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U.S. News and Aetna Foundation conducts a study revealing ill effects of poor mental health

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On Monday, March 25th, the U.S. News & World Reports and the Aetna Foundation posted a report which shows that Poor mental health shortens life expectancy almost as much as diabetes, not working out or smoking.

The above-mentioned report is a part of the organizations’ Healthiest Communities rankings, which evaluates roughly 3,000 communities across 81 health-related metrics, such as education, nutrition, and housing. The report also showed that the strongest correlation to reduces life expectancy was found in smoking and diabetes out of all the metrics which were evaluated.

Aetna Foundation President, Garth Graham said that he was really surprised to find out that poor self-reported mental health had an equally strong link.

Garth Graham, who is also Aetna’s vice president for community health said, “I at first wanted us to double check.”

Garth Graham, further said, “Back in the previous year, Mental health did not have as strong of an effect as it is currently. However, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data often changes consistently and this time it showed that increasing fatal opioid suicides and overdoses weighed on U.S. life expectancy.

As per reports, as many as seven communities in Colorado made the top 20, with Douglas County, being named as the healthiest community in America. Additionally,  Colorado also went onto post the highest average score for the environment. According to the President of Aetna Foundation, “We often think about health as the four hours we spend in a doctor’s office per year, however,  health is something that is way beyond that.”

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Endocanna Health Aims To Increase Genetic Risk Awareness For COVID-19

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COVID-19

This pandemic is practically unprecedented in terms of how mysterious its risk factors are. While the mode of transmission is known, the exact factors that make a person susceptible to severe complications aren’t. Experts all agree that COVID-19 may either pass the infected with no symptoms, cause mild respiratory effects or in worst-cases deaths.

However, what still remains unclear is who is vulnerable and why. That’s why Endocanna Health, a cannabinoid DNA-research company based in California, has stepped up. They are offering a free DNA test for genetic factors in their consumers. This test is meant to scan for known genetic markers that could lead to susceptibility. While the gesture is generous, it must be cautioned such a test is not meant to be a reliable tool to assess this.

DNA research works by looking for known markers

The aim of Endocanna Health’s test is to examine possible vulnerable genes. Such genes could make a person’s immune system weaker to infection, or allow them to develop worse symptoms.

However, if you’re wondering why you haven’t been prescribed this test before, there’s a reason. Most healthcare providers and experts don’t rely on such tests because they only indicate correlation. There is no way to prove the causation. What that means, simply, is that certain genes can make COVID-19 more severe, not always. Factors like age, diet, health conditions and mental health are important too, though.

Endocanna Health’s research is most notable for its work on the human endocannabinoid system. This system includes the way certain cannabinoid neurotransmitters work to regulate mood, sensation, memory, metabolism and immunity.

The system was discovered by scientists investigating the effects of THC in marijuana on the body. While we did just mention immunity back there, it must be kept in mind that this is only part of it (more on that later).

The company’s Chief Science Officer, Dr Chris Spooner, recently claimed that the work they were doing would be useful for understanding the immune system. He mentioned the presence of cannabinoid receptors in the immune cells, that affected the strength of immune response to COVID-19. While the role of cannabinoids on the cells is clear, the message behind the aims should be scrutinized.

Your genes are not the most important factor in beating COVID-19

If Endocanna Health’s aim is to combat COVID-19, then that’s commendable. But if they think that it will significantly contribute to flattening the curve, their hopes are a tad misplaced. Major health experts, from Dr Anthony Fauci to the WHO, all assert that the number one rule to follow is to stay healthy and socially distance. If you’re worried about COVID-19, or another similar disease, then eat healthy, sleep well and stay home. DNA tests can be helpful, truly, in the case of congenital disease (think cystic fibrosis or hemophilia). But to cause misinformation about them is deliberately harmful. Let’s look at the real unsung heroes in the body’s immune system.

To fight infection, circulating white blood cells (called leucocytes) detect and attack germs. They also signal the release of chemicals like prostaglandins to create inflammation and fever, which can be beneficial.

Other cells, like mast cells, help signal the response to rest of the system. Then, from the antigens of the germs, ‘B-Cells’ create antibodies. Antibodies are basically drugs to kill off any other germs left, from bacteria to coronaviruses. This whole process is wonderfully self-regulated. And knowing your genes will just make you more paranoid than actually help, it seems.

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Cannabis

Texas Passes New Hemp Industry Regulations

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Hemp

Hemp has been a staple of human use since antiquity. Rope is made from fibers of Cannabis sativa, while the leaves and shoots are also used often. However, in Texas, the USA, the absence of stringent regulatory laws in the industry have been noted.

Food, drinks, and cosmetic goods all come from hemp-based cannabinoids like CBD (cannabidiol). For this reason, the Texas Department of State Health has issued a new set of laws and a deadline to conform.

The set of laws include new mandatory licenses and quality inspections

The government had intended to straighten up the hemp industry with two key laws. Both of these laws were put into effect as of August 2, 2020. Firstly, all hemp manufacturers, processors, and distributors must obtain a compulsory license. This license is available for $258 per hemp facility, and it is now illegal to operate without it.

Furthermore, hemp businesses must register the stores where their products are sold by October 2, 2020. This will cost an additional $155 per outlet. Each of these licenses is valid for one year, and they must be renewed upon expiration at the Texas Department of State Health Services website.

Secondly, hemp products are now subject to random inspections. To ensure safety and quality standards, state health officials will carry out tests for safety and quality standards. They will also inspect the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive agent in giving users their ‘high’).

This is because the federal legal limit of THC is 0.3%. Aside from this, the state health officials will also look for harmful germs, heavy metals, and chemicals.

Texas still has a ban on the smoking of hemp

Despite the recent laws, it should be noted that Texas’ stance on smoking cannabis is still conservative. Even the consumption of cannabis in food, for the purpose of getting high, is still illegal. The possession of any cannabis product with over 0.3% of THC is still a misdemeanor. The only acceptable use of THC products is as an additive, and these new regulations reflect that.

Despite the legality of hemp, Texas is still a state that only recently allowed this. Hemp was only legalized for industrial use in 2019. This was by the passing of House Bill 1325 last June. Republican State Sen. Charles Perry backed that law.

The law was a major shift from previous conservative stances in the state. This bill legalized hemp distribution, production, and usage for the first time in the entire state’s history.

Increased imports of THC products led to these new regulations

The move to introduce these two new laws was somewhat surprising to most. With respect to hemp, Texas has long been considered among the most conservative states in the country. Hence, it’s only understandable that it would keep the substance banned even as others have legalized it. However, Perry has since gone on to mention why the sudden regulation was implemented.

Speaking in a press release, he stated that the move was made because of increased imports of related goods. Such goods came from countries and states that he believed to have subpar quality assurance. Therefore, the hemp was made safer and more reliable by putting the focus on regulating local producers.

After all, the quality of imports cannot be improved directly. Perry went on to praise the efficacy of his bill. He claimed the new regulations would significantly improve the hemp commercially available.

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Mexican State of Oaxaca Bans Sale of Junk Food To Children

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In a move that has surprised health officials, distributors and consumers alike across the nation, Mexico’s state of Oaxaca has now officially become the first and only to outlaw the sale of ‘junk food’ to children. Magaly López Domínguez, the deputy of the National Regeneration Movement and popular politician, was the one who passed the legislation this week.

Effective immediately across all of Oaxaca, the sale, marketing towards, and distribution of carbonated beverages and certain unhealthy packaged foods are hereby illegal. Furthermore, this move has shocked a nation that has been long considered a country with the most carbonated beverages (‘fizzy drinks’) per capita.

The entire culture, where alcoholic beverages for adults and fizzy drinks for all age groups is the norm, is reeling from this sudden commandment.

Health concerns – The main factor

However, the motives behind the legislation are less surprising. Mexico, even before the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, has struggled with high rates of mortality related to obesity. Recent estimates indicate that about 73% of the populace of Mexico is classified as obese, which is an alarmingly high incidence.

This is up from only 20% in 1996, according to statistics. Healthcare providers and citizens alike have long been striving to combat obesity levels. Even the government, law-and-order, and educational sectors encourage better diets. Nutrition and exercise are vital too.

Fizzy drinks, i.e carbonated beverages are proven to be culprits in this obesity epidemic as younger consumers drink frequently. The high levels of sugar are primarily to blame along with increased hunger stimulation. This new ban on such drinks and foods is a step in the right direction, according to health experts.

It is now believed that being overweight or obese can drastically increase mortality rates from COVID-19. Meanwhile, Mexico is already the country with the third-highest rates of COVID-19 related deaths, at over 50000. It rates only behind the United States and Brazil, successively.

Oaxaca was the most vulnerable state in Mexico

The state of Oaxaca has the highest incidence of child obesity, and among the highest adult obesity in the nation. Health statistical data also indicates that the new law is projected to help tremendously. However, on the economic side, the government has clarified that the sale and distribution of junk food are still permitted to adults.

This way store owners and distributors need not undergo any major loss of business. The sale of carbonated beverages prior to this was meant to be curbed by a 2014 law. That law imposed a tax on the sale of junk food but didn’t go far enough. This new ban, while hard to implement in some cases, is still widely welcomed by progressives.

The law has been lauded by notable health and nutrition figures. Christian Skoog, the UNICEF Mexico Representative and Hugo López-Gatell (deputy minister of health) praised it. They noted the underlying goal of giving children better nutrition and combating obesity with this.

Oaxaca’s law is an inspiration for the world

It seems that such a swift roll-out of legislation is much needed everywhere. Many other countries, from the US to the UK, could take a page from Mexico’s book. Moreover, even in first-world nations, childhood obesity remains a hugely overlooked issue. In 2016, the number of obese children worldwide was estimated at a staggering 41 million. The leaders of other nations need to implement similar laws so as to curb heart disease and diabetes in the youth.

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