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Is the jolt from a cup of coffee mostly placebo? Plus, implant that protects against HIV may be near, and more health news

Is the jolt from a cup of coffee mostly placebo?

Coffee kickstarts many a sleepyhead’s day, but a new study argues that it’s not the caffeine alone that provides the morning wake-up.

People who took a basic caffeine pill did not experience the same sort of brain boost they did from sipping a cup of coffee, according to brain scans.

Caffeine alone does activate some regions of the brain associated with readiness to tackle tasks, the researchers said.

But the act of drinking coffee produced a more comprehensive response in the brain, the results showed.

Malaria cases in Florida and Texas are the first in U.S. in 20 years

Public health officials are warning doctors, especially those in southern states, to be on the lookout for local spread of malaria after five cases have been reported in the United States in the past two months.

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This is the first time there has been local spread in this country since 2003. Four of the cases were found in Florida and the fifth was in Texas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a health alert it issued Monday.

“Despite these cases, the risk of locally acquired malaria remains extremely low in the United States,” the agency added in its alert.

For most people, malaria symptoms begin 10 days to four weeks after infection, although a person may feel ill as early as seven days or as late as one year after infection, the CDC said.

Fasting diets vs. cutting calories, which works best?

A trendy form of intermittent fasting does seem to help people lose some weight — though it may be no better than old-fashioned calorie counting, a new clinical trial suggests.

Researchers found that the tactic — called time-restricted eating — helped people with obesity drop around 8 pounds, on average, over one year. That was right on par with a second study group who went the traditional route of calorie counting and portion control.

Time-restricted eating is a form of intermittent fasting where people limit themselves to eating within a certain time window each day. Outside that window, they swear off everything other than calorie-free drinks.

Protect your kids in blistering summer heat

Enjoy that summer sun, but keep some safety tips in mind, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents.

“It’s great to see children enjoying nature and reaping the benefits of outdoor activities,” Atlanta-based pediatrician Dr. Rebecca Philipsborn said in an AAP news release. “As we encounter more intense weather events, including severe heat, there are some layers of protection that families can use to help their kids stay healthy.”

Among the issues to consider are air quality and pollution. Sun and heat can worsen local air pollution.

Fireworks for the 4th? Here’s your safety checklist

It’s been said many times, but it deserves repeating: Use caution when handling fireworks.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) is repeating the message to try to help people avoid injuries to the fingers, hands, arms and face.

“It may be a tradition to let children and teens oversee fireworks, but parents should always be cautious. Fireworks-related injuries can have long-term and sometimes devastating effects,” said orthopedic hand surgeon Dr. Tyler Steven Pidgeon, a spokesman for the AAOS. “Common fireworks, such as bottle rockets and hand sparklers, may seem tame, but the high temperatures of these devices can result in third-degree burns down to the bone or even loss of limbs.”

PrEP implant that protects against HIV could be near

Animal research is pointing toward a new way to prevent HIV infection: a refillable implant that continuously delivers antiretroviral medications for up to 20 months at a time.

Antiretrovirals are the cornerstone of PrEP, an infection prevention protocol that has been around since 2010.

But the new approach — though so far only tested in rhesus macaque monkeys — promises an even more hassle-free way to deliver the drugs. The goal is to make PrEP easier to use for patients who have trouble adhering to a pill or injection timetable.

“When taken as prescribed, PrEP can reduce the risks of HIV infection,” said study author Alessandro Grattoni, chair of the Department of Nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute.


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