Health News

Olivier Le Moal/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- "Imagine waiting 28 years for a miracle, and then it suddenly happens."

That's how Gunnar Esiason, a 28-year-old graduate student at Dartmouth College, described the approval of Trikafta, a new drug for cystic fibrosis.

Esiason has been living with CF since 1993, and, in an interview with ABC News, said that the disease didn't significantly affect his life until he was a college student.

"In 2013, things got pretty ugly for me," he said. He started to have new pulmonary symptoms, waking up most days coughing up blood. He began losing weight. Since then, he's been in and out of the hospital with repeated infections and undergone more than two dozen medical procedures.

That all changed in 2018 when he enrolled in a clinical trial for Trikafta.

Cystic fibrosis is a progressive genetic disorder that results in a dysfunctional protein called CFTR that transports chloride and water across cell membranes. Patients with CF have thick mucus that clogs the lungs, leading to infections, inflammation and ultimately respiratory failure. Additional symptoms include decreased sweating, gastrointestinal upset, poor growth and infertility. More than 30,000 people suffer from CF in the United States, with 70,000 affected worldwide according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Roughly 90 percent of patients with CF have at least 1 F508del mutation that causes their illness.

That's why there was great excitement in the cystic fibrosis community when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Trikafta on Monday, the first triple-combination therapy available to treat patients with the most common cystic fibrosis mutation.

The drug's approval is "making a novel treatment available to most cystic fibrosis patients, including adolescents, who previously had no options and giving others in the cystic fibrosis community access to an additional effective therapy," acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless said in a statement.

Trikafta, manufactured by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, helps defective CFTR protein in patients with 1 or 2 F508del mutations function more effectively. The medication has been approved for patients 12 and older.

Its approval was fast-tracked via four different FDA programs that aim to provide treatments for rare or serious illnesses with unmet medical needs. This came after two clinical trials, the first of which showed improved measures of lung function in patients compared with a currently available drug. The second trial also showed improved lung function along and increased sweat production and body mass index in patients vs. a placebo. Adverse reactions in the trials included headaches, upper respiratory tract infections, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rashes and increased liver enzymes.

Esiason said that when he began his Trikafta trial, it "started working almost instantaneously." In the first few days, he noticed an improvement in his breathing and appetite. Within the first few weeks on the drug he started to gain weight and his pulmonary function tests improved. These developments made him hopeful.

"I started to think about what's next in my life. That's when I decided to start at Dartmouth," where he's pursuing his Masters of Business Administration.

Dr. Joan DeCelie-Germana, director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center at Northwell Health, has been treating patients with CF for over 30 years. In an interview with ABC News, she called the drug's approval "very exciting." Her center participated in the initial studies for Trikafta and also serves as the site of a current trial of the drug in patients 6 to 11.

Discussing initial trial results, she added that "patients had an improvement in lung function and less illness" and that "they will enjoy more days without antibiotics and better quality of life."

She underscored the impact of this new development: "It's inspirational. I couldn't have even thought of this 30 years ago. It's not a cure, but it's the closest thing we have."

Trikafta is Vertex's fourth FDA-approved drug for CF since 2012. It will be available through specialty pharmacies in two weeks with an annual cost of $311,000. A representative from Vertex said current CF medications are "widely reimbursed by private insurers and Medicaid/Medicare" and that the same is expected for Trikafta.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ildar Imashev/iStock(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) -- In a surprising turnaround, Biogen Inc. announced Tuesday it would seek approval for an experimental Alzheimer’s treatment from the Food and Drug Administration.

The announcement comes as a shock because Biogen killed studies of the same drug, known as aducanumab, in March of this year on the grounds that the drug was unlikely to work.

“With such a devastating disease that affects tens of millions worldwide, today’s announcement is truly heartening in the fight against Alzheimer’s," Michel Vounatsos, Biogen’s CEO, said in a statement.

The treatment is not a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, it’s intended to slow decline associated with the condition among those who have early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Aducanumab, which is injected intravenously, travels through the body to brain, where it targets plaque, a contributing factor in Alzheimer's disease, explained Dr. Andrew Budson, a neurology professor at Boston University School of Medicine.

Budson said patients of his who were enrolled in the initial aducanumab trial were "very" disappointed when the trial stopped. When the studies repeatedly failed, Budson and others were starting to wonder whether the strategy was helping patients at all.

"It was like another nail in the coffin of the hypothesis," he said.

The turnaround "sends a message of hope for those in the study, as well as to the field as a whole," Budson added. "When you have an incurable neurodegenerative disease that literally robs people of their thinking and memories -- their minds -- anything that can help is a wonderful thing."

Since there are currently no therapies available for reversing the effects of Alzheimer's disease, which affects at least 5.7 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any promising development is likely to capture the attention of the public.

Shares of Biogen jumped more than 35 percent after the announcement. The biotech company plans to send its application to the FDA early next year.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


michaelquirk/iStock(NEW YORK) -- When 4-year-old Milo Sligh, of Charleston, South Carolina, was diagnosed with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia the word "cancer" was frightening, but the prognosis was hopeful, according to his mother, Marisa.

The diagnosis of a childhood cancer is a life-changing and highly emotional experience for families and the affected child, but the chemotherapy medication vincristine is a tried and true regimen effective for treating many childhood cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma and brain tumors. But instead of the simple remedy, the Slighs -- and many other families -- fears' are multiplied now that the low-cost, generic medication is in short supply and doctors have started rationing its usage.

The shortage is especially frightening because there is no known drug available that is equally effective.

"We are greatly concerned that some children are already being impacted by this shortage and by the understandable anxiety this creates for all families of children with cancer," Dr. Peter Adamson, chair of the Children's Oncology Group, said in an open letter to the childhood cancer community just days ago. He went on to say this is "an unacceptable crisis" and he is "infuriated that this situation has occurred at all."

"Every child with cancer whose treatment requires vincristine should receive the drug as scheduled," he added.

A petition on has over 73,000 of the 100,000 signatures required in 30 days to get the White House to respond. The petition includes language like, "Our children are going to start relapsing and dying at higher rates if we do not do something about this shortage immediately!"

Earlier this month, pharmacists started raising concerns about the ability to obtain vincristine. Pfizer, now the only supplier of the drug in the U.S., reported experiencing a shortage due to manufacturing delays. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Teva Pharmaceuticals made "a business decision" to stop supplying the medication in July 2019.

Kelley Dougherty, vice president of corporate communications for Teva, told ABC News in a statement the company "alerted the FDA of its decision [to stop manufacturing vincristine] in March 2019."

Pfizer told ABC News in a statement, "We are expediting additional shipments of this critical product over the next few weeks to support three to four times our typical production output."

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common childhood cancer, impacting about 3,000 children a year, most aged 2 to 5 years old. It occurs when the bone marrow makes too many immature white blood cells. Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, easy bruising, bone pain, bleeding from the gums, swollen lymph nodes and frequent infections. Children need to be treated quickly with chemotherapy once a diagnosis is made.

In addition to chemotherapy, treatments can include radiation and targeted therapies, and "around 98% of children with ALL go into remission within weeks after starting treatment and about 90% of those children can be cured," according to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Patients are considered cured after 10 years in remission.

Milo has responded well to his treatment, but Marisa worries that she may be told he can’t get vincristine at his appointment in two months because of the shortage.

"Every time a dose is missed his chance for cure is decreased," she said.

The FDA says on its webpage that it expects vincristine to start shipping by the end of October and supplies will reach recovery levels by January 2020.

"We are working closely with [Pfizer] and exploring all options to make sure this critical cancer drug is available for the patients who need it," the FDA said in a statement to ABC News.

Marisa is anxious because of the posts on her tight-knit Facebook group from other families who have not received vincristine, or got a smaller dose than usual.

Laura Brewer is part of the Facebook group for parents of children with ALL. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and her 5-year-old son, Titus, also has acute lymphoblastic leukemia and is in remission. She said his appointment for treatment next Thursday will not include vincristine, because the doctors told her they need to ration it, perhaps for someone with a newer diagnosis.

"It is terrifying as a mom that a drug your child needs is not available," Brewer said.

Her biggest fear for Titus after turning the corner is that his cancer will return: "You pray and hope to God nothing shows up [in future testing]."

Vincristine has been on the market since 1963 and is a staple drug in the treatment of ALL, but most kids will need to get intravenous infusions of vincristine for two to three years for maintenance treatment to keep them in remission.

Dr. Damon Reed, adolescent oncologist at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, said that vincristine is used in "greater than 50% of cancers in pediatrics" and "fewer than 3% of adult cancers."

"Every [hospital] has a vincristine story," Reed remarked.

Without refills arriving to their center soon, Reed said his cancer center may run out by November or December. Drug shortages force doctors and pharmacies to ration drugs, which is never beneficial for all patients. He said that he has experienced several cancer drug shortages in his years of practice. The reason may be because the tried and true generic medications aren’t very profitable.

In his open letter demanding action, Adamson said that the frequency of drug shortages has increased in the past 10 years.

According to FiercePharma, "With margins on generics having gotten very thin in recent years, many drugmakers have given up production of products where they are not dominant in the marketplace. There are currently 202 drug discontinuations listed on the FDA Drug Shortages website."

One potential reason was the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, which capped the amount that hospital systems are reimbursed for intravenous cancer drugs.

Dr. Roger Bate, a scholar at the think tank American Enterprise Institute said there is a "lack of competition" among manufactures because of the historical "slowness of the FDA [generic] approval process." Lack of competition means that there are fewer suppliers and consumers are dependent on one company, or a few, to get the drug. Another reason may be that "manufactures are not making enough profit" and some drugs "are too cheap." The average price for vincristine is "about $5," according to Adamson.

Bate also noted that generics, or bioequivalents, frequently face issues with quality control, which makes it difficult for companies to continue to produce the product. As a result, they may stop making the drug and shortages happen.

Dr. Marty Makary, author of The Price We Pay, said "flimsy supply chains" can create drug scarcity. An illustration of this was the normal saline deficit that affected the entire country after the destruction of factories in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. The FDA formed the Drug Shortages Task Force in July 2018 in response to increased drug shortages. They hosted a public meeting in November 2018 to perform a root-cause analysis and developed immediate and long-term strategies for these situations.

The hope for Milo and Titus is that their survival will not be impacted by the current shortage of vincristine, but the drug is only one example of the current problem the U.S. is facing in regards to generic drug manufacturing and shortages.

"While we are infuriated that this situation has occurred at all, we should do our best to have advocacy efforts stay focused on solutions," which may include short-term importation from other countries, according to Adamson.

"I am hopeful we can take this unacceptable crisis and move toward better answers, always keeping the interests of patients and families central to our efforts," he added.

For any family that is currently having difficulty obtaining vincristine for their child, the FDA recommends that you contact them at

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


nicoolay/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Miscarriage, or the loss of a pregnancy, is disturbingly common -- so much so, that if you haven't had one, you likely know someone who has.

Though it's impossible to say how many pregnancies end in miscarriage, as many occur before a woman knows she's expecting, the Mayo Clinic reports that at least 10% to 20% of pregnancies result in a loss.

Still, it can be difficult to know how to comfort those who are grieving.

According to Dr. Ivy Margulies, a Santa Monica, California-based clinical psychologist who specializes in pregnancy and infant loss, the most important thing is to acknowledge what happened.

"Don't ignore the obvious. Silence is worse than anything," Margulies told ABC News' Good Morning America. "People think, 'She'll be upset if I say something,' but it's actually the opposite. By discussing it, you're validating the experience and honoring the grief, however you conceptualize conception. It's about holding space for the emotional experience around grief and trauma."

Of course, some words are more helpful than others. Here are the dos and don'ts from experts and women who have experienced pregnancy loss:

1. Be present, literally

Lauren Riggs has suffered two miscarriages, and wishes others knew that they didn't have to actually say anything to her.

"Nothing anyone said was going to fix anything," she said. "What I wish someone would've down was come and sit with me, especially in those first few weeks. I spent a lot of time by myself and I had people I could text, but I couldn't bring it upon myself to say to someone, 'Look, I really need someone to come to my house because I'm home alone, crying in bed.'"

The best thing close friends did, she explained, was show up and maybe bring dinner. "That really helped," she added.

2. Don't assume a loss is being processed in a specific way

Many women internalize their miscarriages as the loss of a baby, but others do not.

"I'm always respectful about how people want to understand that loss for themselves," Margulies said.

3. Check in regularly

Margulies encouraged people to check in with the grieving person or couple regularly, and not to worry that you'll ruin a "good day." However, she warned, a grieving person may not be overly responsive.

"Say, 'You don't need to respond, but I'm here for you if you need anything,'" Margulies advised.

4. Avoid statements that can be misconstrued as dismissive

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News' Chief Medical Correspondent and a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, said that comments like, "You can always try again," or, "You can always have another baby," can be damaging, even if they're well-intentioned.

"A miscarriage in any trimester is a loss, and that is incredibly emotional and painful," she said.

Phrases that begin with "at least" ("At least it happened early," "At least you can get pregnant") should be avoided, too.

"There's no 'at least,'" said Chelsea Caris, who has experienced two early miscarriages and a second trimester loss of twins. "There's no silver lining there."

5. Realize that optimism can be seen as unempathetic

Riggs pointed out that sometimes when people would try to cheerlead, they came across as unfeeling.

"I found it to be so hurtful when people say, 'You're so young! It'll happen again,'" she said. "It's a lot scarier trying again and people don't realize that. There's a lot of extra anxiety and stress that comes with it."

6. Understand that everyone grieves differently

Aftan Sylvester said that after her miscarriage, she was told, "You just have to dust yourself off and try again."

"You just don't dust things off like that," she told Good Morning America. "Be gentle with a person, because everybody has different triggers. Know that it may not be a big deal to you, but for them it was a big deal."

7. Validate the person's feelings

"Don't feel like you need to 'fix it' or 'make it better.' Just say, 'Wow, that sounds really hard. Do you need a hug?'" Margulies said. "Keep it simple: 'Is there anything I can do to support you?'"

8. Know that a new pregnancy won't "fix" things

Caris learned she was pregnant a few months ago, and said that it's been fraught.

"We're so excited, but I still have my moments where I panic," she admitted. "I'll break down and I need my husband to reassure me, like, 'Hey, it's gonna be OK, no matter what happens.' ... When you lose a child, your faith just goes out the window."

9. Ask questions

Margulies said that especially in the event of a stillbirth or later loss, it can be helpful to ask if the baby was given a name.

"It's a really kind thing to ask and validates that baby's life," she said. "Their name matters."

10. If you've had a similar experience, try sharing it

Many women interviewed by GMA said that it was comforting to talk to others who had experienced pregnancy or infant loss.

"I really encourage women to seek out support, especially with other women who have gone through what they've gone through, so they find their tribe," Margulies said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock(FLETCHER, N.C.) -- Four people have died from a Legionnaire's outbreak tied to a hot tub display at a North Carolina state fair, according to state health officials.

In addition to the deaths, North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services reported 133 cases of Legionnaire's and eight cases of Pontiac fever among people who attended the North Carolina Mountain State Fair in September. Ninety-four people were hospitalized as a result of the outbreak.

Legionnaire's is usually caused by inhaling air contaminated with the bacteria Legionella, which can grow in moist environments like cooling towers, swimming pools and plumbing systems.

It's considered to be a severe form of pneumonia, with symptoms including headache, muscle ache, fever and coughing that can produce mucus and blood, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disease is not contagious and cannot spread from person to person.

Legionella can also cause Pontiac fever, which is milder than Legionnaire's and typically clears up within a few days.

Health departments reported roughly 7,500 cases of Legionnaire's disease in the United States in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although that number is likely low since many cases go undiagnosed.

In August, one woman was killed and dozens were sickened in a Legionnaire's outbreak linked to a water cooling tower and decorative fountain in an Atlanta hotel.

Hot tubs that are not regularly cleaned and disinfected can become breeding grounds for Legionella, according to the CDC.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Ebonie Bender (PHOENIX) -- Four-month-old Kallie Bender's life has been full of firsts.

There was her first bottle. Her first bath in a "big girl" tub. The first time she could fit into newborn clothes.

Those might seem like typical milestones for any newborn, but for this baby, born at just 25 weeks gestation and weighing less than 1 pound, it's nothing short of a miracle.

And Monday is the sweetest first of all: baby Kallie is headed home for the first time.

She was born on May 24, 2019, 15 weeks early and one of the smallest babies ever born at Dignity Health St. Joseph's Hospital & Medical Center, the Phoenix, Ariz. hospital told Good Morning America.

Her mom, Ebonie Bender, was admitted to the hospital when she found out Kallie was measuring small during an ultrasound appointment. There was also a lack of fluid around the baby, caused by a condition called absent end diastolic flow, the hospital said.

In addition to being a micro-preemie, Kallie also survived a successful heart procedure for a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a common heart defect among babies born as early as she.

"She's a feisty girl," Bender told GMA.

Kallie's mom was "scared" at the time of her birth," she said. "It was so much fear of the unknown."

For several weeks after her birth, Kallie relied on a machine to help her breathe. She was intubated and needed to learn to eat.

Dr. Vinit Manuel, medical director of the nursery intensive care unit (NICU) at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, told GMA that the hospital's NIDCAP -- Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Plan -- is a teaching program for other NICUs in Arizona.

It "looks at each baby as an individual," he said. From the delivery room to pharmacists to the nurses to the occupational and physical therapists, he said, the team works together to meet each baby's needs.

However, Manuel said, "No technology can replace the womb."

For that reason, he said, "the involvement of the family in the care of these babies is crucial."

The Benders, who have have three sons in addition to baby Kallie, were "very involved from day one. They were by her bedside, reading to her. It's not possible to quantify, but research shows it's very important for the baby's development."

For the nurses dedicated to her care, seeing Kallie go home is a joy.

"We're thrilled that after nearly five months Kallie is going home with he family," said Becky Cole, one of Kallie's primary nurses. "We've loved being able to watch her grow and are excited for her to celebrate many milestones in the future with her parents and brothers."

Today, Kallie weighs over 7 pounds and is thriving.

"It's bittersweet to leave," her mom told GMA. "But she's an amazing little fighter and I can't wait to see the personality she brings to our family."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


monkeybusinessimages/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Most new parents have, at one point or another, heard about safe sleep practices to help reduce the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

But a new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, finds that up to two-thirds of moms aren’t following these steps to prevent infant deaths.

ABC News’ Chief Medical Correspondent Jennifer Ashton appears on Good Morning America Monday to discuss the study and ways to protect against SIDS:

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


mofles/iStock(NEW YORK) -- From the “Terrible Twos” to “Threenagers,” parents of toddlers are all too familiar with tantrums.

But what if there were ways to help stop them before they start?

Watch the video below to hear tips from celebrity nanny Connie Simpson on how to prevent kids from throwing tantrums and how to stop them once they start:

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock(NEW YORK) -- The Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that U.S. health care spending hit $3.5 trillion in 2017, a 3.9% increase from 2016.

But those increases in spending don’t necessarily translate to better care, because there is a tremendous amount of waste, and a majority of the spending may be tied up in trying to make healthcare more affordable to the patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study, by Dr. Natasha Perekh from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and representatives of Humana Health Care, estimates that the annual costs of waste in the health care system ranges from $760 billion to $935 billion.

They claim waste accounts for a quarter of all health care spending.

This waste comes from unnecessary hospital visits, fraud, hospital-related complications, poor outpatient treatment, brand-name medications, and overly aggressive care, to name a few things, the study says.

The highest burden of waste came from administrative costs. Researchers speculated that, ironically, these costs might be resulting from insurance companies’ attempts to lower waste. Does such high waste mean our health care system broken? Can we fix it? And most of all, have our attempts at fixing it made things worse?

Administrative complexities wasted $265 billion annually, the report said. Administrative complexities refer to behind-the-scenes administrative tasks, such as billing, completed by physicians and insurance companies. Government agencies and insurance companies mandate many of these tasks.

“In payers’ [insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid] attempts to lower costs with measures like requiring prior authorizations for certain medications or procedures, there has actually been an increase in costs on the providers’ [physicians, nurse practitioners] side,” Dr. William Shrank, Chief Medical Officer at Humana and lead author of the study, told ABC News.

Thus there has been a mismatch between insurance companies and health care providers on what will actually decrease costs. This discrepancy has increased waste.

The second-highest category of waste was the high prices of medications, lab tests, imaging, and office visits, which led to $240 billion in waste. Study authors commented that prices are much higher than they need to be due to a lack of transparency and competitive markets in US health care. To this, Shrank states, “No single policy change will address this. We need a thoughtful policy approach to allow the market to function competitively.”

While the results may seem dismal, the study offers an optimistic outlook. In addition to the loss of money, researchers found potential opportunities for saving.

Interventions to decrease hospital-acquired infections and ensure that people have outpatient treatment set up before they leave the hospital already occur. They can be further optimized to reduce waste. Integration of behavioral and physical health, disease prevention initiatives, and expansion of hospice access can also help. The study estimated $191 to $282 billion in potential savings.

Shrank is hopeful about the state of the health care system. “Considering that we have so many good things in our health care system, if we take a more active role to eliminate waste, address affordability, and improve care, we don’t need to fundamentally disrupt the health care system,” he said.

Dr. Saumya Bhutani is a resident in psychiatry in New York working with the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


peterspiro/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A young New York City mother died at a local hospital after going in for what was meant to be a simple procedure, according to her family and their attorney.

Rosemary Abreu, 27, went to Lincoln Hospital, in the Bronx, to have a cyst in her left thigh removed on Sept. 21, attorney Sanford Rubenstein told ABC News on Saturday.

However, the procedure at some point went awry, and Abreu went into cardiac arrest, according to Rubenstein, who noted that he believes she went into cardiac arrest on the operating table.

Abreu was pronounced dead the next day.

She's survived by her mother and her two daughters, a 2-year-old and a 9-year-old.

Her family is now seeking $50 million in damages from the Bronx hospital and New York City Health Hospital.

"This is tragic and unacceptable," Rubenstein said. "A single mother of two young girls should not die under these circumstances. ... She went in for a simple procedure which was to remove a cyst in the left thigh."

Rubenstein said Abreu was in perfectly good health otherwise. He believes the hospital either administered too much anesthesia or the administration of the anesthesia was improperly monitored.

Abreu's mother, Dorah Restituyo, was overcome with emotion Friday at a press conference.

"They killed my daughter. They killed her. I don't know why. I don't know what happened to my daughter," Restituyo said.

In a statement emailed to ABC News, a hospital spokesperson for New York City Health Hospitals said: "The health and safety of our patients is always our number one priority. This incident is tragic, and we offer our sincere condolences to the family and loved ones. Patient privacy and confidentiality laws prevent us from commenting further on this case."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study has found that a 3-week dietary intervention, including cutting down on processed foods, could decrease symptoms of depression in younger adults.

The research suggests that for younger adults – including busy college students – changes in diet can be helpful in managing depression during a critical period of development, while offering myriad other health benefits. The study was published by researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, in the journal PLoS One.

"The literature now strongly suggests that poor diet quality is associated with an increased risk of depression," the study said. "Diet is therefore a modifiable risk factor for depression, which would be a good target for early intervention."

While past research has focused on observing people’s diets and their moods, this study used randomized controlled trials where people are put into groups and one group receives an intervention.

The design allowed researchers to link changes to the controlled intervention. However, since the controlled group received significant attention, that factor might have also contributed to an alleviation of depression.

Still, the young adults’ ability to stick to the diet shows us that it wasn’t just additional support that led to benefits.

Some 17.3 million adults suffered from depression in 2017, and the age group with the most cases of depression were adults between 18 to 25, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health.

The study recruited adults with depression with an average age of 19. Half of the adults received dietary guidance from a registered dietician via an instructional video and were told to eat a modified Mediterranean-style diet with increased servings of vegetables, fruits, wholegrain cereals, protein, unsweetened dairy, fish, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and spices. They were instructed to decrease their consumption of refined carbohydrates, sugar, fatty or processed meats and soft drinks.

The group received sample meal plans and recipes, a small hamper of food items and were reimbursed up to $60 for grocery costs. During the three weeks of the study, they received two phone calls to check in and see how their diets were going.

The other half of the adults with depression received nothing and maintained their usual diet.

Three weeks later, researchers evaluated the depression of all subjects. They also checked that the group on the diet stuck to it by asking all the young adults about their eating patterns. Researchers kept them honest by using a special device that measures the levels of chemicals originating from fruits and vegetables in the skin.

The group that received dietary guidance had a healthier diet and reported feeling less depressed. When researchers checked in with some of them three months later, the benefits were still present in some of them.

Michelle Milgrim, a registered dietician and the manager of employee wellness at Northwell Health in New York, noted that a good diet can be helpful through a couple of potential mechanisms.

“Serotonin helps us control our mood. Anti-inflammatory diets – made up of high antioxidant foods like vegetables, beans, nuts and fruit as well as few refined sugars – protect the brain from oxidative damage,” she said.

Dr. Timothy Kreider, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, who specializes in treating adults in this age group, said that diet may complement treatment with therapy and medication.

“Indirectly, a healthful diet makes you feel more energetic. More energy will increase your social and physical activity, and being more active is a key step in recovering from depression,” he said.

“Do we know what specific diet will treat depression? No, I don’t think we have solid evidence for that yet, but I’d love to see some," Kreider said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Chistina Garcia(NEW YORK) -- "Menstrual hygiene is a right, not a privilege."

That's the message that youth activists hope to take nationwide for the first National Period Day, Oct. 19, as they campaign to end the tax on menstrual hygiene products.

Rallies are taking place on Saturday across all 50 states, where women are gathering in hopes of shifting a culture of silence around periods and demanding policy changes that will help inch toward an economy of gender equity.

What is the tampon tax?

Right now, 35 states still have the "tampon tax," a catchy nickname for the sales tax imposed on tampons and other menstrual products, since they are considered non-essential goods. Though there is no specific tax for those products, products like pads, liners and cups are all subject to taxes as non-essential items in many states. Viagra, Rogaine, lip balms and candy, meanwhile, are considered basic necessities and are exempt from sales tax in some of these same states.

Critics of the tax have said this is an injustice that needs to be corrected.

Take 21-year-old activist Nadya Okamoto, who has been vocal in the movement to push legislators to eliminate the tampon tax.

"Menstrual hygiene is a right, not a luxury, and the tampon tax tells us that it's essentially a luxury," Okamoto told "GMA." "That assumption is one of our biggest barriers in front of us, so we need to take that down so we can continue to fight for menstrual equity."

At just 16, Okamoto founded Period, a non-profit organization. It's now the largest youth-run NGO in women's health.

In 2014, Okamoto's family experienced legal homelessness after her mother left her job. Okamoto's commute to school went from 20 minutes to more than two hours. On her journey through downtown Portland, she said she would often pass by homeless shelters where she made conversation with some of the women she met. It was there where she learned about period poverty, the lack of access to menstrual hygiene resources.

Ever since then, she "became obsessed with periods," she said.

As she researched the topic more and learned about issues people face regarding menstruation, the tampon tax stuck out to her.

"Advocating against the tampon tax and once and for all getting our government to actually recognize menstrual products as a necessity is really important," Okamoto told "Good Morning America."

From there, she added, they can work on solving other problems, from providing "freely accessible period products in schools, shelters and prison," to getting benefit programs to cover feminine hygiene products that many don't currently cover.

For example, federal assistant programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, aka WIC, don't include access to menstrual hygiene products.

A common hurdle in this legal fight, Okamoto said, is that "often cisgender male legislators" either don't understand the issue or are hesitant to talk about periods in a public setting.

"So a big part of this fight is just getting the culture ready to talk about periods," she explained. "So legislators can come out and speak freely about it without having to think they're the ones who have to do all the heavy lifting on destigmatizing menstruation."

Momentum to repeal the tampon tax

In recent years there has been momentum to repeal the tax. States like Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey passed laws to eliminate the tax. In this past year, progress has been made in Rhode Island where the tax was eliminated in their budget effective in June of this year, and in California where a budget bill is passed in which period products were exempt from a tax for two years.

Democratic California Assemblymember Cristina Garcia said she's pushing Gov. Gavin Newsom to permanently extend a tax exemption on menstrual products.

When she first came up with the proposal she said people dismissed it and made fun of her. "People would say, 'Oh, it's going to be a bloody fight,' and they started calling me the tampon lady," Garcia told "GMA."

Opponents have said the main problem is the loss in revenue.

Katherine Loughead, a policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, a think tank based in Washington, told "GMA" that abolishing the tampon tax may force governments to apply higher sales tax rates to other items.

In large states like California and Texas, taxes on menstrual products alone can generate more than $20 million annually. To make up the difference, lawmakers have suggested raising taxes on alcohol and tobacco. But no change has been made.

The danger of creating so many exemptions is that "ultimately it leads to a slippery slope, where do we draw the line? There's a lot of things that are a necessity to other people," Loughead said.

However, Garcia argues if people were able to keep the taxed money, they could spend it on other taxed products, thus adding to the state's tax revenue.

"But more importantly, my uterus should not be used in balancing the budget," she said.

As it turns out, this issue is not unique to the U.S.

Half of the European Union countries still impose a value-added tax, or VAT, rate on menstrual hygiene products although some have reduced that rate. Other countries, including Australia, India and Canada, have abolished the policy.

At the end of the day, Garcia said, this fight is about much more than tax revenue or the affordability of period products -- it's about the larger conversation of equality under our system and how we as a society value a woman's body.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Massachusetts General Hospital(BOSTON) -- Friday marked the final day of a mock safe-injection site in Boston designed to familiarize the public with what a potential facility might look like.

"We want to demystify safe-injection sites and give the public a sense that this is a medical procedure, like anything else," Dr. Mark Eisenberg, a primary care physician and assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, who oversaw the event, told ABC News.

Safe injection sites, where drug users can inject in hygienic facilities, under supervision, are currently illegal in the United States.

After a ruling by a federal judge in Philadelphia earlier this month, which found that a nonprofit with plans to open a site in the city did not violate federal law, has renewed interest in the idea.

Eisenberg thinks the Philadelphia ruling might have piqued the public's interest in the Boston-based demonstration, which was far better attended than similar events in years past.

The demonstration was set up in a health center in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston and featured a table equipped with a mirror, water and sterile equipment. The three-day event drew dozens of curious attendees, including members of the community, legislative aids and representatives from a local district attorney's office.

In addition to Philadelphia, cities like Seattle, Denver, San Francisco and New York all have nascent plans to open their own sites. In Massachusetts, there's an ongoing battle between the mayor of Somerville, who supports a supervised injection site in his city and Gov. Charlie Baker, who staunchly opposed them.

While offering a place for people to use drugs might seem counterintuitive, public health experts have said that the sites reduce the spread of infectious disease and connect drugs to the health care system.

The issue is personal for Eisenberg, who's had dozens of patients die of drug overdoses during his years working as a primary care physician. The reality is that people use drugs, he explained, and the goal is to is to give people the option to avoid using under unsafe conditions, such as in a bedroom or alleyway.

It's not enabling drug use, Eisenberg added: "We are enabling people to stay alive."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Office of Congresswoman Grace Meng(NEW YORK) -- A New York congresswoman known as the "period lady” for her work on ending period poverty has proven critical in enacting changes so that girls in schools and women in prisons and homeless shelters can have free access to pads and tampons.

Rep. Grace Meng is still fighting for more, trying to create a world where menstruation is not stigmatized and period products are not seen as luxury items but necessities that should be accessible and, in many cases, free.

“I think almost everyone can relate or remember a situation where you were in a public space and you got your period and you didn’t know what to do because either you didn’t have money or you or you weren’t near a drugstore,” Meng, a Democrat who represents Queens, New York, told ABC News' Good Morning America. “These are not luxury products that we choose to use for ourselves and they should be just as available as toilet paper is and paper towels in a bathroom.”

Meng’s activism on the issue all started with a letter from a high school girl who lived in her congressional district and wrote to her concerned that women in homeless shelters did not have access to tampons and pads.

“When I first started studying up on this issue I sort of just assumed, OK, this affects people in underdeveloped countries and how can we help girls who have to skip school,” said Meng. “Then the more I learned about it, I realized that it’s happening to people right here in our country and right here in [New York City].”

“I realized there really was a sort of injustice about how girls and boys are being treated, especially in the lens of menstrual equity and just the basic human right of being able to access these products that affect a majority of our population,” she said.

Women make up more than half of the population in the United States, according to the Census Bureau. They are also more likely than men to live in poverty, and they spend an average of 2,535 days in their lifetime, or almost seven years, on their periods, according to UNICEF.

A survey released this year of low-income women in St. Louis, Missouri, found nearly two-thirds couldn’t afford menstrual hygiene products in the past year, and more than one in five said they had the same problem every month. The women said they instead had to use cloth, rags, tissues, toilet paper and sometimes diapers or paper towels, according to the report published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

It is those stories that Meng said she hears too often and which motivate her to make menstruation equity a priority in Congress.

"In this great country, there should not be anyone who is not able to access these products for a human bodily function that they have no control over," she said. "Access to these products should not depend on your income level or your status in life."

From a high school student's letter to changing federal prisons

Meng, a mother of two sons, learned after receiving the letter from her high-school-age constituent that federal grants provided to homeless shelters in New York City prohibited the shelters from purchasing and distributing menstrual products.

She wrote a letter to the Obama administration asking for help, and soon after the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) announced it would allow homeless shelters to use federal grant money to buy the products.

Up next, Meng took on the federal prison system after she heard stories of women in prison having to ration out their menstrual supplies with their cellmates or having to use limited funds in their commissary accounts to buy tampons and pads.

Meng again wrote a letter to the Obama administration asking for menstrual products to be free in federal prisons, but it was close to the 2016 election and the end of President Obama's second term.

When President Donald Trump was elected in 2016, Meng said she was "concerned" about the future of her request, but the Trump administration expressed its support.

Free menstrual products for inmates at federal prisons was included in the bipartisan First Step Act that Trump signed into law last December.

"Obviously people in both parties menstruate and know people who get their periods," said Meng of the bipartisan support she sees on the issue. "Quite frankly, I find that a lot of people just haven’t thought about this issue and once they hear and learn about this issue are willing to support and help alleviate these situations."

Meng is now pressing governors to increase access to menstrual products in state and local prisons and questioning the Trump administration on their protocols for making sure female migrants at the border have access to menstrual products and showers.

She is also pushing to require that federal buildings, including the building where her office sits in the U.S. Capitol, have free supplies. It was only this year that House members became allowed to use their budget to purchase menstrual products for their offices.

Meng's "Menstrual Equity for All" bill also proposes changes like requiring corporations of 100 employees or more to provide free menstrual products to employees. Her "Menstrual Products Right to Know" bill would make tampons and pads just like most other products where manufacturers are required to list out their ingredients.

Both of those bills are still pending in the House, while legislation she worked on in the last Congress that would allow people to use health savings accounts to buy menstrual products passed the House but was never taken up in the Senate.

"[One] big hurdle that we are still trying to overcome is that this, in most cases, is not a life or death issue," said Meng. "So especially in this unpredictable political climate [it] might not necessarily be the first priority issue that is on the minds of people but we definitely want to make it a priority."

"I don’t mind being called ‘the period lady’"

Poor menstrual hygiene does pose health risks for women, including reproductive issues and urinary tract infections.

The taboo around menstruation and the lack of access to menstrual products also hurts women economically because it costs them money for products and may keep them from jobs and school, advocates say. It also sets women back mentally and in a society where something that happens to them naturally is demeaned or even not discussed.

"Most of us have been conditioned for all of our lives to not talk about menstruation," said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a lawyer and author of Periods Gone Public. "And the things that keep us potentially from succeeding are often the things that happen to be what we don’t talk about in polite society."

"All the ways our bodies work just the way they’re supposed to we don’t talk about because we haven’t truly valued women and girls," said Weiss-Wolf, who took up the issue of menstrual equity after teen girls in her community posted on Facebook seeking tampon donations for a food pantry.

Weiss-Wolf, also the co-founder of Period Equity, a law and policy organization fighting for menstrual equity, said the needle has moved in talking publicly about menstrual equity with celebrities including Sophia Bush, Gina Rodriguez and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, taking on the issue.

A documentary short on menstruation even won an Oscar this year.

Weiss-Wolf credits Meng with elevating the discussion in a "really productive and responsible and meaningful way." The two have worked together on issues like eliminating the so-called "tampon tax" that still exists in more than 30 states in the U.S.

"Congresswoman Meng really does stand out," she said. "She’s’ been extraordinarily creative in thinking about what federal levers can be pulled."

Meng, who took office in 2013, said she doesn't mind being called the "period lady" by her colleagues or the public, saying, "If it helps me be able to talk about the issue and educate people around me, then I don’t mind being called that."

She noted that growing up in a middle-class household, she never knew about the issues of period poverty or menstrual equity, but she did learn from a young age the stigma of having a period.

"I don’t want to, as I [did when I] grew up, feel like I have to hide my product up my sleeve as I’m walking through the halls of school or the office toward the bathroom," Meng said. "This is a natural part of being a human being and I don’t want people to be ashamed of it."

"What’s been so inspiring is that anywhere I go, I will run into people, mostly women, who come up to me and these are women of all different ethnic backgrounds or come from different professions or are students or grandmothers," she said. "They tell me how much they appreciate our work on this subject and a lot of them tell me they never thought about this issue before and how it impacts so many people in this country."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Alicia Jordan(NEW YORK) -- Hannah Jordan is a cycling champion who will compete this weekend in the 2019 Hillclimb Worlds in California on a demanding course that rises more than 2,500 feet in elevation.

But the 18-year-old will race the course with something no one else in the competition has: a gastrostomy tube, or G-tube, that keeps her alive.

In a sport where aerodynamics is everything, Jordan, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, uses a specially designed race jersey to hold the G-tube monitor that pumps glucose into her body, preventing her from going into potentially life-threatening hypoglycemia.

"I’m the only person I know who is on a G-tube and competes like this," Jordan told ABC News' Good Morning America. "When I’m told I can’t, that makes me want to ride faster and better."

Jordan was classified as small for her gestational age as a child and suffered extreme fatigue and dangerously low blood sugar because her body could not keep up with her brain's need for glucose, according to her doctor, Madeleine Harbison, a pediatric endocrinology specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

"We don’t know exactly what is different about Hannah," said Harbison, noting that she and other doctors have not been able to pinpoint a genetic defect. "What we do know is that this is a child who without her continuous glucose infusion into her stomach becomes hypoglycemic and is essentially bedridden."

Jordan had to be home schooled because of her medical complications and would be so fatigued that her mom had to push her in a stroller. She has had the G-tube for more than a decade.

The teen's entire life changed nearly five years ago when she picked up an old bicycle and taught herself to ride. She discovered that she could not only ride the bike but thrived riding it, finding it fueled her energy.

"I lived my life in a hospital bed," she said of her pre-cycling days. "I’m living my childhood now and I live every day like it’s a gift."

When Jordan's mom, Alicia Jordan, saw her daughter "come out swinging" on the bike, she sought out USA Cycling, the national governing body for bicycle racing, and got her daughter in a training program and under the care of expert dietitians.

"She morphed into this incredible athlete," said Alicia Jordan. "[My husband and I] transferred our energy from keeping her alive to letting her live the best life possible."

Jordan has gone on to compete in more than two dozen cycling races, winning gold and silver medals and setting personal records along the way.

The same condition that for so long kept her bedridden is now an asset to Jordan as a competitive cyclist in a way that has astounded medical experts, according to Harbison.

"For her, there is some difference in the way her muscle metabolizes energy that allows her to do this, especially since one of her specialties is hill climbing," she said of Jordan. "Exercise is her fuel, essentially, that allows her to be closer to normal."

"What it is about exercise that has woken her brain up, and how she thrives in it, is what’s so curious to me," Harbison added. "She’s the only child I've seen who’s had this extreme lethargy that was improved by exercise."

Jordan's life has changed off the bike, too. With her improved energy she has been able to attend school and is doing an internship at Kate Farms, the maker of the plant-based formula she now uses in her G-tube.

"I call cycling my mental sanity," she said. "It’s definitely helped me just be able to live my life and feel like a normal human being and has been a doorway to many paths."

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officially cleared Jordan to compete last spring at any level after ruling that her G-tube does not give her an advantage over athletes.

The Hillclimb Worlds will be Jordan's first world championship race -- her first of many, she hopes.

"I knew ever since I was 8 years old that I couldn’t just have a 9-to-5 life and I wanted to change the world, even though I was sick," she said. "I knew I wanted to do something great, but didn’t know what it looked like until I found cycling."

"What I love about cycling is that it doesn’t stick anyone in the box," Jordan added. "You can do whatever you want and decide how fast you want to go and how far you want to go."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.







On Air Now
Chad Henry & Dave McIntyre
Chad Henry & Dave McIntyre
6:00am - 10:00am
Morning Show
Country Videos