Put Down the Vape: Even Tobacco-Free E-Cigarettes Might Damage DNA

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iStock

E-cigarettes (a.k.a. vaporizers or vapes) aren't necessarily a safe substitute for the real thing. Smoking tobacco-free e-cigarettes still damages the users' DNA, increases the rate of genetic mutations, and raises the risk of cancer, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and spotted by Technology Networks.

E-cigarettes are often touted as a healthier way for nicotine addicts to get their fix because vaporizers don't contain tobacco. Smokers inhale water vapor from liquefied nicotine, which doesn't contain the same kinds of cancer-causing chemicals as tobacco-based cigarettes. But the current study findings call that assumption into question.

Researchers from New York University School of Medicine exposed the mice to smoke for three months, and then examined their DNA. They found adducts, a form of DNA damage in which a piece of the genetic material bonds to a chemical. This alters the DNA structure and can increase the risk of mutation. DNA can repair itself, but, the researchers observed, the repair protein levels had also dropped.

To see if e-cigarette smoke would affect humans similarly, they also exposed lung, heart, and bladder cells to nicotine and nitrosamine, a carcinogenic chemical compound formed by the human body when it processes nicotine. Nitrosamines can cause tumors to form, and sub-chemicals can bind to and alter DNA.

These human cells showed the same type of DNA damage found in mice that had been exposed to e-cigarette smoke. The nicotine predisposed the cells to undergo two to four times more spontaneous mutations after additional exposure to environmental triggers, like UV rays.

"Based on these results, I cannot conclude that e-cig smoke is safer than tobacco smoke in terms of cancer susceptibility of smokers," study co-author Moon-shong Tang said, according to Technology Networks.

[h/t Technology Networks]

Doctors at a British Hospital Are Now Prescribing Houseplants for Depression

Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images
Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images

You don’t have to take a trip to the countryside to reap the mental health benefits of being around nature—a single plant might just do the trick (as long as you can keep it alive).

Fast Company reports that the Cornbrook Medical Practice in Manchester, England, is one of the first in the country to prescribe houseplants to help treat anxiety and depression. It’s part of a horticultural therapy program led by a local nonprofit called Sow the City, which leads initiatives to foster community gardens in Manchester.

It’s just as much about building a sense of community through gardening as it is about the therapeutic advantages of caring for your own house plants. “There’s evidence that people who are socially isolated have worse health outcomes,” Sow the City director Jon Ross told Fast Company. The organization has also assisted Cornbrook Medical Practice in establishing its own herb garden, which patients are welcome to help maintain. Ross and his team work closely with doctors at different offices to optimize each garden for its particular clientele—sometimes, that means building a small, flora-filled sanctuary that’s just for rest and relaxation.

Other times, it’s a fully-fledged vegetable garden. For a “Hospital Beds” program at another hospital, Sow the City installed raised vegetable beds where long-term mental illness patients can soak in some sunlight, socialize with each other, and take pride in seeing the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors flourish. There’s an added physical health benefit, too: The patients get to eat the produce. “We really don’t have good food in our public hospitals,” Ross said.

Sow the City also makes sure that no green thumbs are necessary to participate in any gardening party. Its members populate the gardens with already-healthy, easy-to-tend plants, and they’ll even train patients on how to care for them.

If you’re thinking a garden might improve your own quality of life—doctor’s orders or not—here are 10 easy-to-grow plants for first-time gardeners.

[h/t Fast Company]

You’re Probably Brushing Your Teeth All Wrong

busracavus/iStock via Getty Images
busracavus/iStock via Getty Images

No matter how much you hate brushing your teeth, there's no getting around it: Regular brushing helps you maintain a healthy mouth as well as a healthy heart. But even if you've been doing it since you were tall enough to reach your bathroom sink, there's a chance you're not brushing your teeth properly. Fortunately, improving your brushing habits can be as simple as tweaking your technique and taking an extra minute out of your day.

According to Popular Science, the key to productive brushing is duration. Both the American Dental Association and the British Dental Association recommend brushing for at least two minutes at a time twice a day—usually in the morning and at night. Two minutes may not sound like a long time, but unless you're counting down the seconds, it's hard to know exactly how long you've brushed. The easiest fix for this is setting a timer: That way, you can brush mindlessly without worrying about when to stop.

That's not to say every brushing session that hits the two-minute mark will have the same results. When you brush, your goal should be to clean every tooth without abusing your gums. That means gently sweeping the bristles in short, back-and-forth motions at a 45-degree angle to your gums. If your gums feel sore, even after you switch to a gentler technique, the problem may lie in the brush itself. Make sure you choose a tool with soft bristles, as stiff bristles will only cause damage to the sensitive areas of your mouth.

Sometimes even setting a timer, upgrading your toothbrush, and improving your technique isn't enough to combat the central problem of oral hygiene: It isn't very exciting. The more you dislike brushing your teeth, the less likely you are to do it, so you should find any opportunity you can to make it a more rewarding experience. One trick is listening to your toothbrush sounds: Research has shown that people who listened to audio of their brushing played back to them felt cleaner and more accomplished afterwards.

[h/t Popular Science]

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