Opioids and obesity, not ‘despair deaths,’ raising mortality rates for white Americans

Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according to new CU Boulder research.

The study, published online today in the International Journal of Epidemiology, also found that, contrary to widely reported research findings, suicide and alcohol-related deaths are not to blame for increasing mortality rates among middle-aged whites.

The results call into question recent reports suggesting that what have become known collectively as “despair deaths” — by suicide, alcohol and drugs — are on the rise among white Americans, particularly men, facing a lack of economic opportunity and an increase in chronic pain.

Full story of opioids and obesity at Science Daily

Oreos as ‘addictive’ as cocaine in lab rat study

Anyone who’s ever eaten an Oreo knows how difficult it can be to eat just one.

Scientists have long suspected that our brains crave junk food in the same way they crave other pleasurable substances, such as illegal drugs. Previous studies in rodents and in humans have shown the same area of the brain that lights up on scans when people use drugs, also shows increased activity when study participants consume, or even look at, high fat, high sugar foods like ice cream or bacon.

Some scientists believe certain foods trigger the brain to signal for more, similar to the way addictive drugs prompt cravings; if we don’t fulfill the brain’s request, the body could produce a physical response (like caffeine headaches) similar to withdrawal symptoms.

New research from undergraduate students at Connecticut College adds to the growing evidence suggesting that food can be addictive. The students were interested in understanding how the availability of junk food in low-income areas has contributed to America’s obesity epidemic.

“Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat, high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability,” study designer and neuroscience major Jamie Honohan said in a statement.

Full story of oreos and cocaine at CNN Health

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Antipsychotics linked to diabetes in kids

Antipsychotics have already been linked to type II diabetes in adults. Now a new study shows a connection between these medications and the chronic medical condition in kids as well.

Researchers report in the journal JAMA Psychiatry that children taking antipsychotics have three times the risk of developing type II diabetes, compared to children taking other psychotropic medications (drugs prescribed to treat mental disorders).

The study authors were surprised by the magnitude of the results. But the findings make sense, given that the side effects of antipsychotics include weight gain and insulin resistance, said Wayne A. Ray, study co-author and researcher in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. However, the study shows an association, not a cause-effect relationship.

It’s not uncommon for an adult taking antipsychotic medications to gain 20 to 40 pounds in a relatively short period of time, Ray said. Similar weight gain effects have been observed in children, proportionate to their body sizes.

Full story of antipsychotics and diabetes at CNN

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

You’re eating more calories than you think

Calorie counting has long been touted as an effective tool for losing pounds or maintaining a healthy weight. But new research published in the British Medical Journal shows many of us are underestimating the calories we’re eating, especially when we visit fast food restaurants.

The study

Researchers interviewed more than 1,800 adults, 1,100 adolescents and 330 children at several fast food chains in New England. The interviews were done at McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, KFC, Dunkin’ Donuts and Wendy’s around dinnertime and lunchtime.

Study participants were asked to estimate their meal’s calorie count. Researchers then collected the bill to later tally the correct amount of calories using nutrition info posted on the chain’s website.

The results

At least 40% of the study participants reported eating at the restaurant where they were interviewed at least once a week. More than 20% of the adult participants noticed posted calorie information, but only 5% said they used that information when purchasing food.

Full story of the calories we actually consume at CNN Health

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Brain Circuits Link Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior and Obesity

What started as an experiment to probe brain circuits involved in compulsive behavior has revealed a surprising connection with obesity.

The University of Iowa-led researchers bred mice missing a gene known to cause obesity, and suspected to also be involved in compulsive behavior, with a genetic mouse model of compulsive grooming. The unexpected result was offspring that were neither compulsive groomers nor obese.

The study, published the week of June 10 in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggests that the brain circuits that control obsessive-compulsive behavior are intertwined with circuits that control food intake and body weight. The findings have implications for treating compulsive behavior, which is associated with many forms of psychiatric disease, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette syndrome, and eating disorders.

UI neuro-psychiatrists Michael Lutter, M.D., Ph.D. and Andrew Pieper, M.D., Ph.D., led the study. The team also included researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Harvard Medical School.

Full story of brain circuits involving obesity and OCD at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education