Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 91° Partly Cloudy
News >  Features

Study takes on dye in blue M&Ms

Scientists can’t yet explain why green M&Ms seem to hold seductive powers or why the brown-hued chocolates appear to bring bad luck.

But new research shows that an artificial dye that is chemically similar to the one used in blue M&Ms may hold promise in treating spinal cord injuries, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The compound, called Brilliant Blue G — was injected into the veins of rats within 15 minutes of receiving a paralyzing injury. The rats given the BBG solution temporarily turned blue and regained their ability to walk, albeit with a limp. The rats who didn’t receive the dye remained paralyzed.

The new findings build on earlier research by the same scientists that showed adenosine triphosphate, a chemical that keeps the body’s cells alive, floods into an area surrounding a spinal cord injury, killing the cells that normally allow us to move.

But when BBG was injected, it blocked ATP’s harmful effects at the injury site, according to the researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

While Americans ingest more than 1 million pounds of the chemically similar FD&C blue dye No. 1 annually, according to the study, upping your M&M intake isn’t likely to do anything more than make you fat. But study co-author Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at URMC, says she’s now a big fan of blue M&Ms.

“They are actually doing something that the other colors do not,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Still, human trials are needed before emergency responders start deploying intravenous blue-dye drips.

Half of e-cigarette varieties contain carcinogens after all

Here’s an item you shouldn’t include in your ever-growing arsenal of electronic devices, including cell phones, iPods, PDAs, GPS trackers and laptops: the e-cigarette.

The Food and Drug Administration released an analysis of 19 varieties of electronic cigarettes that said half contained nitrosamines (the same carcinogen found in real cigarettes) and many contained diethylene glycol, the poisonous ingredient in antifreeze. Some that claimed to have no nicotine were found to have low levels of the drug.

E-cigarettes are promoted by their manufacturers as safer than traditional cigarettes because they do not burn tobacco. Instead, a lithium battery in the cigarette-shaped device heats a solution of nicotine in propylene glycol, producing a fine mist that can be inhaled to deliver nicotine directly to the lungs. An LED glows red at the tip and they even emit puffs of white smoke similar to that seen in stage shows. The devices are available in more than 4,000 retail outlets nationwide, as well as on many Web sites, with a starting cost of $40 to $70. Over the last year, sales have grown from about $10 million to $100 million, according to the Electronic Cigarette Association, the industry’s trade group. They also come in a variety of flavors, including chocolate, mint and apple, which make them appealing to children and adolescents.

Rate of underweight Americans has dropped sharply, study says

It’s hard to believe, but being underweight used to be a considerable U.S. health problem. In the years from 1966 to 1970, 5.8 percent of children ages 6 to 11 and 4.6 percent of children ages 12 to 19 were underweight. From 1960 to 1962, 5.7 percent of people ages 20 to 39 were underweight.

How times have changed.

Today, people who are underweight are most likely those who have underlying medical conditions, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. The rates of people of all ages who are underweight have declined significantly. Although some people may still be underweight because of malnutrition, many more become overweight as a consequence of eating a poor diet based on processed foods and saturated fat with little fruit, vegetables and lean meat and fish.

Survey data from 2003 to 2006 show 3.3 percent of children ages 2 to 19 are underweight. In children ages 2 to 5, the incidence declined from 5.8 percent in 1971-74 to 2.8 percent in 2003-06.

Among adults of all ages, the rates of underweight fell from 4 percent in 1960-62 to 1.8 percent in 2003-06. Five decades ago, 3.7 percent of people ages 60 to 74 were underweight. Today only 0.9 percent are underweight.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.