Psychiatrist Beresin adds that antidepressants are “very safe, the SSRIs in particular.”

Other medications including steroids, cholesterol drugs and antibiotics can sometimes be “extremely dangerous” on the body’s organs, but carry no black box warning, he said.

“Depression is one of the most debilitating illnesses known to mankind with one of the highest death rates,” said Beresin, who blames lack of education for fear of antidepressants. He argues that not all patients with mental disorders require medication, and many do well on psychotherapy alone or in conjunction with drugs.

“Yes, you have to monitor their use and be vigilant,” he said. “But we need to drop the warning and use antidepressants as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.”

Beresin said he sees stigma as a “huge” part of the problem.

“The entire culture has a prejudice against patients with psychiatric disorders and it’s prevalent not only among the general population but common in medical schools and among physicians,” he said. “People don’t understand psychiatric illnesses and see it as a moral or ethical problem. ...They deny it exists.”


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Liv Tyler Shares Her Beauty Tips, Including Colonics and Fasting

Paul Schiraldi/HBO(LOS ANGELES) -- Liv Tyler works hard to look as good as she does.

One of her secrets? A week-long retreat to a detox spa in California.

"I do really hot baths with different salts and oils a few times a week and exfoliate," she told Violet Grey. "I also believe in going to We Care [spa], doing a week of fasting, colonics, and sleeping a lot."

Now appearing as a cult target in the HBO series, The Leftovers, Tyler, 37, said she welcomes playing such a stripped-down role. It was something she'd sought out for a while, as doing "weird things" has always been a passion.

"I go to work with no makeup and they still take me down, make me a little dirty," she said. "It's been really liberating."

Off-camera, Tyler admits to having a few indulgences. She loves a glass of wine and chicken nuggets, and spending time with girlfriends, including Kate Hudson and Eva Mendes.

"I love women," she said. "I'm intrigued by them. I think women are fascinating and complex."

After all, she said, having a rich internal life attributes to looking good.

"I believe that beauty comes from the inside out," she said. "There’s no cream that can fix you if you’re not beautiful on the inside."


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Nature Versus Nurture: Great Musicians Edition

iStock/Thinkstock(EAST LANSING, Mich.) -- Are great musicians born with an innate talent or are their skills the result of countless hours of practice?  A new study indicates it’s both.

A study by Michigan State University suggests accomplished musicians are genetically programmed to commit to the long hours of practice required to become skilled musicians.

Researchers studied 850 sets of twins and found that accomplished musicians practiced much more than those who didn't attain the same level of musical expertise.

When they compared identical twins, who share 100 percent of their genes, and fraternal twins, who share 50 percent of their genes, the researchers reached the conclusion that a predisposition to practice more was driven partly by genetics.

Study leader Zach Hambrick, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University, says the findings contradict the popular view that a lack of a natural ability can be overcome with more practice and training.

"Contrary to the view that genetic effects go away as you practice more and more, we found that genes become more important in accounting for differences across people in music performance as they practice," says Hambrick.

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Anesthesiologists Need to Improve Their Hand Hygiene Habits

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LEBANON, N.H.) -- A new study on hand hygiene in hospital operating rooms suggests that anesthesiologists need to remember what their moms told them: Don’t forget to wash your hands.

Researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center observed anesthesiologists during operations and found they were least likely to properly clean their hands during the first and last 20 minutes of patient anesthesia.  

The researchers noted that the lack of hand washing corresponds with sharp increases in bacterial contamination of the 20 most frequently touched objects during the same time periods.

Researchers also found that anesthesiologists were least likely to exercise proper hand hygiene immediately before patient contact and after contact with the patient's surroundings, but were most likely to properly wash their hands after potential exposure to body fluids.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 157,000 surgical site infections in the U.S. annually.

The study’s authors conclude that "new methods to reduce bacterial contamination of the anesthesia work environment are needed to prevent health care-associated infections.”

The study is published in the July issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.


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Most Americans Believe Religion Is the Answer to Today's Problems

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- According to a new Gallup Values and Beliefs survey, a majority of Americans believe that religion holds the answer to today's problems.

In the poll, 57 percent of 1,000 adults surveyed agreed with that statement.

Those who were more inclined to put their faith in faith were older, conservative, and generally from the South.

However, the result is a far cry from the 1950s, when Americans seemed to have a lot more belief in a higher authority. Back then, 82 percent said religious was the answer to problems.

As of now, 30 percent of Americans say that depending on religion as a cure for problems is, "old fashioned and out of date."


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Study: Minimally-Invasive Surgery Underused at Many Hospitals

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A surprisingly low percentage of surgeries in America is being done using minimally invasive surgery techniques, a new report from Johns Hopkins Medical Center found.

The study, published in the BMJ, looked at data from more than 1,000 hospital around the United States. The data showed that just 13 percent of hysterectomies, 28 percent of colectomies, 32 percent of lung lobectomies and 71 percent of appendectomies were done laproscopically.

Researchers had previously determined for each hospital and predicted percentage of laproscopic surgeries. They determined that larger hospitals, hospitals in urban areas or teaching hospitals were more likely to utilize minimally invasive surgical procedures.

Previous studies have shown that minimally invasive surgery reduces the risk of surgical site infection, length of hospitalization and post-operative pain.


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Painkiller Naproxen May Increase Risk of Heart Problems in Older Women

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New research found that a popular painkiller may cause damage to the hearts of older women who use it regularly.

The study, published in the journal Circulation, looked at data from 160,000 postmenopausal women over the age of 50. Researchers learned that those women who regularly used naproxen for aches and pains had a 22 percent increased risk of heart attack of stroke. Researchers said that women who took the painkiller at least twice per week were considered regular users.

Ibuprofen, researchers say, was not linked to increased cardiovascular risk.

The study was conducted using 11 years of data from the Women's Health Initiative.


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Childhood Tuberculosis Cases May Be 25 Percent Higher than Estimates

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study found that current estimates on the rate of childhood tuberculosis in a selection of 22 countries around the world may be about 25 percent higher than current estimates.

The study, published in the journal Lancet Global Health found that about 15 million children are exposed to tuberculosis every year, and that 53 million children are living with latent tuberculosis infection, which can become active at any time.

Despite those numbers, the researchers estimate that about 650,000 children develop tuberculosis in those nations each year. That is about 25 percent higher than the World Health Organization's estimate in 2012, which stated that about 530,000 cases of active tuberculosis are developed each year in children under 15.

The new study counts factors such as age, vaccination efficacy and the effect of HIV infection, compared to the WHO estimates, which rely on pediatric case reporting.

Researchers say that their findings offer a huge opportunity to provide preventive antibiotic treatment for the 15 million children living in a home with an adult who is infected with tuberculosis.


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Underage Drinkers More Affected by Ads from Popular Brands

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study from Johns Hopkins University found that advertising done by top alcohol brands may be drawing in consumers below the legal drinking age.

The study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, used data from magazine ads in 2011, and found that men between the ages of 18 and 20 were nine times as likely to be influenced by ads from popular brands than by all other alcohol brands. Similarly, women in the same age range were 5.5 times as likely to to be influenced by the ads from popular companies.

Interestingly, the ads in places that underage drinkers were more likely to be affected by were also less likely to resonate with legal drinkers between the age of 21 and 25.


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Hospital Pharmacist Charged in Theft of Nearly 200,000 Pills

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The former Pharmacy Director at Beth Israel Medical Center was arrested on Tuesday and charged in the largest-ever theft of pills by a hospital worker prosecuted in New York City.

Anthony D'Alessandro, who worked at the hospital for 14 years, was arrested in Staten Island on Tuesday morning. He allegedly had been stealing oxycodone pills since 2009, securing almost 200,000 pills -- which had a street value of approximately $5.6 million.

The Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York charged D'Alessandro with operating as a major trafficker under New York State's Drug Kingpin Statute. In addition, D'Alessandro faces charges of grand larceny and 247 counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance.

The theft was uncovered when Mount Sinai Medical Center merged with Continuum Health Partners. The new administration received an anonymous letter and accompanying documentation, the prosecutor says.

D'Alessandro was responsible for overseeing all medication at Beth Israel Medical Center and allegedly used his position to steal pills on at least 218 separate dates. The thefts started out in the range of 100 to 500 pills per day, but by January 2014, D'Alessandro was allegedly stealing up to 1,500 pills in a single day, prosecutors charge.


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Vials of Smallpox Virus Found in Unapproved Maryland Lab

iStock/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) -- The National Institutes of Health announced on Tuesday that vials of the smallpox virus were found in a laboratory on its Bethesda, Maryland, campus, violating an international agreement reached in 1979 that stated the virus could only be held at two labs in the world: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lab in Atlanta and the Vector Institute in Russia.

It’s unclear how long the vials had been in the lab’s cold storage room, but the boxes holding them may date back to the 1950s, according to CDC spokesman Tom Skinner.

“At the end of the day, we don’t know why this stuff showed up,” Skinner said.

Scientists found six freeze-dried vials labeled to contain variola -- the virus that causes smallpox -- and 10 other vials with unclear labeling information in a cold storage room owned by the Food and Drug Administration on the NIH’s Bethesda campus while preparing for the laboratory’s upcoming move to the FDA’s main campus, according to Dr. Steven Monroe, who directs the CDC’s division of high consequence pathogens and pathology.

“It’s pretty hearty as viruses go, particularly in the free-dried state,” Monroe said of the variola virus. “That could certainly prolong viability.”

The vials were on their sides in a cardboard box packed with cotton balls and index cards to hold them in place, Monroe said, adding that he was not aware of any documents accompanying the vials.

The CDC was informed of the discovery on July 1 and sent a three-person team to transport the vials via a government plane to its main campus in Atlanta for further testing, Monroe said.

Of the 16 vials, only the six labeled for variola tested positive for variola DNA, according to Monroe. The contents of the vials are now being tested in cell culture to determine if any of the virus samples are still infectious. Once that process is complete, they will be destroyed, Monroe said.

Smallpox killed a third of those who contracted it for about 3,000 years until it was declared globally eradicated by routine vaccination in 1979, according to the World Health Organization. We’re not even vaccinated for it anymore.

Once it was considered eradicated, the World Health Assembly agreed that all labs would either destroy their stockpiles of the virus or send them to one of two labs for study. Earlier this year at the World Health Assembly, scientists voted not to destroy the remaining smallpox stockpiles.

Monroe said no other smallpox vials had turned up unexpectedly since the 1979 agreement.

“We can’t say with 100 percent certainty there are no other vials like this,” he said.


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Scientist Untangles Mystery of Jumbled Headphones

Photos.com/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A physicist may have solved the mystery of tangled headphones.

Robert Matthews, a visiting scientist at Aston University in Birmingham, England, has developed a mathematical theory that explains why headphones invariably tangle up into hopeless knots. It’s called the “Murphy's Law of String” or the “Loop Conjecture,” and it’s a phenomenon that has driven headphone users bonkers since before the Walkman was popular.

Matthews’ years of study suggest that clipping the two earbuds together, then attaching them to the end near the audio jack to form a loop, will cause a tenfold reduction in knot formation.

“First, by forming the loop you've effectively reduced the length of string able to explore the 3D space by 50 percent, which makes a big difference,” Matthews said. “Second, you've also eliminated the two ends, which are the prime movers of knot formation.”

To test his theory, Matthews invited schools across England to participate in “the Great British Knot Experiment.” Participants compared different types of knots to determine which are the easiest to unravel. One school picked away at over 12,000 jumbled strings to provide data for Matthews’ predictions, he said.

Matthews, who has also studied why toast wants to fall butter side down, said he’s particularly satisfied that he was able to tie up the loose ends on headphone tangles.

“I hope it saves people a lot of grief,” he said.

He added that tangles are no trivial question for science. His work may help cast light on why DNA sometimes forms knotty mutations, and how knot formations in cancer cells can be undone with targeted drugs.


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