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Roundup: 3 Dietary Factors Fuel Global Diabetes Surge; 1-in-5 U.S. Adults Suffer Chronic Pain; and More Health News

Poor Carbohydrates, Processed Meats Primarily Linked to Global Rise in Type 2 Diabetes

Insufficient intake of whole grains, too much refined rice and wheat, and the overconsumption of processed meat are the top three dietary factors fueling rising rates of type 2 diabetes globally, according to a comprehensive new review of nutritional habits covering 184 counties.

Researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, estimate that poor diet contributed to more than 14.1 million cases of type 2 diabetes in 2018, representing more than 70 percent of new diagnoses worldwide. All 184 countries included in the study, published in Nature Medicine, saw an increase in type 2 diabetes cases between 1990 and 2018.

Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, “where diets tend to be rich in red meat, processed meat, and potatoes,”  had the highest number of type 2 diabetes cases linked to diet, says a news release from Tufts University.

Researchers looked at 11 dietary factors, with three factors having an “outsized contribution to the rising global incidence of type 2 diabetes.” These were insufficient intake of whole grains, excesses of refined rice and wheat, and the overconsumption of processed meat. Factors such as drinking too much fruit juice and not eating enough non-starchy vegetables, nuts, or seeds, had less of an impact on new cases of the disease, representing 40 percent, researchers stated.

The research team based their findings on data from the Global Dietary Database, along with population demographics from multiple sources.

“Our study suggests poor carbohydrate quality is a leading driver of diet-attributable type 2 diabetes globally, and with important variation by nation and over time,” states senior author Dariush Mozaffarian, professor of nutrition and dean for policy at the Friedman School, in a statement. “These new findings reveal critical areas for national and global focus to improve nutrition and reduce devastating burdens of diabetes.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 37.3 million Americans — about 1 in 10 — have diabetes, which is the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S. About 1 in 5 people with diabetes don’t know they have it.

CDC Update: At Least 21% of U.S. Adults Experience ‘Chronic Pain’

During 2021, an estimated 21 percent of U.S. adults, or (51.6 million individuals, experienced chronic pain, and 7 percent, or 17.1 million persons, suffered from high-impact chronic pain which results in “substantial restriction to daily activities,” according to new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Chronic pain can be caused by many factors, including underlying chronic conditions such as  arthritis and diabetes, autoimmune disorders, past injuries, and other reasons.  Pain prevalence was “among non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native adults, adults identifying as bisexual, and adults who were divorced or separated, researchers said in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“Chronic pain (pain lasting 3 months or longer) is a debilitating condition that affects daily work and life activities for many adults in the United States and has been linked with depression, Alzheimer disease and related dementias, higher suicide risk, and substance use and misuse,” the CDC said in its report.

The update on chronic pain prevalence stems from the 2019-2021 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a cross-sectional poll conducted annually by the National Center for Health Statistics. Sample sizes and response rates for the NHIS were 31,997 adults in 2019 with a response rate of 61 percent; 31,568 in 2020 with a response rate of 49 percent; and 29,482 in 2021 with a response rate of 51 percent.

Among all chronic medical conditions reported, the age-adjusted prevalence of chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain was highest among adults with a history of myalgic encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue syndrome) 70 percent and 44 percent, respectively) and dementia (55 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

Air Pollutants May Increase Risk of Developing Dementia, Say Harvard Researchers

Can air population increase your risk of developing dementia? Yes, say researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the largest review of previous studies and data to focus on so-called fine particulate air pollutants, or PM2.5. 

The new meta-analysis, published in the BMJ, scanned more than 2,000 studies, finding 51 that looked at an association between ambient air pollution and clinical dementia. The pollutants involved PM2.5, as well as nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that PM2.5 particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Some particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter can get deep into your lungs and some may even get into your bloodstream, the EPA states.  Of these, particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, also known as fine particles or PM2.5, pose the greatest risk to health, the U.S. agency warns.

People who are sensitive to air pollution might experience symptoms when PM2.5 levels are high. This includes people with heart or lung conditions. Symptoms can include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing.

The Harvard researchers found “consistent evidence” of a link between PM2.5 and dementia, even when annual exposure was less than the current EPA annual standard of 12 micrograms (per cubic meter of air), states a news release from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Their analysis found a 17 percent increase in the risk for developing dementia for every 2 micrograms (per cubic meter of air) increase in average annual exposure to PM2.5.

They also found evidence indicating associations between dementia and nitrogen oxide (5 percent increase in risk for every 10 micrograms per-cubic-meter-of-air increase in annual exposure) and nitrogen dioxide (2 percent increase in risk for every 10 micrograms in annual exposure).

More than 57 million people worldwide are living with dementia, and estimates predict that number will surge to 153 million by 2050. Up to 40 percent of these cases are thought to be linked to potentially modifiable risk factors, such as exposure to air pollutants, state the Harvard researchers.

“Given the massive numbers of dementia cases, identifying actionable modifiable risk factors to reduce the burden of disease would have tremendous personal and societal impact,” said lead author Marc Weisskopf, professor of Environmental Epidemiology and Physiology, in a statement. “Exposure to PM2.5 and other air pollutants is modifiable to some extent by personal behaviors—but more importantly through regulation.”

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