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Roundup: E. Coli-Romaine Update, Sugary Sports Drinks and ‘Red Meat Allergy’

Florida is Now Among 29 States Affected by E. Coli-Tainted Romaine Outbreak

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added Florida to its list of 29 states where cases of E. coli-tainted romaine lettuce have surfaced. The CDC reports one case in Florida, but the agency is not providing additional details.

The nationwide food poisoning outbreak has sickened a total of 149 people, according to the CDC’s weekly report. The number of people sickened and states affected from this outbreak has steadily climbed steadily since U.S. health officials started investigating a month ago. It is now the worst outbreak since the 2006 crisis involving E. coli illnesses from bacteria in baby spinach, in which 205 people became ill and five died.

In the current outbreak from romaine lettuce, California leads the nation with 30 cases, followed by Pennsylvania with 20 and Idaho with 11. One death has been reported, along with 64 hospitalizations. The CDC has already taken the rare step of urging the public to avoid romaine lettuce altogether.

The current cases of “E. coli O157:H7” are linked to romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. But residents in all states are being urged to throw out romaine lettuce, unless they know the origin.

“We still continue to go full-bore in trying to identify the source, not only the source of the contamination but also how the contamination actually happened,” Stephen Ostroff, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, told The Washington Post.

Labels on romaine lettuce or other foods often do not identify growing regions, so consumers should discard any romaine lettuce, the agency says. This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. “If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away,” the CDC advises.

Most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make you very sick. Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia and other illnesses.

People usually get sick from E. coli between 2 to 8 days (the average is 3 to 4 days) after eating the infected food. Most people recover within 1 week. Those most vulnerable to food-borne illness, such as E. coli, are pregnant women, newborns, children, older adults and those with weak immune systems, such as people with cancer, diabetes or HIV/AIDS.

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Teens Switching from Sugary Sodas to Sugary Sports Drinks

The good news is that young people are drinking less sugary sodas. The bad news is that more of them are drinking sugar-laden sports drinks, according to a new study.

While the popularity of sodas has declined, the makers of sports drinks are ramping up their marketing to young people. A new study indicates their strategy may be working. Researchers found that the number of U.S. high school students who drank sports drinks at least once per week rose slightly, from 56 percent in 2010 to nearly 57 percent in 2015.

However, over the same period, the number who drank one or more sports drinks daily fell slightly – from 16 percent to just under 14 percent, the researchers found.

Nonetheless, dietitians are concerned that young people are simply switching one sugary drink for another. Dietitians recommend water for hydration, even during typical workouts or for joggers and others who take part in moderate exercise.

Sports drinks are aggressively marketed to teens to replenish fluids or electrolytes, but that’s only a concern for vigorous exercising in the heart, such as training for a half- or full marathon. Primary care physicians and dietitians caution families to avoid drinks with lots of calories and sugar because of an increased risk of chronic health problems such as obesity and diabetes.

“It is possible that this may be because sugar-sweetened sodas are less available in schools and teens are turning to sports drinks instead,” senior study author Andrew Adesman, M.D., of the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York and Northwell Health, told Reuters.

He added that for some teens “sports drinks are clearly a beverage of choice not related to physical activity.”

For the study, published in the journal Pediatrics [2], Dr. Adesman and colleagues collected data on more than 11,000 teens who responded to the 2010 National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey, and more than 11,300 who responded to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Pediatricians should counsel adolescents about recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) regarding sports drinks, the study concludes. The AAP says that sports drinks have a limited function for teen athletes, and they should be consumed when there is “a need for rapid replenishment of carbohydrates and/or electrolytes in combination with water during prolonged, vigorous physical activity.”

Water, not sports drinks, should be the principal source of hydration for children and adolescents, the AAP says.

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More People are Developing ‘Red Meat Allergy’ from Tick Bites

More people are developing a “red meat allergy” from tick bits, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which reported this month that tick-borne illnesses have more than doubled in recent years. And ticks are infesting larger areas of the country.

Doctors believe a bite from the Lone Star tick is the reason for the increase in the unusual condition of being allergic to red meats. The tick bites reportedly can trigger a response in humans to alpha gal, a sugar found in beef, lamb, venison and pork. Reactions can include redness and itching, digestive issues, and in some cases, anaphylaxis – a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.

Ticks are spreading to new areas [5], enabled in some cases by warmer weather that expands their habitats and extends tick season longer into the fall, according to CDC officials.

The Lone Star tick that spreads this allergy is named for the shape of the white splotch on the back of adult females. Lone Star ticks at all stages of its life bite humans — unlike with all other ticks common in the U.S. — and can be “quite aggressive,” according to the CDC. The tick also feeds on, and may catch a ride on, cats and dogs.

The CDC has a list of recommendations [5] on how to avoid ticks and tick-borne illnesses.

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Very Low-Carb Diet Can Improve Blood Sugar Control in Type 1 Diabetes

Diets very low in carbohydrates can improve blood sugar control in individuals with type 1 diabetes, resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and other complications, according to an online patient survey.

The researchers, led by physicians from Boston Children’s Hospital, are now calling for controlled clinical trials using this approach for type 1 diabetics. Findings were reported in the journal Pediatrics [8].

“Exceptional glycemic control of type 1 diabetes with low rates of adverse events was reported by a community of children and adults who consume a very low-carb diet,” the study’s authors concluded. “Glycemic control” refers to how slowly or how quickly foods cause increases in blood glucose levels.

Participants surveyed reported an average daily carbohydrate intake of 36 grams, or about 5 percent of total daily calories. In comparison, the American Diabetes Association recommends about 45 percent of calories come from carbohydrates. Self-reported hemoglobin A1c values – the primary measure of blood-sugar control – averaged in the normal range, at 5.67 percent (the target is below 7 percent and prevailing levels average 8.2 percent).

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. It is most commonly diagnosed in children. Medication and lifestyle modifications, including diet, exercise and weight management, can help treat the condition.

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