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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Despite recent headlines across the web, drinking sparkling water does not have any harmful effects, a nutrition expert tells ABC News.

Americans spent $2.3 billion on seltzer or sparkling water over the past year, according to data from the market research company Information Resources, Inc. Some attribute the recent uptick in seltzer water's popularity with the fact that many people are trading in sodas and sugar-heavy soft drinks for sparkling water.

"It makes you feel like you're drinking something that isn't water, and so psychologically there's something in like... effervescence," Mary Choi, a writer and seltzer water super-fan told ABC News. "This is an exciting mouth experience."

Choi said that she originally turned to seltzer water in an attempt to pick up healthier habits, ditching soda and sugary juices in favor of the sugar-free, calorie-free, carbonated beverage.

Choi says that currently she drinks about five or six seltzer waters a day -- but admitted that in the past she drank approximately 13 or 14 seltzer waters daily.

Recently, Choi said some articles online have have raised doubts over whether the drink that is often viewed as a healthy may actually be harmful to your teeth or cause bloating, heartburn and other health issues.

Choi told ABC News that a lot of her friends emailed her links to stories about the potential harm of sparkling water, aware of her seltzer-drinking habits.

"I'm a little scared of the teeth thing," Choi admitted to ABC News.

Experts, however, told ABC News that seltzer water fans can relax, and that carbonated water is essentially harmless, adding that there is no evidence it poses a serious threat to your tooth enamel.

"According to research, I haven't seen any harmful effects," Rachel Beller, a registered dietitian nutritionist with a master's degree in nutritional sciences told ABC News.

Beller adds, "I think someone drinking it all day may want to hold back a little bit, and look at diversifying their beverages."

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Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Although high school students may think popularity is of the utmost importance, a new study found that it may not lead to long-term happiness.

What mattered more, according to the study published in the journal Child Development, is whether the teens had close friendships they maintained over time.

"Youth with higher levels of attachment to their best friends appear to have better psychological health, psychosocial adjustment, and even a more adaptive stress response during adolescence," the study authors said. "In general, adolescents with high-quality close friendships report higher rates of overall happiness than those without."

The study looked a group of students from the same school over time, to study the correlation between adolescent friendships and long-term mental health. Researchers at the University of Virginia began following the 169 high school students from diverse racial and economic backgrounds from the age of 15, over a 10-year period through young adulthood. They asked questions and conducted in-depth interviews to assess their feelings about their own social anxiety, social acceptance, self-worth and symptoms of depression.

The study used its own unique measures to assess these areas of mental health, however, so the findings may not be typical of the general population or follow the usual diagnostic criteria for depression or anxiety.

The students in the study were each asked to identify their closest friend, who was also interviewed to assess the strength of their friendship.

To assess popularity, researchers asked classmates to list the top and bottom ten peers with whom they would want to spend free time. In this case, popularity was measured by which students received the highest percentage of "most liked" rankings.

Teens who put an emphasis on "gaining or maintaining their peer affiliation preference rather than focusing on forming stronger close friendships" did not fare as well in the long-term. The authors said those teens may be have been more focused on status and short-term rewards or relationships, which do not have the same positive long-term emotional benefits as being in a reciprocal, positive friendship.

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iStock/Thinkstock(BERLIN) -- This Trump trip was a bust. German authorities arrested a father and his teenage son for allegedly carrying bags full of the psychedelic party drug ecstasy that featured President Donald Trump's likeness, police said in a statement.

Five thousand orange tablets with an estimated street value of about $46,000 were seized and tagged as evidence in the northern German city of Osnabruck, according to a police statement.

They were allegedly being brought into Germany from the Netherlands by a 51-year-old man and his 17-year-old son.

Around 9 p.m. on Saturday, according to the statement, the men were pulled over during a traffic stop while traveling in an Austrian-registered Peugeot 307 car along A30, a highway that runs adjacent to Osnabruck.

The men were allegedly driving back from the Netherlands where they had been looking to buy a car but didn't find one, according to police.

It was during their return home through Hanover that cops pulled them over and found a large, undisclosed amount of cash and 5,000 pills featuring the 45th president's face.

The father and son were both arrested and their car was impounded, according to the police statement, and on Sunday, a judge ordered both to be remanded.

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(NEW YORK) -- Monkey Business/Thinkstock The number of health insurance claims documenting severe allergic reactions to food has skyrocketed nearly 400 percent over the past decade, according to a study released Tuesday by the nonprofit healthcare organization FAIR Health.

The researchers analyzed private insurance claim lines involving the diagnosis of anaphylactic food reactions, or severe allergic reactions from food that could even result in death from anaphylactic shock. The study found that private insurance claim lines with diagnoses of anaphylactic food reactions rose by 377 percent in the period between 2007 to 2016.

Peanuts were the most commonly identified food to cause anaphylaxis, according to the study. Close behind were tree nut and seed allergies, followed by egg allergies, crustacean allergies and dairy allergies.

The data also revealed that the increase in food allergy diagnoses, based on private insurance claim lines, was much higher in rural areas than urban areas -- dispelling the common misconception that most allergies occur within cities.

Robin Gelburd, the president of FAIR health, called food allergies a "growing national public health concern," in a statement announcing the study's findings.

"We intend to continue to study food allergies and to release findings that can inform research and policy,” Gelburd added.

ABC News' Chief Medical contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton said it’s difficult to determine exactly why the numbers are increasing. It appears to be the result of environmental factors, but our own immunology may be evolving and changing as well, according to Ashton.

Ashton added that another important thing to remember when it comes to food allergies is that it is also possible to develop them later in life, not just during childhood. Symptoms of a severe allergic reactions normally occur within minutes to hours after eating a food, Ashton adds, and can include obstructive swelling of the lips, tongue and throat, trouble swallowing, shortness of breath, drops in blood pressure, loss of consciousness and chest pain.


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iStock/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) --  Greg Carlson has had to overcome learning disabilities throughout his life, but when he met his high school teacher, Megan Gross, learning became a lot easier.

“It was always a joy to come in here and she’s just a wonderful teacher because she’s helped me a lot through my four years of high school,” Carlson said. “The way Mrs. Gross taught me was very easy and precise and I could easily understand the material.”

Gross, 36, is one of the country’s top educators. This year, she was California’s Teacher of the Year and a top four finalist for the National Teacher of the Year Award.

Gross is beginning her 5th year of teaching an autism spectrum disorder class at Del Norte High School in San Diego, California.

“I think the most misunderstood part about students with autism is that ... they’re not one of us,” Gross, 19, said. “It doesn’t matter if a student has autism, it doesn’t matter if a student has Down syndrome, it doesn’t matter if a student is an AP student, I think that you have to see kids for who they are.”

Sharon Carlson told ABC News that her son was placed in classes that cater to students with autism because "he has a learning disability [and] mainstream classes at times provided too challenging."

Gross said Carlson exemplifies perseverance. “When road blocks get in his way, with his health or with other challenges, he takes that in stride,” she said.

Carlson credits Gross’ teaching style for putting him on the path to become a phys ed teacher for kids with disabilities.

“The best piece of advice I can give Greg is to keep being Greg,” Gross said.

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Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- BBC News reports Chilean constitutional court have approved a bill that would lessen regulations when it comes to abortions, a ruling that goes against a total ban.

The court ruled that abortion is justified in three cases: if the mother's life is at risk, if they fetus is not expected to survive pregnancy, if a woman was impregnated after rape.

According to BBC News, Chile had been one of seven Roman Catholic nations that ruled against abortion in any circumstance.

Judges ruled 6-4 in favor of easing on abortion laws, a welcome result for a number of groups in the South American nation.

Chile legalized abortion for medical reasons in 1931, according to BBC News, but banned it completely in 1989 under the country's then-military government.

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Troy Perkins USCG FD(CAPE MAY, N.J.) -- Lifeguards and rescuers in Cape May, New Jersey, formed a human chain in the water to save a swimmer on Friday.

Eyewitnesses said there were originally three victims, but all were able to make it to shore, according to the Cape May Fire Department, except for a fourth person, who officials said was trying to attempt a rescue.

Two rescue swimmers with the Cape May Fire Department were placed in the water and then several lifeguards from Cape May Beach Patrol arrived and joined them to form the human chain.

All four victims received emergency medical care on the scene and were transported to Cape Regional Medical Center for evaluation.


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Gisselle Orozco(LONG BEACH, Calif.) -- An expecting pit bull in California had a beachside baby shower that would make any pregnant woman a bit envious.

Jesus Suarez and his family threw his dog, Winter, a baby shower last Saturday at Rosie’s Dog Beach in Long Beach, California.

"It was so last-minute, so maybe 10 people showed up," his cousin Gisselle Orozco told ABC News.

Orozco, 18, shared photos of the bash on Twitter, and they quickly went viral with more than 55,000 people retweeting them.

Yes we did throw her a baby shower ❤ pic.twitter.com/kivgeabTJU

— Gisselle O. Suarez (@Gisselleorozcoo) August 12, 2017


Winter's party was complete with food and drinks for the guests, along with tons of gifts for her, such as tennis balls and other little treats.

And although she's a pit bull, Winter didn't skimp on her attire. She wore a blue tutu for the occasion.

The puppy shower was held at the perfect time, because Winter gave birth to 10 puppies four days later.

For now, the family plans to give the puppies to other family members, "so they'll be able to see Winter," Orozco said.

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Matt Gush/Thinkstock(SAN LUIS OBISPO, Caif) --  A California paramedic school graduate jumped in to help a choking man in a coffee shop where he was awaiting an interview for a nearby ambulance company.

William Stewart was with three other former Sacramento State University paramedic students inside Coastal Peaks Coffee in San Luis Obispo, California. The foursome were waiting to be interviewed by San Luis Ambulance, which partners with the school to supply internships for the students.

"We were all kind of jittery, so we grabbed some coffee to calm our nerves," Stewart, who just graduated from the school in July, told ABC News.

"I heard a guy cough and I looked over and [said], 'He’s coughing so he’s probably fine,'" Stewart recalled. "But when I looked back, he was kind of holding his chest and walking around in circles and he wasn’t coughing anymore so I thought I should check on him."

Stewart, 23, then successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver on the unidentified patron.

"He threw a thumbs up and I patted him on the back," the student added, noting that when he walked back over to his friends, he explained what happened but told them not to mention it in their upcoming interviews.

The coffee shop's owner Mike Knight told ABC News he saw Stewart jump up to help "before I could really grasp the situation," he said.

"I swear to you, it was less that five seconds and he had cleared the man's airway," Knight, who's owned Coastal Peaks Coffee Shop since 1989, continued. "He patted him on the back, and it was all good."

As promised, Stewart and his friends didn't mention the incident in their interviews, but thankfully they didn't have to.

After Knight found out Stewart was a student, he told ABC News that he walked over to San Luis Ambulance, which is around the corner, to encourage the owner to hire him.

Fred Motlo, a field supervisor for San Luis Ambulance, called Stewart after hearing about it and later offered him and his three friends internships. They will start in early October.

Eventually, Stewart hopes to be a flight medic or work in a rescue helicopter for the National Forest Service.

"The challenge kind of makes it exciting for me," he said of his future career.

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Denise Truscello/WireImage via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the latest legal wrangling over the defamation suit Richard Simmons filed against National Enquirer, Radar Online and their parent company American Media, the alleged source behind the reports that Simmons was transitioning genders said in a signed declaration filed Thursday that he never told reporters the fitness guru was becoming a woman.

Simmons filed a lawsuit in May over stories claiming that the fitness icon is transitioning from male to female, according to court documents.

The media reports that alleged Simmons was changing genders used Mauro Oliveira, Simmons' former masseuse, as their source. Oliveira was also the one who sold photos to a media agency of Simmons dressed in women's clothing, which were used to accompany the stories.

In July, the media outlets asked for the lawsuit to be thrown out, arguing in court documents that saying someone is undergoing a gender transition is "not defamatory under modern jurisprudence."

Neville Johnson, Simmons' attorney, told ABC News that the National Enquirer "has gone out of its way to try and humiliate and embarrass and slander" Simmons.

"They have hyped this into a whole other story with all these other details that are simply wrong and false," Johnson added.

Simmons' move on Thursday argues the National Enquirer and Radar Online knowingly printed information that was false. Simmons' legal team filed a signed declaration from Oliveira, who claims that he never said that Simmons was transitioning genders.

"I was shocked and disturbed after discovering that the National Enquirer and Radar Online published cover stories claiming that Richard Simmons has transitioned into a woman and included the photos I supplied," Oliveira stated.

"Although I may have said that Richard Simmons's chest looks like the chest of someone who might be on hormones," Oliveira's statemend added, "I never stated that Richard Simmons is now a woman, had breast implants, or had sex-change surgery."

Johnson told ABC News that Simmons is "doing fine" in the midst of the legal battle.

"He just is private and he'd like to stay that way," Johnson said. "If he has to come forward and testify and have his body examined, so be it."

A spokesperson for American Media told ABC News the company "stands by its reporting."

"It’s the height of sophistry to claim to be a supporter of LGBTQ rights, yet also claim to be defamed by being identified as transgender. But that shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s noted Mr. Simmons refusal to identify with or openly support gay and lesbian rights over the course of his entire career," the spokesperson said in a statement. "AMI stands by its reporting, which was not only supported by a lengthy on-the-record taped interview with Mr. Oliveira, it was also supported by photographs and videotape (which AMI possesses but did not publish), and was consistent with prior reporting about Mr. Simmons’ lifestyle. We look forward to litigating Mr. Simmons’ claims in a public court of law."

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 30.

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Laura Stennett Photography(NEW YORK) -- Lauren Ashcraft is refusing to let online shamers get her down after she did a cheeseburger-themed photo shoot with her “adorably chunky” son, Liam.

Liam was only 6 pounds, 6 ounces at birth, so she wanted to document “how healthy and perfect he was growing,” Ashcraft told ABC News in an email.

Liam and his twin sister, Lola, were born to the Anchorage, Alaska, mom.

“Because they were twins, they were small. By 4 months, he was 16 pounds. He fattened up really quick," she added.

The results of the cheeseburger-filled shoot were adorable, and at first, the response on social media was “wonderful,” Ashcraft said.

But then, “the ‘sanctimommies’ showed up in force,” Ashcraft said, referring to the online commenters who began attacking her son’s weight, health, and her choices as a mom.

“It became apparent they were posting Liam's pictures in their private special interest mom groups and having their members come attack everything from me to my son. It made me sick, angry, and most of all sad," she said.

It didn’t take long before Ashcraft decided “they would not win.”

She scheduled another photo shoot with Liam’s twin sister, Lola, surrounded by healthy organic vegetables.

“We wanted them to realize this was all done in good fun and to lighten up!” said Ashcraft.

The photographer who did the shoots, Laura Stennett, is also one of Ashcraft’s best friends. She said she was just as offended by the negativity surrounding Liam’s photo shoot and was totally on board to have fun with their creative follow-up.

“Instead of letting the naysayers bully us into taking the photos down, and instead of wasting hours of our lives combatting their comments with responses -- engaging them only made it worse -- we decided to do the veggie smash with his twin sister Lola,” Stennett told ABC News in an email.

Ashcraft said her photo shoots were “done in good fun” and “the rest doesn’t matter.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New research from a statewide survey in Arizona may hold true for the rest of the country. Parents seem to understand that football can cause serious concussions, which in turn could cause serious long-term neurological damage. But they are missing the memo when it comes to the risks associated with other contact sports.

Soccer and cheerleading also have high rates of concussion, according to researchers at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Arizona, a leading institution in studying concussions.

In a new survey conducted by the group in Arizona, 85 percent of parents said they would permit their children to participate in "any contact sport." That number is up from 69 percent of parents in a similar survey from 2014.

The survey reports that while only two-thirds of parents said they would allow their child to play football, nine of 10 parents were fine with letting their kids take part in soccer, even though girls’ soccer has the highest rates of concussion of any teen sport.

“The greatest rise of that participation is actually in girls’ sports,” Dr. Javier Cardenas, director of the Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center, said in a press conference Thursday. “The No. 1 increase is actually in cheer."

Cardenas added that because there are fewer girls involved in high-level cheerleading, the absolute number of cheerleading concussions is low.

Alexa Caiazzo of Gilbert, Arizona, was a cheerleader who said she had experienced a concussion.

“I couldn’t read. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t even have a light on in the house,” Alexa Caiazzo, 16, told ABC News.

Alexa Caiazzo said she was treated at the Barrow Institute after suffering three concussions, which ended her seven years as a cheerleader.

“I had extremely bad pain in my legs,” she said. “My headaches got progressively worse, and I slept 15 to 20 hours a day.”

Alexa Caiazzo’s mom, Lisa Caiazzo, said that after Alexa's third concussion, she decided it was time to pull both of her daughters out of the sport.

"It was really hard,” Lisa Caiazzo said while fighting back tears. “To tell her that you are done was the worst thing I think I ever had to say to my kids. I knew it took a while for football to get those helmet laws into place, and now I think it’s time for cheer.”

At first, Alexa Caiazzo said she didn’t realize she was experiencing concussion symptoms, but she now hopes kids will become more aware of what to look for to determine if they have a concussion.

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MyLoupe/UIG via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A new study may spell hope for millions who suffer from peanut allergies.

Scientists in Australia are reporting successful preliminary trials for a pill filled with a mix of probiotics and tiny amounts of peanut to build tolerance to peanut allergies.

Study author Dr. Mimi Tang told the medical journal Lancet Child and Adolescent Health that roughly four out of five children who achieved tolerance after the first trial of the probiotic peanut pill were still eating peanuts four years later and seven in 10 of them had passed a "tolerance challenge."

In the first study, four years ago, 56 children took the pill once daily for 18 months. In this most recent study, 48 of the 56 participated.

"What we found was that the majority of children who achieved tolerance after the end of treatment in the original study were still eating peanuts four years after having stopped their treatment," Tang said.
She said the team of scientists were trying to "reprogram the immune response away from allergy towards tolerance."

"So we were very excited by these findings because to us it really shows that the probiotic-peanut combination can actually change the immune response to peanut and provide benefits, long-term, years after having stopped the treatment," she said.

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iStock/Thinkstock (NEW YORK) -- Researchers may now be able to detect Lyme disease in its earliest stages and differentiate it from other tick-borne ailments with similar symptoms, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The new research is creating a buzz within the medical community, as one of the major setbacks when it comes to properly diagnosing Lyme disease is that it can appear very similar to other ailments spread by ticks, including Southern tick-associated rash illness (often dubbed STARI). In addition, current Lyme disease tests available often produce unreliable results within the first four to six weeks of infection.

Researchers looked at blood samples of people who were both confirmed positive for Lyme disease and the samples of a set who were confirmed positive for STARI. By examining the molecular features of both sets, they were able to create a model that detected Lyme disease cases more accurately than standard diagnostic tests.

"We were able to tell the difference between early Lyme disease and Southern tick-associated rash illness by using biomarkers that show us how the body reacts to these illnesses," John Belisle, a professor at Colorado State University and one of the authors of the study said in a statement. "This could be important in helping to more accurately detect early Lyme disease, which is crucial because the longer people wait for Lyme disease treatment, the higher the potential risk for having more severe symptoms."

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 300,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, according to studies conducted by the CDC. Most cases in the U.S. occur in the Northeast and Midwest.

Symptoms of untreated Lyme disease includes facial palsy, severe headaches, episodes of dizziness, problems with short-term memory and nerve pain, according to the CDC.

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Image Source White/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It can be easy to overindulge while traveling, but that may lead to feelings of regret once the vacation is over. How can we travel in a way where we maintain our balance and health.
In the eighth episode of ABC News' "Healthy Living for Summer" series, we spoke with Julieanna Hever, a plant-based dietitian.

"If it's a really long flight I'll bring food with me, but if it's a short flight I'll eat when I get there," Hever said. "I'll eat whole foods as much as possible, not packaged foods which can be
high in saturated fats, salts, sugars and oils."

Below are a list of tips Hever gave ABC News.

Quick tips

•  Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions about the menus at restaurants

•  Use apps to help you locate healthier foods and markets

•  Plan ahead - will there be ways to exercise, will there be a kitchen, can you bring food, how are you traveling and for how long

•  Look at a menu with "green goggles" and if there is no option you like ask to mix what's available (for example: ask the waiter if they can take mushrooms from one plate and asparagus from another to make a new dish)

•  Take healthy snacks with you: fruit, baked or sweet potatoes, raw vegetables, hummus, whole grain crackers, almonds

•  If there is no gym available, try to exercise in your room, or go outside and use it as a way to explore the city (bike, walk, run)

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