What too much alcohol can do to your health

(CNN)This feature is part of CNN Parallels, an interactive series exploring ways you can improve your health by making small changes to your daily habits.

A lot of us drink. Too many of us drink a lot.
Worldwide, each person 15 years and older consumes 13.5 grams of pure alcohol per day, according to the World Health Organization. Considering that nearly half of the world doesn’t drink at all, that leaves the other half drinking up their share.
    While the majority of the world drinks liquor, Americans prefer beer. The Beverage Marketing Corp. tracks these things: In 2017,Americans guzzled about 27 gallons of beer (or 216 pints), 2.6 gallons of wine and 2.2 gallons of spirits per drinking-age adult.
    But Americans are lightweights in any worldwide drinking game, based on numbers from the World Health Organization. The Eastern European countries of Lithuania, Belarus, Czechia (the Czech Republic), Croatia and Bulgaria drink us under the table.
    In fact, measuring liters drunk by anyone over 15, the US ranks 36th in the category of most sloshed nation; Austria comes in sixth; France is ninth (more wine) and Ireland 15th (yes, they drink more beer), while the UK ranks 18th.
    Who drinks the least in the world? The Arab nations of the Middle East.

    With all this boozing going on, just what damage does alcohol do to your health? Let’s explore what science says are the downsides of having a tipple or two.

    Counting calories

    Even if you aren’t watching your waistline, you might be shocked at the number of empty calories you can easily consume during happy hour.
    Calories are typically defined by a “standard” drink. In the US, that’s about 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol, which differs depending on the type of adult beverage you consume.

    For example, a standard drink of beer is one 12-ounce can (355 milliliters). For malt liquor, it’s 8 to 9 fluid ounces (251 milliliters). A standard drink of red or white wine is about 5 fluid ounces (148 milliliters).
    What’s considereda standard drink continues to go down as the alcohol content goes up. But what if that changes? Let’s use beer as an example.
    It used to be that light beer came in around 100 calories while regular beer averaged 153 calories per 12-fluid ounce can or bottle — that’s the same as two or three Oreo cookies.

    But beer calories depend on both alcohol content and carbohydrate level. So if you’re a fan of today’s popular craft beers, which often have extra carbs and higher alcohol content, you could easily face a calorie land mine in every can. Let’s say you chose a highly ranked IPA, such as Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (9.6% alcohol) or Narwhal (10.2% alcohol), and you’ve downed a whopping 318 to 344 calories, about as much as a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Did you drink just one?
    If you pour correctly, white wine is about 120 calories per 5 fluid ounces, and red is 125. If you fill your glass to the brim, that might easily double.
    Liquor? Gin, rum, vodka, tequila and whiskey cost you 97 calories per 1.5 fluid ounces, but that’s without mixers. An average margarita will cost you 168 calories while a pina colada weighs in at a whopping 490 calories, about the same as a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder.
    A 2013 study in the US found that calorie intake went up on drinking days compared with non-drinking days, mostly due to alcohol: Men took in 433 extra calories, while women added 299 calories.
    But alcohol can also affect our self-control, which can lead to overeating. A 1999 study found that people ate more when they had an aperitif before dinner than if they abstained.
    Take heart. If you’re a light to moderate drinker, meaning you stick to US guidelines of one “standard” drink a day for women and two for men, studies have shown that you aren’t guaranteed to gain weight over time — especially if you live an overall healthy lifestyle.
    For example, a 2002 study of almost 25,000 Finnish men and women over five-year intervals found that moderate alcohol consumption, combined with a physically active lifestyle, no smoking and healthy food choices, “maximizes the chances of having a normal weight.”
    However, it appears that heavy drinking and binge drinking could be linked to obesity. And that’s a problem. The numbers of binge drinkers — defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women within a couple of hours at least once a month — has been rising in the United States.
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in six adults binge about four times a month, downing about eight drinks in each binge.
    In the UK, where binge drinking is defined as “drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk,” a 2016 national survey found 2.5 million people admitted to binge drinking in the last week.
    Alcohol, of course, has no nutritional value and contains 7 calories per gram — more than protein and even carbs, which both have 4 calories. Fat has 9 calories per gram.
    All those empty alcohol calories have to end up somewhere.

    Heart disease and cancer

    The prevailing wisdom for years has been that drinking in moderation — again, that’s one “standard” drink a day for women and two for men — is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. But recent studies are casting doubt on that long-held lore. Science now says it depends on your age and drinking habits.
    A 2017 study of nearly 2 million Brits with no cardiovascular risk found that there was still a modest benefit in moderate drinking, especially for women over 55 who drank five drinks a week. Why that age? Alcohol can alter cholesterol and clotting in the blood in positive ways, experts say, and that’s about the age when heart problems begin to occur.
    For everyone else, the small protective effect on the heart was evident only if the drinks were spaced out during the week. Consuming heavily in one session, or binge drinking, has been linked to heart attacks — or what the English call “holiday heart.”
    Also, a 2018 study found that drinking more than 100 grams of alcohol per week — equal to roughly seven standard drinks in the United States or five to six glasses of wine in the UK — increases your risk of death from all causes and in turn lowers your life expectancy. Links were found with different forms of cardiovascular disease, with people who drank more than 100 grams per week having a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease and fatal aortic aneurysm, where an artery or vein swells up and could burst.
    In contrast, the 2018 study found that higher levels of alcohol were also linked to a lower risk of heart attack, or myocardial infarction.
    Overall, however, the latest thinking is that any heart benefit may be outweighed by other health risks, such as high blood pressure, pancreatitis, certain cancers and liver damage.
    Women who drink are at a higher risk for breast cancer; alcohol contributes about 6% of the overall risk, possibly because it raises certain dangerous hormones in the blood. Drinking can also increase the chance you might develop bowel, liver, mouth and oral cancers.
    One potential reason: Alcohol weakens our immune systems, making us more susceptible to inflammation, a driving force behind cancer, as well as infections and the integrity of the microbiome in our digestive tract. That’s true not only for chronic drinkers but for those who binge, as well.

    Diabetes

    The connection between alcohol and diabetes is complicated. Studies show that drinking moderately over three or four days a week may actually lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, drinking heavily increases the risk. Too much alcohol inflames the pancreas, which is responsible for secreting insulin to regulate your body’s blood sugars.
    If you have diabetes, alcohol may interact with various medications. If you take insulin or any pills that stimulate the release of insulin, alcohol can lead to hypoglycemia, a dangerously low blood sugar level, because alcohol stimulates the release of insulin as well. That’s why experts recommend never drinking on an empty stomach. Instead, drink with a meal or at least some carbs.
    And, of course, because alcohol is made by fermenting sugar and starch, it’s full of empty calories, which contributes to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

    Mood and memory

    Because alcohol is a depressant, drinking can drown your mood. It may not seem that way while you “party” your inhibitions away, but that’s just the drink depressing the part of the brain we use to control our actions. The more you drink, say experts, the more your negative emotions, such as anxiety, anger and depression, can take over.
    That’s why binge drinking or drinking a lot in one sitting is associated with higher levels of depression, self-harm, suicide and violent offending.
    Binge drinking is also associated with severe “blackouts”: the inability to remember what happened while drunk. Blackouts can range from small memory blips, such as forgetting a name, to more serious incidents, such as forgetting an entire evening.
    Alcohol does this by decreasing the electrical activity of the neurons in your hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for the formation of short-term memories. Keep up that binge drinking, and you can permanently damage the hippocampus and develop sustained memory or cognitive problems.
    Adolescents are most susceptible to alcohol’s memory disruption but less sensitive to the intoxicating effects. That means they can easily drink more to feel as “drunk” as an adult would, causing even more damage to their brains.

    How you look

    Last but certainly not least, alcohol can have a significant effect on your good looks. First, it dehydrates you. That can leave your skin looking parched and wrinkled. It’s also linked to rosacea, a skin condition causing redness, pimples and swelling on your face.
    Do you know you can stink while you’re drinking? During the time your liver is processing a single drink, which is on average an hour but varies for everyone, some of it leaves your body via your breath, urine and sweat.

    See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

    Another reason drinking can affect your looks has to do with sleep. Although even a little bit of alcohol can help you fall asleep quickly, as the alcohol is metabolized and leaves the body you may suffer the “rebound effect.” Instead of staying asleep, the body enters lighter sleep and wakefulness, which appears to get worse the more one drinks.
    A lack of sleep leads to dark circles, puffy eyes and stress. Keep it up, studies say, and you’re likely to see more signs of aging and a much lower satisfaction with your appearance.
    So the next time you head to the pub for tipple or two, remember: You could be paying a price for all that fun.

    Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/01/health/alcohol-health-weight-diabetes-memory-intl/index.html

    28 Of The Most Dangerous Things Science Has Strongly Linked To Cancer

    Cancer is the No. 2 cause of death in the US, second only to heart disease.

    It fundamentally affects the way our cells grow and divide, changing them in perverse ways. All cancer is a result of damage or genetic mutations in our DNA. The nasty, debilitating class of diseases spreads through a body like an invading army, as toxic cells grow relentlessly into unruly tumors.

    Some cases of cancer are out of our control, determined by genetic defects and predispositions passed down from one generation to the next, or spurred by genetic changes we undergo through our lifetime.

    But we also know that breathing in certain substances, eating specific things, and even using some kinds of plastics ups the risk of developing some deadly cancers.

    Here are some known carcinogens (cancer-causers), as well as a few more things scientists are zeroing in on as prime suspects.

    Sugar

    Scientists now know that eating too much sweet stuff can not only lead to diabetes, but actively damage your cells and increase your risk of developing cancer.

    But that’s not all.

    New research suggests that sugar may fuel tumor growth in the body — because cancer loves to use sugar as fuel.

    “The hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth” Johan Thevelein, a Belgian molecular biologist, said in October after the release of his study.

    Scientists say that the groundbreaking research gives us a better understanding of how sugar and cancer interact and that it could one day help create targeted diet strategies for patients.

    Processed foods

    Any food that comes in a crinkly plastic wrapper, is industrially sealed, and is designed to last for months without spoiling may be a quick on-the-go fix for a hunger pang, but it’s also most likely increasing your risk of cancer.

    Scientists in France recently zeroed in on a link between people who eat more processed foods and those who develop cancer.

    They’re not sure yet whether the problem is the shelf-stabilizing ingredients, the plastic packaging, or some combination of the two. And because their study was correlative, it’s possible there’s some other hidden factor at work.

    Smoking

    Though the tobacco industry tried to cover this one up, we’ve known for years that tobacco smoke has at least 70 cancer-causing chemicals inside.

    And it’s not just smokers who are affected — people who inhale secondhand smoke can develop deadly forms of cancer too.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says: “Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20-30%.”

    People who chew their tobacco are at increased risk too.

    Tanning and unprotected sun exposure

    gg-foto/Shutterstock

    According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, people who use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk of developing melanoma by 75%.

    Regular sun can hurt you too, so wearing protective clothing and sunscreen and finding shade are good ideas if you’re going to be out in the sunshine for more than 15 minutes.

    Toxic chemicals at work

    Some people work with cancer-causing substances daily.

    Those at risk of coming in contact with cancer-causing substances on the job include:

    • Aluminum workers.

    • Painters.

    • Tar pavers, who come in contact with the carcinogen benzene.

    • Rubber manufacturers.

    • Hairdressers who deal with dyes every day.

    • Nail-salon workers breathing in dangerous fumes.

    • And everyone who works the night shift (the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified nighttime work as a probable carcinogen in 2007).

    The CDC has a full list of occupational cancer hazards.

    Arsenic

    Arsenic, a natural part of the Earth’s crust, is toxic in its inorganic form. It’s often found in contaminated drinking water in places like Bangladesh, or in spots where irrigation systems for crops use arsenic water.

    The World Health Organization says at least 140 million people in 50 countries drink water containing high levels of arsenic.

    It’s also one of the cancer-causing agents in tobacco.

    Charred meat, and grilling over an open flame

    Smoky meats from the grill may be tender and tasty, but they probably also increase your risk of cancer. That’s because the muscle meats contain compounds called heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs.

    According to the National Cancer Institute, when meats like beef, poultry, or fish are cooked over a hot open flame or pan-fried at high temperatures, the fat and juices they release into the fire spark flames with the dangerous chemicals inside that then cook into the meat we eat.

    They’re not positive that these chemicals cause cancer, but in lab tests they have been found to change DNA in ways that might increase the risk of cancer.

    Coal

    Coal miners have for years had higher rates of cancer in their lungs, bladder, and stomach. There’s sufficient data to suggest miners who deal with coal gasification or who inhale coal dust can get cancer.

    Alcohol

    Regular heavy alcohol consumption can up your risk of developing several different kinds of cancer, including throat, liver, breast and colon cancer.

    According to the National Cancer Institute, “the risk of developing cancer increases with the amount of alcohol a person drinks.”

    Diesel exhaust

    Diesel oil has more than 30 components that can cause cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

    Salt-cured meat or fish and pickled foods

    Twitter/Cavistons Food Emporium

    Salt-cured fish, which is popular in China, is high in nitrates and nitrites — known carcinogens in animals that may also cause cancer in humans. The chemical compounds can damage DNA, leading to head and neck cancer.

    According to Cancer Research UK, “people from China, or with Chinese ancestry living in the UK, have higher rates of nasopharyngeal cancer than other ethnic groups,” something that might be because of their diet.

    Eating lots of pickled foods can also increase your risk of stomach cancer.

    Fracking

    Chemicals used in oil fracking that may be released into air and water include the cancer-causers benzene and formaldehyde.

    Processed meats like ham, bacon, and sausage

    Sorry.

    The World Health Organization says processed meats like hot dogs, ham, bacon, and sausage can cause cancer. That’s because the meat has been treated in some way to preserve or flavor it, such as by salting, curing, fermenting, or smoking.

    The WHO also says it’s possible that any kind of red meat could be linked to an increased risk of cancers like colorectal cancer.

    Asbestos

    Asbestos was used as an insulation material for years before the dust was linked to lung cancer.

    Products that contain asbestos are not completely banned in the US, though the Environmental Protection Agency regulates their use.

    Birth control and estrogens

    Hormones can cause cancer too.

    Women who start menstruation early or go into menopause later can increase their risk of breast cancer because they’re exposed to more estrogen and progesterone made by the ovaries.

    Using birth control pills can also increase a woman’s risk of developing breast and cervical cancers.

    Viruses

    Catching certain kinds of viruses can indirectly increase your risk of cancer. That’s because in some situations, viruses trigger genetic changes in cells that can contribute to cancer.

    The CDC says: “Some viruses linked to cancer are the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer; hepatitis B and C viruses, which can cause liver cancer; and the Epstein-Barr virus, which may cause a type of lymphoma. Also, the H. pylori bacterium can cause gastric cancer.”

    Your family

    Some cancer risk is passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic mutations play a key role in about 5-10% of all cancers.

    “Genetic changes that promote cancer can be inherited from our parents if the changes are present in germ cells, which are the reproductive cells of the body (eggs and sperm),” the National Cancer Institute says.

    For example, certain kinds of breast cancer are a result of mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

    Obesity

    Obesity can put you at increased risk of developing types of cancers including breast, colon, rectum, esophagus, kidney, and pancreas.

    Prevention includes eating healthy foods and getting enough physical activity, both of which not only help people maintain a healthy weight, but also reduce the risk of some of those cancers.

    Formaldehyde

    Lego

    Scientists have known for years that formaldehyde can cause nasal cancer in rats.

    The preserving agent and disinfectant is used in some glues and building products, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer says it can cause cancer in humans too.

    Air pollution

    Smoggy air — and the particulates in it — can also lead to cancer.

    Soot in general isn’t great. In London, people started noticing lots of chimney sweeps developing scrotal cancer in the 1770s, and further studies found a link between the backbreaking chimney work and higher cancer rates.

    Soot inhalation has also been linked to lung, esophageal, and bladder cancers.

    Silica

    Silica is a natural mineral found in sand, stone, and concrete. But when construction workers and miners inhale silica particles by cutting, sawing or drilling into rock, it can increase their risk of developing lung cancer.

    Radiation

    We know that X-rays and gamma rays can cause cancer. We can also get it from solar UV rays.

    But one trip to the doctor isn’t going to give you cancer.

    The link between radiation and cancer risk tends to show up in studies of people who’ve been exposed to high doses of radiation, like people affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident, and people who have cancer, who are sometimes treated with high doses of radiation.

    Still, the American Cancer Society cautions that “there is no threshold below which this kind of radiation is thought to be totally safe.”

    Chronic, long-term, DNA-damaging inflammation

    Chronic inflammation from things like long-term infections, bowel disease, or obesity can all damage a person’s DNA and lead to higher cancer rates.

    Some plastics

    Plastics can be dangerous, especially when they leach chemicals out through scratches or cracks in a container.

    BPA is a synthetic estrogen that has been used in many plastics and resins since the 1960s. BPA resins can be used inside products like metal food cans as sealants, while polycarbonate BPA plastics can include water bottles and food storage containers.

    BPA even shows up on the shiny side of receipt paper to stabilize the ink.

    While many plastics manufacturers have started labeling their products “BPA-free,” there’s still a lot of the breast- and prostate-cancer-causing stuff around.

    Acrylamide

    Rawpixel.com/Unsplash

    The browning of some foods cooked at high temperatures — like bread, coffee, or biscuits — produces a chemical compound called acrylamide.

    This happens naturally in a process called the Maillard reaction.

    But the dose of acrylamide in a toasty cup of coffee or a chewy cookie is probably not going to kill you — it’s dangerous when consumed in large doses (and it’s one of the toxic chemicals smokers inhale), but there’s no evidence that a little browning is harmful.

    A California judged ruled this week that some companies that sell coffee sellers must include labels warning their customers about the possible cancer risks.

    Read the original article on Business Insider. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright 2018.

    Read next on Business Insider: 11 potentially cancer-causing things you might use every day

    Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/28-of-the-most-dangerous-things-science-has-strongly-linked-to-cancer/

    Helix Takes Clinical Genetic Testing Straight to Consumers

    During a recent Uber ride, Madhuri Hegde’s driver asked her what she did for a living. The chief scientific officer for laboratory services at PerkinElmer, she prepared to bore him with a description of the tests her company had developed—most recently to flag serious genetic disorders. Instead, he was intrigued. “Where can I get one of those?” he asked.

    For years, PerkinElmer has only offered that clinical test to doctors. It screens for all 59 genes that researchers are sure play a role in one of 34 conditions you can treat if you catch it early enough. Genes like PKP2, mutations in which can increase the risk of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, a leading cause of sudden heart failure in young people. Or ATP7B, which can point to Wilson disease, where copper accumulates dangerously in the liver. Usually physicians only prescribe the test when they think their patients might be at risk for one of those conditions. But soon, anyone curious about their health—Hegde’s Uber driver included—will be able to request it.

    PerkinElmer announced Tuesday it will start selling its test this summer through the consumer genomics marketplace Helix, a spin-out of sequencing giant Illumina. Helix launched its platform last July, with 18 products meant to inspire customers to embark on a journey of discovery through DNA. Some boasted dubious science; some were just silly. Only one of them had a hardcore health bent—a test to see if hopeful parents carried any disruptive genes they could pass on to their kids.

    Since then, though, Helix has built a number of partnerships to offer more medically relevant insights, PerkinElmer being one. Helix says it's just responding to demand; patients are into democratizing access to clinical tests. But as more people turn to their DNA to make decisions about their health, medical professionals who help make those decisions wisely worry about their ability to keep up.

    “You may think DNA is DNA regardless of what you’re looking for, but context really matters here,” says Ana Morales, a certified genetic counselor at the Ohio State University Medical Center and president-elect of the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Normally, a doctor would order a test like PerkinElmer’s when a patient starts presenting symptoms, like an abnormal heart rhythm. Maybe they even have a brother or sister with similar complaints. Algorithms and experts would then comb through the patient’s DNA looking for places in their genome where specific mutations—called variants—might appear. All mutations aren’t created equal; they’re only looking for ones that geneticists have validated as playing a role in certain diseases. How big a role changes from variant to variant, and from patient to patient. Without symptoms, matching becomes a guessing game.

    “We’re now moving away from interpreting a variant in someone who has a disease to someone who doesn’t,” says Morales. “That is possible, but the level of expertise required to do that is limited to within a few experts in the genetic community. There’s only a very select group of people in the US right now who would feel comfortable doing that on a routine basis.”

    That’s one reason a doctor might not tell all their patients about the availability of tests like this one. The other is cost. Sequencing plus analysis can run into the thousands of dollars, which insurers won’t reimburse if the test-taker is healthy. Right now insurance companies are only required to cover such screens under certain criteria—like if a woman has a family history of breast cancer. Responsible physicians are reluctant to put their patients or their institutions on the hook for that bill.

    Hegde says Helix’s infrastructure will allow them to offer the test at a greatly reduced rate when it actually launches on the platform a few months from now, though she couldn’t give an exact price tag. That includes whole exome sequencing on their Illumina machines (that’s the portion of the genome that codes for proteins), and the physician network that Helix has already built out to accommodate any products that might require a doctor’s signature. That’s right, to buy this test you’ll still need to talk to a doctor—just maybe not the one you’re used to seeing for your annual check-up.

    Customers who want to buy PerkinElmer’s test have to fill out a brief questionnaire—some basic family history and reasons why you might want to take the test—which gets routed to a hire-a-doc third party. If there’s a chance they’re already presenting symptoms or have a family history suggesting a condition that would be covered by insurance, they’ll suggest that user go the traditional testing route through their primary physician. If they appear healthy, they get the all-clear to order the test.

    Then Helix sequences all 22,000 coding regions of the customer’s genome and sends the file over to PerkinElmer for analysis, which takes about a week. If they find anything that requires further attention they’ll bring in some real humans to compare what they know about the customer with what they know about the variant—how it’s inherited, how it changes pathways in the body. It could take another week to spit out that report, which goes back to the physician network, which then contacts the customer with any variants that could require follow-up. Genetic counseling services also bundled through Helix’s platform will be available upon request.

    “We’re really trying to focus on the 99 percent of people that have never had access to this kind of testing, but of course we want it to be responsible access,” says Helix co-founder James Lu. “It’s for people who are ostensibly healthy and want to stay that way for as long as possible.”

    Access to those kinds of proactive customers are what drew Hegde to Helix. “Not a lot of people know about this kind of testing,” she says. “But for every one of the 59 genes on this list there are interventions, and earlier intervention translates to saving health care costs as well as lives.”

    It’s true that on an individual level, knowing you have a bad BRCA mutation might lead you to more regular check-ups and an earlier diagnosis of breast or ovarian cancer. But on the question of whether or not widespread genetic testing will actually lead to better outcomes and cut costs? Researchers still aren’t so sure. And with only about 4,000 certified genetic counselors total in the US—or one for every 80,000 Americans—it’s hard for most medical professionals to justify widespread testing. But hey, if your doc won’t order up a test you want, we’re betting Helix can find you one who will.

    More Consumer Genetics

    Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/helix-takes-clinical-genetic-testing-straight-to-consumers/

    Why Does Nanny-State California Hate Coffee So Much?

    Last week, a judge in California sided with the Council for Education and Research on Toxics, which had filed a lawsuit in 2010 against establishments that sell coffeeStarbucks, gas station vendors, convenience stories like 7-Eleven, and so forthto tack on a warning to their coffee (not unlike a cigarettes Surgeon General warning) that each cup of java contains acrylamide, a chemical produced when coffee beans are roasted.

    This, of course, incited backlash from everyday coffee fans to the National Coffee Association, which made a statement calling the ruling misleading, saying that it did nothing to improve public health (PDF).

    The Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) is a part of the Metzger Law Group, which describes itself as a boutique firm focusing on environmental and toxic chemical exposure in California. In the lawsuit it brought against Starbucks (PDF), Metzger is described as a California corporation, acting as a private attorney general, in the public interest.

    The problem with its description as the plaintiff? Its overexaggeration of the carcinogenic potential of coffee consumption is in fact a potential public disservice.

    To be clear, CERT isnt technically wrong that coffee contains acrylamides (a chemical regulated by the Food and Drug Administration) and of its cancer-causing potential.

    In the National Toxicology Report, a cumulative breakdown of toxins and agents that scientists have found to cause cancer and produced by the Department of Health and Human Services, acrylamides are reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogeneity from studies in experimental animals (emphasis their own).

    What does this mean? Scientists tested how acrylamides have affected mice and rats and have found symptoms ranging from benign thyroid and adrenal gland tumors to benign lung and mammary gland tumors. Those tumors occurred in a higher number of instances than the baseline level, which suggested to researchers of these studies that there was something about acrylamides that was problematic.

    Sure, those are serious and damning results to take away from these experiments. But theres three blaring problems with declaring coffee as a carcinogen on equal footing with, say, cigarettes.

    First, these are tumors that were found in rodents. While mice and rats are often used in animal experiments for drugs as a preliminary testing ground and model for humans, the fact is that they are mice and rodents, not humans. The way humans process enzymes and chemicals and additives and so forth can be very different and have effects that can vary wildly from what happens in humans.

    Second, rodent experiments often focus on dumping one chemical in large amounts into a rodents system. For mice and rats in these experiments, which not only have smaller bodies than humans but also are intaking inhumanly larger quantities of the chemical being tested, that means that they develop irregularities that might not occur during normal human consumption. Theres no doubt that acrylamide can cause cancer in high doses and has been proven to instigate tumors in rodents. The closest link to cancer between coffee and humans was a study that suggested there might be a link between consuming hot beverages and esophageal cancer (PDF).

    But the fact is that you would have to intentionally be consuming acrylamide at ridiculous, nearly impossible-to-consume doses to even be at risk of cancer. As Popular Science pointed out with the help of a statistician, it would take an adult at highest risk to consume 160 times as much as the rodents in these experiments. Even then, that would still only be at a level that toxicologists think unlikely to cause increased tumors in mice. In other words, solely focusing your entire diet on acrylamide and practically imbibing the stuff cant even guarantee that youeven micecould get a tumor.

    Which brings us to the third problem with the acrylamide lawsuit and hoopla around its apparent cancer-causing properties. Its not just coffee that contains trace amounts of itits any food thats gone through high temperatures. That can be everything from fried chicken to roasted chicken, french fries to baked potatoes, those healthier versions of potato chips made out of root vegetables to roasted produce. To avoid acrylamides would require you to avoid virtually any food that is cooked.

    The Report on Carcinogens says as much. They point to a correlation between male factory workers at places that process water soluble polymers (where acrylamides are often used) like oil recovery, water treatment facilities, and paper thickening processes. They also think there might be a correlation between Swedish, French, and American women, their diets, and instances of breast tissue showing signs of cancer, but the link was at best weak, and researchers admitted that other factors like smoking could have played a role. A 2017 meta-analysis in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention backs this up, stating the overall evidence suggests no association of coffee intake with cancers of the stomach, pancreas, lung, breast, ovary, and prostate overall.

    So when CERT points to the fact that acrylamides are in coffee and back at Proposition 65which states that California businesses with more than 10 employees are required by law to warn consumers if their products contain one of 65 chemicals that the state deems carcinogenic, causing birth defects, or harmful for reproductive systemstheres a need to pause and evaluate the real risk of acrylamides.

    If were slapping on warnings on a cup of coffee that declares it to be just as harmful as a pack of cigarettes, thats a dangerous, illogical equivalency that results in confusion and fear mongering. Making coffee consumption the equivalent of slurping poison is ludicrous. Drinking a cup or two or even three of coffee will not be dangerous; at best, youre a little less groggy, at worst a bit jittery. But at risk of developing tumors and cancer? Probably not.

    The blatant truth is that coffee can never be as violently carcinogenic as cigarettes, and calling it a cancer causing agent doesnt make sense, especially because no one drinks cups of coffee on end and therefore probably cant be poisoned by coffee in any way. In fact, the National Cancer Institute says as much on its website, noting that acrylamide levels vary and that people are exposed to substantially more acrylamide from tobacco smoke than from food.

    And there are certainly worse chemicals to worry about than a minute trace of acrylamides in coffee. Remember the trans fat bans that swept the nation about a decade ago? Hydrogenated fats are legitimately dangerous to consume, and the heightened attention given to their near-ubiquity in processed foods and ties to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke were well documented in humans to cause negative outcomes.

    But acrylamides in coffee? Nah.

    If anything, Proposition 65 and the case of labeling coffee as carcinogenic is indicative of the messiness of food studies, particularly with respect to those that teeter between sin and healthy indulgence. Theres probably no such thing as eating too many vegetables and facing negative consequences. But foods like coffee, eggs, wine, and chocolate fall in a grey area. Theyre lusciously sinful and offer something almost tantalizingly indulgent with their richness, so it makes sense that were always trying to gauge whether or not these foods that bring us so much joy are good or bad.

    The messaging, of course, is frustrating. One minute wine is heralded for its antioxidant properties, the next its vilified for its connection to various liver issues. Chocolate is similarly celebrated for its antioxidant properties, but really, who only has one square of it? Eggs too have sparked debate among industry experts who point to the whites as excellent sources of protein and nutrients, but the yolk is one big nutritional question mark.

    Coffee is like these foods, hopping back and forth between linked to a 64 percent decrease in early death and its current status as potential carcinogenic. Its apparent benefits address American health epidemics: reductions in developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease and stroke. Its benefits seem universal, linked to longer lives among Americans across demographic and socioeconomic lines, in both its caffeinated and decaffeinated forms. It might decrease rates of breast cancer and liver cancer. Of course, these are results that should be taken with a grain of salt, but theyre benefits worth noting in light of Californias painting of coffee as a demonic chemical.

    The point is this: Everything in moderation is a great nutritional phrase because it rings so true. Every human body is different thanks to the complicated gymnastics of genes and environment and chance that make everyones nutritional needs different. Seeking to figure out if a food is good or bad does nothing but muddle the debate; simply put, foods that dont fall into fruits, vegetables, legumes, water, or their ilk have good and bad qualities to them, and understanding your unique physiology and dietary needs will make their consumption either safe or not so much so for you. And its crucial to remember that niche food industries have well-oiled marketing groups that also fund studies and constantly attempt to veer public attention toward the nutritional benefits of food to eek up their profits. Food is, after all, big business.

    Which brings us back to the case of the evil cup of java, Proposition 65, and how coffee might become a villain in the state of California. Putting a warning on a cup of coffee is going to not only confuse customers, it takes away from a daily pleasure for the majority of Americans. A cup of coffee makes people less grumpy, more alert, and simply more awake. Its a bonding activity, a much-needed break in our harried world, and an art form whose most ardent fans will compare its roasting and farming and brewing to those of wine. To make coffee a nutritional devil is a step gone too far (at this rate, any foodstuff that goes through some heating for cooking could contain acrylamides).

    The bottom line: Coffee is safe. Labeling it a carcinogenic is not.

    Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-does-nanny-state-california-hate-coffee-so-much

    Real Full Monty’s ‘warrior women’ praised

    Image copyright ITV

    Stars including Coleen Nolan and breast cancer survivor Victoria Derbyshire have been hailed “warrior women” for baring all for breast cancer awareness.

    Eight women took part in The Real Full Monty: Ladies’ Night, stripping off in front of a live audience.

    Those chosen have all been affected by cancer.

    They were seen on the ITV show dancing to This Is Me from The Greatest Showman in a routine choreographed by Diversity’s Ashley Banjo.

    The group included cancer survivor Ruth Madoc, the actress, and singer and presenter Michelle Heaton, who had a double mastectomy after learning she has the BRCA2 gene.

    ‘Out of comfort zone’

    Actress Helen Lederer also took part, along with DJ Sarah-Jane Crawford, Emmerdale’s Sally Dexter and Towie’s Megan McKenna.

    They were assembled by Loose Women’s Nolan, whose sister Bernie died of breast cancer in 2013. Another sister, Linda, is now battling the condition.

    “I’m here and one of my sisters isn’t – and one of them is going through hell again,” she said. “I’m doing it for them.”

    Image copyright ITV
    Image caption Derbyshire became emotional during the show

    Derbyshire was initially uncertain about taking part, breaking down on the first day of rehearsals saying: “This is so out of my comfort zone. God, this is day one, what the heck.

    “I haven’t cried for ages about having cancer, or my body or whatever.”

    It was also an emotional experience for Heaton, who talked about her reconstructed breasts, saying she felt “disconnected” from them.

    They also took part in a Calendar Girls-inspired photoshoot, with food items covering their bare breasts, to increase their confidence.

    Image copyright ITV
    Image caption The women took part in a Calendar Girls photoshoot during the documentary

    On the big night, the women took to the stage in Sheffield in bronze sequinned wrap dresses – halfway through, they pulled off the dresses to show tasselled black lingerie, which they accessorised with red feather fans.

    Turning away from the crowds, they removed their bras and covered themselves with the feathers, before then facing the audience – and removing the feathers. The final shot was filmed from behind.

    It proved emotional for all of the women, with Derbyshire and Nolan sharing a hug as the performance drew to a close.

    Image copyright ITV

    Derbyshire said the programme, which followed a male version of the show featuring the likes of James Argent and John Partridge, had made her “really happy”.

    “There might be someone watching who learns something about breast cancer that they didn’t know before and it might save their life and that is massive,” she added.

    Heaton said she felt “overwhelmed” after the experience, adding on Twitter: “#TheRealFullMontyladies has been the best thing I’ve ever done to help overcome my fears and raise #BreastCancerAwareness.”

    There was praise and admiration from the audience after the show aired on ITV1 on Thursday night.

    Viewer Vikki Longman said it made her feel “empowered”.

    Singer Sam Bailey said she was proud of all those who took part.

    Presenter Sue Perkins said the programme was “joyful” and “empowering”, while Anna Richardson described the stars as “warrior women”.

    Derbyshire later thanked people for their support – including one woman who said the programme made her check her breasts.

    Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.

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    Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-43594989

    New surgical goggles spot cancer tissue where human eye wont, study claims

    Surgical goggles developed by researchers at the University of Illinois and Washington University are able to spot cancerous tissue where the human eye won’t, a new study claims.

    The goggles, which were tested in mice and women with breast cancer, have an integrated camera that can pick up infrared signals beneath the surface of the tissue.

    The tiny device was inspired by the morpho butterfly’s eyes, according to the study published in the journal Optica.

    Researchers explained that before the surgery the women were injected with a green dye containing a protein that attaches specifically to cancer cells.

    IN A FIRST, TWO ROBOTS REMOVE UTERUS AND COLON IN
    SIMULTANEOUS SURGERY

    The dyed cells emit an infrared signal that cannot be seen by the human eye, but is detected by the camera in the goggles worn by the surgeons.

    “By looking at the way nature has designed the visual systems of insects, we can address serious problems that exist with cancer surgery today and make sure there are no cancer cells left behind during surgery,” said study leader Viktor Gruev, an Illinois professor of electrical and computer engineering and of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, as quoted by Eureka Alert.

    BIG BROTHER GETS HAIRCUT TO MIMIC SISTER’S 10-INCH BRAIN
    SURGERY SCAR

    “Our technology is much quicker because one of the advantages is imaging deeper in the tissue,” Gruev said. “Sometimes when they’re looking for green coloration, they’re looking for a while because the nodes are below the surface. With the fluorescence, you can see through the skin or the tissue and identify them much quicker.”

    Since the camera can pick up signals beneath the surface of the tissue, the surgeons could even locate tumor sites through the skin.

    ‘NIGHTMARE BACTERIA’ CASES SEEN IN 27 STATES, CDC REPORTS

    “We could image before the incision and identify the potential points of interest to minimize the incision,” said Missael Garcia, a postdoctoral researcher at Illinois and the first author of the paper.

    Gruev noted that not only is the new technology more sensitive and accurate, but much smaller and lower-cost than currently available instruments that are FDA-approved.

    “We anticipate it to cost around $200, compared with $20,000 for the cheapest FDA-approved instrument,” he said.

    With reporting by SWNS.

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    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2018/04/05/new-surgical-goggles-spot-cancer-tissue-where-human-eye-won-t-study-claims.html

    Why are the poor blamed and shamed for their deaths?

    When someone dies, she often suffers a brutal moral autopsy, says Barbara Ehrenreich. Did she smoke? Drink excessively? Eat too much fat?

    I watched in dismay as most of my educated, middle-class friends began, at the onset of middle age, to obsess about their health and likely longevity. Even those who were at one point determined to change the world refocused on changing their bodies. They undertook exercise or yoga regimens; they filled their calendars with medical tests and exams; they boasted about their good and bad cholesterol counts, their heart rates and blood pressure.

    Mostly they understood the task of ageing to be self-denial, especially in the realm of diet, where one medical fad, one study or another, condemned fat and meat, carbs, gluten, dairy or all animal-derived products. In the health-conscious mindset that has prevailed among the worlds affluent people for about four decades now, health is indistinguishable from virtue, tasty foods are sinfully delicious, while healthful foods may taste good enough to be advertised as guilt-free. Those seeking to compensate for a lapse undertake punitive measures such as hours-long cardio sessions, fasts, purges or diets composed of different juices carefully sequenced throughout the day.

    Of course I want to be healthy, too; I just dont want to make the pursuit of health into a major life project. I eat well, meaning I choose foods that taste good and will stave off hunger for as long as possible, such as protein, fibre and fats. But I refuse to overthink the potential hazards of blue cheese on my salad or pepperoni on my pizza. I also exercise not because it will make me live longer but because it feels good when I do. As for medical care, I will seek help for an urgent problem, but I am no longer interested in undergoing tests to uncover problems that remain undetectable to me. When friends berate me for my laxity, my heavy use of butter or habit of puffing (but not inhaling) on cigarettes, I gently remind them that I am, in most cases, older than they are.

    So it was with a measure of schadenfreude that I began to record the cases of individuals whose healthy lifestyles failed to produce lasting health. It turns out that many of the people who got caught up in the health craze of the last few decades people who exercised, watched what they ate, abstained from smoking and heavy drinking have nevertheless died. Lucille Roberts, owner of a chain of womens gyms, died incongruously from lung cancer at the age of 59, although she was a self-described exercise nut who, the New York Times reported, wouldnt touch a French fry, much less smoke a cigarette. Jerry Rubin, who devoted his later years to trying every supposedly health-promoting diet fad, therapy and meditation system he could find, jaywalked into Wilshire Boulevard at the age of 56 and died of his injuries two weeks later.

    Some of these deaths were genuinely shocking. Jim Fixx, author of the bestselling The Complete Book Of Running, believed he could outwit the cardiac problems that had carried his father off to an early death by running at least 10 miles a day and restricting himself to a diet of pasta, salads and fruit. But he was found dead on the side of a Vermont road in 1984, aged only 52.

    Even more disturbing was the untimely demise of John H Knowles, director of the Rockefeller Foundation and promulgator of the doctrine of personal responsibility for ones health. Most illnesses are self-inflicted, he argued the result of gluttony, alcoholic intemperance, reckless driving, sexual frenzy, smoking and other bad choices. The idea of a right to health, he wrote, should be replaced by the idea of an individual moral obligation to preserve ones own health. But he died of pancreatic cancer at 52, prompting one physician commentator to observe, Clearly we cant all be held responsible for our health.

    Still, we persist in subjecting anyone who dies at a seemingly untimely age to a kind of bio-moral autopsy: did she smoke? Drink excessively? Eat too much fat and not enough fibre? Can she, in other words, be blamed for her own death? When David Bowie and Alan Rickman both died in early 2016 of what major US newspapers described only as cancer, some readers complained that it is the responsibility of obituaries to reveal what kind of cancer. Ostensibly, this information would help promote awareness of the particular cancers involved, as Betty Fords openness about her breast cancer diagnosis helped to destigmatise that disease. It would also, of course, prompt judgments about the victims lifestyle. Would Bowie have died at the quite respectable age of 69 if he hadnt been a smoker?

    Apple co-founder Steve Jobs 2011 death from pancreatic cancer continues to spark debate. He was a food faddist, eating only raw vegan foods, especially fruit, and refusing to deviate from that plan even when doctors recommended a high protein and fat diet to help compensate for his failing pancreas. His office refrigerator was filled with Odwalla juices; he antagonised non-vegan associates by attempting to proselytise among them, as biographer Walter Isaacson has reported: at a meal with Mitch Kapor, the chairman of Lotus software, Jobs was horrified to see Kapor slathering butter on his bread, and asked, Have you ever heard of serum cholesterol? Kapor responded, Ill make you a deal. You stay away from commenting on my dietary habits, and I will stay away from the subject of your personality.

    Defenders of veganism argue that his cancer could be attributed to his occasional forays into protein-eating (a meal of eel sushi has been reported) or to exposure to toxic metals as a young man tinkering with computers. But a case could be made that it was the fruitarian diet that killed him: metabolically, a diet of fruit is equivalent to a diet of candy, only with fructose instead of glucose, with the effect that the pancreas is strained to constantly produce more insulin. As for the personality issues the almost manic-depressive mood swings they could be traced to frequent bouts of hypoglycemia. Incidentally, 67-year-old Mitch Kapor is alive and well at the time of this writing.

    Similarly, with sufficient ingenuity or malicious intent almost any death can be blamed on some mistake of the deceased. Surely Fixx had failed to listen to his body when he first felt chest pains and tightness while running, and maybe, if he had been less self-absorbed, Rubin would have looked both ways before crossing the street. Maybe its just the way the human mind works, but when bad things happen or someone dies, we seek an explanation, preferably one that features a conscious agent a deity or spirit, an evil-doer or envious acquaintance, even the victim. We dont read detective novels to find out that the universe is meaningless, but that, with sufficient information, it all makes sense. We can, or think we can, understand the causes of disease in cellular and chemical terms, so we should be able to avoid it by following the rules laid down by medical science: avoiding tobacco, exercising, undergoing routine medical screening and eating only foods currently considered healthy. Anyone who fails to do so is inviting an early death. Or, to put it another way, every death can now be understood as suicide.

    Liberal commentators countered that this view represented a kind of victim-blaming. In her books Illness As Metaphor and Aids And Its Metaphors, Susan Sontag argued against the oppressive moralising of disease, which was increasingly portrayed as an individual problem. The lesson, she said, was, Watch your appetites. Take care of yourself. Dont let yourself go. Even breast cancer, she noted, which has no clear lifestyle correlates, could be blamed on a cancer personality, sometimes defined in terms of repressed anger which, presumably, one could have sought therapy to cure. Little was said, even by the major breast cancer advocacy groups, about possible environmental carcinogens or carcinogenic medical regimes such as hormone replacement therapy.

    While the affluent struggled dutifully to conform to the latest prescriptions for healthy living adding whole grains and gym time to their daily plans the less affluent remained mired in the old comfortable, unhealthy ways of the past smoking cigarettes and eating foods they found tasty and affordable. There are some obvious reasons why the poor and the working class resisted the health craze: gym memberships can be expensive; health foods usually cost more than junk food. But as the classes diverged, the new stereotype of the lower classes as wilfully unhealthy quickly fused with their old stereotype as semi-literate louts. I confront this in my work as an advocate for a higher minimum wage. Affluent audiences may cluck sympathetically over the miserably low wages offered to blue-collar workers, but they often want to know why these people dont take better care of themselves. Why do they smoke or eat fast food? Concern for the poor usually comes tinged with pity. And contempt.

    Barbara
    Photograph: Stephen Voss for the Guardian

    In the 00s, British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver took it on himself to reform the eating habits of the masses, starting with school lunches. Pizza and burgers were replaced with menu items one might expect to find in a restaurant fresh greens, for example, and roast chicken. But the experiment was a failure. In the US and UK, schoolchildren dumped out their healthy new lunches or stamped them underfoot. Mothers passed burgers to their children through school fences. Administrators complained that the new meals were vastly over-budget; nutritionists noted that they were cruelly deficient in calories. In Olivers defence, it should be observed that ordinary junk food is chemically engineered to provide an addictive combination of salt, sugar and fat. But it probably matters, too, that he didnt study local eating habits in sufficient depth before challenging them, nor seems to have given enough thought to creatively modifying them. In West Virginia, he alienated parents by bringing a local mother to tears when he publicly announced the food she gave her four children was killing them.

    There may well be unfortunate consequences from eating the wrong foods. But what are the wrong foods? In the 80s and 90s, the educated classes turned against fat in all forms, advocating the low-fat and protein diet that, journalist Gary Taubes argues, paved the way for an epidemic of obesity as health-seekers switched from cheese cubes to low-fat desserts. The evidence linking dietary fat to poor health had always been shaky, but class prejudice prevailed: fatty and greasy foods were for the poor and unenlightened; their betters stuck to bone-dry biscotti and fat-free milk. Other nutrients went in and out of style as medical opinion shifted: it turns out high dietary cholesterol, as in oysters, is not a problem after all, and doctors have stopped pushing calcium on women over 40. Increasingly, the main villains appear to be sugar and refined carbohydrates, as in hamburger buns. Eat a pile of fries washed down with a sugary drink and you will probably be hungry again in a couple of hours, when the sugar rush subsides. If the only cure for that is more of the same, your blood sugar levels may permanently rise what we call diabetes.

    Special opprobrium is attached to fast food, thought to be the food of the ignorant. Film-maker Morgan Spurlock spent a month eating nothing but McDonalds to create his famous Super Size Me, documenting his 11kg (24lb) weight gain and soaring blood cholesterol. I have also spent many weeks eating fast food because its cheap and filling but, in my case, to no perceptible ill effects. It should be pointed out, though, that I ate selectively, skipping the fries and sugary drinks to double down on the protein. When, at a later point, a notable food writer called to interview me on the subject of fast food, I started by mentioning my favourites (Wendys and Popeyes), but it turned out they were all indistinguishable to him. He wanted a comment on the general category, which was like asking me what I thought about restaurants.

    If food choices defined the class gap, smoking provided a firewall between the classes. To be a smoker in almost any modern, industrialised country is to be a pariah and, most likely, a sneak. I grew up in another world, in the 1940s and 50s, when cigarettes served not only as a comfort for the lonely but a powerful social glue. People offered each other cigarettes, and lights, indoors and out, in bars, restaurants, workplaces and living rooms, to the point where tobacco smoke became, for better or worse, the scent of home. My parents smoked; one of my grandfathers could roll a cigarette with one hand; my aunt, who was eventually to die of lung cancer, taught me how to smoke when I was a teenager. And the government seemed to approve. It wasnt till 1975 that the armed forces stopped including cigarettes along with food rations.

    As more affluent people gave up the habit, the war on smoking which was always presented as an entirely benevolent effort began to look like a war against the working class. When the break rooms offered by employers banned smoking, workers were forced outdoors, leaning against walls to shelter their cigarettes from the wind. When working-class bars went non-smoking, their clienteles dispersed to drink and smoke in private, leaving few indoor sites for gatherings and conversations. Escalating cigarette taxes hurt the poor and the working class hardest. The way out is to buy single cigarettes on the streets, but strangely enough the sale of these loosies is largely illegal. In 2014 a Staten Island man, Eric Garner, was killed in a chokehold by city police for precisely this crime.

    Why do people smoke? I once worked in a restaurant in the era when smoking was still permitted in break rooms, and many workers left their cigarettes burning in the common ashtray so they could catch a puff whenever they had a chance to, without bothering to relight. Everything else they did was done for the boss or the customers; smoking was the only thing they did for themselves. In one of the few studies of why people smoke, a British sociologist found smoking among working-class women was associated with greater responsibilities for the care of family members again suggesting a kind of defiant self-nurturance.

    When the notion of stress was crafted in the mid-20th century, the emphasis was on the health of executives, whose anxieties presumably outweighed those of the manual labourer who had no major decisions to make. It turns out, however, that stress measured by blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol increases as you move down the socioeconomic scale, with the most stress inflicted on those who have the least control over their work. In the restaurant industry, stress is concentrated among the people responding to the minute-by-minute demands of customers, not those who sit in offices discussing future menus. Add to these workplace stresses the challenges imposed by poverty and you get a combination that is highly resistant to, for example, anti-smoking propaganda as Linda Tirado reported about her life as a low-wage worker with two jobs and two children: I smoke. Its expensive. Its also the best option. You see, I am always, always exhausted. Its a stimulant. When I am too tired to walk one more step, I can smoke and go for another hour. When I am enraged and beaten down and incapable of accomplishing one more thing, I can smoke and I feel a little better, just for a minute. It is the only relaxation I am allowed.

    Nothing has happened to ease the pressures on low-wage workers. On the contrary, if the old paradigm of a blue-collar job was 40 hours a week, an annual two-week vacation and benefits such as a pension and health insurance, the new expectation is that one will work on demand, as needed, without benefits or guarantees. Some surveys now find a majority of US retail staff working without regular schedules on call for when an employer wants them to come and unable to predict how much they will earn. With the rise in just in time scheduling, it becomes impossible to plan ahead: will you have enough money to pay the rent? Who will take care of the children? The consequences of employee flexibility can be just as damaging as a programme of random electric shocks applied to caged laboratory animals.

    Sometime in the early to mid-00s, demographers noticed an unexpected rise in the death rates of poor white Americans. This was not supposed to happen. For almost a century, the comforting American narrative was that better nutrition and medical care would guarantee longer lives for all. It was especially not supposed to happen to whites who, in relation to people of colour, have long had the advantage of higher earnings, better access to healthcare, safer neighbourhoods and freedom from the daily insults and harms inflicted on the darker skinned. But the gap between the life expectancies of blacks and whites has been narrowing. The first response of some researchers themselves likely to be well above the poverty level was to blame the victims: didnt the poor have worse health habits? Didnt they smoke?

    In late 2015, the British economist Angus Deaton won the Nobel prize for work he had done with Anne Case, showing that the mortality gap between wealthy white men and poor ones was widening at a rate of one year a year, and slightly less for women. Smoking could account for only one fifth to one third of the excess working-class deaths. The rest were apparently attributable to alcoholism, opioid addiction and actual suicide as opposed to metaphorically killing oneself through unwise lifestyle choices.

    Why the excess mortality among poor white Americans? In the last few decades, things have not been going well for working-class people of any colour. I grew up in an America where a man with a strong back and a strong union could reasonably expect to support a family on his own without a college degree. By 2015, those jobs were long gone, leaving only the kind of work once relegated to women and people of colour available in areas such as retail, landscaping and delivery truck driving. This means those in the bottom 20% of the white income distribution face material circumstances like those long familiar to poor blacks, including erratic employment and crowded, hazardous living spaces. Poor whites always had the comfort of knowing that someone was worse off and more despised than they were; racial subjugation was the ground under their feet, the rock they stood upon, even when their own situation was deteriorating. That slender reassurance is shrinking.

    There are some practical reasons why whites are likely to be more efficient than blacks at killing themselves. For one thing, they are more likely to be gun owners, and white men favour gunshot as a means of suicide. For another, doctors, undoubtedly acting on stereotypes of non-whites as drug addicts, are more likely to prescribe powerful opioid painkillers to whites. Pain is endemic among the blue-collar working class, from waitresses to construction workers, and few people make it past 50 without palpable damage to their knees, back or shoulders. As opioids became more expensive and closely regulated, users often made the switch to heroin which, being illegal, can vary widely in strength, leading to accidental overdoses.

    Affluent reformers are perpetually frustrated by the unhealthy habits of the poor, but it is hard to see how problems arising from poverty and damaging work conditions could be cured by imposing the doctrine of personal responsibility. I have no objections to efforts encouraging people to stop smoking or add more vegetables to their diets. But the class gap in mortality will not be closed by tweaking individual tastes. This is an effort that requires concerted action on a vast scale: a welfare state to alleviate poverty; environmental clean-up of, for example, lead in drinking water; access to medical care including mental health services; occupational health reform to reduce disabilities inflicted by work.

    The wealthier classes will also benefit from these measures, but what they need right now is a little humility. We will all die whether we slake our thirst with kombucha or Coca-Cola, whether we run five miles a day or remain confined to our trailer homes, whether we dine on quinoa or KFC. This is the human condition. Its time we began facing it together.

    This is an edited extract from Natural Causes, by Barbara Ehrenreich, published by Granta on 12 April at 16.99. To order a copy for 14.44, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846.

    Commenting on this piece? If you would like your comment to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazines letters page in print, please email weekend@theguardian.com, including your name and address (not for publication).

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/mar/31/why-poor-blamed-shamed-their-deaths-barbara-ehrenreich

    Rancher Arrested for Murdering Son, Dumping Him in a Manure Pile

    It was such a god-awful thing to happen in Gods country. But the 7 11 Ranch, under the shadow of Indian Head Rock, kept its gruesome secrets for two yearsuntil dozens of cops, wildlife investigators and cadaver dogs swarmed the mountain desert property last July with a search warrant, looking for the man who had stood to inherit it.

    His 68-year-old mother made several references to a bear cave before she finally told police to start digging in the corral. Once they found his remains, wrapped in plastic and duct tape, she told investigators that she was the one who killed him. She told them she shot him in his sleep, and then hid his body in a pile of manure.

    A year later, he was moved, tossed into a five-foot-deep hole along with a barrel of goat heads.

    Jake Millison had confided in his friends to look to his own family if anything bad happened to him. So four days after he went quiet, thats what they did.

    On May 20th, 2015, Millisons buddies drove the 20 minutes from Gunnison east to the 7 11, and were alarmed to see Millisons truck, his motorcyles, and his beloved dog, Elmo, on the property. They found his mom, Deborah Rudibaugh, and sister in the corral carrying shovels. A tractor with a backhoe attached to it was parked in the corner. Rudibaugh told them Millison had left spur of the moment in the middle of the night for Nevada.

    Max Matheny remembers that he and his friends reported Millison missing to the Gunnison County Sheriffs Office soon after that, but no one would listen.We were told that there was nothing they could do because Jake was a grown man and could leave town if he wanted to, and they hadn't found a body out in plain sight.

    They just brushed us off, added Millisons childhood friend, Kyle Palmer. But we knew something was wrong.

    Bad Blood

    The 29-year-old Millison, a hard-core jiu-jitsu athlete, had been the caretaker of the 7 11, living there with Rudibaugh. The three-million-dollar mountainous ranchwith its six buildings, creeks and horse trailshad been willed to Rudibaugh by her husband and Millisons stepdad, Rudy Rudibaugh, who died in 2009. Later, in Deborah Rudibaughs own will, she left the ranch to Millison, his older sister, Stephaine Jackson, and one of Rudys grown children.

    Just a month before Milligan went missing, she had a change of heart and wrote him and her stepson out of it, leaving the entire 700-acre spread to her daughter. During her confession, she told investigators that Milligan had found the new will and did not want to share it with anybody else.

    His friends, though, say Milligan never wanted the ranch. He wasnt into it, Palmer told The Beast.

    Stephaine and her husband, David Jackson, had moved from Denver to Gunnison to help take care of the ranch, but friends tell The Daily Beast that a toxic relationship had developed between the couple and Millison. Things became so heated, they said Millison often stayed at their houses to avoid them. In the affidavit, Jacksons interviews with sheriff investigators describe vicious arguments over where to plow the snow that piled up on ranch grounds and disagreements about a toolbox, which Jackson claimed Millison had sold to buy a truck. From these accounts, it appeared that hatred was beginning to boil over, with Millison barring David Jackson from the property with a restraining order and Stephaine Jackson taking her husbands side.

    Authorities believe what followed was a cold-blooded murder and cover-up. Millisons own family told a string of contradicting tales to lead sheriffsincluding that Millison had been an out-of-control druggie who abused his mom and stole off to Vegas in search of a mixed martial arts career. Max Matheny tells a different story to The Beast: Jake was not on any drugs. He was in good shape, spent a lot of time at the gym and ate healthy. He rarely ever even drank. I would say I saw him drink less than ten times over the entire time I knew him. Most of his pals report he rarely talked to them about his family problems.

    Other friends who lived beneath David and Stephaine in their apartment building, and who wish not to be identified, say that they were loud and always arguing. One friend, who wished not to be identified, tells The Daily Beast that around the time Millison disappeared, David was leaving the building at weird hours of the night.

    They were burning his clothes within a month after he disappeared, said Palmer. Why would they do that?

    Where Is Jake Millison?

    In October of 2015, five months after Millison stopped answering his phone calls and text messages, the Facebook page Where is Jake Millison? popped up with photos and home-grown clues. The page became a community where people who cared about the case could trade information. Its where friends realized that weeks after Millison went missing, David Jackson had painted his prized Harley Davidson motorcycle and was selling it in the town trade newspaper.

    The family started selling off Jake's things online and we told the authorities about it, said Max Matheny. Deb and Steph's stories were constantly changing and we knew they were lying.

    Within weeks of the Facebook pages genesis, Millisons part-time sleuth buddies also posted a story from a ranch hand who claimed he saw Millisons family burning a mattress on the 700-acre property.

    This is just plain weird, wrote one friend. The fact that theyre burning things really makes my spidey senses tingle, wrote another.

    Authorities had been out to the property asking questions, but Matheny says they bought the story they were told out there.

    A Family Behind Bars

    On March 2, 2018, seven months after her confession, Rudibaugh was arrested for murdering her son. Stephaine Jackson and her husband David have also been jailed for the crimeStephaine for several charges, including first degree murder. Among Davids charges are accessory to murder and tampering with physical evidence

    The 30-page arrest affidavit says that last July, Rudibaugh told sheriffs she shot Milligan in the top of the head with her Lady Smith revolver while he was sleeping. I was standing there with a gun in my hand, she is reported as saying. And I had a chance of doing it or not doing it and I remember the last thing I asked myself was, do you want to spend the rest of your life in fear of him.

    The murder weapon is still missing. Rudibaugh says she threw it in the Blue Mesa Reservoir dam, where she knew the water is the deepest.

    The arrests were vindication for Millisons network of friends, who begged authorities and media to pay attention to what was happening in the small town four hours west of Denver.

    The arrest affidavit lists more than a dozen of Millisons friends and the Facebook page as a critical piece of the investigation.

    Tall Tales

    The affidavit reveals that in the weeks after Millisons disappearance, his mom was offering up a host reasons for why Millison would want to leave the ranchclaiming that her son wanted a princess-like relationship…Moms supposed to do all the work and do all the laundry and hes supposed to do whatever he dang well pleases. Rudibaugh said that maybe hed left for either California or Nevada to find work. Or maybe it was just to Nevada to get serious about jiu-jitsu. Or maybe hed vanished to New Mexico to see his dad.

    By August, Rudibaugh finally reported her son as a missing person, telling the Gunnison County Sheriffs Office that the last time she saw him was the previous May 24th, when he took off in a dark truck with a mysterious friend who was not anyone she knew from town. Rudibaugh said her son was using cocaine to lose weight for his mixed martial arts, and had taken off with several of her books, including The Anarchists Cookbook, and How to Disappear Without Leaving a Trace.

    By November, with still no sign of Millison, she provided authorities with Millisons cell phone stored in a bag of rice because it had fallen into a ditch. His friends were coming to the ranch looking for him, she said. She was trying to keep them out of Millisons room.

    Stephaine Jacksons behavior was even more bizarre than her mothers. Her arrest affidavit reveals that days after Millison was murdered, she posted a cryptic message to her Facebook friends : Have you ever woken up to such awesome news you want to run outside screaming? Her best friend responded with No more jake? And then Only news wirth screaming haha.

    There are several theories about which member of the family did what. Rudibaugh has told investigators that she killed her son and moved his body by herself using a pulley, a wench and a four-wheeler along with her Yankee ingenuity and knowledge of physics and chemistry and stuff to do it.

    But she has stage 4 breast cancer and was coming off of gallbladder surgery. How could a person that frail have dragged a 170-pound body down the stairs to the manure pile all by herself?

    Stephaine Jackson says she only suspected her brother may have been murdered after she saw bones sticking out of the manure pile; however the affidavit says she was lying and actually knew about the murder immediatelybecause she was on her cellphone at 3:23 am deleting a message. Jakes last cellphone activity occurred at 2:29 am.

    According to the affidavit, Stephaine knew that she was the sole heir to the land, and thus was the only one of the three with a motive to get rid of him.

    The affidavit says David Jackson burned the bloody mattress, buried the body in the manure and then dug the hole in the corral.

    The gory details of his easy-going, soft-spoken friends death makes Palmer sick to his stomach. Ive come to the cold, hard fact that murder happens to people who dont deserve it. denver

    Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/rancher-arrested-for-murdering-son-dumping-him-in-a-manure-hole

    Comedian Bashes ‘SNL’ For Not Casting An Openly Gay Man In Over 30 Years

    Comedian James Adomian thinks it would be nice if “Saturday Night Live” put a gay man on the show ― something they haven’t done in more than 30 years.

    “I’ve been out of the closet the whole time since I auditioned 13 years ago.” Adomian told The Daily Beast at SXSW. “You would think that they would have tried to put someone else on that was a gay man. It’s about time.”

    Adomian is perhaps best known for his recent portrayals of Bernie Sanders, often playing opposite Anthony Atamanuik’s impression of President Donald Trump. He appears with Atamanuik on the latter’s “The President Show” that airs on Comedy Central.

    Terry Sweeney was the first openly gay regular cast member from 1986 to 1987, but since then Kate McKinnon has been just the second openly LGBTQ cast member in the show’s 43 seasons.

    Danitra Vance was the first African-American woman added as a regular cast member in 1985, but it’s unclear how public she was about being LGBTQ while on the show. Not until her death from breast cancer in 1994 was her relationship with another woman made public.

    Adomian doesn’t believe it’s overt homophobia, but rather executives of the show being afraid of what their audiences might think. “TV executives are the slowest cowards.”

    “It certainly didn’t help that I was openly gay,” Adomian said of his “SNL” auditions. 

    Adomian said that we are currently in the “golden age of gay male comics” when it comes to live shows and festivals. “We are very well-represented at live shows and on the internet. Television? Not so much.”  

    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/comedian-bashes-snl-for-not-casting-an-openly-gay-man-in-30-years_us_5aac18dbe4b0337adf83ab48

    Elizabeth Hurley’s nephew stabbed ‘several’ times by knife in London

    Liz Hurley dashed back to Britain on Friday after learning her nephew had been stabbed repeatedly.

    The star, 52, flew from the US as model Miles Hurley, 21, was fighting for his life following the attack in a London street.

    Model Miles was stabbed in a street in Nine Elms, South West London, at 8 p.m. on Thursday following a fight with a stranger.

    It is understood that he was stabbed several times.

    A source said: “His family feared the worst. Fortunately. it seems the knife missed his vital organs.”

    Liz is especially close to Miles, whose mom is her older sister Kate Curran, 54.

    Miles has done shoots for fashion king Roberto Carvalli and Dolce & Gabbana.

    His star aunt was pictured arriving at Heathrow around 9 a.m on. Friday, before visiting him.

    Liz was in the US promoting her show The Royals.

    She is known to be very fond of Miles and in 2013 proudly tweeted one of his early modelling shots, declaring “Here’s my handsome nephew.”

    This story originally appeared in the New York Post. 

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2018/03/10/elizabeth-hurleys-nephew-stabbed-several-times-by-knife-in-london.html