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Coffee’s latest perk?

man drinking coffee-2

Researchers at USC found that drinking coffee is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.

University of Southern California [USC] researchers said they have demonstrated that drinking coffee in any form very likely lowers the risk of colorectal cancer.

Investigators queried more than 5,100 recently diagnosed colorectal cancer patients and 4,000 people with no history of colorectal cancer about their daily intake of coffee and other beverages and about various factors known to affect colorectal cancer risk. They found that drinking between one and two cups of coffee a day was associated with a 26-percent reduction in the odds of getting colorectal cancer, and the risk decreased by as much as 50 percent among those drinking more than 2.5 servings per day.

Participants drank a variety of coffees, including espresso, instant, decaffeinated and filtered coffee, and study results were the same regardless of the type of coffee consumed.

Researchers said they were surprised to learn that caffeine alone did not provide the protective effect. They noted that coffee contains elements that could limit the growth of potential colon cancer cells, encourage colon mobility and even prevent cancer by protecting the body from oxidative damage.

Study author Stephen Gruber, M.D., director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, said while the study demonstrated that coffee is associated with reduced colorectal cancer risk, more research is needed before advocating for coffee as a preventive measure.

“That being said, there are few health risks to coffee consumption,” he said. “I would encourage coffee lovers to revel in the strong possibility that their daily mug may lower their risk of colorectal cancer.”

Broken hearts

Results of a large, observational study found the death of a partner to be associated with increased risk of atrial fibrillation [irregular heartbeat] for up to one year.

Researchers compared data on more than 88,000 people newly diagnosed with atrial fibrillation to information on more than 886,000 healthy individuals. Among bereaved individuals, the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for the first time was found to be about 40 percent higher than for those who had not lost a partner.

The most significant risk was observed among people younger than age 60, who were more than twice as likely to develop atrial fibrillation if they had lost a partner. The risk was greatest one to two weeks after a partner’s death, then gradually subsided for a year, at which point it became similar to that of those who had not lost a partner. Having a partner die unexpectedly also seemed to heighten the risk.

Atrial fibrillation occurs when rapid, disorganized electrical signals cause the upper chambers of the heart to contract very quickly and irregularly. As a result, the heart’s upper and lower chambers do not work together as they should. People do not necessarily notice symptoms of atrial fibrillation, although it can cause chest pain and is a risk factor for heart failure and stroke.

Social media and depression 

There is a connection among young adults’ social media use and depression, a National Institutes of Health-funded study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine questioned nearly 1,800 adults aged 19-32 about their use of the most popular social media platforms and gauged their level of depression using an established assessment tool.

On average, participants spent about an hour per day on social media and checked social media sites 30 times a week. More than 25 percent of participants showed “high” on indicators of depression.

Young adults who checked their social media accounts most often had 2.7 times the likelihood of being depressed, compared to those who checked their accounts the least. Those who spent the most time on social media each day had 1.7 times the risk of depression, compared to those using social media the least.

Researchers were unable to establish a direct “cause and effect” relationship, noting that some young adults who already are depressed may rely on social media to fill a void, while others may become depressed as a result of their experiences on social media, for example.

“Future studies should examine whether there may be different risks for depression depending on whether the social media interactions people have tend to be more active vs. passive or whether they tend to be more confrontational vs. supportive,” senior study author Brian Primack, M.D., said.

Beware of bristles

Beware of loose brush bristles when eating grilled foods.

That is the advice of researchers who estimated roughly 1,700 people visited emergency rooms between 2002 and 2014 because of injuries caused by ingesting wire bristles that had come loose from grill brushes. The number of injuries does not include those suffered by people treated at urgent care centers and other outpatient centers.

“The issue is likely under-reported and thus underappreciated,” study author C.W. David Chang, M.D., said. “Because of the uncommon nature of wire bristle injuries, people may not be as mindful about the dangers and implications.”

Most of the injuries were in the head and neck area and occurred during the summertime.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), before placing food on a grill, the surface should be examined carefully for the presence of bristles that may have dislodged from a grill brush and could wind up in cooked food. The CDC suggests considering the use of products other than grill brushes to clean residential grills.

On the calendar 

BJC HealthCare offers free diabetic foot screenings from noon-2 p.m. on Thursday, April 28 at Middendorf-Kredell Library, 2750 Hwy. K in O’Fallon. Registration is required. Call 928-9355.

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American Red Cross community blood drives are from noon-4 p.m. on Friday, April 29 at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, and at Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon. An appointment is not required but may speed the donation process. Call 916-9650.

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