We’ve heard many times before that too much red meat is bad for us, but this study of more than 100,000 people still got the nation’s attention. For the first time, researchers estimated the effect of red meat on a person’s lifespan—and the news wasn’t good.
On average, each additional serving of saturated fat-filled red meat was associated with a 13% higher risk of dying during the 28-year study. Processed meat products such as hot dogs, bacon, and salami were especially hazardous. The antidote? Eating more fish, poultry, whole grains, and low-fat dairy may lower your risk of dying prematurely, the study found.
Celebrity chef Paula Deen, famous for the fat-laden dishes she serves up on the Food Network, kicked off the year by announcing she had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes three years earlier.
Deen endured some criticism for keeping her diagnosis private while continuing to push buttery, high-calorie fare (being overweight is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes). Even more unseemly, she timed her announcement to coincide with the launch of a promotional campaign for the diabetes drug Victoza.
With this speed bump behind her, Deen is now concocting lighter versions of her signature recipes and says she has lost 30 pounds.
In January, TV cameras descended on the tiny town of Le Roy, N.Y., after more than a dozen girls and at least one boy at the local high school suddenly became afflicted with twitches, spasms, and uncontrollable outbursts reminiscent of Tourette’s syndrome.
No one—not even Erin Brockovich, who came to investigate at the request of one of the mothers—could figure out what caused the symptoms. Environmental toxins, perhaps? Psychological stress manifesting as physical symptoms? Even “mass psychogenic illness”—better known as mass hysteria? The root cause remains a mystery, but the students gradually recovered with the help of antidepressants, antibiotics, and therapy.
After years of public outcry about the poor nutritional quality of public-school lunches, Michelle Obama and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled the first revisions to the National School Lunch Program in 15 years. Now on the menu: fruits and veggies every day, skim milk, more whole grains, less fat and sodium, and portions tailored to a child’s age.
Not everyone was happy with the change, however. Some students, angry at the smaller portions and blander food, staged school-lunch boycotts and registered their displeasure online in Facebook groups and YouTube videos.
In September, at the behest of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York City Board of Health approved a controversial measure prohibiting all sales of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. Industry associations and many concerned citizens cried foul, calling the measure a violation of consumer freedom.
The soda ban—the first of its kind in the nation—is merely the latest Bloomberg-led public health initiative to address the city’s obesity problem. (Half of all New Yorkers are overweight or obese.) The city has already banned trans fats from restaurant food and requires chain restaurants to disclose calorie counts on their menus.
Is coffee good for our health? Although the research on America’s favorite morning beverage has been mixed overall, coffee drinkers received a big boost when the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published the largest-ever study on the topic in May.
A daily cup (or cups) of coffee, the study found, appears to be harmless and may even lower the risk of dying from chronic diseases such as diabetes. People who drank six or more cups of coffee per day were up to 15% less likely than non-coffee drinkers to die during the study, and even a one-cup-a-day habit was associated with a 5% to 6% lower risk.
This fall, a series of tests conducted by Consumer Reports uncovered alarmingly high levels of arsenic in many rice products, including cereals fed to infants and children, organic products, and brown rice. Arsenic can cause bladder, lung cancer, and skin cancer, and can also up the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Arsenic was found in all 233 rice samples tested, and some baby cereals contained five times as much as comparable non-rice products (such as those made with oatmeal). Consumer Reports, which has also found elevated arsenic levels in apple and grape juice, is calling for stricter federal standards on the chemical.
In June, the FDA approved the first prescription weight-loss drug in 13 years: lorcaserin, also known by its brand name, Belviq. The agency had denied the drug back in 2010 due to concerns over possible side effects (including heart problems), but after reviewing additional safety data decided the drug’s benefits outweighed the potential risks.
Less than a month later, the FDA approved a second weight-loss drug, Qsymia. Although there are some lingering safety concerns with Qsymia, too, these two drugs are expected to provide doctors a new way to fight the country’s stubborn obesity epidemic.