Health round-up: Evidence for baby brain, obesity in the spotlight and dementia being forgotten

Brad Buzzard 15 January 2018

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A weekly round-up of Australia's latest healthcare news.

There is such a thing as baby brain

A Deakin University study published in the Medical Journal of Australia demonstrates that some pregnant women do show measurable rates of decline in various cognitive functions during pregnancy.

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 20 existing studies involving more than 1,200 women and found that memory, executive functioning and general cognitive functioning can all dip during various stages of pregnancy.

Researchers say the changes in cognitive functioning are statistically significant, but that the levels reached remain within the bounds of normal cognitive functioning. They say more research is needed to understand what effects, if any, these changes have on pregnant women's day-to-day lives.

“These small reductions in performance across their pregnancy will be noticeable to the pregnant women themselves and perhaps by those close to them, manifesting mainly as minor memory lapses, but more significant consequences are less likely,” the authors state in the report.

Researchers are still recruiting participants for ongoing study.

Obesity needs to be tackled from all angles

After the media shone a spotlight on weight-loss surgery and how patients were accessing super early to fund it, a group of doctors decided it was time to suggest better ways Australia might overcome its obesity epidemic.

In its submission for the 2018-19 budget, The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) put together a plan that tackles the obesity problem from all angles.

While they do promote the idea of government funding for weight-loss surgery (as opposed to individuals funding it through super), their plan focuses mainly on prevention, education and regulation.

“Comprehensive and consistent national dietary guidelines, physical activity, weight management and mandatory food labelling should be addressed in any national strategy to tackle obesity,” RACP president Dr Catherine Yelland said in a statement.

Dementia research should not be forgotten

Pfizer recently announced it plans to end Alzheimer’s research, and local dementia advocates say this is a step backward.

According to Dementia Australia, Alzheimer's is the second leading cause of death in Australia, and has recently become the leading cause of death among Australian women. They believe the key to winning the fight against Alzheimer’s is through research.

“The only way we will develop any effective medical treatments, or even develop a way to prevent or halt dementia, is through both public and private investment in research. It is disheartening for people impacted by dementia to hear that Pfizer has made this decision,” McCabe said in a statement.


What else is happening

Teens in Victoria are using less alcohol, tobacco and cannabis than their counterparts did 20 years ago.

A joint study by Deakin University and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute attributes the decline to stronger involvement by parents and other adults. Researchers found that the percentage of teens getting alcohol from their parents dropped from 22% in 2007 to 12% in 2015.

The percentage of teens purchasing alcohol themselves dropped from 12% in 1999 to a measly 1% in 2015.

Each week our round-up offers a summary of the latest developments impacting Australian healthcare and most importantly, you, the consumer. Check in every Thursday to find out what's happening in health.

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