Apr 19 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: April 19

Hookahs Not a Safe Alternative to Cigarettes
Despite the belief of many, smoking tobacco using a hookah is not a safe alternative to cigarettes, according to a new study in the American Association for Cancer Research’s Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Hookah use produces higher levels of carbon monoxide and benzene, linked with heart or respiratory conditions and increased risk of leukemia, respectively. “People want to know if it is a lesser health risk if they switch from cigarettes to smoking a water pipe on a daily basis,” said UC San Francisco research chemist Peyton Jacob III, PhD. “We found that water-pipe smoking is not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking, nor is it likely to be an effective harm-reduction strategy.” The mix of toxins produced by a hookah is due to the combination of the two difference materials smoked, according to researcher Neal Benowitz, MD, of the San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. “You’re basically burning a charcoal briquette on top of the tobacco,” Benowitz said, “and most of what you’re smoking is a moist fruit preparation, which is mixed with the tobacco. It smells good and it tastes good.” Read more on tobacco.

CDC: Number of U.S. Foodborne Illness Cases at a Standstill
After dropping for many years, the number of foodborne illnesses in the United States has apparently leveled out, according to a new study in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. About 48 million people—or one in six—suffer from a foodborne illness each year. The most common cause is salmonella. "It is still the case now that numbers were lower than they were back in the 1990s," said Robert Tauxe, MD, deputy director of the division of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "But right now we're just about where we were in 2006 to 2008, and we may need to identify additional ways to reduce contamination, as well as heightening awareness among consumers about the importance of thoroughly cooking and safely handling ground beef in their own homes." Read more on food safety.

Exercise, Healthy Eating Helps Keep Sleep Apnea in Check
The combination of exercise and healthy eating is a simple way to ease the effects of mild sleep apnea, according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine. The key is weight loss. Researchers “found obese study participants who went through a one-year lifestyle intervention were about half as likely to see their sleep apnea progress to more severe disease,” according to Reuters. "It usually takes at least a few years to progress from mild disease to the more severe disease, and mostly it's due to weight gain," said Henri Tuomilehto, MD, who led the new study at the Oivauni Sleep Clinic in Kuopio, Finland. "With these results, we can say that if we change our lifestyle…we really can stop the progression of sleep apnea.” Read more on obesity.

Tags: Public health, News roundups, Tobacco, Food Safety, Obesity