This Week in Health: Puppy therapy likely to improve cancer outcomes

Service dogs may improve cancer outcomes
Service dogs may improve cancer outcomes.
Credit: Thinkstock

Puppy therapy improves cancer outcomes, researchers speculate

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: 100 children aged three to 12 recently diagnosed with cancer

Significance: Any dog lover will confirm it – puppies make you happy. A new study is setting out to back up that popular claim with hard data. Researchers from the American Humane Association are launching the first clinical trial to measure the effects of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) on cancer. The pups will be interacting with pediatric cancer patients across five different children’s hospitals throughout the country. AAT will be provided to 50 kids, in addition to standard cancer therapy (the other 50 will receive standard therapy alone). The trial will follow the effects of these interactions for one year, tracking heart health and psychological effects in both the children and their families. The impact of therapy will also be measured in the dogs, whose stress levels will be evaluated through saliva tests done before and after therapy visits.

Sports and energy drinks associated with negative teen behavior

Study subjects: 2,793 middle and high school students

Location of study: Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area

Results: A new study suggests that sports and energy drink consumption among some U.S teens is linked to unhealthy behaviors. For example, adolescent boys who frequently drank sports drinks were considerably more likely to spend time watching TV and playing video games. The study also found an association between sports drink consumption and cigarette smoking among boys and girls. Kids who regularly drank sports and energy beverages were also more likely to consume other sugary drinks.

Significance: Of all the adolescents included in the study, almost 15 percent consumed these types of drinks on a weekly basis. While soft drinks and fruit juice consumption have gone down in recent years, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Duke University say that consumption of sports and energy drinks have tripled among teens. The caffeine, sugar and calorie content of these drinks are particularly concerning to health care professionals. Researchers say these drinks should only be consumed following rigorous exercise.

Frequent arguing may make you more likely to die in middle age

Location of study: Denmark

Study subjects: Nearly 10,000 people aged 36 to 52

Results: Constant arguing with family and friends may do a number on your physical health. According to a new Danish study, frequent conflicts with people in your social circle may make you two to three times more likely to die during middle age. Investigators particularly looked at which participants were in conflict with their family members, partners, friends, neighbors and other people in their social network. The frequency of this type of stress was also noted. During the one-year study, 4 percent of women and 6 percent of men died. Cancer, heart disease, liver disease, accidents and suicide were the main causes. After analyzing the data, researchers reported that consistent demands and worries put on participants by family and friends represented a real health risk.

Significance: Researchers say that constant arguing appears to be detrimental to our overall health. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress has been linked to heart disease, depression, fatigue, anxiety disorders and more. Short-term stress, on the other hand, may actually improve cognitive performance.

Candy-flavored tobacco products under scrutiny

Location of study: U.S.

Results: A new study suggests that when it comes to taste, popular candies and flavored tobacco products have more in common than you might think. Researchers analyzed the chemical makeup of a dozen artificially flavored candies and fruit drinks. Kool-Aid, Jolly Ranchers and Lifesavers were among the treats included in the study. Their individual flavor chemical patterns were then compared to 15 popular flavored tobacco products. These products included items like cigarillos, moist snuff and tobacco rolling papers. The analysis revealed a great deal of similarities. “Cherry Kool-Aid’s flavor profile is almost identical to wild cherry Cheyenne cigars,” said researcher James F. Pankow, a professor at Portland State University.

Significance: The findings have some public health officials concerned about the potential dangers of “candy-flavored” tobacco products. Many are saying that such products are deliberately designed to hook youngsters into smoking. “It is evident that with the assault on the young and the vulnerable with candy-like flavorings, the tobacco industry continues its relentless efforts to entrap and addict,” Channing Robertson, a professor emeritus of chemical engineering at Stanford University, said in a statement put out by Portland State University. A spokesperson for Swisher Sweets, which produces flavored cigarillos, told Bloomberg News that the company’s small cigars are in no way aimed at kids.

Content provided by ZipTrials, a trusted source for the most up-to-date medical news and trending health stories.


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