January 10th, 2014
01:53 PM ET
Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.
1. Surgical glue may mend broken hearts
Doctors see a huge unmet need for better adhesives in medicine, says Jeff Karp, co-director of the Center for Regenerative Therapeutics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The current options include sutures, which can be time-consuming to insert, and staples, which can do significant damage.
Karp and colleagues wanted to develop a better adhesive solution for babies with congenital heart defects who require surgery. To create an adhesive that would work on a beating heart in the presence of blood, a material would have to be biodegradable, elastic and nontoxic.
Researchers turned to nature for answers, observing how creatures such as sandcastle worms and spiders "have secretions that enable them to attach to wet surfaces," Karp said.
The result is a material whose major components - glycerol and sebacic acid - are already in the human body. Researchers have demonstrated that they could seal incisions in the carotid artery of a pig, as well as "patch holes in a beating heart of a rat without removing the blood from the surface of the heart," Karp said.
"The adhesives remained attached for six months and the animals did fine," he said. They also attached a biodegradable patch to the septum in a pig heart without stopping the heart.
The glue hasn't yet been tried in humans but Karp says it could get on the market within two to three years. He and MIT professor Robert Langer have founded a startup company called Gecko Biomedical to work on these kinds of technologies.
2. Sexually transmitted diseases still on the rise
Call them STDs, STIs or whatever slang term you prefer, but they are still out there. The CDC finds there are many cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis that go undiagnosed and unreported.
Data from 2012 suggest that non-congenital syphilis cases have gone up 11% since 2011, with the increase in men only, and particularly in gay and bisexual men.
Gonorrhea cases have gone up about 4% since 2011, and chlamydia cases were stable.
"Surveillance data continues to show that numbers and rates of reported chlamydia and gonorrhea cases are highest in Americans between the ages of 15 and 24," the report noted.
The most serious long-term consequences of sexually transmitted diseases are borne by young women, the CDC said. The report cited an estimate that 24,000 women become infertile each year because of these infections.
3. Fewer cases of lung cancer reported
The CDC found declines in lung cancer among both men and women from 2005 to 2009, according to a new report.
The data suggest that lung cancer incidence went down faster among men, and among adults between the ages of 35 to 44. Individuals aged 75 and up had the highest incidence of lung cancer. The incidence decreased with lower ages.
"To further reduce lung cancer incidence in the United States, proven population-based tobacco prevention and control strategies should receive sustained attention and support," the report said.
4. Alcohol screening should be used more
Consuming too much alcohol is a problem, and one not discussed enough, a CDC report suggests. It appears that there are 38 million adults drinking too much, but only 1 in 6 adults has ever spoken to a health professional about their drinking.
"Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals should screen all adult patients and counsel those who drink too much," the report said.
Just so we're all on the same page: Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks within two or three hours, if you're a man - it's or four or more drinks if you're a woman. Any consumption of alcohol by pregnant women, or by a person under 21 years old, is defined as "too much," the CDC says.
The CDC recommends alcohol screening for all adults. Such screening can lower a person's alcohol intake on an occasion by 25%, according to the agency.
You may think that a sit-down chain restaurant is healthier than a drive-through fast food joint, but a new study says those familiar full-service joints aren't necessarily good for you either.
Researchers studied the offerings of 21 national chain restaurants in the Philadelphia area in 2011, including Olive Garden, Red Lobster and TGI Friday's.
On average, across all of the restaurants in the study, the researchers found that calorie and nutrient levels were higher than appropriate for a single meal. Common meal scenarios that the study authors set up exceeded the maximum recommended intakes for an entire day, in sodium and saturated fat especially.
But there were efforts to provide healthy options - 11 of the restaurants in the study had items that were marked on the menu in some way as healthy choices.
"Future research could examine whether offering a larger percentage of healthy options would proportionally increase sales of healthy choice items," the study said.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.