NPR Health

The Food and Drug Administration has stepped into a simmering debate in California as to whether coffee should come with a cancer warning label.

In March, a judge sided with a nonprofit organization called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics that argued that coffee contains high levels of acrylamide, a cancer-causing chemical compound produced as beans roast.

Do most consumers know that imitation meat products like "ground beef style" veggie burgers don't actually contain beef? Lawmakers in Missouri say maybe not.

The state enacted a law Tuesday requiring that only products that come from slaughtered, once-breathing animals can be marketed as meat. Specifically, the law defines meat as something "derived from harvested production livestock or poultry." The law's proponents say it protects consumers by letting them know exactly what's in their product.

Pssst: Parenting Twins Can Be Depressing

Aug 29, 2018

In 2014, when Crystal Duffy found out she was pregnant with twins, she felt shocked and overjoyed. "Twins run in our family," says the Houston resident, who was 33 at the time, and already the mom of a 2-year-old. "But we still weren't prepared for the news."

Duffy had hoped for a joyful twin pregnancy. But during her second trimester, she began having complications.

"I had a very high-risk pregnancy, and my twins were born premature," she explains. "They spent five weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. It was a very stressful time. I felt anxious and traumatized."

A hospital in Texas has cut ties with a nurse who apparently posted about a young patient with the measles in a Facebook group dedicated to "anti-vaxxers," people who reject the scientific evidence of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

Screenshots show a self-identified nurse saying the sick child's symptoms helped her understand why people vaccinate their children, but that "I'll continue along my little non-vax journey with no regrets."

In a surprising reversal, a Wisconsin board has voted to again offer insurance coverage to transgender state employees seeking hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery.

Members of the Group Insurance Board, which manages the insurance program for Wisconsin's public workers and retirees, last week voted 5-4 to overturn its current policy barring treatments and procedures "related to gender reassignment or sexual transformation."

The change will take effect Jan. 1, allowing insurance to defray the cost of care deemed medically necessary.

The illnesses started appearing in late March. Here and there, across the country, people were checking themselves in to hospitals, sick from toxic E. coli bacteria. At least 200 people got sick. Five of them died.

A new study suggests that ketamine, an increasingly popular treatment for depression, has something in common with drugs like fentanyl and oxycodone.

The small study found evidence that ketamine's effectiveness with depression, demonstrated in many small studies over the past decade, comes from its interaction with the brain's opioid system. A Stanford University team reported their findings Wednesday in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

The death of a toddler is renewing concerns about the quality of medical care that immigrant families receive in federal detention centers.

Eighteen-month-old Mariee Juárez died after being detained along with her mother Yazmin Juárez at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. Her mother says Mariee was a happy, healthy child when they arrived at the U.S. border in March to seek asylum.

Then they were sent to Dilley. Six weeks after being discharged, her mother says, Mariee died of a treatable respiratory infection that began during her detention.

For the fourth year in a row, federal health officials report that there has been a sharp increase in sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tallied nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2017 — an increase of 200,000 cases over the previous year, and a record high.

Sarah Anne, a 59-year-old chimpanzee, is famous enough to have her own Wikipedia page. That's because she was captured from the wild as an infant and raised in the home of a language researcher who taught her to use symbols for words. These days, she lives at Chimp Haven, a wooded sanctuary for former research chimps in Louisiana, along with a new pal named Marie.

Updated at 9:25 p.m. ET

Puerto Rico's governor updated the island's official death toll for victims of Hurricane Maria on Tuesday, hours after independent researchers from George Washington University released a study estimating the hurricane caused 2,975 deaths in the six months following the storm.

A consumer advocacy organization is asking federal health officials Tuesday to halt a large medical study being conducted at major universities nationwide.

Public Citizen says that the study, involving treatment for sepsis, puts patients at risk and will at best produce confusing results.

Researchers investigating the effects of air pollution conducted math and verbal tests over the course of multiple years on more than 25,000 people in 162 Chinese counties. They matched those results with pollution conditions at the time of each test, and found sobering results.

Scientists have taken another step toward understanding what makes the human brain unique.

An international team has identified a kind of brain cell that exists in people but not mice, the team reported Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Two years ago, James Klenk of Freehold, N.J. suffered a heat stroke and went into renal failure after several days sorting and unloading heavy boxes in the back of a UPS truck. He had been a driver for UPS for 14 years and almost died that day.

Klenk is one of countless workers across the country enduring symptoms of heat stress. High temperatures can pose health threats on a daily basis, including confusion, fatigue, and dehydration. More extreme heat can lead to heat stroke and organ failure, depending on a worker's environment and how quickly treatment is administered.

Everybody loves a winner — even toddlers, according to a study published Monday. But even though kiddos tend to like high-status individuals, they don't like those who win conflicts by using force.

"It seems like toddlers care about who wins, but they also care about how they win," says Ashley Thomas, now a researcher in cognitive development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard.

It was the news they'd been dreading. Last week, world health officials learned that a doctor's wife had contracted Ebola. She is from Oicha, a town in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo that is surrounded by a violent insurgent militia called the Allied Democratic Forces.

Her case is one of many in an outbreak that's been ongoing since the start of August. But it was the first to be confirmed in a location that is difficult for health workers to reach because of the conflict raging in that part of the country.

The world of social science got a rude awakening a few years ago, when researchers concluded that many studies in this area appeared to be deeply flawed. Two-thirds could not be replicated in other labs.

Some of those same researchers now report those problems still frequently crop up, even in the most prestigious scientific journals.

But their study, published Monday in Nature Human Behaviour, also finds that social scientists can actually sniff out the dubious results with remarkable skill.

In 2004, during the height of fighting in Fallujah, a baby named Mustafa Abed was hit by a U.S. missile strike.

It nearly severed his leg, just above the hip; his leg had to be amputated.

Four years later, the Portland, Ore., chapter of "No More Victims" brought the little Iraqi boy to the U.S. for medical care and a prosthetic leg.

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Editor's note: Shortly after this story by Kaiser Health News and NPR was published and broadcast on Monday, St. David's said it was now willing to accept $782.29 to resolve the $108,951 balance because Drew Calver qualifies for its "financial assistance discount." In a statement, the hospital said this offer was contingent on Calver submitting his application for a discount based on his household finances. Calver disputed that he owes any additional money to St. David's and said this situation should have been resolved long before now.

Researching Heatstroke In Athletes

Aug 26, 2018

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

In 2013, NPR reported on an improbable inventor: Jorge Odon, a middle-aged car mechanic who — inspired by watching a stupid party trick — designed a medical device that could revolutionize childbirth. Here's how we described it: "The Odon Device ... guides a folded plastic sleeve around the baby's head.

More Americans die from the effects of heat than of any other form of severe weather, and this summer has seen one heat wave after another. Some places in the U.S. and elsewhere have recorded their highest temperatures ever. In fact, the average temperature around the planet over the past four years has been the highest ever recorded, and nine of the 10 hottest years were all in this century. (The other was 1998.)

Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was arrested and charged on Friday after he was accused of groping a woman, law enforcement officials said.

Detective Sophia Mason of the New York Police Department told NPR that the public health expert allegedly "grabbed a victim's buttocks without her permission." The incident was said to have happened last October in his home.

It was reported to police in July.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Countless scientific studies have espoused the idea that a glass of red wine a day can be good for the heart, but a new, sweeping global study published in The Lancet on Friday rejects the notion that any drinking can be healthy.

No amount of alcohol is safe, according to The Global Burden of Diseases study, which analyzed levels of alcohol use and its health effects in 195 countries from 1990 to 2016.

How To Survive A 10,000-Foot Fall

Aug 24, 2018

Falling from an airplane would ruin most people's day.

But if you're James Bond, it's no big deal.

After getting pushed out of a plane in the 1979 film Moonraker, Bond initiates a midair fight with a nearby skydiving villain and takes the evildoer's parachute.

As his enemy plunges to the ground, Bond fights off a second bad guy, deploys his chute and floats gracefully to Earth. Piece of cake.

An audience gathers around the transparent 14-foot-long "culinary instrument" in a restaurant called Creator in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood.

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