YouTube Videos May Inspire Teens to Harm Themselves
Graphic YouTube videos showing teens cutting, burning, or otherwise harming themselves are an "alarming new trend," researchers say, and could serve as a how-to for millions of vulnerable online viewers. The 100 most-watched self-injury videos have been viewed more than 2 million times, and most are rated highly by viewers, with an average score of 4.6 out of 5, according to a study published Monday in Pediatrics. The videos often glamorize self-injury, as teens demonstrate how to use razor blades and other sharp objects to draw blood from their skin or burn themselves. About half of the videos are delivered in an educational tone, while the other half are more melancholic, according to the study. Few videos discourage self-mutilation. "If [individuals] are vulnerable and regularly and repeatedly viewing these types of videos, it could be a virtual community in which self-injury could be reinforced," study author Stephen Lewis, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Guelph in Ontario told HealthDay. Past research suggests that up to 21 percent of teens have deliberately injured themselves at least once in belief that self-harm will blunt their emotional pain. Many "cutters" struggle with anger, sadness, and depression.
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To Cut Diabetes Heart Risks, Diet and Exercise May Beat Drugs
More than 1 in 10 American adults have diabetes, and many of them successfully keep their blood sugar levels under control with various medications. Unfortunately, these multibillion-dollar blockbuster drugs haven't proved to be so successful against the biggest cause of death related to diabetes: heart disease. Four studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year brought nothing but disappointing news for diabetics who rely on drugs to lower their risk of heart attacks and strokes. One found that using antihypertensives to lower systolic (the top number) blood pressure below a healthful measurement of 120 mm Hg did nothing to lower a diabetic's risk of heart complications; another found no benefit to adding a drug to raise HDL "good" cholesterol levels in diabetics who were already taking a statin to lower the bad kind. And no heart benefits were associated with two drugs given to lower high blood sugar levels, according to the two other studies.
What all this evidence suggests is that more may not always be better when it comes to finding ways to prevent heart disease in diabetics, U.S. News reports. "It's not enough to show that a drug lowers high blood sugar levels or other risky biomarkers," says Steven Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, whose research linked the diabetes drug Avandia with an increased rate of heart attacks. "Does it actually improve clinical outcomes? Does it cause more benefits than risks?" [Read more: To Cut Diabetes Heart Risks, Diet and Exercise May Beat Drugs.]
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The Best Low-Carbohydrate Diet? One That's Plant-Based
Since its debut in the '80s, the Atkins diet and similar low-carb menus have swung back and forth, lauded and vilified, several times over. Some supporters say they're a fast track to weight loss with less hunger, while detractors say they're too restrictive and don't provide enough fuel—carbohydrates break down to glucose, which powers the body and brain. New research could tip the scales once again in favor of low carbs, U.S. News reports. According to a study published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a low-carb diet may reduce the risk of death from all medical causes, especially heart disease—if it's heavy on proteins and fats from plants, not animals. A low-carb regimen heavy on meat raised the risk of dying from cancer and other medical causes, the researchers found after following more than 85,000 women for 26 years and 44,000 men for 20 years.
"It's no big surprise, because the animal-protein diet will have lots of saturated fat and cholesterol, and the plant-based diet will have unsaturated fats, which lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes," says study coauthor Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "Low-carb diets are neither good nor bad—it's what we're replacing those carbs with that's important. It's making choices among your protein and fat sources, and choosing to emphasize the plant sources."
The study highlights the Eco-Atkins diet popularized in 2009 by David Jenkins, a nutritional scientist at the University of Toronto in Canada, who is credited with developing the eating plan. High in plant proteins and rich in fruits and vegetables, it is touted by the study authors as an ideal example of a healthy low-carb diet. While the study does not suggest such a diet will make you live longer, Eco-Atkins has been shown to improve cholesterol levels and promote weight loss, says Jenkins. [Read more: The Best Low-Carbohydrate Diet? One That's Plant-Based.]
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