Hey old friend.

September 9, 2016.

 Battling loneliness.

Loneliness is increasingly being viewed as a serious public health issue. Researchers have found evidence linking loneliness to physical illness and to functional and cognitive decline. As a predictor of early death, loneliness surpasses obesity. Obesity. Which we hear about far more than loneliness. In the United States, about one in three people older than 65 live alone. “The profound effects of loneliness on health and independence are a critical public health problem. It is no longer medically or ethically acceptable to ignore older adults who feel lonely and marginalized.” Maybe its time to make some new friends, preferably old ones.

 Zika update.

The World Health Organization broadened its recommendations about sexual transmission of Zika virus, advising both men and women who have been in Zika-affected areas to practice safe sex for at least six months.

Post Olympic report. No Zika infections were reported in Brazil during the Olympics, either among athletes or visitors.

In food news.

More sad news about sugar. Last month, the American Heart Association announced that kids should consume no more than six teaspoons (roughly 100 calories or 25 grams) of added sugar a day. That amounts roughly to a Dannon yogurt. The recommendation is based on evidence that sugar has addictive qualities, especially for young children whose taste buds are being shaped by the foods they eat. I’m very glad this recommendation did not exist when I was a child.

Gluten free. An increasing number of Americans are eating gluten-free despite not having celiac disease, the main medical reason for adopting the diet. “The uptick may stem from wider availability and reduced prices of gluten-free products, the diet becoming ‘trendy’ for health-conscious people, and self-diagnosed gluten-sensitivity by those hoping to alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms.”

Something’s fishy. According to a report from an ocean conservation advocacy group, one in five of over 25,000 samples of seafood tested globally was mislabeled. That means you may be purchasing and consuming seafood and fish that’s not what you think it is. Take a good look at your next fish taco. Mahi mahi? Maybe not.

First face transplant.

Eleven years ago, Isabelle Dinoire became the first person ever to get a partial face transplant. After being seriously disfigured by her dog in 2005, Dinoire underwent an operation, during which doctors gave her a new nose, chin, and mouth. This week, a French hospital announced that she died in April, at 49 years old, after a long illness. The story is just breaking this week because her family asked that the news be kept private. Since her transplant, dozens of people have had similar surgeries.

Regular soap is just fine.

 Last week, the FDA issued a rule banning the use of 19 chemicals in antibacterial hand and body washes, which are marketed as being more effective than simple soap. Companies have a year to take these ingredients out of their products or remove the products from the market. The ban applies only to consumer products, not to antibacterial soaps used in hospitals and food service settings.

More grass.

According to the CDC, there’s been a 35 percent increase in the number of people using marijuana since 2002. Additionally, the number of people using marijuana daily or almost daily has nearly doubled. The findings suggest that as marijuana laws are relaxing, people perceive the drug to be less harmful. They too are relaxing. Since 2002, the number of people who think of the drug as very risky has declined.

More people with plans.

New federal data shows that fewer Americans are uninsured than ever before. The uninsured rate fell to 8.6 percent during the first three months of 2016. That’s the lowest rate the government has on record. Young Americans and those who are poor remain more likely to be uninsured.

Read some more. And share healthy bites.

To read past editions of Healthy Bites or to share with friends, click here.