The number of births in the United States decreased between 2007 and 2008 (preliminary estimate: 4 251 095). Birth rates declined among all women aged 15 to 39 years; the decrease among teenagers reverses the increases seen in the previous 2 years. The total fertility rate decreased 2% in 2008 to 2085.5 births per 1000 women. The proportion of all births to unmarried women increased to 40.6% in 2008, up from 39.7% in 2007. The 2008 preterm birth rate was 12.3%, a decline of 3% from 2007. In 2008, 32.3% of all births occurred by cesarean delivery, up nearly 2% from 2007. Twin and triplet birth rates were unchanged. The infant mortality rate was 6.59 infant deaths per 1000 live births in 2008 (significantly lower than the rate of 6.75 in 2007). Life expectancy at birth was 77.8 years in 2008. Crude death rates for children aged 1 to 19 years decreased by 5.5% between 2007 and 2008. Unintentional injuries and homicide were, respectively, the first and second leading causes of death in this age group. These 2 causes of death jointly accounted for 51.2% of all deaths of children and adolescents in 2008. This annual article is a long-standing feature in Pediatrics and provides a summary of the most current vital statistics data for the United States. We also include a special feature this year on the differences in cesarean-delivery rates according to race and Hispanic origin.
Annual Summary of Vital Statistics: 2008
NUTMEG: Enjoying a large glass of eggnog liberally sprinkled with nutmeg, I wondered about the provenance of the spice. After all, I had been enjoying nutmeg for decades. According to an article in Saveur (2010;134:79), nutmeg has been a prized spice for centuries. Nutmeg, Myristica fragrans or musky scent, is indigenous to Indonesia. For hundreds of years, the two spices made from nutmeg, nutmeg made from the seed's kernel, and mace made from the waxy red covering of the seed, were only produced in the Banda Islands. The spice became a prized commodity in medieval Europe and was used liberally by the wealthy to create richly flavored dishes. As nutmeg moved west along the spice trail, its cost rose dramatically. When nutmeg became the treatment of choice for the plague, a small sack was worth the cost of a house in London with servant included. The Dutch and English East India companies waged merciless campaigns for control of the nutmeg producing islands. In the 18 century, however, seedlings were smuggled out of Indonesia and soon nutmeg was growing in far-flung tropical regions of the world including the Caribbean. As the highly-spiced dishes of the medieval ages waned in popularity, others turned to nutmeg for its narcotic properties. In high concentrations, myristicin, the compound that gives nutmeg much of it pungency, can induce euphoria and even hallucinations. Nutmeg was grated over the infamous punch drinks of 18 and 19 century England and may have been responsible for some of the more outrageous behaviors associated with the drink. Historic figures as disparate as Lord Byron and Malcolm X used the spice recreationally. Currently, while nutmeg is often associated with eggnog and the winter holiday season, it is used to flavor innumerable dishes and drinks, including Coca-Cola. The enduring popularity of nutmeg may be due to its ability to enhance other flavors. As for me, a little nutmeg goes a long way to enhance the taste of cakes, pies, eggs, and savory dishes. Yum.
Noted by WVR, MD
FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: The authors have indicated they have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.
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T. J. Mathews, Arialdi M. Miniño, Michelle J. K. Osterman, Donna M. Strobino, Bernard Guyer; Annual Summary of Vital Statistics: 2008. Pediatrics January 2011; 127 (1): 146–157. 10.1542/peds.2010-3175
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