Sunday, October 19, 2014
Those genes again: Memory
It's been known for some time that some oldsters remember their past better than others and that this is genetically linked. The study below has begun the identification of the actual genes that are involved
Common Genetic Variants on 6q24 Associated With Exceptional Episodic Memory Performance in the Elderly
By Sandra Barral et al.
There are genetic influences on memory ability as we age, but no specific genes have been identified.
To use a cognitive endophenotype, exceptional episodic memory (EEM) performance, derived from nondemented offspring from the Long Life Family Study (LLFS) to identify genetic variants that may be responsible for the high cognitive performance of LLFS participants and further replicate these variants using an additional 4006 nondemented individuals from 4 independent elderly cohorts.
Design, Setting, and Participants
A total of 467 LLFS participants from 18 families with 2 or more offspring that exhibited exceptional memory performance were used for genome-wide linkage analysis. Adjusted multivariate linear analyses in the 40-megabase region encompassing the linkage peak were conducted using 4 independent replication data sets that included 4006 nondemented elderly individuals. Results of the individual replication cohorts were combined by meta-analysis.
Main Outcome Measure
Episodic memory scores computed as the mean of the 2 standardized measures of Logical Memory IA and IIA.
Heritability estimates indicated a significant genetic component for EEM (h2 = 0.21; SE = 0.09). Genome-wide linkage analysis revealed that EEM was linked to the 6q24 region (maximum logarithm of odds score, 3.64). Association analysis in LLFS families identified single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) nominally associated with EEM in the 40-megabase window encompassing the linkage peak. Replication in one cohort identified a set of 26 SNPs associated with episodic memory (P ≤ .05). Meta-analysis of the 26 SNPs using the 4 independent replication cohorts found SNPs rs9321334 and rs6902875 to be nominally significantly associated with episodic memory (P = .009 and P = .013, respectively). With meta-analysis restricted to individuals lacking an APOE ε4 allele, SNP rs6902875 became statistically significant (meta-analysis, P = 6.7 × 10−5). Haplotype analysis incorporating the 2 SNPs flanking rs6902875 (rs9321334 and rs4897574) revealed that the A-A-C haplotype was significantly associated with episodic memory performance (P = 2.4 × 10−5). This genomic region harbors monooxygenase dopamine β-hydroxylase-like 1 gene (MOXD1), implicated in the biosynthesis of norepinephrine, which is prominently involved in cognitive functions.
Thanks to Obamacare, Health Costs Soared This Year
On November 15, open enrollment in the Obamacare exchanges begins again. Before the second act of our national healthcare drama commences, let's review what we've learned in Act I.
For starters, everyone now knows that federal officials are challenged when it comes to setting up a website. But they've demonstrated the ability to dole out a huge amount of taxpayers' money for millions of people signing up for Medicaid, a welfare program. And they've proved they can send hundreds of millions of federal taxpayers' dollars to their bureaucratic counterparts in states, like Maryland and Oregon, that can't manage their own exchanges. But there are many other lessons to be gleaned from Year One of Obamacare. Here are three of the most important ones.
1. Health costs jumped-big time. Huge increases in deductibles in policies sold through the exchanges were a big story in Florida, Illinois and elsewhere. While the average annual deductible for employer-based coverage was a little over $1,000, the exchange deductibles nationwide normally topped $2,000.
Notwithstanding President Obama's specific promise to lower the typical family premium cost by $2,500 annually, premium costs actually increased. D2014 data for the "individual market" shows that the average annual premiums for single and family coverage rose in the overwhelming majority of state and federal health-insurance exchanges all around the country. In eleven states, premiums for twenty-seven-year-olds have more than doubled since 2013; in thirteen states, premiums for fifty-year-olds have increased more than 50 percent. For the "group market," the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimated on February 21, 2014, that 65 percent of small firms would experience premium-rate increases, while only 35 percent were expected to have reductions. In terms of people affected, CMS estimated 11 million Americans employed by these firms would experience premium-rate increases, while about 6 million would see reductions. So much for "bending the cost curve down."
2. The law reduced competition in most health-insurance markets. A limited analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that in 2014, large states like California and New York were more competitive, but Connecticut and Washington were less competitive. The Heritage Foundation conducted a national analysis and found that between 2013 and 2014, the number of insurers offering coverage on the individual markets in all fifty states declined nationwide by 29 percent. On a county level, 52 percent of U.S. counties had just one or two health-insurance carriers. In 2014, at least, the law did not deliver on its promise of more personal choice and broader competition.
3. We still don't know for sure how many people are actually insured. Following the disastrous October 2013 Obamacare "roll-out," the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that about 6 million (rather than 7 million) would enroll in the exchanges. Last April, administration officials reported that they reached and surpassed their goal, enrolling over 8 million people in the health-insurance exchanges. They then declared the health-care debate, like the Iraq War, "over."
That declaration appears to be premature. The administration now concedes that there are 700,000 fewer persons in the exchanges. Of course, we can expect some attrition. But exchange enrollment is not the same as insurance coverage. CBO said it best: "The number of people who will have coverage through the exchanges in 2014 will not be known precisely until after the year has ended." Exactly.
Beyond the seemingly endless surveys, estimates and guesstimates, we do have some raw data. Between October 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, there was a net increase in individual coverage of 2,236,942, but there was a net decrease in group (employment-based) enrollment: it fell by 1,716,540. Enrollment in Medicaid and the Childrens' Health Insurance Program (CHIP) increased by about 5 million over that same period. We'll know more later, as CBO said, especially how many Americans are losing their employment-based coverage.
Who enrolls is also crucial. In 2013, Obama administration officials said that their goal was for young adults between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four to account for 40 percent of exchange enrollments. On April 17, 2014, the White House announced that only 28 percent of those enrolled through the federally administered exchanges were between eighteen and thirty-four years of age-the crucial age bracket for a robust and stable insurance pool-but that 35 percent of the total enrollees were under the age of thirty-five. That made it sound as though the program was fairly close to reaching its target. But thanks to excellent reporting by Politico, we learned that the bigger number included children enrolled in the exchanges. Nice try.
Maybe 2015 will bring better news for Obamacare. But don't bet on it.
Support a new way to end sugar subsidies!
Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens today issued the following statement calling attention to a new white paper, "Getting rid of sugar subsidies: A look to the future after decades of failure," and urging passage of H. Con. Res. 39 by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) that calls for the elimination of sugar subsidies, but only once other sugar exporters have taken similar action:
"For the last 60 years, conservatives have called for the end of sugar subsidies using the same, standard free market language, and have failed miserably. Rather than telling every member of Congress they should not care if every domestic sugar producer is driven out of business costing hundreds of thousands of jobs, and reinforcing the fears of every farm state representative and senator that their constituents might be in the cross hairs next should sugar subsidies fall now, conservatives need a new, winning game plan.
"Unilaterally ending sugar subsidies has been a losing argument for 225 years, dating back to the original protections on sugar during the first Congress of 1789. The Yoho reform recognizes that there is no free market for sugar, and we need to change the international subsidy playing field in order to achieve one.
"Ted Yoho has a better plan, which calls for ending the subsidies, but only contingent upon other nations following suit. By ending subsidies through a thoughtful approach, Yoho does not destroy a domestic industry, and instead engages and encourages other nations to do the same. The Yoho plan will empower U.S. representatives at the World Trade Organization to push for mutual ending of these subsidies, helping to usher in a new era of free markets and creating a template for addressing other subsidized industries."
Let's get onto Congress and urge the House to adopt the Yoho resolution! 225 years after they were enacted, sugar subsidies are no closer to being eliminated. It's time for a new plan that might actually work.
Teenage Obesity Increased During First Two Years of First Lady's `Let's Move' Program
A typical counterproductive Leftist program. Being forced to eat mainly vegetables has put independent kids right off them. The teenage years are the years of rebellion and independence
In the first two years since First Lady Michelle Obama launched her `Let's Move' campaign to fight childhood obesity in 2010, teenage obesity rates increased, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
From 2009-2010, 18.4 percent of children ages 12-19 were classified as obese, according to the CDC. Since then, from 2011-2012, one in five children ages 12-19 or 20.5 percent, were classified as obese, an increase of 11.4 percent. The CDC has been tracking these data since 1966-1970, and at that time only 4.6 percent of teens were classified as obese.
"First Lady Michelle Obama today announced an ambitious national goal of solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight and unveiled a nationwide campaign - Let's Move - to help achieve it," announced the White House on February 9, 2010.
Obesity, according to the CDC, is based on an individual's body mass index or BMI which is "calculated using a child's weight and height. BMI does not measure body fat directly, but it is a reasonable indicator of body fatness for most children and teens."
A child is categorized as being overweight when their BMI is at or above the 85th percentile and lower than the 95th percentile and categorized as obese when their BMI is at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex.
The Let's Move program has attempted to reduce childhood obesity rates with initiatives like changing school lunch menus and eradicating `food deserts.'
Let's Move has recently come under fire because of students' complaints about school lunch menus and `palatability.'
The US economic recovery is still on food stamps
Something peculiar is happening to our nation's food assistance program. The recently renamed food stamp program - now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP - is supposed to respond to difficult economic conditions by providing financial assistance to purchase food to poor Americans. As bad times hit and more people need assistance, SNAP caseloads should go up. And as the economy strengthens, the number of SNAP recipients should decline - at least in theory.
For most of the history of the program, that is what happened. From 1969 until 2003, SNAP has been very responsive to changes in the unemployment rate with the number of recipients rising as unemployment rises and declining as unemployment declines.
But that seems to have changed. As unemployment declined between 2003 and 2007, the number of SNAP recipients marched steadily higher. Then, as the Great Recession hit, the SNAP caseload went even higher. The recovery after the 2001 recession did little to interrupt SNAP growth and now-as the economy has strengthened with unemployment declining and jobs growing (although slowly)-the number of SNAP recipients has barely come off its all-time peak of 47.8 million recipients hit in December 2012. Since then, the number of SNAP recipients has only declined by 2.7% -- and oddly ticked up in the months of April and June 2014.
If we compare the current recovery with the recovery after the recession of the 1980s, whose duration and unemployment levels are most comparable, the change in SNAP's responsiveness becomes clear. Adjusting for population, in the four years following the 1981-1982 recession, there was a 12.5 percent decline in SNAP recipients. In the four years following the 2007-2009 recession, SNAP recipients increased by 15.6 percent. If this recent recovery had behaved like that of the 1980s, by 2013 only 11.5 percent of the population would have been receiving SNAP benefits: 36 million individuals as opposed to 47.6 million. That's a big difference.
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Posted by JR at 1:32 AM