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Drinking coffee may protect some people against Parkinson’s

A recent study found lower levels of caffeine in the blood of people with Parkinson’s disease. The study compared people with Parkinson’s who carry a particular genetic mutation known to increase Parkinson’s risk with people who carry the same mutation but do not have the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain disorder characterized by tremors, rigidity in the limbs and torso, and movement and balance problems. People with the condition also have an increased risk of depression and dementia.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, more than 1 million people in North America and more than 4 million people worldwide have Parkinson’s disease. In the United States, about 60,000 people receive a diagnosis each year.

Around 15% of people with the disease have a family history of Parkinson’s, which suggests they inherited genes that increased their risk of developing the condition. However, most cases result from a complex, poorly understood interaction of genetic and environmental factors.

Several environmental factors, such as head trauma, chemicals, and drugs, have associations with increased risk, whereas exercise has associations with reduced risk.

A 2010 review of previous research found that the more caffeine people regularly consumed, the lower their risk of developing Parkinson’s.

Another study showed that people with Parkinson’s who have no genetic risk factors for the disease have lower caffeine levels in their blood than people without the disease.

A team led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA, set out to discover whether coffee might also protect people with a mutation in the LRRK2 gene. Having this gene increases the risk of developing the disease but does not guarantee it.

The researchers compared people with and without Parkinson’s disease. Both groups contained people with and without a mutation in the LRRK2 gene.

The researchers found that the differences in the blood caffeine levels between people with Parkinson’s and those without were greater among individuals with this genetic mutation.

Dr. Grace Crotty, who led the research, says:

“These results are promising and encourage future research exploring caffeine and caffeine-related therapies to lessen the chance that people with this gene develop Parkinson’s … It’s also possible that caffeine levels in the blood could be used as a biomarker to help identify which people with this gene will develop the disease, assuming caffeine levels remain relatively stable.”

The authors published the study in the journal Neurology.

The scientists analyzed blood plasma samples from 368 individuals enrolled in the LRRK2 Cohort Consortium, a research project established in 2009 coordinated and funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

One group contained 188 individuals with Parkinson’s, and the control group included 180 people without the disease. Around the same proportion of each group had a mutation in the LRRK2 gene.

When the researchers compared the chemical profile of plasma from the two groups, they found the levels of five particular chemicals differed the most — all of them caffeine-related.

Concentrations of all five chemicals were significantly lower among

Heavy drinking is killing women in record numbers, and experts fear a COVID-related spike | Coronavirus

On her last day of consciousness, Misty Luminais Babin held onto hope. “I choose life,” the 38-year-old told her sister, husband and doctor from inside the Ochsner Medical Center ICU.

But her sister, Aimee Luminais Calamusa, knew it was a choice made too late. A former ICU nurse herself, she was trained to recognize signs of the end. Even after draining 3 liters of fluid from Babin’s abdomen, her liver — mottled and scarred by years of heavy drinking — couldn’t keep up. The fluid had started building up in her lungs and she gasped for air. Without oxygen, her other organs began to fail.

“When I left that day, I knew that would be the last time I talked to her, ever,” said Calamusa. “It was really hard to walk out that door.”

Babin died two days later, on June 14 of this year, after a long struggle with alcohol use disorder. Her family said the fight intensified in the last four or five years after a rough breakup, but may have been more stealthy and prevalent than they ever realized.

“None of us knew,” said Calamusa, who wrote a moving and honest obituary in The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate about her sister’s struggles. “She hid it very well. I think she probably has been an addict for a long time. She lost control very quickly.”



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Misty Luminais Babin checked into the hospital a week before she died on June 14, 2020, after struggling with alcohol use disorder for years. Her family scattered her ashes on August 31, 2020, what would have been in 39th birthday, in her “thinking spot,” a quiet place along the Mississippi River. 




With an average of 1,591 alcohol-related deaths from 2011 to 2015, Louisiana is tied for 10th among U.S. states on a per-capita basis when it comes to people succumbing to the disease, according to a recent analysis of death certificates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Across the country, alcohol-related deaths have risen by 51% over a period covering most of the past two decades, according to a study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism published earlier this year.

The most alarming increase was among women. Deaths increased by 85% from 1999 to 2017.

And amid all-time high levels of anxiety and economic uncertainty, public-health experts fear that deaths like Babin’s will spike in the coming years. New data examining how drinking habits have changed during the pandemic showed drinking overall has increased by 14% compared with a year ago. In women, the increase was 17%, according to the peer-reviewed study published Sept. 29 in JAMA Network Open by researchers from the RAND Corporation.

Binge drinking in women, defined as four drinks over two hours, increased by 41% from 2019 to 2020. 

“Drinking by women is sort of overlooked,” said Michael Pollard, author of the JAMA study. “And this points out that it is a real concern. We don’t really have

Americans Over 30 Are Drinking 14% More Often During Pandemic, Study Finds : NPR

American adults over 30 say they’re drinking 14% more often during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Luca Bruno/AP


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American adults over 30 say they’re drinking 14% more often during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Luca Bruno/AP

Perhaps it’s no surprise, but people are drinking more during the pandemic.

In some cases, by a lot.

American adults say they’re drinking 14% more often during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report in the journal JAMA Network Open. The increase in frequency of drinking for women was more pronounced, up 17% compared to last year.

Instances of heavy drinking among women, which for women was defined as four or more drinks within a couple of hours, spiked by 41%.

The study’s participants were aged 30 to 80, so the report does not offer insight on the pandemic drinking habits of younger adults.

The study took a sample of 1,540 adults and compared their self-reported drinking habits this spring with a year prior.

A quick look at social media suggests many people are using alcohol as a way to relax. Whether it’s “quarantinis” or Zoom happy hours, Americans seem to find a plethora of reasons to drink during the pandemic.

And as people began going to bars less, retail alcohol sales went up.

Stores sold 54% more alcohol in late March compared the year prior, according to Nielsen. Online sales more than doubled.

Some states like New York, Florida and Texas relaxed laws during the pandemic to allow expanded alcohol delivery.

The study used data collected using the RAND Corporation American Life Panel. The authors note a limitation of the study: its findings are based on self-reported data that could be skewed due to societal expectations. Nonetheless, they concluded more research could be warranted on alcohol use and its psychological and physical effects during the pandemic.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization European office warned against excessive drinking and even said access should be limited during the pandemic.

Drinking may be even more dangerous now as it can negatively affect the body’s immune system, according to the WHO warning.

“Alcohol compromises the body’s immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes,” the WHO stated. “Therefore, people should minimize their alcohol consumption at any time, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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After Wildfires Stop Burning, a Danger in the Drinking Water

Two months after a wildfire burned through Paradise, Calif., in 2018, Kevin Phillips, then a manager for town’s irrigation district, walked from one destroyed home to another.

Burned out cars, the occasional chimney and the melted skeletons of washers and dryers were the only recognizable shapes.

“You started to actually be shocked when you saw a standing structure,” he said.

Mr. Phillips, now Paradise’s town manager, was following the team taking samples from intact water meters connected to homes that were now reduced to gray ash. He knew from the Tubbs Fire in 2017 that harmful toxins were likely in the water distribution system: Rapid action would be needed to protect people returning to the community from the dangers of toxins like benzene, which can cause nausea and vomiting in the short-term, or even cancer over time.

Wildfires, which turned skies a dim orange over cities from Seattle to Santa Cruz this year, are increasingly engulfing people’s homes, continuing to rage in California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado in recent weeks. But even when homes don’t burn, other dangers arise in the aftermath, and experts are focusing more attention on what happens to municipal water systems after a fire, when released toxins can get pulled into plumbing systems, and other damage can linger in pipes for years.

After the Paradise Fire, for example, tests reported in a new study showed benzene levels in drinking water at 2,217 parts per billion. The Tubbs Fire led to levels as high as 40,000 parts per billion. California health authorities say 1 part per billion is dangerous over the long-term, and 26 parts per billion is dangerous for short-term exposure. And many other compounds that end up in water after fire can also create health risks.

“It’s hard enough having the pandemic restrictions,” said Angela Aurelia, a resident of Boulder Creek in Santa Cruz County, whose home was partially damaged in August. “And then you have a wildfire, and you lose access to your home and then we can’t even go back home because the water isn’t likely safe to use.”

Mr. Phillips and some others who work to ensure the water flowing into homes is safe say they are following guidelines that are not designed for this kind of disaster.

After a fire, water in houses and in the underlying pipes “can become contaminated with an array of volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds” at levels that exceed the regulatory limits set by the state of California as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency, said Amisha Shah, a water quality engineer at Purdue University. “It’s very clear it needs to be addressed.”

Volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, naphthalene and methylene chloride, have a low boiling point and can be dispersed into the air easily. Semi-volatiles, including chrysene and benzo(b)fluoranthene, have a higher boiling point but can be dispersed during, for example, a warm shower. Although not all of these compounds are harmful, some have been found to cause cancer in the

Americans over 30 have been drinking more during the coronavirus pandemic, research shows

Americans over 30 have been drinking more during the coronavirus pandemic compared to this time last year, and there could be consequences to their physical and mental health, researchers reported Tuesday.



a group of people in a store: A customer gets rung out at Friendly Discount liquor store in Westbrook on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.


© Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald/Getty Images
A customer gets rung out at Friendly Discount liquor store in Westbrook on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

Overall frequency of alcohol consumption increased by about 14% from 2019, the researchers reported in the journal JAMA Network Open. That increase averages out to about one additional drinking day per month by 75% of adults.

RAND Corporation sociologist Michael Pollard and colleagues analyzed a nationally representative sample of 1,540 people ages 30 to 80. The participants completed a survey about their drinking habits between April 29 and June 9 of 2019 and then again between May 28 and June 16 of 2020.

The volunteers reported they drank alcohol on more days every week. They also reported increases in the number of drinks they had; the number of heavy drinking days; and the number of alcohol related problems over the last 30 days between 2019 and 2020.

Frequency of drinking increased by 17% among women, 19% among people aged 30 to 59 and by 10% among White people.

Heavy drinking among women increased by 41% — about one additional day of heavy drinking for one in every five women. Nearly one in 10 women, or 39%, reported an increase in alcohol-related problems, the researchers found.

“At times of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol consumption can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviors, mental health issues and violence,” the World Health Organization said in April.

The researchers say it’s important to watch for whether the increases in alcohol consumption persist over the pandemic, and whether there will be physical and mental health consequences as a result.

A dangerous combination

The uptick in drinking among adults isn’t necessarily a surprise. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Director Dr. George Koob said that the US has seen similar increases in alcohol consumption during other times of crisis, like after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and some recent hurricanes.

However, the increase in drinking during this crisis could be especially dangerous. Experts say it may actually increase the risk of Covid-19 spread and severe illness.

Not only is alcohol often consumed in crowded settings, like bars and parties, said Koob; it lowers a person’s inhibitions, making it more likely people will allow close contact and talk more, raising the likelihood they could spread the virus.

Excessive alcohol use has been linked to a weakened immune system and other negative health effects, also.

“About half the people that have acute respiratory distress syndrome are individuals who have misused alcohol,” said Koob. “We worry that if you’re drinking excessively, that could set you up, if you contract the virus, with a more severe respiratory problem.”

Substance use issues could be on the rise

Experts are also concerned about substance use disorder. Increasing levels of alcohol consumption and sales indicate a rise could