Roundup: Heart Disease Death Rate Up for Middle-Aged Adults; and Latest on Ultra-Processed Foods; Infant Sitting Devices

In Reversal, Heart Disease Death Rate Rises for Adults, Ages 45-64, CDC Says

Death rates from heart disease for middle-aged U.S. adults are increasing, even though cardiovascular disease is generally preventable and treatable, according to a new report by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers examined death certificates filed across the country from 1999 to 2017 for adults 45 to 64. They found that heart disease death rates decreased by 22 percent for all adults ages 45 to 64 from 1999 to 2011, from 164.3 deaths per 100,000 people to 127.9 deaths per 100,000 people.

But the trend has apparently reversed for this age group. From 2011 to 2017, death rates increased by 4 percent for adults 45 to 64. Heart disease death rates among women rose 7 percent, compared with 3 percent in men, according to the report.

The CDC said that non-Hispanic white women had a 12 percent increase since 2009 in heart disease death rates, the biggest jump of all groups. Meanwhile, Hispanic women, who had the lowest heart disease death rates of all groups, had a 37 percent decline over the 1999-2017 period, the only group to see a decrease over the entire period, said the CDC.

What is the reason for the overall reversal in heart disease death rates? While more research is needed, the CDC speculates that rising rates of heart disease risk factors are to blame. Those include rates of obesity, sedentary lifestyles and diabetes. Additionally, researchers say the rising cost of healthcare and lack of access to insurance for some middle-aged adults are also factors. Unlike adults ages 65 and up, middle-aged adults do not qualify for Medicare.

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Eating Ultra-Processed Foods Fuels Weight Gain Via More Carbs, Fat, New Study Finds

Over the past 70 years, so-called “ultra-processed” foods have become commonplace in U.S. diets. These are foods processed to be tastier, and generally high in fat, sugar and salt.

But the popularity of ultra-processed foods has coincided with growing rates of obesity and diabetes, leading researchers to suspect they’ve played a significant role in the obesity epidemic.

For a new study published this month at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers put this theory to the test.

The study’s authors said their findings directly compared the health impacts of diets based on the type of highly processed boxed foods easily found in supermarkets, compared to those based on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

The results: study participants on minimally processed foods took in significantly fewer calories and lost about two pounds over two weeks. However, the participants on the ultra-processed diet ate more and gained nearly two pounds.

Ultra-processed foods include chips, candy, packaged desserts and ready-to-eat meals. They also include foods that some consumers might find surprising to be in such a category, including breakfast cereals, packaged white bread, jarred sauces, yogurt with added fruit, and frozen sausages and other reconstituted meat products, such as hot dogs.

The NIH team got together 20 healthy adult volunteers — 10 male and 10 female — and sequestered them at a research hospital for a month. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two diets for two-week stretches. One group was fed an unprocessed diet, with whole or minimally processed foods such as stir-fried beef with vegetables, basmati rice and orange slices. The other group ate an ultra-processed diet of meals such as chicken salad made with canned chicken, jarred mayonnaise and relish on white bread, served with canned peaches in heavy syrup. When the two weeks were up, the groups were then assigned to the opposite diet plan.

Though the study was small-scale, it was also highly controlled — an important factor. Researchers knew exactly how many nutrients and calories participants were eating — and burning, because they took detailed metabolic measurements. They also monitored other factors, including blood glucose levels and hormone levels.

Both groups ate about the same amount of protein, but those on the ultra-processed diet consumed much more carbs and fat. Those on the ultra-processed foods also ate much faster — both in terms of grams per minute and calories per minute. Researchers said this was probably because the ultra-processed foods tended to be softer and easier to chew.

“While debate rages about the relative merits and demerits of various so-called healthy diets, less attention is paid to the fact that otherwise diverse diet recommendations often share a common piece of advice: avoid ultra-processed foods,” the study’s authors concluded.

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Don’t Use Infant Car Seats, Other ‘Sitting Devices,’ for Non-Mobile Sleeping, Doctors Urge

Letting your baby sleep in a car seat while it’s not in the vehicle can be hazardous to your child, according to updated guidelines from the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP).

A new study that spanned 10 years and 11,779 infant sleep-related deaths found that 348 (3 percent) of babies died in sitting devices, in most cases while in car seats. More than 90 percent of the time, the car seats were not being used as directed. The median age at death was 2 months.

Researchers found that when compared to other (non-sitting device) deaths, babies who died in sitting devices “had higher odds of having a child care provider or babysitter as the primary supervisor at the time of death.”

In a statement, the AAP stated: “Although sitting devices are designed for activities such as transportation, feeding and playing, parents may inappropriately rely on them as an alternative to a crib or bassinet.”

The AAP recommends that babies be placed for sleep in a supine position for every sleep time — by every caregiver — until the child reaches 1 year of age. Loose bedding and soft objects must be kept out of the sleep area, the AAP adds. Sitting devices should not be used for routine sleep.

The following were classified as sitting devices: car seats, strollers, bouncers, swings and other infant seats (infant slings/carriers not in this category), according to the AAP.

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