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Dismissing stimulant-development issues with a hand wave

Prescription Stimulant Use During Pregnancy and Risk of Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Children; JAMA Psychiatry, Jan. 24, 2024.

U.S. researchers found a significant increase in neurodevelopmental disorders in children whose mothers took prescription stimulants during pregnancy — then made this result disappear by re-analyzing the data to eliminate “confounding factors.”

The study compared the use of amphetamine and similar drugs or methylphenidate during late pregnancy with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or a composite of neurodevelopmental disorders in the mothers’ offspring. Both drugs are approved for treating ASD and ADHD.

The researchers’ raw data showed a two- to three-fold increase in unfavorable neurodevelopment outcomes among children of mothers who took the drugs — a result that makes sense based on earlier studies describing such use as an “epidemic.”

But after controlling for confounding factors the authors concluded that stimulants were “not likely to meaningfully increase the risk of childhood neurodevelopmental disorders.”

Confounding factors included maternal demographics, maternal ADHD, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder (and their severity), lifestyle factors, other medications during pregnancy and geographic area of residence — none of which are unusual among women of childbearing age.

Social stress linked to inflammation

Associations between Social Adversity and Biomarkers of Inflammation, Stress, and Aging in Children; Pediatric Research, Jan. 17, 2024.

The cumulative burden of social adversity-related risk factors such as low income and adverse childhood experiences have been linked to poor health outcomes during childhood and adulthood, but the reasons were poorly understood.

A joint U.S.-Canadian research team proposed that the underlying cause is an uptick in inflammation as measured by inflammatory cytokines — molecules made by the body to fight illness and stress, but which can also cause disease.

Researchers surveyed families of 537 children ages 0-17 for adverse social experiences and created an overall score for each subject. They then measured cytokines from saliva samples, and levels of other stress-indicating chemicals from the subjects’ hair.

They found that cumulative social adversity was associated with higher levels of inflammation-causing cytokines in saliva, but reported no connection between adversity and cortisol levels from hair. Cortisol is a breakdown product of cortisone and an independent indicator of stress.

Researchers also looked for a connection between inflammation and disruption of the neuroendocrine system and “epigenetic aging” — biological processes indicative of aging but without the actual aging part — but found none.

A study published two weeks earlier attributed the behavioral problems in children experiencing adversity to abnormally accelerated development, which we will cover in next week’s Science Digest.

Energy drinks linked to delinquent, sensation-seeking behaviors

Consumption of energy drinks by children and young people: a systematic review examining evidence of physical effects and consumer attitudes; Public Health, Jan. 15, 2024.

U.K. researchers reported a connection between energy drink consumption and “numerous adverse physical and mental health outcomes,” including poor sleep duration and quality, low academic performance, suicide risk, psychological distress, ADHD symptoms, depressive and panic behaviors, allergic diseases, insulin resistance and dental issues — to name just a few.

The authors based their conclusions on a review of 57 studies. Investigators also reported “a strong positive association between energy drinks and other risky behavior like smoking and alcohol use (including binge drinking).

Despite warnings, more than 30% of teenagers consume energy drinks and worldwide sales are around $53 billion. Some energy drinks contain vitamins and supplements that may be beneficial but all provide large doses of caffeine and sugar (or artificial sweeteners), various stimulants plus artificial flavors and colors.

The study authors urged policy changes to limit children’s exposure to energy drinks.

Positive HIV tests post-COVID, post-vaccination

SARS-CoV-2 Infection and COVID-19 Vaccination Associated with False Positive HIV Tests; Courageous Discourse Substack, Dec. 24, 2023.

Dr. Peter McCullough, a leading proponent of medical freedom, reported late last year that people who have recovered from COVID-19 have a noticeable increase in false positive tests for HIV, which causes AIDS. A false positive HIV test suggests the virus is there when it really isn’t.

A similar phenomenon was noted in an August 2023 paper reporting that individuals with false positive HIV tests had the highest number of COVID-19 positive tests.

A false positive HIV diagnosis has serious psychosocial effects on individuals and may result in costly, unnecessary lifelong treatment. McCullough cited a Greek study reporting a suicide attempt by a COVID-19-vaccinated lab technician who erroneously tested positive for HIV.

To reduce the number of false positive HIV tests the World Health Organization recommends moving from older test technologies to more accurate ones, and replacing the widely-used two-test diagnosis with a three-test protocol.

Diabetes, weight loss drugs linked to birth defects

Safety of GLP-1 Receptor Agonists and Other Second-Line Antidiabetics in Early Pregnancy; JAMA Internal Medicine, Dec. 11, 2023.

An international study group reported that Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and T2D drugs increase the risk of birth defects. Compared with the incidence of major birth defects among all pregnant women one T2D drug class, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, or GLP-1 inhibitors, more than doubled the risk and another, sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, increased it by 87%.

For congenital heart defects the increases were 246% for GLP-1 agonists and nearly 300% for SGLT2 inhibitors. GLP-1 drugs work by regulating appetite and food intake and preventing food from leaving the stomach, which gives the patient a feeling of fullness. SGLT2 drugs lower blood sugar (and weight) by causing patients to eliminate sugar through the urine.

While these products are about as risky as other T2D drugs like insulin and metformin, the authors noted that GLP-1 agonists are now approved for weight loss and some SGLT2 inhibitors may be prescribed for obesity control as well.