KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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There’s No Cure For Alzheimer’s But Those Who Are At High Risk Search For One Anyway

With the rise of genetic testing comes the looming knowledge that you may be at risk for a disease that has yet to be conquered by doctors. In other public health news: a possible cure for hair loss, the importance of breakfast, infections in babies, colon cancer, allergies and more.

Stat: At High Risk For Alzheimer's, They're Experimenting — On Themselves
Everyone at the meeting had one thing in common: a ticking time bomb buried in their DNA. The engineers, physicians, financiers, and farmers gathered here this month all had learned through genetic testing that they carry a copy or two of APOE4, an allele that substantially increases their risk of developing Alzheimer’s. It’s a disease with no good treatment, and no good prevention strategy. So carriers scour the internet to devise their own tactics for keeping their brains healthy: a high-fat diet. Episodic fasting. Oils. Supplements. Regular blood tests to monitor a specific type of cholesterol. Exercise, exercise, exercise — even including barefoot cartwheels across the conference room floor. (Keshavan, 8/22)

The New York Times: Is This Treatment The Cure For Hair Loss?
When Heidi Imhof started losing her hair at 42, she also started losing sleep. Ms. Imhof, a lawyer, was afraid that blow-drying her straight dark hair would hasten the shedding, so she got up two hours early to shower and apply mousse and volumizers. When her hair finally air-dried, she’d pull it back, hoping to hide the bald patches on her scalp.“I was desperate,” she said. (Rubin, 8/21)

The New York Times: The Case For A Breakfast Feast
Many of us grab coffee and a quick bite in the morning and eat more as the day goes on, with a medium-size lunch and the largest meal of the day in the evening. But a growing body of research on weight and health suggests we may be doing it all backward. (Rabin, 8/21)

The New York Times: How To Prevent Deadly Infection In Babies? Good Bacteria
It may be possible, scientists say, to save many thousands of newborns in poor countries by giving them a simple probiotic — a strain of bacteria originally scooped out of the diaper of a healthy baby. A large clinical trial in rural India has found that babies fed a special strain of Lactobacillus bacteria for just one week were 40 percent less likely to develop sepsis, a life-threatening bloodstream infection. (McNeil, 8/21)

The New York Times: More Young People Are Dying Of Colon Cancer
When researchers reported earlier this year that colorectal cancer rates were rising in adults as young as their 20s and 30s, some scientists were skeptical. The spike in figures, they suggested, might not reflect a real increase in disease incidence but earlier detection, which can be a good thing. (Rabin, 8/22)

The Wall Street Journal: A Striking Rise In Serious Allergy Cases
The rate of reports of severe allergic reactions to foods like peanuts has increased by nearly five times over the past decade, according to a new analysis of private insurance claims. The analysis looked at private insurance claims with a diagnosis of an anaphylactic food reaction from 2007 to 2016. Anaphylaxis is a systemic allergic reaction in which the immune system affects multiple parts of the body at the same time, often leading to trouble breathing. It can be fatal if not treated promptly and requires an injection of epinephrine and a trip to the emergency room. (Reddy, 8/21)

Stat: Ironwood Wins FDA Approval For Combination Gout Treatment
It’s the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in adults, often first appears as a painfully swollen big toe, and used to be called the “rich man’s disease” because sufferers frequently consumed lots of meat, seafood, and alcohol: gout. Now, Cambridge, Mass.-based drug maker Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc., has won approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a pill that can be taken once a day by patients who have not been able to control gout with other treatments. (Saltzman, 8/21)

Stat: Astronauts Could One Day Use Their Urine To Make Vitamins For Long Flights
Chemical engineers at Clemson University are bioengineering yeast to use human urine and breath to make omega-3 fatty acids, the vitamins humans need for heart, eye, and brain health that are found in fish such as salmon. It’s still in the early stages — and there are some significant hurdles to clear — but the process could one day be used to simultaneously recycle waste and keep astronauts healthy on multiyear space missions. The researchers will present their results Tuesday at the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting. (Caruso, 8/22)

The New York Times: Marijuana Tied To Hypertension Risk
Marijuana use may be a cause of high blood pressure, a new study reports. Researchers studied 332 deaths among 1,213 people participating in a larger health study, of whom 57 percent were marijuana users. They had used marijuana for an average of 12 years, and the longer they used it, the more likely they were to have hypertension. The study is in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. (Bakalar, 8/21)

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