The Rundown | Week of 7.23.18

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Dairy Fats May Have Health Benefits

Dairy products high in saturated fat like cheese, butter, and whole milk have long been disgraced by the health community for their cardiovascular disease-causing properties, but a new study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition may leave dairy lovers feeling vindicated. The 22-year analysis of 2,907 adults found no difference in the mortality rate between those with low levels of dairy fat in their blood and those with high levels of dairy fat in their blood. While previous studies have relied on self-reported data to record dairy consumption patterns, this study measured the dairy-fat levels in participants’ blood. Furthermore, the evidence suggested certain saturated fatty acids, like heptadecanoic acid, may actually be associated with lower risk of stroke for some people.
>>Read More: The vindication of cheese, butter, and full-fat milk

First Alzheimer’s Disease Guidelines Revealed

The Alzheimer’s Association recently previewed the first-ever clinical practice guidelines for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. The guidelines, which will be published in full later this year, range from an MRI exam to gathering and corroborating the patient’s history against someone who knows the patient well. The recommendations are structured around three principles: all middle-aged or elderly individuals who self-report or are referred to a clinician for “cognitive, behavioral, or functional changes” should undergo a prompt evaluation; declining functions should not be attributed to “normal aging” without further analysis; evaluations should include care partners. These guidelines are especially imperative as we near 2030, the year in which the Census Bureau predicts 20 percent of Americans will be 65 or older. In related news, two recent studies illuminated new biological factors behind Alzheimer’s disease. One study correlated healthy blood pressure with a 19 percent lower risk of dementia and cognitive impairment while the other established a correlation between the hormones estrogen and progesterone in rates of Alzheimer’s in women.
>>Read More: First Alzheimer’s guidelines for clinical practice released

New CMS Policy to Impact Hospitals

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a “site-neutral” policy that would drastically lower hospitals reimbursements for treatments delivered to Medicare patients. The proposed change would supplant the current Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) in which CMS pays less for a visit to a doctor’s office than a clinic visit through a hospital’s outpatient program. Medicare would lower the current payment for an outpatient hospital visit by roughly 60 percent, or from $116 to $46. Critics of the proposal note that hospitals serve patients with more complex conditions and that such changes would hinder quality and cost-effectiveness. The proposal follows CMS’s cuts to the 340B drug program, which reduced hospitals reimbursement for certain drugs by nearly 30 percent.
>>Read More: “Site-neutral” payments? Hospitals unhappy with OPPS 2019

New Dads and Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression in new mothers has long been a concern for healthcare providers, but a recent study published in the JAMA Pediatrics suggests new fathers experience similar rates of depression. Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine studied more than 9,500 pediatric community health center visits and found that while 5 percent of mothers screened positive for depression, so did 4.4 percent of fathers. Depression has been known to render new mothers completely unable to care for their families, but researchers believe depression in new fathers has the same negative effects on childhood development. The study authors concluded: “Addressing these gaps could improve detection and treatment rates of postnatal depression in both mothers and fathers, which could be critical for ensuring the best possible outcomes for children and their families.”
>>Read More: New dads as likely to suffer from depression as moms, study suggests

Concerns Surround IBM Watson’s Cancer Advice

IBM Watson’s cancer treatment plans contain “multiple examples unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations,” according to a review in STAT. The supercomputer supposedly dispensed advice to oncologists that did not adhere to industry standards. A statement defended the technology’s capabilities, insisting that software updates, continuous feedback, and integration of recent cancer research enable Watson for Oncology to offer advice in keeping with “national guidelines.” This report follows IBM’s announcement that it will scale back operations in response to potential changes to the Affordable Care Act. Furthermore, the team at Watson Health recently laid off a significant, though undisclosed, number of employees.
>>Read More: STAT: IBM’s Watson gave ‘unsafe and incorrect’ cancer treatment advice

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