Today’s Headlines: Gateway Drugs, Alzheimer’s, and Obesity Numbers

E-cigarettes may make other drugs more addictive. Controversy continues to swirl around e-cigs and just how good or bad for users they are. New research out this week suggests that “electronic cigarettes may function [like conventional cigarettes] as a ‘gateway drug’ that can prime the brain to be more receptive to harder drugs.” Past research had shown that cigarettes could increase the likelihood and strength of addiction to other drugs like cocaine. This research expanded that to e-cigarettes by doing the same studies with nicotine only, the main substance delivered by e-cigs. According to the authors, “e-cigarettes have the same physiological effects on the brain and may pose the same risk of addiction to other drugs as regular cigarettes. Although it is not yet clear whether e-cigarettes will prove to be a gateway to the use of conventional cigarettes and illicit drugs, it’s certainly a possibility.” (Fox)

More women get Alzheimer’s, may not be about age. For years researchers have observed that more women get Alzheimer’s disease than men, but many chalked it up to the fact that women live longer than men. New research has found that “even after taking age into account, women are more at risk [for Alzheimer’s than men].” The researchers found that “women who are 70 to 79 years old are twice as likely as men the same age to develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. After 80, the risk is identical and remains similar throughout the rest of life.” The reasons are likely complex and may be related to cardiovascular risk, “educational attainment, susceptibility to depression, and other ailments that affect women more than men.” More research is needed to understand the many different factors that may be playing a role. (Washington Post)

More Americans are obese than ever before. Americans have been told for years that too many of us are obese or overweight. But all that talk doesn’t seem to have budged the trend. An analysis of the U.S. population found that “rates of adult obesity increased in six U.S. states and fell in none last year, and in more states than ever – 20 – at least 30 percent of adults are obese.” The overall obesity rate remained at about one in three adults, but shows that the trend isn’t slowing down. “Continuing a years-long trend, nine of the 10 states with the highest rates of obesity are in the South. The West and Northeast had the healthiest BMIs, with Colorado boasting the lowest adult obesity rate, 21.3 percent. Obesity also tracked demographics, with higher rates correlating with poverty, which is associated with lower availability of healthy foods and fewer safe neighborhoods where people can walk and children can play for exercise.” (Reuters)