Public Health

Secondhand smoke remains controversial because it takes statistical manipulation to link it to any deaths. Yes, it can be harmful to asthmatics, just like perfume or a wine cellar, but a whole advocacy industry has not been built up talking about how wine cellars must be killing people. And the most comprehensive study ever done on secondhand smoke and mortality has never been shown to be flawed. 

Last week I had a shocking cold. Blocked nose, sore throat, and feeling poorly. This made me think about the countless vitamins and supplements on the market that promise to ease symptoms of a cold, help you recover faster, and reduce your chance of getting another cold.

When it comes to the common cold (also called upper respiratory tract infections) there is no magic cure (I wish) but some supplements may deliver very minor improvements. Here is what the latest research evidence says.

Vitamin C

For the average person, taking vitamin C does not reduce the number of colds you get, or the severity of your cold.

For years it would not have been possible to use the word “silence” in the same sentence with BPA (bisphenol A).  The safety of BPA has been a long-running, robust controversy, in particular regarding concerns that BPA might cause health effects at exposure levels in the very low range that we as consumers might experience every day. 

A recent study in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds that picky eaters are healthier.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't encourage kids to try new things, but they are not going to end up unhealthy if they sat at the dinner table for an hour and still didn't eat that cabbage. And it debunks claims that picky eaters are at higher risk of being underweight, with poor growth, or being overweight.

Democracies have better teeth than dictatorships, according to recent statistical correlation presented at the 96th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) in London, held in conjunction with the IADR Pan European Regional (PER) Congress.

A new study shows that smokers who switch to nicotine vapor alternatives (e.g. e-cigarettes or iQOS) may be better able to stay smoke-free in the long term - even if they didn't set out to quit smoking. 

And that even people who didn't want to stop smoking have eventually quit because they found vaping more enjoyable.  E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is the addictive component of cigarettes also, but it's toxic chemicals in smoke that cause the harms of smoking. That is why e-cigarettes have caught on as an aid to help people quit smoking for good, whereas patches and gums are only effective for about 10 percent. 

Between 1999-2016, young adults had substantially higher deaths from cirrhosis in 49 of 50 U.S. states. The deaths linked to the end stages of liver damage jumped by 65 percent with alcohol a major cause in adults age 25-34.

The data published in BMJ shows young adults experienced the highest average annual increase in cirrhosis deaths -- about 10.5 percent each year and driven entirely by alcohol-related liver disease, the authors say. Researchers studied the trends in liver deaths due to cirrhosis by examining death certificates compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research project.

Intermittent fasting - fasting every other day - is guaranteed to lose weight in the short term, because it's a crash diet. 

But like lots of other fad diets, the people selling books about it are basing their speculation on animal models and an unrealistic amount of optimism. In biological reality, intermittent fasting impairs the action of sugar-regulating hormone, insulin, which may increase diabetes risk.

Findings presented in the spring at at the European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting, suggest that fasting-based diets may be associated with long-term health risks and careful consideration should be made before starting this fad program - or any fad diet. Energy balance is the only known way to lose weight.

Like many Americans, like many people in all rich nations, New Yorkers somehow still have a lot of be depressed about. And they are getting obese. And not sleeping enough. In 2006, New York declared if they just banned trans fats, diabetes would go down, but rates actually went up, and outside the wealthy white demographic it has remained high. 

Yet New Yorkers think they are healthy.

There has been recent concern about the impact of vaping flavors on young people but the numbers are fuzzy. The US FDA has rightly cracked down on companies flagrantly violating copyright in packaging but cartoon characters don't lead young people to vaping. Instead, former smokers note, young people who experiment with it but don't already smoke often just want to seem cool, and there is nothing cool about bubble gum flavor.