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Brainstorm Health: U.S. Calorie Sources, $99 BRCA Test, Flu Season Questions Answered

September 18, 2017, 4:35 PM UTC

Good morning, Dailies.

That calorie count is representative of a striking global inequity, with some 800 million people in the world, according to the FAO, not getting enough calories on a daily basis to be properly nourished. The African nation of Zambia, for instance, has only enough food available to provide its population with 1,870 calories on average, per day, according to a striking global map in the October issue of National Geographic—and in truth, in much of the world, such calorie counts offer an inflated view of what’s actually accessible to most citizens, due to widespread poverty, civil unrest, natural disasters, corruption, government mismanagement, food-distribution failures, and other issues.

While I couldn’t find a link to the NatGeo map—sorry, I’ve been reading the paper version in ye olde-fashioned print magazine (which appears miraculously each month in something called a “mailbox”)—you can find much the same data online at the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Food Security Portal.

But that’s only part of the story conveyed by this map, which also reveals where those calories come from—or as National Geographic spells it out: “the leading kinds of food available in the country’s daily supply.”

The top food sources in the U.S., you wonder? “Sugars and fats,” I answer. And the U.S. is one of only 14 nations in the world where that’s the case. Much of Western Europe chows down predominantly on meat, eggs, and dairy products; the vast majority of countries have a diet based on grains. We Americans are living on sugar, sweeteners, and oils—fattening ourselves up with packaged goodies sodas, and potato chips.

Or as National Geographic measures it: Americans’ 3,729 available calories are “the equivalent of one and a half large pepperoni pizzas.”

Ah, now it’s starting to make sense.

More news below.

Clifton Leaf, Editor in Chief, FORTUNE


Color Genomics introduces $99 BRCA test. Genetic testing startup Color Genomics announced Monday that it would be making genetic tests for BRCA1 and BRCA2, whose mutations significantly increase the risk for breast or ovarian cancer in women who carry them, available commercially for $99. That's a pretty big discount to currently available tests which can cost $250 or more. "Color’s $99 BRCA Test, the most affordable genetic test for BRCA1 and BRCA2 ever on the market, is now available to any woman who wants to take the first step toward learning her risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer," said the company in a blog post.


Mercer: Rise of pricey new drugs to hit employer costs. A new report from Mercer finds that expensive treatments for hepatitis C, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions will increase health care costs for employers. Spending on new drugs for those diseases is expected to rise 7% in 2018, and it's less due to price hikes as it is for the high prices associated with these specialty therapies. (Reuters)

Former Avanir CEO to lead Roivant firm Urovant. Keith Katkin, former CEO of Avanir Pharmaceuticals (which was bought by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co.), has been appointed to lead Urovant Sciences. Urovant is one of the member companies under Vivek Ramaswamy's Roivant Sciences umbrella, which contains about a half dozen firms, each of which is focused on a different disease treatment space. The 32-year-old Ramaswamy has been able to sway a slew of biopharma vets to lead his companies and take a chance on his audacious, risky approach to drug development.


Why does flu season hit in the fall and winter? I present to you the official Fortune flusplainer—and answer all those flu-related questions you might have, like, why is flu season when it is, and why do we have to take our shots when we do? (Fortune)

It's unclear the last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill has a shot. The Senate GOP is trying, once again, to dismantle Obamacare. But this latest effort may not succeed given the tight time constraints and skepticism from Senators like Arizona Republican John McCain, who has been insisting that any health care legislation go through a bipartisan committee process in regular order (rather than a pure party-line vote).


California Planned on Strengthening Internet Privacy. It Didn'tby Chris Morris

What's Killing the World? High Blood Pressure, Poor Diet, Tobacco, Huge New Study Saysby Sy Mukherjee

Uber Finds Itself In Trouble for Sexism Yet Againby Chris Morris

There's a Chance the U.S. Might Stay in the Paris Agreementby Reuters

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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