Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Brookings Institute report] Isabel V. Sawhill and Quentin Karpilow – Three Facts about Birth Control and Social Mobility

From the 1 November 2013 report

An NGO health worker holds contraceptive pills during a family planning session with housewives availing free pills in Tondo, Manila (REUTERS/Erik De Castro).

The ability to control our fertility, to have children when—and with whom—we want, is a precious gift of modern science. For women in particular, birth control has also been a boost for social mobility. But there is still progress to be made.

1. The Pill Transformed Women’s Life Chances

The Pill gave American women something genuinely new: a convenient and highly effective means of controlling their own fertility. Although the Pill was licensed by the by the FDA (as Enovid) in 1960, state and federal laws limited the access of young single women to oral contraception. But as those laws changed in the late 60s and early 70s, oral contraceptive use jumped among young single women. And look what happened to the gender mix of professional college courses:Goldin and Katz graph showing first year female professional students as a fraction of first year students

Of course this could be coincidence. But the best researchers in the field don’t think so. Using sophisticated research designs, that isolate the causal effects of the Pill, scholars have shown that the diffusion of the Pill raised women’s college attendance and graduation rates (Hock, 2007), increased the representation of women in professional occupations (Goldin and Katz, 2002), and boosted female earnings (Bailey et al., 2012).

2. Unintended Pregnancies Still Too Common

But unintended pregnancy rates – 3 million or more a year – remain stubbornly high in the U.S. The benefits of birth control are being only partially realized. Half of all pregnancies are mistimed or unwanted – and 95 percent of all unintended pregnancies occur among women who either aren’t using contraception at all or aren’t using their contraceptive method consistently:

Pie chart of 2001 Unintended pregnancies by consistency of contraception method used in month of conception

It is time for a new revolution in family planning, with even better contraception than the pill. Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as intra-uterine devices (IUDs) have a big role to play in solving America’s contraception deficit. Because these highly effective methods don’t require the daily maintenance that the Pill does, LARCs could potentially eliminate the problems of inconsistent use, as a study conducted in St Louis suggests.

3. Most Disadvantaged Need More To Lose

Early, unwed pregnancy rates are highest in the most disadvantaged communities. Recent research suggests that for those with starkly limited opportunities, better family planning may do little to improve their life trajectories. The impact of better contraception for this cohort is small for the depressing reason that they have so little to lose in the first place. These women need better family planning, but they also need better educational and work opportunities. In short, they need more to lose.

Earlier this week, I talked about these issues at an event sponsored by AEI and the Institute of Family Studies. In tomorrow’s blog post, I’ll set out the gains we could realize from getting better at birth control.

November 1, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press Release] Pizza perfect! A nutritional overhaul of ‘junk food’ and ready-meals is possible

A "mozzarella" pizza.

A “mozzarella” pizza. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the press release of the University of Glasgow at the 1 November 2013 EurkAlert

 

Pizza is widely regarded as a fully-paid up member of the junk food gang – maybe even the leader – at least the versions found on supermarket shelves or delivered to your door by scooter.

Historically, a few humble ingredients: bread, tomatoes and a little cheese, combined to form a traditional, healthy meal, but many of today’s pizzas have recruited two dangerous new members to their posse – salt and saturated fat.

However, pizzas and many other nutritionally-dubious foods can be made nutritionally ideal: A crowning example of ‘health by stealth’ according to scientists, who say it is possible to reformulate such foods to achieve public health goals, without upsetting their taste so they remain commercially successful for producers.

Professor Mike Lean, a physician and nutritionist in the School of Medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: “Traditional pizza should be a low-fat meal containing at least one portion of vegetables, so mainly made from ingredients associated with better cardiovascular health.

“However, to enhance shelf-life, commercial pizza recipes today include much more fat and salt than desirable. Until now, nobody has stopped to notice that many essential vitamins and minerals are very low or even completely absent. From a nutrition and health perspective, they are hazardous junk.

“Pizzas are widely consumed and regarded as meals in themselves, and yet their impact on human nutrition does not seem to have been studied.”

The team of scientists, which also included Dr Emilie Combet, Amandine Jarlot and Kofi Aidoo of Glasgow Caledonian University, set out to ascertain the nutritional content and quality of contemporary pizzas and to demonstrate that pizza can be reformulated to make it the basis of a fully nutritionally-balanced meal.

A range of new pizza recipes was then developed, each containing 30% of all the nutrients required in a day: in other words, an ideal meal.

A total of 25 Margarita pizzas were analysed. They varied widely in calorie content, ranging from 200 to 562kcal. Few approached the 600kcal energy requirement that would make it a proper meal, so people may tend to eat something extra.

Perhaps surprisingly only six of 25 pizzas tested contained too much total fat (>35% total energy), with eight having too much saturated fat while only two boasting a desirable level (<11% total energy). Most of the fat in the pizzas came from the cheese.

The amount of sodium in most of the 25 pizzas was substantially over the recommended limit, with nine containing more than 1g per 600kcal serving.

Several pizzas had sodium levels well within the recommended limit but were not advertised as low-salt or low-sodium, indicating that recipes can be modified and remain commercially successful.

To constitute a healthy nutritionally-balanced meal, at least 45% of the energy intake should come from carbohydrates. Only five failed to meet this requirement, due to combined high fat and protein contents.

Vitamin and mineral content information was mostly absent from the packaging, with only five providing this information in detail, and three having basic information. None met the recommended value for iron, vitamin C and vitamin A. One met just the iron requirement and two the vitamin C requirement. Vitamin A requirement was met in four pizzas, and only one met calcium requirements.

Prof Lean said: “Some were really bad. While none of the pizzas tested satisfied all the nutritional requirements, many of the requirements were met in some pizzas, which told us it should be possible to modify the recipes to make them more nutritionally-balanced without impacting on flavour – health by stealth, if you like.”

To demonstrate how to do it, the researchers joined forces with an industrial food producer to modify a modern pizza recipe: reducing salt, adding whole-wheat flour, adding a small amount of Scottish seaweed to provide flavour, vitamin B12 and fibre, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and iodine, adding red peppers provided extra vitamin C.

The proportions of bread base to Mozzarella cheese was adjusted to correct the carbohydrate/fat/protein ratios and minimize saturated fat content. After cooking, it was finally analysed in the laboratory.

The team put the end result to a taste test with members of the public and both children and adults gave it the thumbs-up for taste and attractiveness.

The world’s first nutritionally-balanced pizzas were subsequently marketed by food company Eat Balanced.com, and three flavours are available from various UK supermarkets.

Prof Lean said: “There really is no reason why pizzas and other ready meals should not be nutritionally-balanced. We have shown it can be done with no detriment for taste.

“Promoting ‘healthy eating’ and nutritional education have had little impact on eating habits or health so far, and taking so-called ‘nutritional supplements’ makes things worse.

“We can’t all make entirely home-made meals, so it’s about time that manufacturers took steps to make their products better suited to human biology, and we have shown then how to do it. Rather than sneaking in additives like salt, they could be boasting about healthier ingredients that will benefit consumers.”

The study ‘Development of a nutritionally-balanced pizza, as a functional meal designed to meet published dietary guidelines’, is published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

 

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For more information contact Stuart Forsyth in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 4831 or email stuart.forsyth@glasgow.ac.uk

Notes to Editors

The study was supported by a ‘First Step Award’ (funding from the University of Glasgow and the Scottish Government) between the University of Glasgow and the industrial partner Eat Balanced Ltd. The authors wish to thank Fiona Alexander, UKAS research technician at Glasgow Caledonian University, and the input of Cosmo Tamburro at Cosmo Products Ltd. Posteriori to this project, ML has acted as scientific advisor for Eat Balanced Ltd and received a consultancy fee from the company.

 

 

 

November 1, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Research article] Racism, Gun Ownership and Gun Control: Biased Attitudes in US Whites May Influence Policy Decisions

From the Open Access article at the Public Library of Science (PloS)

Abstract

Objective

Racism is related to policies preferences and behaviors that adversely affect blacks and appear related to a fear of blacks (e.g., increased policing, death penalty). This study examined whether racism is also related to gun ownership and opposition to gun controls in US whites.

Method

The most recent data from the American National Election Study, a large representative US sample, was used to test relationships between racism, gun ownership, and opposition to gun control in US whites. Explanatory variables known to be related to gun ownership and gun control opposition (i.e., age, gender, education, income, conservatism, anti-government sentiment, southern vs. other states, political identification) were entered in logistic regression models, along with measures of racism, and the stereotype of blacks as violent. Outcome variables included; having a gun in the home, opposition to bans on handguns in the home, support for permits to carry concealed handguns.

Results

After accounting for all explanatory variables, logistic regressions found that for each 1 point increase in symbolic racism there was a 50% increase in the odds of having a gun at home. After also accounting for having a gun in the home, there was still a 28% increase in support for permits to carry concealed handguns, for each one point increase in symbolic racism. The relationship between symbolic racism and opposition to banning handguns in the home (OR1.27 CI 1.03,1.58) was reduced to non-significant after accounting for having a gun in the home (OR1.17 CI.94,1.46), which likely represents self-interest in retaining property (guns).

Conclusions

Symbolic racism was related to having a gun in the home and opposition to gun control policies in US whites. The findings help explain US whites’ paradoxical attitudes towards gun ownership and gun control. Such attitudes may adversely influence US gun control policy debates and decisions.

 

Editor: Brock Bastian, University of Queensland, Australia

 

Received: May 3, 2013; Accepted: September 7, 2013; Published: October 31, 2013

Copyright: © 2013 O’Brien et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funding: These authors have no support or funding to report.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist

 

 

November 1, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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