Roundup: Grilled Meats & Hypertension; Restricting Opioids; FDA Eyes Flavored Cigarettes

Overly Cooked, Grilled Meats Linked to Higher Risk of Hypertension

Eating grilled or barbecued meats regularly, and cooking these meats too “well done” level could put you at a higher risk for high blood pressure, according to new research released this week by the American Heart Association (AHA).

The study compared people who eat open-flame, high-temperature meats more than 15 times a month compared with those who eat them less than four times a month. Researchers concluded that the group who ate more grilled meats had a 17 percent increased risk for high blood pressure. The higher risk was associated with grilled beef, chicken or fish.

“Our findings imply that avoiding [these] cooking methods, including grilling, barbecuing and broiling, may help reduce hypertension risk among individuals who consume red meat, chicken or fish regularly,” said Gang Liu, a research fellow in the nutrition department of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Liu presented the findings at AHA’s Epidemiology and Lifestyle conference in New Orleans.

Liu has led previous studies drawing links between an increased risk of diabetes and high-heat cooking and well-done meat.

While the research didn’t come up with a cause for the higher risk of hypertension, other studies suggest cooking meats at high temperatures can lead to the creation of several chemical byproducts in the body. These “are not only potential carcinogens, but also may induce oxidative stress, inflammation and insulin resistance in animal models,” Liu said.

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Florida Gov. Scott Signs Law Limiting Opioid Prescriptions

Gov. Rick Scott this week signed into law legislation that limits opioid prescriptions for acute pain, with some exceptions. The restrictions won’t apply to patients suffering from cancer, terminal illness, serious traumatic injuries or those receiving palliative care.

The law places a three-day limit on prescribed opioids, unless strict conditions are met for a seven-day supply.

The new law also requires prescribers to check Florida’s prescription drug database before dispensing opioids and take continuing education courses about safe opioid prescribing.

In the past, Florida has not required physicians to use the database, known as the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. The intention of the database is preventing addicts from visiting multiple doctors or pharmacies to get supplies of painkillers or other drugs.

Additional provisions in the new law provide more money for treatment programs and increased penalties for providers who write medically unnecessary opioid prescriptions.

Said Gov. Scott in a statement: “This bill will help limit the chance of drug addiction, reduce the ability for dangerous drugs to spread in Florida’s communities and give vulnerable Floridians needed support.”

Opioid-related deaths across Florida have jumped 35 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Opioids were identified as either the cause of death or were present in the deceased person’s body in 5,725 cases in 2016. The 2017 figures are still being compiled.

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FDA Considers Restrictions on Flavoring in Cigarettes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is consider restricting the use of menthol and other flavoring in cigarettes, the second move in a week by the agency to restrict the addictive qualites of tobacco and prevent young people from picking up the habit of smoking.

The FDA said it is collecting data and research from “all stakeholders” — including tobacco companies — as the agency considers policies to keep kids from being enticed by tobacco products with flavors ranging from strawberry to chocolate and cotton candy. It published a notice this week seeking public input on regulations it plans to propose.

Tobacco use, mainly smoking cigarettes, kills more than 480,000 Americans each year and costs nearly $300 billion a year in direct healthcare and lost productivity, the FDA said. Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. Smoking increases risks for cancer, heart attack, lung disease and early death.

“In the spirit of our commitment to preventing kids from using tobacco, we are taking a closer look at flavors in tobacco products to better understand their level of impact,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a statement.

But the FDA chief also said that the agency is looking at how a “regulated framework that protects youth” may also be help some adult smokers “switch to certain non-combustible forms of tobacco products,” such as vaping devices. While e-cigarettes have been found to potentially lead young people to take up smoking traditional cigarettes, some studies have suggested that e-cigs can help older adults kick the cigarette habit.

Each day in the United States, more than 2,300 youth under the age of 18 years smoke their first cigarette, and nearly 1,900 youth smoke their first cigar, the FDA says.

“Youth consistently report product flavoring as a leading reason for using tobacco products,” Gottlieb said. “Flavors may disguise the taste of tobacco. But flavored cigarettes and little cigars are every bit as addictive as any other tobacco products, have the same harmful health effects and may even make it harder to quit.”

In a separate action last week, the FDA announced a proposal “… to explore a product standard to lower nicotine in cigarettes to minimally or non-addictive levels.” If adopted, the new rule would establish a maximum nicotine level for cigarettes.

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