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child-with-inhalerSmokers are not the only ones affected by the health risks of cigarette smoking. According the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke is classified as a “known human carcinogen” and is responsible for more than 42,000 deaths every year. Now, results of a new study show that infants and children who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of developing allergic disease in adolescence and well into their teen years.

The 16-year study was conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and involved nearly 4,000 children. Parents were asked about their smoking and lifestyle habits during and after pregnancy, and the children were monitored for symptoms of asthma, allergies and other conditions.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke in the womb had a 45% higher risk of developing asthma by the time they were 16 years old. Those exposed as infants or in adolescence had a 23% higher risk of developing asthma and were 18% more likely to develop allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal passages due to allergens). In addition, they had a 26% higher risk of developing eczema (red, itchy skin).

While the link between secondhand smoke exposure and allergic diseases in children is not a new one, this was among the first studies to show that the risk continues through adolescence and into the teenage years. Fetal exposure to secondhand smoke has also been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage, birth defects and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

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fat-food-labelsNowadays more and more Americans are reading the Nutrition Facts labels found on foods and beverages—but what if we weren’t getting the whole truth?

Even as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working toward a label makeover to help provide consumers with more clarity about the foods they are eating, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that many processed foods claiming to be free of harmful trans fats actually are not.

CDC experts analyzed more than 4,300 popular packaged foods available in grocery stores and found that 9 percent of the food items contained trans fats even though 84 percent claimed they were either “trans fat-free” or contained “0 grams of trans fat.” The reason has to do with the fact that manufacturers are allowed to round down anything less than 0.5 g of trans fat, which means consumers may be eating the unhealthy fats even when they think they aren’t.

Despite their harmful effects on human health, trans fats can still be found in many commonly bought products—including pre-packaged snack foods such as cookies, crackers and chips, as well as in microwave popcorn, cake mixes and frostings, packaged pudding, pie crusts, pancake and waffle mixes, non-dairy creamer, margarine and many frozen foods (including frozen pizza).

Based on their findings, researchers believe that not only should health officials do a better job of restricting trans fats in food products, but that yes—food labels need to be much clearer when it comes to representing the true amount as well as the health risks associated with trans fats.

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