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Daily Rounds: Wonderful Microbe Ecology; Cambridge Weighs Soda Ban; Health Penalties Falling; The Lonely People

This article is more than 7 years old.

Tending The Body's Microbial Garden (The New York Times) — "Early in the first trimester of pregnancy, she found, the diversity of vaginal bacteria changes significantly. Abundant species become rare, and vice versa. One of the dominant species in the vagina of a pregnant woman, it turns out, is Lactobacillus johnsonii. It is usually found in the gut, where it produces enzymes that digest milk. It’s an odd species to find proliferating in the vagina, to say the least. Dr. Aagaard-Tillery speculates that changing conditions in the vagina encourage the bacteria to grow. During delivery, a baby will be coated by Lactobacillus johnsonii and ingest some of it. Dr. Aagaard-Tillery suggests that this inoculation prepares the infant to digest breast milk. The baby’s microbiome continues to grow during breast-feeding. In a study of 16 lactating women published last year, Katherine M. Hunt of the University of Idaho and her colleagues reported that the women’s milk had up to 600 species of bacteria, as well as sugars called oligosaccharides that babies cannot digest. The sugars serve to nourish certain beneficial gut bacteria in the infants, the scientists said. The more the good bacteria thrive, the harder it is for harmful species to gain a foothold."

Cambridge Mulling Soda Ban Similar The New York City's (The Boston Globe) — "Davis said the ban she had in mind is similar to that recently proposed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that would impose a 16-ounce limit on any sugary bottled or fountain drink that contains more than 25 calories per 8 ounces that is served at restaurants, delis, and movie theaters. The New York City proposal would not affect diet soda or any drink that is at least 70 percent juice, or half milk or milk substitute. But Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung said he was befuddled to see the proposal because there has been such a backlash against the idea in New York City. Cheung said the soda ban in New York has been ridiculed in the media, and is almost a nightly subject of the political comedy program “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on Comedy Central...Sophia Tálamas, 29, of Cambridge, said she thought there is a need for more healthy beverage options, but she doesn’t think the city should take away a person’s ability to get a soft drink. “Sometimes you need a soda,” Tálamas said.

In Massachusetts, Number Facing Health Care Penalty Falls (The Boston Herald) — "The number of uninsured Massachusetts residents assessed a tax penalty under the state’s landmark health care law continues to fall. In 2010, 44,000 Massachusetts tax filers were assessed the penalty for failing to obtain health care under the so-called "individual mandate" portion of the 2006 law, even though they were deemed able to afford coverage. That’s a drop from the 48,000 tax filers who were assessed the penalty in 2009, according to a new report from the Massachusetts Health Connector, an independent state agency that helps residents obtain insurance, and the state Department of Revenue."

Loneliness Bodes Poorly For A Healthy Old Age (NPR) — "Loneliness in older people can predict declines in health and an increased risk of death, according to findings just published online by the Archives of Internal Medicine. People over 60 who felt lonely had a 45 percent higher risk of death than those who weren't lonely, the six-year-long study found. In absolute terms, the risk of death was about 23 percent for the lonely people and 14 percent for those who weren't. The lonely people in the study were also more prone to have limited mobility and face greater difficulty performing basic tasks like grooming and housekeeping. On that score, about a quarter of lonely people were likely to develop trouble compared to about 13 percent who weren't lonely."

This program aired on June 19, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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