Boys are 14 percent more likely than girls to be born prematurely, and preterm boys have a greater risk of disability and death than preterm girls, new research finds.
These disabilities range from learning problems, blindness or deafness, to motor problems such as cerebral palsy, according to the authors of six studies published in the journal Pediatric Research.
"Baby boys have a higher likelihood of infections, jaundice, birth complications and congenital conditions, but the biggest risk for baby boys is due to preterm birth," said research team leader Dr. Joy Lawn of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in England.
"For two babies born at the same degree of prematurity, a boy will have a higher risk of death and disability compared to a girl," Lawn said. "Even in the womb, girls mature more rapidly than boys, which provides an advantage, because the lungs and other organs are more developed."
"One partial explanation for more preterm births among boys is that women pregnant with a boy are more likely to have placental problems, pre-eclampsia [a serious complication], and high blood pressure," conditions which are all associated with preterm births, Lawn added.
However, the study authors pointed out, preterm girls are more likely than boys to die in the first month of life in some countries where girls receive less nutrition and medical care than boys.
More than 80 percent of preterm infants (less than 37 weeks' gestation) in high-income countries survive and thrive. The risk of death and disability is greatest for those born at less than 28 weeks.
In middle-income countries, the risk of disability for infants born at 28 to 32 weeks is double that of those in high-income countries. In low-income countries, preterm babies are 10 times more likely to die than those in high-income countries. Death is twice as likely as disability for preterm babies in these countries.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 15 million preterm babies worldwide. Of the 13 million who survived beyond the first month of life, 4.4 percent had mild disability and 2.7 percent had moderate or severe disability.
The largest number of problems among preterm infants occurred in low-income countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where 2.2 million died and more than 600,000 had some degree of disability, according to the study findings.
India had the greatest number of preterm births at over 3.2 million. China had less than half that number -- 1.3 million -- followed by Nigeria, Pakistan and Indonesia. The United States recorded nearly 498,000 preterm births.
Malawi had the highest rate of preterm birth at 18.1 per 1,000 live births, the report noted.
-- U.S. NEWS
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control shows that the use of unregulated tobacco products is growing quickly among U.S. high school students. A study of teens from 2011 to 2012 showed:
The study showed no significant drop in student's cigarette smoking or tobacco use.
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S., killing more than 1,200 every day.
The report notes that the increase in the use of electronic cigarettes and hookahs could be linked to an increase in marketing, availability, and visibility and the perception that they may be safer than cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes, hookahs, cigars and certain other new types of tobacco products are not yet subject to FDA regulation.
Read more from the 2011 and 2012 National Youth Tobacco Surveys.
Contrary to popular belief, the biggest reason for the rise in U.S. health care spending is not an aging population or patient demand, but the higher costs of drugs, procedures and hospital care, a new study finds.
Since 2000, yearly price increases have accounted for 91 percent of the jump in national health care spending, which totaled $2.7 trillion in 2011.
"That was surprising," said lead researcher Dr. Hamilton Moses, of Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Often, he noted, people point to the aging population, or doctors ordering too many tests and treatments, as the main drivers of soaring health care spending.
"I think the origin of that misperception comes from the politicizing of the issue," said Moses, who is also chairman of Alerion Institute, a Virginia-based consulting firm. "Rational discussions based on valid information" are hard to come by. "But the fact is," he said, "we spend more on health care than other developed countries, and the U.S. still lags behind in outcomes."
For example, U.S. life expectancy is 79 years compared with 81 in the U.K. and Canada and 82 in Spain and Italy.
The new study is in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Read more from U.S. News.
There is little evidence that vitamin and mineral supplements protect people from cancer and heart problems, according to a new analysis.
Based on those findings, a U.S. government-back panel issued draft recommendations that echo its previous conclusion: it cannot recommend for or against taking vitamins and minerals to prevent those conditions.
"At this point in time the science is not sufficient for us to estimate how much benefit or harm there is from taking vitamin or multivitamin supplements to prevent cancer or heart disease," Dr. Michael LeFevre said.
LeFevre is co-vice chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which issues recommendations to help guide doctors and health systems. The USPSTF sponsored the new analysis.
The panel's draft statement also says neither beta-carotene nor vitamin E should be taken to prevent heart disease or cancer.
Previously, beta-carotene was found to further increase the risk of lung cancer among people who are already at an increased risk.
About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 580,000 die of cancer, the American Cancer Society says.
Cancer and heart disease share a number of risk factors including inflammation, researchers wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Animal and lab studies have suggested supplements may guard against some of those risk factors.
It's estimated that Americans spend about $12 billion each year on supplements.
Read more from Reuters Health.
A new analysis from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity found that fewer than 1 percent of all kids’ meals — 33 out of 5,427 — met the recommended nutrition standards set by the Institute of Medicine. Only 3 percent met the standards set by the food industry itself.
That hasn’t changed since the Yale Rudd Center did its last evaluation in 2010.
But the nutritional quality of specific items offered in kids’ meals has improved. Most fast-food chains now offer at least one healthy side dish in their kids’ meals, and three-quarters have increased healthy beverage options such as unsweetened teas, water, and milk.
“To be honest, it was pretty disappointing,” said Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives at the Yale Rudd Center, who presented the new analysis on Tuesday at the American Public Health Association meeting in Boston. “Most of the main dishes in kids’ meals still have a lot of fat and sodium, so they’re not healthy choices at all.”
That’s not so surprising, but here’s something that was: Two-thirds of kids ordering McDonald’s Happy Meals now get apple slices and a half-size serving of fries instead of a full serving of fries. Before McDonald’s made this the default option in 2011, two-thirds of kids skipped the apple slices and got a full serving of fries.
Read more from Boston Globe.