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Air pollution linked to diabetes, India at greater risk: Lancet

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New York, June 30: Outdoor air pollution even at levels deemed safe may be associated with an increased risk of diabetes globally, with India being at a greater risk due to lack of air cleaning policies, scientists said in a report in Lancet.

The findings showed that air pollution contributes to the development of diabetes by reducing insulin production and triggering inflammation, which prevents the body from converting blood glucose into energy that the body needs.

The overall risk of pollution-related diabetes is tilted more toward lower-income countries such as India that lack the resources for environmental mitigation systems and clean-air policies, Lancet Planetary Health report said.

“Our research shows a significant link between air pollution and diabetes globally,” said Ziyad Al-Aly, from the University of Washington in St. Louis, US.

“We found an increased risk, even at low levels of air pollution currently considered safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This is important because many industry lobbying groups argue that current levels are too stringent and should be relaxed. Evidence shows that current levels are still not sufficiently safe and need to be tightened,” Aly explained.

The researchers estimated that pollution contributed to a little more than three million new diabetes cases globally in 2016, which represented about 14 per cent of all new diabetes cases globally that year.

Nearly 10 million years of healthy life were lost in 2016 due to pollution-linked diabetes, representing about 14 per cent of all years of healthy life lost due to diabetes from any cause.

According to the UN 2018 Sustainable Development Goals Report, an estimated 4.2 million people died as a result of high levels of ambient air pollution.

In the study, the team analysed data from more than one million participants without a history of diabetes, who were followed for a median of eight and a half years.

They also looked at particulate matters, airborne microscopic pieces of dust, dirt, smoke, soot and liquid droplets.

Poverty-stricken countries facing a higher diabetes-pollution risk include Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Guyana, while richer countries such as France, Finland and Iceland experience a lower risk, the study said.

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Anti-inflammatory drugs may put you at heart attack risk

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If you have been hit by the winter cold and are thinking about taking medicines that relieve your aches, pains and congestion, be careful. Those may also put your heart at risk, the American Heart Association has warned.

A study has showed that both decongestants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), found in many cold medicines, were listed as medications that could increase blood pressure.

People who used NSAIDs while sick were more than three times as likely to have a heart attack within a week compared with the same time period about a year earlier when participants were neither sick nor taking an NSAID.

“People with uncontrolled high blood pressure or heart disease should avoid taking oral decongestants. And for the general population or someone with low cardiovascular risk, they should use them with the guidance of a health care provider,” said Sondra DePalma, from the University of Pittsburgh in the US.

Decongestants like pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine constrict blood vessels. They allow less fluid into your sinuses, “which dries you up”, said Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at the Johns Hopkins Univerity’s Ciccarone Center in Baltimore.

The biggest concerns are for people who have had a heart attack or stroke, or have heart failure or uncontrolled high blood pressure, Michos said, in the paper published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Importantly, healthy people might also be at risk.

For the study, researchers looked at nearly 10,000 people with respiratory infections who were hospitalised for heart attacks.

Participants were 72 years old on average at the time of their heart attacks and many had cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

People who are sick should use both classes of medications — decongestants and NSAIDs — judiciously and understand the potential side effects.

In addition, decongestants should not be taken longer than seven days before consulting with a healthcare provider, DePalma said.

One should also rest and drink plenty of fluids if symptoms are mild or moderate, DePalma noted.

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What is to be blamed for childhood cancer?

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Representative Image , Image Credit : J Pat Carter/AP

A team of researchers has thrown light on the community beliefs about what causes cancer in children, an area which remains understudied, finds a latest research.

“Few childhood cancers are attributed to genetics or environmental factors, so when children are diagnosed with cancer, families often wonder ‘why me/why us’?” said lead author Janine Vetsch, postdoctoral research candidate from UNSW Sydney in Australia.

For the study, the team examined the beliefs of more than 600 participants — parents and childhood cancer survivors — about the causes of childhood cancer, and compared them with beliefs of 510 members of the general population.

Findings, published in Acta Oncologica, revealed that more than seven out of 10 childhood cancer survivors and survivors’ parents believed that chance or bad luck caused the cancer.

This led to most parents and survivors seem to understand that there is nothing they could have done to prevent the cancer, according to Vetsch.

However, around one in five families did believe that environmental factors and genetics played a role, despite only limited available scientific evidence, results further showed.

“It looks like healthcare professionals are successfully helping most families arrive at that view,” said Vetsch.

Such views could lead to stigma. Hence, it is important to increase community knowledge of childhood cancer causes in general.

There is a need to encourage doctors to talk about the causes with affected families to address unhelpful misconceptions,” Vetsch suggested.

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Does your dental floss contain toxic chemicals?

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Dental Health, Image: Bigstock

New York, Jan 9: Using Oral-B Glide dental floss could contribute to elevated levels of toxic chemicals that can lead to health problems, especially in women, including kidney and testicular cancer, high cholesterol, low birth weight, among others, says a study led by US-based Silent Spring Institute.

In the study, the team measured the presence of 11 different PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) — water- and grease-proof substances — in blood samples of 178 middle-aged women.

The findings, appearing in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology (JESEE), showed that women who flossed with Oral-B Glide tended to have higher levels of a type of PFAS called PFHxS (perfluorohexanesulfonic acid) in their body compared with those who did not.

“This is the first study to show that using dental floss containing PFAS is associated with a higher body burden of these toxic chemicals,” said lead author Katie Boronow, a scientist at the institute.

“The good news is, based on our findings, consumers can choose flosses that don’t contain PFAS,” she added.

Further, the team also tested 18 dental flosses (including three Glide products) for the presence of fluorine — a marker of PFAS, all of which tested positive for fluorine. The new findings are consistent with previous reports that Glide is manufactured using Teflon-like compounds.

In addition, the study also showed that women who frequently ate prepared food in coated cardboard containers, such as French fries or takeout, had elevated blood levels of PFAS chemicals.

“Overall, this study strengthens the evidence that consumer products are an important source of PFAS exposure,” Boronow said. “Restricting these chemicals from products should be a priority to reduce levels in people’s bodies.”

Other behaviours that were associated with higher PFAS levels included having stain-resistant carpet or furniture and living in a city served by a PFAS-contaminated drinking water supply.

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