Be Smart About Using Dietary Supplements

Originally published on Healthgrades

November 24, 2015

By Julianne Cuba

People take dietary supplements for various reasons. Some want to increase their energy or help with weight loss. Others simply want to enhance their overall health.

Dietary supplements are just what the name suggests. They contain ingredients to supplement—or add to—your diet. The ingredient could be a vitamin, mineral, amino acid, herb, or enzyme. Dietary supplements usually come in pill, liquid or powder form. You can buy some as a tea or extract to drink. Others come as a nutrition bar or a chew.

It’s important to realize any dietary supplement has the potential to cause problems. And some can have harmful side effects. That’s especially true if you combine them with certain prescription medications or if you have an existing medical problem. Learn the answers to the following questions before taking any dietary supplement.

What are the benefits?

Dietary supplements can be beneficial. Some may help reduce the risk for certain diseases. Others may help you be healthier overall.

For instance, your body needs vitamin D. It’s important for healthy bones. But, it can be hard to get enough of this vitamin naturally. Taking a supplement provides an extra source of vitamin D. Another example is folic acid. Taking it before and during early pregnancy helps prevent certain birth defects.

Check with your doctor before starting a supplement to find out about the specific benefits for you.

Read the full article here.

More Computer Time May Be Causing Nearsightedness in U.S. Kids

Originally published on HealthDay

December 24, 2015

By Julianne Cuba

Eye experts suggest boosting outdoor time to get young eyes focusing on distant objects

Children who spend lots of time indoors and on computers and other electronic devices may be raising their risk for nearsightedness, a panel of U.S. ophthalmology experts suggests.

The prevalence of Americans with nearsightedness — also known as myopia — has nearly doubled over the last 50 years, the ophthalmologists noted.

The ophthalmologists suspect the increase is due to “near work” — focusing on something close to your eyes — and the decreased amount of time spent outdoors in natural light.

“Kids are spending much more time doing indoor activities with their cellphones, iPads, computers, and so on,” said Dr. Rohit Varma, director of the University of Southern California Eye Institute in Los Angeles.

“Especially when children are young, when they play these games indoors where they’re seeing things very close to them and doing it in low-light level — that combination of doing near activities in low light is what contributes to these children becoming very nearsighted,” Varma said.

A panel of 10 ophthalmology experts discussed the global increase of childhood myopia at the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s (AAO) recent annual meeting in Las Vegas. Information presented at meetings is usually viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Anyone can be nearsighted, but it’s more common in people whose parents are nearsighted, said Dr. K. David Epley, a spokesman for the AAO. The condition is also much more prevalent in industrialized and urban areas than in rural areas, he added.

Children of East Asian descent are genetically predisposed to nearsightedness, but children’s habits in those regions may be increasing the rates of myopia even more. The current rate of myopia in young people in China is 90 percent compared to about 10 to 20 percent 60 years ago, the experts said. That compares to a rate of 42 percent for Americans between the ages of 12 and 54, according to previous research.

The ophthalmologists noted the difference in Chinese and American work habits. Children in China spend up to 12 hours a day doing near work, compared to their U.S. peers, who spend about nine hours a day on near work, the eye experts said.

Read the full article here.


NFL domestic violence case shows system’s flaws

Originally published on

December 7, 2015

Co-written by Julianne Cuba and Taylor Garre

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy may have avoided domestic violence charges for the assault of his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder. But he has not been able to dodge public condemnation following the release of photos showing a badly bruised Holder.

The photos confirm what Holder told police on the night of May 12, 2014 — that Hardy, then a Carolina Panthers player, had choked her and tossed her on a futon covered with firearms in his Charlotte apartment.

While the photos further fueled the debate about the NFL’s domestic violence policy, the question remains as to why a North Carolina court dismissed Hardy’s assault charges. A CBS News analysis reveals that a loophole in the state’s domestic violence law is allowing many abusers to walk away scot-free.

“The laws themselves are archaic [in North Carolina],” said Mike Sexton, Domestic Violence Information and Education Specialist at Mecklenburg County Women’s Commission. “Right now, if you were to drag your girlfriend or your wife down the street it would be a misdemeanor, but if you did that to your dog, it would be a felony.”

Under North Carolina law, many domestic violence cases are tried as misdemeanors in district court as a means of saving time and money. These courts are “not of record,” meaning a transcript of the testimony is not kept when defendants, like Hardy, plead their case to a judge without a jury.

Defendants who are found guilty in district court can challenge the decision in superior court where a form of appeal known as “trial de novo” essentially gives all defendants a second trial. Trial de novo sets the stage for a new trial, this time with a jury, as if no prior trial had been held. Similar legal practices exist in other states including Utah, New Mexico, Virginia and Colorado.

In July 2014, Hardy was found guilty by Mecklenburg County District Court Judge Becky Thorne Tin and sentenced to 18 months’ probation for assaulting his ex-girlfriend and verbally communicating threats. But after appealing to superior court where trial de novo favored the NFL player, Hardy’s case was dismissed due to the state’s inability to get the accuser to testify again. Last month, his domestic violence record was expunged by a superior court judge.

“It’s hard enough to get the victim to show up for one trial and doubly difficult to get them to show up for two,” said Joshua Marquis, a spokesperson for the National District Attorneys Association and District Attorney in Astoria, Oregon. “As prosecutors, we are bitterly opposed to any procedure that gives the defendant two free bites of the apple and more importantly [one] that subjects victims, particularly domestic violence victims, to repeated examination. They endure enough trauma as it is.”

Also complicating the prosecution of domestic violence cases is victim intimidation. Amber Leuken Barwick of North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys says too many victims file charges and then drop them out of fear or shame.

Ruth Glenn, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, described the current appeal process as not effective saying, “The appeal system for domestic violence cases is not justice or victim-centered” and is a “classic example of why victims are sometimes reluctant to come forward.”

In some states like California, New York and North Carolina, prosecutors can continue to pursue charges even after a domestic violence victim chooses to drop them under what is called a “no-drop policy.”

Ironically, even with such policies, some domestic violence cases cannot advance without a victim’s testimony due to the 6th Amendment Confrontation Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives the defendant “the right to confront witnesses against him or her,” explained Barwick.

Overcoming this obstacle causes many domestic violence cases such as Holder’s to come to a halt.

“It’s just a shame when a victim has the strength to testify in the first trial but it’s basically rendered meaningless just to go through it again,” said Teresa Garvey, Attorney Advisor with AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women.

The High Point police department, just 75 miles north of Mecklenburg County, is looking to change that and make sure cases are not wrongly dismissed.

In order to hold offenders accountable for their actions, Chief Marty Sumner is compiling criminal histories, which can lead to longer sentences and more prosecutions.

“Our entire response system is very much set up to take all the responsibility off the victim so that it is totally on the police and the state,” said Sumner.