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Roundup: Vaping Hurts Heart Health Too; Mind-Body Therapies; and Diet’s Effect on Depression

e-Cigarettes can Raise Cholesterol, Affect Heart’s Normal Blood Flow

Vaping, or smoking e-cigarettes has been the cause of a wave of lung illnesses and deaths across the nation in recent months, but two new studies now link e-cigs to higher levels of cholesterol and a slowing of the heart’s ability to pump blood.

The two separate studies will presented at the upcoming meeting of the American Heart Association in Philadelphia from Nov. 16-18.

In one of the studies, researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine analyzed the cholesterol levels of four groups of adults: Those who used e-cigarettes; those who smoked regular cigarettes; those who smoked both products; and nonsmokers. All 476 participants were basically healthy before the studies were conducted and had no history of heart disease.

The researchers found that those who vaped had higher levels of unhealthy LDL (the bad cholesterol), on average, compared with nonsmokers. Levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) were lower in those who smoked both traditional and e-cigarettes.

“There is a lot we still don’t know about electronic cigarettes. It’s going to take time for us to understand how e-cigarettes affect your heart health” in the long-term, Sana Majid, M.D., a study author and postdoctoral fellow in vascular biology at Boston University School of Medicine, told NBC News.

A second separate study examined how smoking and vaping affects the heart’s ability to pump blood at rest and during exercise. Researchers found that the blood flow of e-cigarette users was diminished both during exercise and at rest. In contrast, cigarette smokers who took part in the study fared better after exercise, with blood flow returning to normal levels sooner. The study included 19 smokers/vapers in their 20s and 30s, in addition to a group of nonsmokers.

More than 2,000 U.S. adults who use e-cigarettes have become ill and have suffered lung damage since March, many of them teenagers and young adults, and at least 40 people have died. THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana, was found in most samples tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the vaping products used by those who fell ill. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week identified vitamin E acetate, a chemical added to vaping fluid, as a “very strong culprit of concern” in the illnesses.

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‘Mind-Body Therapies’ Can Reduce Pain, Lessen Doses of Opioids Used, Study Finds

A review of 60 clinical studies has found new evidence that “mind-body therapies” — including meditation, hypnosis, relaxation, and cognitive behavioral therapy — can help reduce the pain in people who have been taking prescription opioids, researcher say.

In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine [3], researchers reviewed evidence from 60 studies that included about 6,400 participants. hey evaluated a range of strategies, including “guided imagery,” a form of focused relaxation that helps create harmony between the mind and body. “Mind-body therapies are emerging as potential tools for addressing the opioid crisis,” researchers wrote.

“These findings are critical for medical and behavioral health professionals as they work with patients to determine the best and most effective treatments for pain,” said Eric Garland, lead author on the study, who is associate dean for research at the University of Utah College of Social Work. He is also director of the University of Utah’s Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development.

The researchers looked at the type of pain experienced by the study participants, including short-term pain from a medical procedure or long-term chronic pain. They also analyzed the type of mind-body therapy used and its impact on the severity of pain — and whether the therapy resulted in a decrease in use (or misuse) of opioids.

The study concluded that these therapies “are associated with moderate improvements in pain and small reductions in opioid dose, and may be associated with therapeutic benefits for opioid-related problems, such as opioid craving and misuse.”

The researchers emphasized that mind-body therapies could be easily integrated into a person’s standard medical care and could potentially prevent chronic use of prescription pain killers.

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A Healthier Diet Can Reduce Symptoms of Depression in Young People, Researchers Say

A healthy diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil and nuts — but low in sugar and saturated fat — helped college students who are prone to depression, a new study has found.

The study, published in PLOS One [6], involved 76 college students with symptoms of depression and poor nutrition habits. One group was put on a Mediterranean-style diet, which is high in fruits and vegetables and low in refined carbohydrates, sugar and saturated fat. The other group continued their normal eating routines.

Symptoms of depression diminished, on average, in the group on the Mediterranean diet, moving from the moderate severity range to the normal range, researchers found. Depressive symptoms in the other group that continued their normal diets, remained about the same, staying within the moderate severity range, the study found.

“We hope these findings provide the impetus for future research examining whether the recommended diet can be sustained over longer durations in this population (young adults), and whether the effects on depression symptoms are maintained,” researchers concluded.

One of the most interesting findings, researchers noted, was that diet change was feasible among young adults and university undergraduate students.

“We anticipated several potential barriers such as the perceived cost of the diet, the time demands of preparing food and/or reliance on others for food preparation (particularly if they lived at home),” the study stated. “Despite these factors, there was a significant increase in the recommended foods and decrease in processed foods for the diet-change group…”