Health Buzz: Extra Iron in Infancy May Curb Behavioral Issues

Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage: How to choose. Plus, the glycemic index, ungarnished

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Study: Iron Deficiency in Infancy May Lead to Behavioral Problems Later

Infants with marginally low birth weights—between 4 pounds 7 ounces and 5 pounds 8 ounces—may benefit from iron supplements, a new study suggests. Underweight babies are often iron deficient, so very small babies are frequently given the supplement, reports Reuters, but there hasn't been much research on how iron affects infants who are barely lighter than the normal birth rate. Researchers analyzed 285 infants with moderately low birth weights. From six weeks of age until their six month birthdays, some received drops of iron, while others received drops of an iron-free placebo, reports Reuters. When the babies were three and a half years old, the researchers compared their IQs and behaviors with 95 kids who had normal birth weights. While there weren't any major differences in IQ among the control group of babies, versus those who received iron or placebo, researchers did note differences in behavior. After parents of the children were surveyed, it turns out that significantly more of the babies who received the placebo had behavioral problems, such as sleep and attention issues. The research, published today in the journal Pediatrics, suggests that iron deficiencies in infancy may lead to behavioral problems in childhood. "The issue with these marginally low birth-weight infants is, people really haven't paid a lot of attention to them," Betsy Lozoff, a behavioral/developmental pediatrician and University of Michigan professor, told Reuters. "But the evidence is accumulating that they are at risk for behavioral problems and less than ideal cognitive function."

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  • Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage: How to Choose

    Decoding health insurance options can be daunting for people age 65 and over. Those who have paid 10 years of Social Security taxes qualify for Medicare at age 65; they are automatically signed up if they are receiving Social Security payments unless they take steps to opt out. Standard Medicare comes in two parts: A and B. Part A covers a portion of hospitalization expenses, and Part B applies to doctor bills and other medical expenses like lab tests and some preventive screenings.

    But some seniors may find better value in Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage. Such plans are run by private insurance companies but regulated by the government, and must offer coverage that's comparable to original Medicare parts A and B. Most also include prescription drug coverage, which for seniors who keep original Medicare is an optional add-on, called Part D.

    Some Medicare Advantage plans cost nothing more per month than original Medicare, while others come with a higher monthly premium. (Any additional premium is added to what you would otherwise pay for Medicare Part B—about $105 per month in 2013, which for most people is automatically deducted from their Social Security checks.) Medicare Advantage plans are similar to private insurance that self-employed individuals buy on the open market, in that they have different monthly premiums, copays, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket limits. The tradeoff for a lower premium (or none) could be higher copays or coinsurance. [Read more: Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage: How to Choose]

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    • The Glycemic Index, Ungarnished

      I have long observed that food, or at times pseudo-food, is often garnished with far better food, writes U.S. News blogger David Katz. In fact, the bright green curlicues of leafy greens and herbs (e.g., kale and parsley) are some of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Eat the garnish, skip the food—and you might just live forever!

      But the way we garnish information about food is another matter altogether. Food for thought may start out quite wholesome, but get garnished along the way with a whole array of sales pitches and marketing distortions. The result can be rather unpalatable.