Ultra-processed.

March 16, 2016

 First in the U.S.

Last month, the Cleveland Clinic performed the first uterus transplant in the U.S. This procedure creates a possible path to parenthood other than surrogacy or adoption for women who don’t have a uterus. The transplant, which used a uterus from a woman in her 30s who died suddenly, was performed on a 26 year-old patient who was born without one.

Plot thickens. Last week, the surgeons removed the transplanted uterus due to a “sudden complication.” The nature of the problem was not specified, but the patient is doing well and recovering.

Which one is the uterus? The female organ where the fetus develops before birth. Also known as the womb.

 A lot of diabetes.

Researchers recently determined that 55% of California adults have either diabetes or pre-diabetes. Rates of diabetes have increased more than 175% nationally since 1980. It’s now the seventh-leading cause of death in California.

What is diabetes? A condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. Click here to learn more and understand the role of insulin in the mix.

Also in California.

The state Senate voted last week to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. If signed, California will become the second state, after Hawaii, to raise the age limit for buying cigarettes. More than 100 cities around the country, including New York and Boston, have already taken this step.

Go cold turkey. Speaking of smoking, according to a new study, people who quit smoking all at once are more likely to be successful than those who cut down on cigarettes gradually.

In food news.

Nutty. There’s no consensus on why peanut allergies quadrupled in the U.S. in just over a decade. The advice on when babies should first try peanut products has changed in that time. New evidence suggests it’s good for babies to try peanuts in their first year of life and that early exposure may protect kids from developing the allergy. The American Academy of Pediatrics is working on a new guideline. In the interim, they recommend that children try peanut-containing products between 4 and 11 months old.

The one percent. In a recent study, scientists found that nearly 60 percent of an American’s daily calories come from “ultraprocessed” food, defined as food containing flavors, colors, sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, emulsifiers and other additives that you probably don’t have in your kitchen. This type of food is the main source of added sugar in the U.S. diet. Meanwhile, Americans get less than 1 percent of their daily calories from vegetables.

Breakfast. For decades, the food industry has promoted the claim that skipping breakfast causes weight gain. It certainly helps sell corn flakes. But rigorous scientific studies have found no evidence that it’s true. “Whether or not you have breakfast in itself is not going to impact your body weight.”

The price of drugs.

Spending on prescription drugs in the U.S. rose 5.2 percent in 2015, driven mostly by increased costs of specialty medications to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. While the increase is more than quadruple the rate of inflation, it still counts as good news. In 2014, drug spending increased more than 14 percent. Progress.

Obamacare, explained.

Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, was signed into law 6 years ago. Since then, we have seen:

More people with insurance. Twenty million people have gained health insurance since the law was signed. This number includes people who received private health insurance on exchanges, those who gained Medicaid under state expansions and twenty-somethings who are able to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26.

Confusion. The Affordable Care Act is one of the least understood programs of our time. Even Hillary Clinton had a hard time explaining it at a recent Town Hall. Hard to blame her. The bill is about 2,700 pages. I had a hard time getting through the bestseller, the Goldfinch, and that was just over 700 pages. Oh, and it wasn’t about health care policies.

A number of lawsuits. There have been a few, related to Medicaid expansion, forcing employers to provide coverage that includes contraception, the legality of subsidies, and much more.

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