Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
A panel of experts said this week that healthy women should not take low-dose vitamin D and calcium pills to prevent broken bones. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said the pills don't help and might increase the risk of kidney stones. Two news reports this week came out of a major sleep conference. One found that much higher risk of stroke for people who sleep less than six hours a night. Another study found that many adults with insomnia are afraid of the dark. Also, the World Health Organization said this week that diesel exhaust causes cancer.
This Issue: 'No' for Low-Dose Vitamin D, Calcium Study: Sleep Shortage Multiplies Stroke Risk Many Insomniacs May Fear the Dark WHO Labels Diesel Fumes a Carcinogen
In the News:
'No' for Low-Dose Vitamin D, Calcium
Healthy older women should not take daily low doses of vitamin D and calcium to prevent fractures, an expert panel said this week. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued the advice. This is an independent group that provides advice to doctors and the government on preventive care. The group reviewed 19 studies involving women who were past menopause. They were randomly divided into groups. Some women received vitamin D and calcium pills daily. Others received placebo (fake) pills. The doses varied. The task force found no reduction in fracture risk for women taking up 400 international units of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. Past studies also have suggested a higher risk of kidney stones for women taking these pills. Some experts have recommended even higher doses for older women. But the task force said there was not enough evidence to make a judgment about larger doses. The advice does not apply to vitamin D and calcium obtained from foods. The task force report is a draft. Public comment is invited. USA Today wrote about the task force report.
Study: Sleep Shortage Multiplies Stroke Risk
People who sleep fewer than 6 hours a night are 4 times as likely to have a stroke as those who sleep more, new research finds. Another recent study found that 30% of U.S. working adults get 6 hours of sleep or fewer a night. The new study included 5,666 adults. Every 6 months for 3 years, they reported how much they slept and any stroke symptoms. The higher risk of stroke was found even among people of normal weight who did not have a high risk of sleep apnea. The research was presented at a sleep conference this week. USA Today wrote about it.
Many Insomniacs May Fear the Dark
Many adults with insomnia may be afraid of the dark, a study released this week suggests. The study included 93 adults. Their median age was 22. They slept in a lab while monitored their body and brain activity. Researchers also asked people if they were afraid of the dark. About 50% of the poor sleepers and 20% of the good sleepers said yes. Researchers also designed a test to see who was afraid of the dark. At random intervals, while people slept, they blasted a loud noise through the headphones that people wore. They did this during both light and dark. In the light, good and poor sleepers reacted in the same way. In the dark, poor sleepers were more startled by the noise than good sleepers. The good sleepers got used to the interruption and reacted less over time. But the poor sleepers became more startled and scared. Researchers said the study could suggest another way to treat sleep problems by treating the phobia. The study was presented at a conference. Canadian Press wrote about it.
WHO Labels Diesel Fumes a Carcinogen
Diesel exhaust causes cancer, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this week. Before this, WHO had listed the fumes as a "probable carcinogen." The risk of diesel exhaust is similar to that of passive smoking, an official said. The ruling was made by an international group of experts after a weeklong meeting. They issued their judgment on behalf of WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer. The official expressed hope that the ruling will prompt national governments to make a new push to clean up diesel exhaust. The Associated Press wrote about the decision.
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