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Wash to Wear

dermatology

Clothes never look as flawless as they do fresh off the rack. So is it necessary to wash them before taking them for a spin? Absolutely, says Johns Hopkins dermatologist Mary Sheu, if you want to avoid allergic reactions, infectious diseases, and bug infestations.

Fabric often contains skin-irritating dyes and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals used for wrinkle and shrink resistance. Certain dyes can also spark allergic reactions. And cotton, unless it’s organic, is full of pesticides and herbicides. “Cotton is among the most heavily sprayed crops,” Sheu says. Then, once the clothing is on the storeroom floor, it can be tried on by other shoppers with infectious skin conditions (including fungus, bacteria, and viruses) and even scabies or lice. “Whenever possible, everything should be washed before wearing,” Sheu says, “but it’s especially important for underclothing and swimwear.”

Illustration of a shirt silhouette composed of infectious skin conditions
Matt Chase

Next Up: Generic Biologics

pharmaceuticals

Rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease are just a few of the ailments being treated with new drugs known as biologics. Made from living cells, biologics are highly effective but expensive to produce. Now there’s good news: Not only have drugmakers managed to create cheaper versions of some of these biologics, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that they’re as safe and effective as the originals. G. Caleb Alexander found this to be true for the most common group of generics that he studied. These cheaper versions use chemicals—not living cells—to replicate the effects of the original drugs. Alexander says additional studies are needed to determine whether his findings will hold true for other biologics. The FDA still has to approve these generic versions.

Add a DASH

diet

The good news about the DASH diet keeps getting better. DASH is short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and its menu of vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes, whole grains, and low-fat dairy has been proved to lower blood pressure. Now there’s even more reason to adopt the plan: It reduces the risk of developing chronic kidney disease, according to a new study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Kidney disease affects 10 percent of the U.S. population. In addition to emphasizing healthy foods, the DASH diet limits sodium, sugary drinks, and red and processed meats. “The great thing about this finding is that we aren’t talking about a fad diet,” says study leader Casey Rebholz. “This is something that many physicians already recommend to help prevent chronic disease.”

Better for Your Bottom Line

exercise

We all know that exercise improves our health, mood, and physique. But here’s a new reason to hit the gym: According to a multischool study that includes Johns Hopkins, staying physically active can add $2,500 a year to our wallets. The savings, derived from reduced medical costs, can be accrued by walking for 30 minutes five days a week.

Berry Good

nutrition

If you want to add more heart-healthy ingredients to your diet, look no further than berries. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all excellent sources of anti­oxidants, which promote cardiovascular well-being. Black raspberries—a raspberry cousin with a deeper hue—are the best choice because along with high antioxidant and fiber content, they’re relatively low in sugar. “They’re the most nutrient dense of all the berries,” says Johns Hopkins nutritionist Joshua Nachman. They are, however, one of the scarcest. They have a short summer season but can often be found frozen year-round. Just be sure to eat them fresh or frozen, Nachman says, as dried berries contain more sugar and fewer phytonutrients.

Illustration of mixed berries
So Yeon

Calcium: To Supplement or Not?

nutrition

Is eating kale better than swallowing a calcium pill? Turns out, taking high doses of calcium from supplements may damage your heart, while a diet rich in calcium may protect it, according to a multiuniversity study that includes Johns Hopkins.

After reviewing 10 years of medical tests on more than 2,700 people in a federally funded heart disease study, the researchers saw an association between taking calcium supplements, typically for bone health, and an increased risk of plaque buildup in arteries.

The team found that people who took calcium supplements alone were 22 percent more likely to develop heart disease when compared to those who skipped the pills and instead ate a diet rich in calcium.

Additionally, the findings indicate that a calcium-rich diet appears to be protective: There was no increase in the relative risk of developing heart disease over the 10-year study period among people with the highest dietary intake of calcium, or more than 1,022 milligrams per day.

While their work does not prove cause and effect, they say the results add to growing scientific concerns about the potential harms of supplements.

“Patients should discuss any plan to take calcium supplements with their doctor to sort out a proper dosage or whether they even need them,” says Erin Michos, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease.

Illustration of calcium-rich foods
Katie Carey

The Power of Protein

aging

Aging bodies need more protein to help maintain muscle mass, says Johns Hopkins geriatric doctor Jeremy Walston, but some forms of protein are more beneficial than others: Choose high-quality protein that is low in fat, including salmon, chicken, soy, beans, and low-fat yogurt. “We need about 30 grams of protein at a sitting to stimulate muscle growth optimally,” says Walston, and the best time to eat a protein-packed meal is after a workout.

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