New evidence on toothpaste for kids

toothpasteIn the U.S. dental care has long been a priority for young children. Decades ago, I can clearly remember our church giving out toothbrushes and toothpaste every Halloween before it was time to trick-or-treat. But for many reasons, tooth decay is a growing problem among preschool children. [Read more…]

Smoking bans are good for kids

smokingIt’s a well-established fact that smoking is bad for your health.  Thousands of studies and hundreds of systematic reviews have documented health problems related to individuals smoking. But this week, researchers published the first-ever review that found smoking in public places has broader negative consequences for child health.
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Should we screen everyone for dementia?

medical decisionMore than 5 million adults in the U.S. suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and even more suffer from other dementias that result in memory loss and speech difficulties, and interfere with thinking and plans skills.

Most of the time, dementia is diagnosed when a caregiver such as a doctor notices symptoms in a patient, or when a caregiver suspects something is wrong. Experts believe that leaves a vast majority of dementia cases in the primary setting undiagnosed. [Read more…]

What we know about gun violence

Each year, more than 30,000 Americans are killed in acts of violence using a gun. The problem is complex because it involves so many factors.

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Gaps in evidence: Gun violence in America

News stories about the problem of gun violence in America have dominated media outlets across the country over the past year.  The tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut continues to fuel an on-going debate about the laws surrounding violence and safety in our society. It’s a sensitive subject, and many people across the nation hold opposing viewpoints about what should be done. But one thing is clear: gun violence is a critical public health problem.

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The evidence on hands-free cell phone devices while driving

Whether it’s a quick call to ask what’s needed from the grocery store or catching up with a long-distance friend – people everywhere talk on cell phones while they’re driving. [Read more…]

New evidence about medical malpractice

More than 15,000 lawsuits are filed against doctors in the United States each year for medical malpractice, a claim that medical treatment caused injury or death to the patient, typically involving a medical error. [Read more…]

New evidence about the federal food stamps program

Nearly 45 million American receive help purchasing food each year through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps.  Here on EBL, we’ve written about the federal program in the past, specifically how it helps keep families out of poverty. [Read more…]

The latest evidence on Vitamin D

Keeping track of the latest evidence on which vitamin supplements to take can be confusing. Although new information is available regularly, mainstream media outlets don’t always report the full story, which can result in conflicting reports.

There is new, clear evidence this month: The U.S. Preventative Services task force is recommending that healthy, postmenopausal women should not take Vitamin D and calcium supplements to prevent fractures.

The task force – an independent panel of medical experts – reviewed more than one hundred medical studies before making their recommendation. It found insufficient evidence that taking vitamin D and calcium actually helps prevents fractures, and found a small risk of increased kidney stones for people who did take the supplements.

The task force’s recommendation does not apply to people suffering from osteoporosis or vitamin D deficiencies, or those living in skilled nursing facilities.

Cornell nutritionist Patsy Brannon has weighed in on the national debate over vitamin D supplements. Brannon was on the Institute of Medicine panel. While the panel recommended increasing the daily intake of vitamin D, it did not find that a deficiency is linked to chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

“The evidence available is inconsistent, with some studies demonstrating this association while others show no association, and still others show evidence of adverse effects with high blood levels of vitamin D,” Brannon told the Cornell Chronicle. Although we can’t conclude whether low vitamin D is associated with chronic disease, the evidence is clear that these vitamin supplements do not prevent fractures.

New evidence on fluoride

Since I was a child, I have always considered fluoride a good thing for preventing tooth decay.  I’ve always taken regular trips to the dentist, brushed with a fluoride toothpaste and generally taken good care of my teeth.  So I was surprised last week to see a new review raising some questions about the safety of fluoride consumption.

The report – written by Harvard researchers and funded by the National Institute of Public Health  – reviewed 27 studies published over a period of 22 years that looked into whether fluoride damaged the nervous systems of people. The studies included measured exposure to fluoride in drinking water related to cognitive function tests and IQ scores.

The researchers found that children living in areas where fluoride is added to the water score lower on IQ and cognitive tests compared with children living in areas where fluoride is not added to the water.  The conclude that fluoride may be a developmental neurotoxicant for children that affects brain development at exposures much below those that can cause toxicity in adults.

What surprised me the most is that 70 percent of U.S. households live in communities where fluoride is added to the water.  That’s millions of Americans ingesting an additive that has unclear long-term effects.

The report also calls for additional studies to evaluate dose-response relationship of fluoride – basically how much is needed to prevent cavities without causing harmful side effects

I feel lucky that my community does not add fluoride to our water supply. And I have to admit – since reviewing this new report – I’ve been much  more careful about limiting the amount of toothpaste on my children’s brushes each day.

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