Roundup: Energy Drinks Constrict Blood Vessels; Coffee's Link to Brain Health; and Florida's Obesity Ranking

Energy Drinks Can Narrow Blood Vessels 90 Minutes After Consumption, Researchers Find

An estimated one-third of teens between 12 and 17 years old drink so-called energy drinks regularly — despite previous warnings that they can increase blood pressure, stir up stomach problems and cause other health concerns.

Now new research to be presented at the American Heart Association’s summit in Chicago next week indicates that consuming just one caffeine-laden energy drink can lead to negative effects on the body’s blood vessels.

As part of the study, researchers at the McGovern Medical School in Houston examined 44 healthy, non-smoking medical students in their 20s. They tested the effect of a 24-ounce energy drink on the cells lining their blood vessels, called endothelial cells. After 90 minutes, the internal diameter of blood vessels tested was dramatically smaller, on average, than before they consumed the drinks, the investigators found.

The constriction of the blood vessels is probably linked to ingredients in the energy drink, such as caffeine, taurine, sugar and other herbals, the researchers indicated. Taurine is an amino acid touted as an energy booster.

Exercise and other physical activities maximum blood flow so oxygen can get to cells quickly, a vital action that could be impaired if blood vessels become tighter. Energy drinks that reduce the vessels’ diameter, in effect, restrict blood flow and oxygen delivery.

“A lot of young kids use energy drinks when they exercise, a time when you need your arterial function to be at its top,” said lead researcher John Higgins, M.D., a professor of medicine at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

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Dark Roast Coffee Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Another study concludes that coffee might be good for your health, and this time the focus is on dark roast coffee and the brain.

Canadian researchers from the Krembil Brain Institute found that compounds known as phenylindanes prevent two protein fragments common in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Dark roast coffee yields the highest quantities of phenylindanes.

“Coffee consumption does seem to have some correlation to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” says Donald Weaver, M.D., co-director of the Krembil Brain Institute. “But we wanted to investigate why that is — which compounds are involved and how they may impact age-related cognitive decline.”

Phenylindanes are unique because they inhibit both beta amyloid and tau, two protein fragments common in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, from clumping. As roasting leads to higher quantities of phenylindanes, dark roasted coffee appears to be more protective than light roasted coffee, according to the study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience.

“It’s the first time anybody’s investigated how phenylindanes interact with the proteins that are responsible for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” says Ross Mancini, a research fellow in medicinal chemistry who was involved in the study.

Keep in mind, coffee consumption should not be overdone, experts caution. Most coffee studies that find health benefits are known as “association studies,” meaning they don’t find that coffee is the actual reason for the benefit. Approximately 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide each year, the Canadian researchers said in a statement.

“The next step would be to investigate how beneficial these compounds are, and whether they have the ability to enter the bloodstream, or cross the blood-brain barrier,” said Mr. Mancini.

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Florida Falls in the Middle of States Ranked by Obesity Rates, New Survey Finds

Florida ranks as the 29th “fattest” state in the nation, according to a new review from WalletHub which determined the percentage of U.S. adults and children who are obese.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than seven in 10 U.S. adults aged 20 and older are either overweight or obese. Rates are lower for children and adolescents, but have risen drastically in the past few decades. Mississippi was ranked the No. 1 state with the highest obesity rate, followed by West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Colorado took the top spot as the fittest U.S. state, followed by Utah, Hawaii, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Researchers reviewed the share of obese adults and children, projected diabetes cases by 2030, heart disease rate, fast food restaurants per capita, and the share of physically inactive adults. They assigned grades out of 100, with a higher grade indicating a worse score.

Colorado earned 44.35 out of 100 while Mississippi scored 72.97 out of 100. Florida’s score was closer to the middle at 56.12.

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