Brainstorm Health: Diet and Your Gut Bacteria, Regeneron Bluebird Deal, ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’

Happy Monday, readers! This is Sy.

Scientists are increasingly peering into the world of the microbiome—i.e., the amalgam of microorganisms such as bacteria that make up the human body—in an effort to understand what role these little snippets of life play in how effective drugs are for different people and even why certain diseases progress the way they do. And a new piece of research suggests that your gut bacteria may even be a buzzsaw for your weight loss diet.

The (admittedly small) study from researchers at the renowned Mayo Clinic involved collecting fecal samples from overweight and obese patients undergoing lifestyle interventions to shed pounds. In science speak, here’s what they found: “A gut microbiota with increased capability for carbohydrate metabolism appears to be associated with decreased weight loss in overweight and obese patients undergoing a lifestyle intervention program.”

In plainer terms, the scientists found a link between the prevalence of certain kinds of bacteria and the chances of success that various patients had in achieving their 5% weight loss goals—Phascolarctobacterium had a positive association while Dialister did not. And the research team hypothesized that there are probably all sorts of other associations between various bacteria and the ability to lose weight.

The field of microbiome research is still in its earliest stages. But a creeping drip of evidence suggests it might be more important to our fundamental biology, and medicine itself, than previously thought.

Read on for the day’s news.


'Snapchat dysmorphia.' Some plastic surgeons have seen a rise in a disturbing trend they're dubbing "Snapchat dysmorphia," according to an article published in the medical journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery. It's not so much that patients are seeking cosmetic changed to make them look like celebrities; rather, they want to look more like the highly-edited and touched-up versions of themselves that they can create through photo filtering apps on popular social media sites like Snapchat. Here's how the piece, from doctors at Boston University School of Medicine's dermatology department, puts it: "Previously, patients would bring images of celebrities to their consultations to emulate their attractive features. A new phenomenon, dubbed “Snapchat dysmorphia,” has patients seeking out cosmetic surgery to look like filtered versions of themselves instead, with fuller lips, bigger eyes, or a thinner nose. This is an alarming trend because those filtered selfies often present an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy for these patients." (Fortune)


Regeneron pours $100 million into Bluebird. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals is making a huge bet on upstart biotech Bluebird Bio and its cancer immunotherapy program, which is chasing the likes of Novartis and Gilead/Kite Pharma in the CAR-T space (i.e., therapies that re-engineer patients' own immune cells to make them cancer killers). The drug giant will invest $100 million into Bluebird in order to develop new cell therapies to treat cancer; the biotech's stock was up nearly 3.5% in Monday trading. (Reuters)


General Motors strikes health care deal with Detroit hospital system. Automaker GM has struck an intriguing deal with Henry Ford Health System of Detroit to offer a new kind of coverage option to employees in a bid to control the firm's health care costs (and, hopefully, improve the health of its workers). This kind of direct arrangement with a health system would essentially give more power to GM to negotiate (rather than the insurance company middlemen that would usually have the leverage under traditional benefits arrangements), meaning that the company would be "able to specifically focus on the conditions in the GM population and what we want to improve on," as GM health care leader Sheila Savageau tells the WSJ(Wall Street Journal)

Aetna's president on the importance of mental health. Karen Lynch, the president of insurance giant Aetna, has a commentary piece up at Fortune on the importance of incorporating mental health care into medical regimens. And she's got some striking numbers to back up her central argument: "The association between mental health and physical health is so significant that we cannot address them separately. For instance, up to 50% of cancer patients suffer from a mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety, and treating symptoms of depression in cancer patients may improve survival. Similarly, adults with a depressive disorder are 64% more likely to develop coronary artery disease (CAD), and patients with CAD who are also depressed are 59% more likely to have another adverse cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or cardiac death," writes Lynch. Read the entire piece here(Fortune)


Indra Nooyi to Step Down as PepsiCo CEOby Lucas Laursen

Starbucks Tries to Clean Up Its Bitcoin Messby Alice Tozer

California's Carr Fire Was Bad. The Mendocino Complex Fire Is Worseby Chris Morris

A Look at Where Nuclear Disarmament Stands on the Anniversary of the Hiroshima Bombingby Renae Reints

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