Herbal cannabis not recommended for rheumatology patients

Patients with rheumatic conditions are in need of symptom relief and some are turning to herbal cannabis as a treatment option. However, the effectiveness and safety of medical marijuana to treat symptoms of rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or fibromyalgia is not supported by medical evidence. A new article published in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), explores the risks associated with using herbal cannabis for medicinal purposes and advises healthcare providers to discourage rheumatology patients from using this drug as therapy.The reason for the medical interest in herbal cannabis is that the human body has an extensive cannabinoid system comprising molecules and receptors that have effects on many functions including pain modulation. Medical cannabis is commonly used to self-treat severe pain associated with arthritis and musculoskeletal pain. In fact, previous research reports that 80% of marijuana users in a U.S. pain clinic are treating myofascial pain with the drug. In population studies in the U.K. and Australia, up to 33% of individuals report using marijuana to treat arthritis pain. As of June 2013, estimates from the office of Information Commissioner of Canada list “severe arthritis” as the reason the 65% of Canadians who are allowed to possess marijuana for medicinal purposes.”With the public outcry for herbal cannabis therapy, governments around the world are considering its legalization for medicinal use,” explains lead investigator Dr. Mary-Ann Fitzcharles, a researcher and rheumatologist at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the Research Institute of the MUHC in Quebec, Canada. …

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Young women continue using tanning beds, despite awareness of health risks

A survey of young women who use tanning beds found that despite being aware of the health risks associated with indoor tanning, they continue to take part in the activity, according to research conducted by University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.The study, co-authored by UNC Lineberger members Seth M. Noar, PhD, of the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Nancy Thomas, MD, of the UNC School of Medicine, aimed to understand what motivates young people to seek out tanning beds and how to develop messages to discourage their use among young people.In executing their survey, the researchers surveyed a population they believed were likely to be tanning bed users — members of college sororities.”We reached out to this population not only because we thought they might be tanning bed users, but also because young people are at the greatest risk of developing skin cancer as a result of tanning indoors,” said Noar. More than 28 million people use tanning beds each year, and the population most at risk from developing skin cancer as a result are users younger than 35.Results from the survey, published in JAMA Dermatology, found that 45 percent of the young women surveyed had used tanning beds, with 30 percent using one in the last year. The study also revealed that the majority of users started tanning indoors in their teens, indicating that health campaigns addressing the practice should target high school audiences.While the majority cited an improvement in appearance as a major reason for visiting a tanning parlor, the biggest factors cited by those taking the survey were the convenience of it and the way the practice makes them feel.”We found that appearance is important, but we found that other factors to be equally or even more important. For instance, many of these young women reported really enjoying the experience of tanning indoors. They reported that it reduces stress and is relaxing to them. In the study, we called this factor ‘mood enhancement'” said Noar.One of the more striking findings from the study — most who use tanning beds were aware of the health risks but did so anyway. Dr. Noar said this suggests that message designers will have to be very strategic in creating messages to impact this behavior. For example, messages could suggest alternatives — such as self-tanning products that do not rely on UV rays — instead of solely emphasizing the health risks. …

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U. S. regions exhibit distinct personalities, research reveals

Oct. 17, 2013 — Americans with similar temperaments are so likely to live in the same areas that a map of the country can be divided into regions with distinct personalities, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.People in the north-central Great Plains and the South tend to be conventional and friendly, those in the Western and Eastern seaboards lean toward being mostly relaxed and creative, while New Englanders and Mid-Atlantic residents are prone to being more temperamental and uninhibited, according to a study published online by APA’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.”This analysis challenges the standard methods of dividing up the country on the basis of economic factors, voting patterns, cultural stereotypes or geography that appear to have become ingrained in the way people think about the United States,” said lead author Peter J. Rentfrow, PhD, of the University of Cambridge. “At the same time, it reinforces some of the traditional beliefs that some areas of the country are friendlier than others, while some are more creative.”The researchers analyzed the personality traits of more than 1.5 million people. Through various online forums/media (e.g., Facebook and survey panels), participants answered questions about their psychological traits and demographics, including their state of residence. The researchers identified three psychological profiles based on five broad dimensions of personality — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — also known as the “Big Five” personality traits. When the researchers overlaid the findings on a national map, they found certain psychological profiles were predominant in three distinct geographic areas. The data were collected over 12 years in five samples with participants from the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Overall, the samples were nationally representative in terms of gender and ethnicity, with the exception of a larger proportion of young people.”These national clusters of personalities also relate to a region’s politics, economy, social attitudes and health,” Rentfrow said. The study found that people in the friendly and conventional regions are typically less affluent, less educated, more politically conservative, more likely to be Protestant and less healthy compared to people in the other regions. …

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Laws help limit junk foods in schools

June 12, 2013 — District policies and state laws help reduce the availability of sugar- and fat-laden foods and beverages in elementary schools, according to a study published online in JAMA Pediatrics.Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago looked at the association between established policies and laws and the availability of candy, baked goods, ice cream, chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, and soda sold outside the school meal program. More than 1,800 elementary schools in 45 states responded to surveys during the 2008-2009 and 2010-2011 school years.The researchers found that in schools without district or state guidelines limiting sugar content in foods, 43.5 percent sold sweets. When both district and state guidelines restricted the sale of sweets, only 32.3 percent of schools — nearly a quarter fewer — sold these foods.The study shows that “policies can improve the elementary school food and beverage environment, and state and district policies are often reinforcing one another,” says Jamie Chriqui, lead author of the study and senior research scientist at UIC’s Institute for Health Research and Policy.Sugar-sweetened beverages were available in only one-fourth as many schools that had a district-wide ban as in those that had no policy (3.6 percent and 13.1 percent of schools, respectively). But the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages was not influenced by state policies.Public elementary schools are required, through an unfunded federal mandate, to have a wellness policy with nutritional guidelines for “competitive” foods and beverages — those that vie with items in the school meal program.”Given the problems we have with overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages by children and youth, the fact that unfunded district policies are actually helping to change the availability of sugar sweetened beverages in elementary schools is a really positive sign,” said Chriqui.However, the study also revealed that the policies are not being fully implemented. For example, the researchers found that of the 121 surveyed schools that were in states with laws prohibiting sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in elementary schools, 22 schools — all in southern states — still sold sugar-sweetened beverages despite state-wide bans.The U.S. Department of Agriculture is working to implement nationwide standards governing competitive foods and beverages in schools as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.”There is a lot of room for continued progress,” said Chriqui, who noted that the study provides promising data to guide the USDA’s efforts to impose new federal standards for competitive foods and beverages.Co-authors include Lindsey Turner, Daniel Taber and Frank Chaloupka, all of UIC.The study was supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to the Bridging the Gap Program at UIC.

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