Every two weeks, we gather some of the most interesting and intriguing studies from health researchers around the world. Here are the latest:
In recent years, some cities and states have debated requiring health warning labels on sugar-sweetened beverages, which a new Pediatrics study says could actually sway parents’ decisions about buying such products.
About 2,400 parents were enrolled in the online study, assigned various labeling options and asked to choose a beverage for their child from a digital vending machine. About 40 percent of parents who were shown warning labels on beverages chose a sugary drink for their child, vs. 60 percent in the the no-label group. Parents who were shown the labels believed that sugary beverages were less healthy for their child, and were less likely to purchase such beverages, the study found.
The study was conducted by researchers from Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Waterloo in Canada, and published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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“Overall, we hypothesized that a warning label would be more likely to increase perceptions of the health harms of sugar-sweetened beverages and reduce purchase intentions,” the authors wrote in the report. “This research has the potential to inform regulatory efforts in states and municipalities considering sugar-sweetened beverage warning label policies.”
Women veterans fare worse later in life than non-veteran counterparts
Despite years of physical activity in the military, female veterans have worse health outcomes in the long run than their peers who did not serve, according to a new joint report from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers analyzed the Women’s Health Initiative – a long-term study from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute that tracked nearly 162,000 women from 40 centers across the U.S. for more than two decades. The study included about 3,700 women veterans.
Overall, authors found that women veterans reported lower levels of life satisfaction, social support and physical function than non-veterans. Declines in cognitive function over time were higher in the veteran group, as were rates of hip fracture. Women veterans smoked more and were exposed to more passive smoke, which increased risk for lung cancer.
“The women veterans in WHI have taught us that prior military service identifies a group of women who face special challenges as they grow older,” said Andrea LaCroix, chief of epidemiology at the University of California, San Diego, and an investigator at the WHI Clinical Coordinating Center, in a news release. “With women choosing to serve our country in greater numbers and expanded roles including combat, it is essential to learn about their health care needs after leaving service now and in the future.”
UCLA researchers make headway with scarred hearts
Human embryonic stem cells may be able to improve the way surgeons rebuild cardiovascular tissue after heart attacks, according to a January study from the UCLA Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research.
Researchers recently uncovered two specific markers that identify a special stem cell with the ability to generate heart muscle and the vessels that support heart function. These cells may eventually help regenerate tissue for organs damaged by heart disease, according to the article published this month in the journal Stem Cell Reports.
After planting the special cells into an animal model, scientists found that a significant number of the cells survived, integrated and produced cardiac cells that helped regenerate heart muscle and vessels. Though the concept is still a long way from being tested on humans, scientists hope there will eventually be a way to transplant these cells into hearts through a minimally invasive procedure.
“In a major heart attack, a person loses an estimated 1 billion heart cells, which results in permanent scar tissue in the heart muscle,” said Dr. Reza Ardehali, the study’s senior author and a UCLA associate professor of cardiology, in a statement. “We have now found a way to identify the right type of stem cells that create heart cells that successfully graft when transplanted and generate muscle tissue in the heart, which means we’re one step closer to developing cell-based therapies for people living with heart disease.”