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Hookah Use Linked to Increased Presence of Chemical Linked to Cancer

Credit: Image Source/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A study conducted by researchers in San Diego found a link between hookah smoking an a toxin that has been known to cause cancer.

According to the study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, urine samples taken from a group of hookah smokers and non-smokers were tested to determine the amount of benzene in their body. Benzene, a chemical that has been linked to certain cancers, including leukemia, is often found in higher amounts in the bodies of those who smoke cigarettes.

Researchers said that the participants in their study who had smoked hooked had benzene byproducts in their systems at nearly 30 times the amount as in non-smokers. All participants were tested following a lounge event.

It was not clear whether a link exists between hookah use and an increased risk of leukemia.

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Generic Drug Prices Skyrocketing, Lawmakers Warn

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The prices of some common generic drugs have skyrocketed in recent years, but the reasons remain murky, lawmakers said.

The hearing of the Senate subcommittee on primary health and aging on Thursday was called after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings announced they were investigating why some generic drug prices have risen hundreds to thousands of percent -- putting a severe strain on the pocketbooks of many people who rely on generics to reduce costs compared to brand-name drugs.

To combat the rising prices, Sanders said he was introducing a bill that would require generic drug makers to pay a rebate to Medicaid if the cost increases faster than inflation.

The prices of more than 1,200 generic medications increased an average of 448 percent between July 2013 and July 2014, Sanders said during the hearing, citing federal records.

Among the drugs cited by Sanders and Cummings was a popular asthma medication, albuterol sulfate, which increased in price over 40 fold for two tablets, from $11 to $434, between October 2013 and April 2014, according to data from the Healthcare Supply Chain Association, a trade association representing multi-hospital systems, health care provider alliances and purchasing groups, among others.

Another drug, an antibiotic called doxycycline hyclate, rose in price from an average of $20 to $1,849 per bottle between October 2013 and April 2014 -- a more-than 90-fold increase -- according to data from the association.

Other medications for blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart attacks increased in price between three-fold and 40-fold, association data showed.

Sanders and Cummings sent letters in October to various pharmaceutical companies asking for comment about price increases and invited officials from three companies to testify at Thursday's hearing, but none of them agreed to attend, Sanders said.

But in a statement, the CEO of Generic Pharmaceutical Association called the proposed legislation "misguided."

CEO Ralph Neas said the findings were too narrowly focused on just 10 drugs "in a marketplace of more than 12,000 safe, affordable generic medicines."

"In actuality, generic drugs continue to be a resounding success in lowering health care costs and benefiting patients," wrote Neas, who also noted that generic drugs saved consumers $239 billion in 2013 over brand-name drugs, an increase of 14 percent from 2012.

Neas suggested a more competitive marketplace and a more timely review of drug applications by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could help lower prices.

Rob Frankil, a pharmacist and member of the National Community Pharmacists Association, testified that one patient accused him of price gouging after his heart failure medication went up from $15 to $120 for a 90-day supply.

"That's an increase of 800 [percent]," Frankil told the lawmakers.

A January survey of 1,000 NCPA members found that more than three-quarters of the pharmacists reported higher prices on more than 25 generic drugs, with the prices spiking by 600 percent to 2,000 percent in certain cases.

"I'm seeing it in real dollars and cents on my invoices," Frankil said.

A patient, Carol Ann Riha, of Des Moines, Iowa, testified that her prescription costs have increased from $849 to more than $1,700 due to price increases.

"How can anyone on a fixed income deal with these vagaries in the system?" Riha said in written testimony. "You sure can't budget for costs that change month-to-month. And it's not a few pennies, as you can see. These are significant percentages."

Manisha Solanki, a pharmacy owner who was not at the hearing, told ABC News that he's seen generic medications priced similarly to their name-brand counterparts.

"I've had people postpone getting a medication, so if they're supposed to get it this week and they don't have the funds to pay for it they'll say, 'Okay, let me wait a few days. Let me wait till this comes up. Let me see if I have more funds,'" Solanki said. "So we see them slowly pushing back when they should be taking it."

Panelists and lawmakers debated at the hearing whether regulation by the FDA could be contributing to the price hikes, but Dr. Aaron Kesselheim of the Harvard School of Medicine said that was unlikely to be the sole reason.

"These regulatory issues have been around for a very long time, and this is a new issue so I can't see how this is a regulatory issue," Kesselheim said. "I think we all want high quality, safe drugs and we want the FDA to monitor the safety of our drug supply. ...I see this as a market failure and a bunch of individual market failures, in some cases."

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Wool Workout Wear Warms You Up, Cools You Down

Minus33(NEW YORK) -- You've relied on wool socks and sweaters to stay warm during cold weather months. And now, the natural fiber is making its way from your winter wear into your gym clothes.

It might sound strange, but manufacturers are going full steam ahead with the trend.

"When you think of wool, you think of old scratchy sweaters your grandmother used to give you and that just isn't the case anymore," said Craig Sexton, marketing and assistant sales manager at Minus33, an online shop selling wool workout wear. "Merino wool is ultra-soft, natural and provides ultimate performance in almost any setting."

Typically, athletic clothing is made from man-made materials such as spandex, Lycra and polyester. But according to Sexton, wool workout wear outperforms familiar fitness fabrics in many ways.

"While synthetics are passive, Merino wool is active, reacting to changes in body temperature to keep you warm when you're cold, but releasing heat and moisture when you're hot,” he said, noting that wool performs equally well during indoor and outdoor workouts. "The best part is that wool naturally reduces chafing, odor and dries incredibly fast."

Because of its benefits, high-profile companies are incorporating Merino wool into their fitness apparel.

"Lululemon and Nike are keeping up and other brands will continue to surprise us by pushing the boundaries," said celebrity fitness expert Lacey Stone. "I've seen the trend [Merino wool] worn in my classes and I actually love it."

Other labels, including Adidas and Icebreaker, currently have wool exercise leggings and running shirts in their lines.

Sexton said he is confident that the trend will continue to grow.

"Once consumers try the product, they don't go back," he said.

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Why Heavy Drinking Doesn't Make You An Alcoholic

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Heavy drinking does not make you an alcoholic, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While one out of three adults drink excessively, Dr. William Brewer with the CDC says 90% of adults aren't booze-dependent because they don't have the chronic medical condition of alcohol dependency.

However, he says, "that doesn't mean that the drinking that they're doing isn't still putting themselves and others at risk of harm."

Every year, 88,000 people in the United States die from excessive drinking.

So how many glasses of wine or bottles of beer are safe to drink? For women, that is no more than one drink a day, and for men, no more than two a day.

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Evelyn Lozada Opens Up About Motherhood and Regaining Her Confidence Post-Baby

Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- After Evelyn Lozada gave birth to her son this past March, it took her awhile to feel like herself again.

However, the Basketball Wives star has since lost 55 lbs. and learned to love her new, curvier body.

"I kept reminding myself that I just had a baby and went through a beautiful experience and this is what matters the most. When I had [my 21-year-old daughter] Shaniece, I was a teenager and I bounced back within 24 hours, but as you get older, your body changes and I didn't bounce back as fast," she told ABC News. "I'm very satisfied with my appearance now! I'm a bit more curvier and I love it."

Lozada, 38, and Shaniece have teamed up with youthH2O, an age-defying solution, for a new campaign aimed to inspire women to look and feel their best. (Lozada has long represented the brand, while Shaniece is its new face.) The campaign, for which mothers and daughters are asked to post photos on youthH2O’s social channels with the hashtag #ForeverYoung, was a natural fit for the pair.

"Shaniece was and still is super positive," Lozada gushed. "She would actually take the role of big sister and do the night shift sometimes when I wanted to go work out. She was my lifesaver."

She's also been inspirational to Lozada during her weight loss journey. The reality TV star credits Shaniece for teaching her to eat healthier and "exercise without complaints."

"We only speak in a positive manner when it comes to our appearance and I'm her biggest cheerleader," she added. "I make certain to recognize her when she excels and I support her on all of her projects. As a mom, it's important to encourage your child, this helps them to build confidence and we hope to help so many women do the same."

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Infectious Disease Expert Says Ebola Must Be Suppressed in West Africa

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, addressed the National Press Club Friday on thet opic of Ebola and said there is no reason for widespread panic.

"Is there a large influx of Ebola people infected with people who are trying to get into the United States?" Dr. Fauci said. "The answer is no."

Regarding Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of the disease last month, Dr. Fauci said, "Yes, Duncan got in to the country but that was a very rare event because of what we know now when we do screening."

Dr. Fauci said the best way to protect the U.S. is by keeping an eye on West Africa.

"The best way to protect Americans or anyone else throughout the world is to completely suppress the epidemic in West Africa, so that there isn't any risk of it going any place else," he said.

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Harvard Finds Cooks Serve Better Food When They Can See Diners

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Looking for the most flavorful and fastidious dining-out experience? Try to make eye contact with your chef before placing your order.

A Harvard research project recently found that cooks who were able to observe their guests dished out markedly better meals than when customers remained anonymous to them.

The findings were culled after Harvard Business School doctoral student Tami Kim and Chia-Jung Tsay, an assistant professor at University College London, set up four successive experiments in a working cafeteria over a two-week period.

"In the first, diners and cooks couldn’t view one another; in the second, the diners could see the cooks; in the third, the cooks could see the diners; and in the fourth, both the diners and the cooks were visible to one another," stated the research. Following each meal, diners could rate their experience.

Due to the noted limitations of the project, the researchers acknowledged that much more and deeper study is necessary.

Kim and Tsay found that customer satisfaction increased by 10 percent when the cook could see the guests in the dining area.

"But even more striking, when customers and cooks both could see one another, satisfaction went up 17.3 percent, and service was 13.2 percent faster," stated the research. "Transparency between customers and providers seems to really improve service."

Kim and Tsay attributed the improved experience to chefs feeling more motivated and inspired by seeing patrons. Still, not all restaurants should begin breaking down kitchen walls just yet.

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The Skinny on Nestlé's New Exercise in a Bottle Project

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Swiss food and beverage giant Nestlé is working on developing the lazy person's holy grail: an edible product that replaces exercise -- providing at least some of the benefits.

But it will be a while before the magical potion gets approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, let alone hits the shelves of your neighborhood grocery store.

"Ideally, we'll be able to develop products that will help promote and augment the effects of exercise," said Kei Sakamoto, who heads the diabetes and circadian rhythms department at the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences in Switzerland.

Specifically, Nestlé is working on a product that would regulate AMPK, an enzyme that scientists have dubbed the "metabolic master switch." The target customer is someone with diabetes or someone who is obese, according to the company.

Researchers at Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences and several other institutions found that a compound acts on the AMPK enzyme in mice to stop their livers from producing fat, according to a study published in July in the journal Chemistry and Biology.

But don't think you're going to drink your way to a beach body.

The product won't outright replace exercise, Sakamoto said in a statement, explaining that even run-of-the-mill exercise has such a dynamic role that Nestlé will "never be able to mimic all those effects in a single product."

Dr. Silvana Obici, an endocrinologist at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio who was not involved in the study and has no affiliation with Nestlé, said it was too early to know if the findings in mice could be replicated in humans with any success.

"Although I am very happy that new specific compounds with selective AMPK are coming to the forefront, I can say I have guarded optimism," Obici told ABC News. "It needs to be demonstrated directly and not only in trials but also in animal models of obesity and also in clinical trials."

Obici said she had guarded optimism that a drink that affects AMPK could "rev up the metabolism," but said the drink would never fully replace eating healthy and working out.

"As a doctor, I want to point out that any drug that we have at our disposal for weight reduction and obesity [does] not work unless you are implementing lifestyle changes," she said.

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Flexibility Is Fitness' Latest Workout Craze

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — With the ever-expanding roster of boutique fitness studios in cities nationwide, there had to come a time when there would be more classes than people willing to pay the $40-$50 drop in fee to fill them.

Yoga, barre classes, spinning and so much more -- with so many classes to try, workout warriors were having a hard time committing to just one. And so earlier this week came the debut of FitReserve, a site that allows, for one monthly membership fee, access to 2,000 specialty classes in addition to traditional gyms across New York City.

It works like this: Request an invitation to the members-only site and wait to be approved. Pay $149 for a 10 pack or $249 for a 20 pack of classes to be used in the next 30 days.

Go online and search for classes: Members can visit the same studio up to four times in one month and get access to a variety of other perks like massages.

FitReserve is the latest launch in an increasingly commitment-phobic workout world. ClassPass, which launched in June 2013 in one city -- New York -- and has expanded to nine cities and just took it's one millionth reservation. The company received $12 million in September and earlier this week launched ClassPass Flex which allows users to use their membership while traveling to other cities.

Megan Smyth co-founder and CEO of FitReserve, said her business model is a win-win. Members get a discount on classes -- more than 50 percent off the drop-in rate in many instances, she said -- and the ability to try lots of different types of workouts. Studios get to fill spots in classes that would otherwise be empty and showcase themselves to a potential client who might otherwise have not come in.

"It allows them to target potential customer in one place efficiently," she said. For members, they "when they want and where they want to at a more accessible price point."

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Foods with Flavonoids Shown to Protect Against Smog-Related Heart Disease

iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — Air pollution can cause a variety of serious health problems, including affecting heart functions.

So Harvard doctoral student Jia Zhong says that if you can’t move away, remember these three words: flavonoids, flavonoids, flavonoids.

These antioxidants, which can protect against cell damage, are found in chocolate, wine, fruits and vegetables and, according to Zhong, also defend against smog-related heart disease, particularly in older men.

Zhong and his mentor, Dr. Andrea Baccarelli, looked at 573 older men from the Boston area over an 11-year period and discovered that their heart’s ability to vary its rhythm was hurt when smog levels rose for 48 hours.

However, men who consumed high amounts of foods loaded with flavonoids did not suffer the same reduction of heart rate variability as their counterparts.

Zhong and Baccarelli had two caveats. One is that people shouldn't overdo it on wine and chocolate, for obvious reasons. And secondly, they could not prove a definitive cause-and-effect link between flavonoids and heart rate variability.

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Birthday Years Ending in 9 Prompt Big Life Decisions, Study Shows

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- People whose ages end in 9 tend to be more likely to seek extramarital affairs, run marathons and commit suicide compared with those whose ages ended in other digits, according to a new study.

Researchers at New York University's Stern School of Business and University of California's Anderson School of Management conducted six studies to see how people in the last year of their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s changed their behavior.

They found that people they've nicknamed "9-enders" -- people who were 29, 39, 49 or 59 -- were more likely than others to reflect on their lives and make big changes, according to the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"When people are facing these new decades, that's when they start to step back and question essentially the meaningfulness of their lives," said study co-author Hal Hershfield, a marketing professor at UCLA who was trained as an experimental social psychologist. "We're not saying people don't do that at other points in their lives. Just that it's particularly likely to happen during life transitions."

Hershfield and his co-author Adam Alter came up with the idea for their study while discussing greeting cards and the big deal people make around entering new decades of their lives.

"It's not like anything officially changes," Hershfield said. "It's not like you got married or you can drive now or you're Bar Mitzvahed."

Yet they wanted to study how much meaning is attached to these milestones, particularly for people about to cross into their 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s. So they used data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as data from extramarital affairs site and athlete site

Chief of psychology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center Jeff Janata, who was not involved in this research, called the study "clever" because it uses actuarial data to examine a "psychological truth."

"I think that people use decades and the crossing from one decade into the next as a marker, a time to reflect on the state of their lives. I think it's very common," he said. "What we're really talking about is anticipation more than we are arrival."

On the one hand, Hershfield and Alter reasoned that people could react negatively to their impending milestone birthdays by committing suicide or seeking extramarital affairs. On the other, they could set a healthy goal, like running a marathon. They found 9-enders were more likely to do all of these.

And 9-enders ran faster marathons than people two years older or younger than they were, proving they trained harder, according to the study.

"A lot of different factors go into the decision to run marathon, commit adultery or end one's life," Hershfield said. "We wouldn't expect just facing down the barrel of their 40s, 50s would be enough to change it drastically, but it changes it somewhat enough that we could pick up on it statistically."

His co-author, Alter, said he hopes the study gives casual readers pause to think about why they're making the changes in their lives.

"In general, it's easy to get caught up in big milestones, particularly as we age -- but of course there’s no real difference between turning 30 and turning 29 or 31," he said. "Our culture emphasizes years like 30, 40, 50, and 60, but we shouldn't let that shape how we live our lives."

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Jill Dillard from '19 Kids and Counting' Talks Her Natural Birth Plan

TLC(NEW YORK) -- It's four months away from the expected arrival of "Baby Dilly" in March.

But 19 Kids and Counting stars Derick, 25, and Jill Dillard, 23, are already getting ready to be the best parents they can be.

"I am learning a lot about birth," Derick told People magazine earlier this week. "We are doing our homework together, and I keep reading new things, the medical aspects are fascinating to me."

Jill added about the birth plan, "We are really on the same page. The more Derick learns about birth, the more he feels that natural childbirth makes sense. ... Derick's great at helping me with relaxation, and really good and supportive."

The couple also keep a journal to one day share with their son.

Also, Jill -- who's doing prenatal workouts -- said, "After the holidays, we'll get started on the nursery."

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Why Kourtney Kardashian Won’t Be Getting a Baby Nurse

Timothy White/ E!(LOS ANGELES) -- With her third child on the way, Kourtney Kardashian will certainly have her hands full, but don’t look for the reality star to hire any extra help.

“I love doing everything myself at the beginning,” Kardashian, 35, told the December-January issue of Fit Pregnancy.

“I’m not getting a baby nurse. I take two months off and no one is allowed to bother me or talk to me about anything work-related, or maybe three months this time.”

Instead, the fashion designer and mother of daughter Penelope Scotland, 2, and son Mason Dash, soon to be 5, will spend the first months bonding with her new baby, including breast-feeding.

“I nursed Mason for 14 months and Penelope for 16, and I loved it,” she told the magazine. “It was built-in time that the two of us could share alone every day. I didn’t have any goals or expectations.”

Kardashian does expect, though, to bounce back quickly after her delivery, just like she did with her first two.

“Both were really easy. I actually pulled both babies out of me!” she told Fit Pregnancy. “I was out of the hospital so fast both times because I just wanted to get home. I stayed in my pajamas for 30 days and kept the house really quiet.”

Said the busy working mom, “It’s the only time I feel I have that excuse to shut everyone out and shut everything off. That time is a gift.”

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Company Creates Tiny Livers with 3-D Printer to Test Drugs

Organovo(SAN DIEGO) -- A San Diego company has created human liver tissue with a 3-D printer designed to be used by drug companies for testing.

The feat achieved by Organovo may seem like science fiction but more and more researchers and scientists have been examining how 3-D printers can be used to "create" human tissue for research purposes.

The "tiny livers" are "bioprinted" with a specially designed 3-D printer and are composed mainly of three kinds of human liver cells, the company announced this week. In theory the tissue will allow drug companies to test out new medication on liver tissue before they go to human trials.

The tissue is technically too small to be called an organ but the small tissue will function similarly to a real human liver and can live for at least 40 days, according to Organovo.

Keith Murphy, CEO of Organovo, said the tissue could be helpful in developing drugs.

"Pharma companies can use our bioprinted liver tissue to weed out toxic drugs early in drug development rather than after they have failed expensive clinical trials," Murphy said in a statement.

Michael Renard, the company's executive vice president commercial operations, said the tissue is developed by getting the cells from regulated sources, including cadavers, and then processed into "bio-ink."

After being printed in a specific pattern to mimic the make-up of a human liver, the tissues matures over three days before it can be used.

The main goal of providing a three-dimensional engineered human tissue is to have something "that behaves a human organ," said Renard.

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Biz Markie on Why He Lost 140 Pounds: 'I Wanted to Live'

Kevin Winter/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Just two months ago, Biz Markie revealed that he'd lost around 140 pounds after focusing on his health. The rap icon was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes three years ago and realized he needed to make a change.

"I wanted to live," Markie, 50, told ABC News. "Since I have to be a diabetic, If I didn't make the changes, it was going to make the diabetes worse. I'm trying to get off [the Diabetes meds]. The way you gotta do it is lose the weight. I'm off half my meds, I just got to get off the rest."

Markie said doctors were straightforward when he was diagnosed and said if he didn't shape up, the results could be terrible.

"They said I could lose my feet," he said. "They said I could lose body parts. A lot of things could happen."

Markie said he's feeling great and spoke to ABC as part of his collaboration with Zevia, a zero-calorie soda that he mixes into his diet.

"Instead of drinking regular soda, I drink Zevia to make you believia!" he joked. "I love that there's alternatives to eating, because I want to live."

Markie said right now he's on tour, but in 2015, he plans to drop even more weight.

"I'm maintaining but I think at the beginning of the year, I'm going to try and get down another 10 pounds," he added.

But don't expect Biz to gain any weight back just because he's on tour.

"On the Yo Gabba Gabba! Tour, we eat organic," he said, adding that little changes like turkey bacon with eggs for breakfast keeps him healthy. He also keeps the portions down.

"I don't pig out," he said, adding that he mostly does cardio for his workouts.

Markie also said that he has so much more energy now after shedding so much weight.

"When I used to be on stage, I used to be out of breath, I couldn't walk that far," he said. "Now, I got so much energy. I can do a whole show."

Markie is an icon, with close friends like Will Smith, who have been on his back for years to lose the weight. Markie said back in the early 2000s, Smith bet him on the set of Men in Black 2 to get him to lose the weight.

"It's a great feeling that they care, but it's better to win the bet," he said, laughing.

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