News, views and insights on maintaining a healthy edge.

Where There’s Vapor…

The science on e-cigarettes is sketchy at best, and because they currently do not fall under the FDA’s purview, manufacturers are not compelled to list product ingredients. “When e-cigarettes started to become available, I thought it could be a good thing as it could satisfy both chemical craving associated with cigarette smoking by administering nicotine and psychological craving associated with the act of smoking,” recalls

Vipin Garg, MD
Director, Trinitas Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Center 908.994.8880

Vipin Garg, MD, of Trinitas who is board certified in pulmonology, critical care medicine, internal medicine, and sleep medicine. “I had patients who reported early success.

However, as the market for e-cigarettes exploded, I soon realized that e-cigarettes are essentially vaporizing systems and any known chemical could be administered—and it often varies manufacturer to manufacturer. They open the door for more dangerous and potent chemicals/drugs being inhaled.”

There has been a proliferation in California of shops selling e-cigarettes and, according to the journal Pediatrics, e-cigarette marketing to minors has tripled in recent years. More than 5,000 Californians signed a petition this year urging the Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigarettes. Senator Barbara Boxer delivered to the petition FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg. Not surprisingly, e-cigarette use by children under 18 has risen dramatically, not just in the Golden State, but across America.  A 2014 national study showed that more teens are using e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes, which on the surface may not be a bad thing. The fear, of course, is that e-cigarettes—which most teens consider to be “safe”—will lead young people into cigarettes and other tobacco products.

“As a pulmonologist,” says Dr. Garg, “I know anything other than air at ambient temperature administered to lungs can cause damage to pneumocytes, which are the breathing units of the lungs.  Noxious particles, heated vapors, varying degrees of humidity associated with these products have the potential of causing Reactive Airway Disease. Glorifying e-cigarettes—especially to minors—will be a big mistake. I support a complete ban of e-cigarettes.”

In Sickness and In Health

Americans may want to rethink their marriage vows. Iowa State University released a study in March tracking 2,700 couples in the U.S. from 1992 to 2010. It found that divorce rates increase when the wife becomes seriously ill. This was not true when husbands had long-term illnesses. The results suggest that American men are ill-equipped to function as caregivers to a seriously ill spouse. Overall, 32 percent of the couples divorced during the 18 years they were tracked; that figure rose to 38 percent when a wife fell ill.  During his years as an oncologist,

Barry Levison, MD
Medical Director, Trinitas Comprehensive Cancer Center 908.994.8772

Barry Levinson, MD, Medical Director of the Trinitas Comprehensive Cancer Center, has observed spousal caregiving first hand. “When taken on a case-by-case basis, there are many men who are superb caregivers. On the whole, however, I think in our society, the traditional role of women as caregivers still predominates. As these societal roles change, and men become more involved in caring for family, I think the data will change, as well.”

The Skinny On Oxytocin

Is it your imagination, or do people in love seem skinnier? It’s not your imagination. According to new research out of Massachusetts General Hospital, the hormone oxytocin—aka The Love Hormone, which surges when couples hug or kiss—also appears to be an appetite suppressant. A group of men (half of whom were overweight) inhaled oxytocin spray an hour prior to breakfast and consumed 122 fewer calories and 9 fewer grams of fat than men given a placebo spray. The men who inhaled the oxytocin also burned fat slightly faster and handled insulin better. The study results were presented at the 2015 meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Diego.

Kids and Air Pollution

A study of schoolchildren in Barcelona, Spain suggests that air pollution impacts brain development. Students ages 7 to 10 in schools located in neighborhoods with heavy vehicle traffic showed reduced cognitive development compared to kids in less-congested areas.

Kevin Lukenda, DO
Chairman, Family Medicine Department

Dr. Kevin Lukenda, DO, Chair of the Family Medicine Department at Trinitas, says that it is a well-known fact that “fuel exhaust competes with oxygen in our body. By breathing in excessive fuel exhaust, we compromise the amount of oxygen that is much needed by our brains. With lower levels of oxygen in our brain, our cognition is then compromised.” Among the conclusions drawn from the Barcelona data were that school buses in Spain (which run on unleaded fuel) should be fitted with particle filters, and classrooms facing busy streets should always keep their windows closed.  Dr. Lukenda sums up: “In this era of technology, we must do whatever it takes to prevent noxious chemicals from entering our bodies. Whether it be through a filtering process or other mechanical barriers, the less fuel exhaust and more oxygen we breathe the greater the ability we have to process cognitive information.”

No Ordinary Joe

The latest research on coffee swings the pendulum back toward America’s favorite hot beverage. Scientists in South Korea exploring the link between coffee consumption and the level of calcium in arteries determined that drinking up to five cups a day may reduce the risk of heart attacks. Their study of 25,000 men and women found the lowest levels of calcium among those who drank 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day. Calcium in the arteries is an early indicator of cardiovascular disease. So should we drink even more? Not so fast. The same study found the highest levels of calcium in subjects who drank over 5 cups a day.

Playing with Matches

Does love at first sight translate into successful long-term relationships? Study after study says No. Couples that marry due primarily to physical attraction have a higher rate of divorce than other couples. Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher points out that our bodies actually develop a tolerance to the chemicals that trigger initial feelings of love—just as they build up tolerances to other chemicals. Add to this the fact that “looks fade,” and eventually all you’re left with is conversation and common interests. Physical attraction is important, of course, but in the balance it is not a good predictor of long-term compatibility. Full disclosure: Dr. Fisher is also the chief scientific advisor for the dating web site

Skin In the Game

Mexican scientists believe they have found a skin test that may predict Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain diseases. Minimally invasive skin biopsies on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients turned up significantly elevated levels of Alpha-Synuclein and Tau, proteins linked to decline in brain function. Brain and skin tissue share the same embryonic origin, which suggests that definitive tests for Alzheimer’s and related problems could be performed long before obvious symptoms arise. Early detection, in turn, could be the key to managing or even curing brain disease.