National Institutes of Health News

National Institutes of Health News

Infectious Bird Flu Survived Milk Pasteurization in Lab Tests

New research, co-authored by scientists at the National Institutes of Health, discovered that a “small but detectable quantity” of the infectious H5N1 bird flu virus can survive a common pasteurization process for milk. Most positive results were found in raw milk samples that were heavily contaminated with the virus. However, health officials have not detected any infectious virus in supermarket milk samples. Authorities are urging states to limit the sale of raw milk to prevent the spread of the virus and are advising consumers to avoid drinking raw milk.

Could the Body Roundness Index Replace the BMI?

In a recent study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, Wenquan Niu, a professor at the Capital Institute of Pediatrics in Beijing, China, demonstrated that a measurement known as the body roundness index (BRI) offers a more accurate method for assessing obesity than the traditional body mass index (BMI).

While BMI relies solely on height and weight measurements to gauge body fat, BRI takes into account additional factors such as hip and waist circumferences. This method gives a more detailed estimate of total fat and visceral fat (the deep belly fat around organs that can lead to greater health risks). A significant criticism of BMI is that it doesn’t look at how much of a person’s weight is fat, and where the fat is distributed around the body. BMI also overlooks various other components that contribute to a person’s body composition, such as muscle, bone, water, and organs.

Gulfport Teen Honored by National Geographic for Her Efforts to Save Mississippi’s Threatened Oyster Reefs

Demi Johnson, a ninth grader from Gulfport, Mississippi, has been named a finalist in the National Geographic Society’s Slingshot Challenge, an annual competition aimed at discovering young environmental problem solvers.

Oyster reefs are crucial for maintaining healthy marine ecosystems, but they have been declining in Mississippi due to various environmental threats. Johnson began her involvement with the Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program in seventh grade. She cultivated oysters in a special underwater cage, frequently checking on them and removing debris and predators to ensure their health and growth. Her oyster garden has produced 1,100 oysters to date, which will eventually spawn millions of oyster larvae, making a significant ecological impact. Johnson is dedicated to continuing her work and spreading awareness about the importance of oyster farming.

Most Teens Are Comfortable Talking about Mental Health, but Often Don’t Start the Conversation

The U.S. National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), recently conducted a survey with teens ages 12–17 about their mental health. The majority of the teens surveyed said they felt comfortable talking to people close to them, but only 48 percent talk regularly with their parents about mental health concerns and only 22 percent talk regularly with their friends. The teens also said they wanted their schools to play a bigger role in their mental health, including where and how to seek treatment, and 67 percent thought their school should offer days off for mental health.

Tennessee Teen Athlete Is American Heart Association’s 2024 National Teen of Impact

Sixteen-year-old Aniston Barnette of Bristol, Tennessee, is a student-athlete and the American Heart Association’s 2024 National Teen of Impact Winner. Barnette got involved with the American Heart Association because she had family members who had suffered and died from heart disease. She earned a CPR certification, raised funds for heart disease research and education, and led Hands-Only CPR activities in her community.

Now, Barnette plans to use her Teen of Impact platform to raise awareness about cardiac arrest, the leading cause of death for student-athletes. “Embracing this opportunity was a natural choice,” Barnette said. “I look forward to advocating for CPR education and access to AEDs [automated external defibrillators] in schools to ensure the next generation—my peers—become part of a Nation of Lifesavers and know what to do in the event of a cardiac emergency.”

Wisconsin Teen’s Podcast Encourages Conversations About Mental Health

Earlier this year, Breiny Lipskier, 18, of Glendale, Wisconsin, launched her podcast Wish You Knew as part of her internship at Friendship Circle of Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization. Helping those who feel lonely or isolated is one of Friendship Circle’s missions, and Lipskier’s podcast provides a platform where teens can share their stories with their peers. “I think that for a teen who struggles alone, which is unfortunately very common, they have this as an outlet to hear that they are not alone,” Lipskier said. “Something that I’ve gained—and I think a lot of people gain—is that you realize how much you don’t know about what’s going on in other people’s lives… I think that when everybody really realizes that, it just creates so much more kindness and empathy towards people.” Wish You Knew episodes are reviewed by mental health professionals before they are released and are available on Friendship Circle of Wisconsin’s site and most podcast apps.

U.S. Moves Toward Reclassifying Marijuana as a Less Dangerous Drug

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) recently announced that it is seeking to downgrade cannabis from its current classification as a Schedule I drug (alongside drugs like heroin, LSD, and ecstasy) to a Schedule III controlled substance (alongside ketamine and some anabolic steroids). This change, recommended by U.S. health regulators, would recognize the medical uses of cannabis and make it easier to conduct research on cannabis products, but wouldn’t legalize marijuana for recreational use at the federal level. It would also lessen or potentially do away with the criminal penalty for possession.

FDA Says Pasteurization Is Working to Kill off Traces of Bird Flu Virus in Milk

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that one of five samples of milk collected from store shelves across the country contained traces of the bird flu virus. Earlier in the week, the FDA had found remnants of the bird flu virus in pasteurized milk samples. The agency says pasteurization—the process of heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period—kills harmful bacteria and viruses, and the traces of bird flu do not pose a threat to consumers. They also warned against consuming raw unpasteurized milk because researchers do not have enough information about the H5N1 virus transmitting through raw milk. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the risk of H5N1 spreading to humans remains low.

Exercising Now Can Improve Your Mental Health as an Adult

A recent study funded by the sportswear brand ASICS found a direct link between exercising in teenage years and improved mental wellbeing in adulthood. The study, which included more than 26,000 people, examines the relationship between exercise and state of mind across the world.

Researchers found that the ages between 15–17 are critical for establishing lifelong exercise habits. Fifty-eight percent of study participants who exercised regularly between those ages still exercised regularly in later life, versus 53 percent of participants who did not. People who stopped exercise before the age of 15 displayed the lowest mental wellbeing later in life, including being less focused, less confident, less calm, and less composed as adults, than those who were regularly active during ages 15–17. The study also found that each additional year a teenager remained engaged in exercise was associated with improved mental health in adulthood.

Nicotine Pouches Are a Growing Trend with Serious Health Risks

Nicotine pouches are a type of smokeless tobacco product that has become increasingly popular with teens and young adults. They contain nicotine and other fillers, and come in mint, fruit, and candy flavors. Users place the pouch under their upper lip and the nicotine is absorbed through their gums and saliva. Last year, the CDC’s National Youth Tobacco Survey estimated that about 1.5 percent of middle and high school students had used nicotine pouches.

Nicotine pouches are often marketed as a healthy alternative to smoking, but they can still be harmful. Nicotine is highly addictive and can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, the pouches contain chemicals and additives that can irritate the mouth and gums, and potentially lead to issues like periodontal disease or even oral cancer. The long-term consequences of using nicotine pouches are not yet fully understood.

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