Men at Risk
At-risk behaviors decrease when men become fathers for the first time, says a 19-year study of 200 boys who were assessed annually from the ages of 12 to 31 to learn how crime, tobacco, marijuana and alcohol use changed over time. Prior studies showed that men’s negative behaviors improved after marriage. Data indicates that men in their late 20s and early 30s showed greater decreases in crime and alcohol use compared to men who became fathers in their teens or early 20s. "... fatherhood can be a transformative experience, even for men engaging in high risk behavior," says lead author David Kerr. "This presents a unique window of opportunity for intervention, because new fathers might be especially willing and ready to hear a more positive message and make behavioral changes."
Massachusetts Initiates Ban
Brownies laced with herbal relaxation ingredients are the target of a ban initiated by two Massachusetts communities because they believe they are not safe for children. Lazy Cakes contain a blend of herbs such as melatonin, Valerian Root Extract, Rose Hips Extract, and Passion Flower. The brownies are promoted to “bring on the ultimate state of relaxation.” Unfortunately, the cake’s packaging appears to be targeted to children, which Fall River Mayor William Flanagan says is the problem. Each brownie contains about 8 milligrams of melatonin, which exceeds the recommended dose. New Bedford City Councilor Bruce Duarte says that he has read of a case of a two-year-old hospitalized after eating the brownies. The cakes can be purchased at Walgreen’s and convenience stores such as 7-11.
Higher Safety Standards Proposed
Sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury for people who are 15 to 24 years old, and Congress wants to do something about it. A new bill, the Children's Sports Athletic Equipment Safety Act, would require new standards for new and reconditioned sports helmets. According to U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, “Helmet standards haven't been changed in 30 years. It is very important our students are protected with the best headgear possible.” In addition to higher standards, the bill would also increase penalties for using false claims to sell helmets and other sports equipment. “New football helmets would have to be four times better (stronger) in order to protect against concussions,” U.S. Senator Tom Udall says, “We need to make this change to protect our youth.”
YOUNGER CHILDREN AT MOST RISK
One-third of children aged 5 to 15 will sleep through a smoke alarm, according to a new Australian study. The findings, published in the journal Fire and Materials and led by researchers at Victoria University in Melbourne, followed 123 children from 79 different families. The children were split into two groups: aged 5 to 10 and 11 to 15. 78 percent of children slept through the alarm, with 87 percent of children aged 5 to 10 sleeping through the alarm. The older children performed better, although less than half of them (56 percent) actually woke up. Lead author of the study, Dr. Dorothy Bruck said, "Parents should not rely on their children waking to the smoke alarm in the event of a fire and should not assume that they will immediately evacuate if they do wake up to a fire."
Contributing to Obesity?
Children who have their tonsils removed tend to gain weight, finds an analysis of four decades worth of studies. One study found that within one year of surgery, the average increase in BMI was about 7 percent among children who had tonsillectomies. Another finds that up to 75 percent of children experienced weight gain in the year following surgery. Study author Anita Jeyakumar MD of St. Louis University is hesitant to suggest that there is a direct link between tonsillectomy and weight gain, but it does raise questions if the surgery may be contributing in some way to the dramatic rise in childhood obesity. Fewer American children are having their tonsils removed today than in years past. Reasons for removing the throat tissue clumps include infection and sleep disordered breathing.
Especially in Kids
New research from Oklahoma State University suggests that consuming energy drinks early in life may make some more prone to anxiety, depression and addictive behaviors later on. Dr. Conrad Woolsey calls the drinks a “pharmacological Molotov cocktail.” Because the human brain does not fully develop until age 25, it is more susceptible to being affected by the ingredients in the pumped-up soft drinks. Energy drinks often contain additives such as taurine and inositol which are used in some anti-anxiety and antidepressant medication. When taken alongside a stimulator, like caffeine or guarana, they can affect the action of neurotransmitters in the brain. Overstimulation of stress neurotransmitters early in life can cause them to be overactive later, leading to anxiety and depression.
On December 7, Sesame Street will roll out its latest Muppets, the "Superfoods." These affable puppets in the image of a banana, broccoli stalk, wedge of cheese and a hamburger bun aim to teach kids about healthy snacks. They're a part of an outreach initiative called "Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget." Curiously, as Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com points out, the superfood muppets oddly resemble the U.S. Department of Agriculture food pyramid. What's perhaps more peculiar is that Sesame Street's nonprofit organization Sesame Workshop partnered with pharmaceutical behemoth The Merck Company Foundation and UnitedHealthcare for the "Food for Thought" initiative.
With Proper Safety Precautions
With a properly designed and supervised program, resistance training can be beneficial for children; leading to significantly increased muscular strength found a new study conducted at the German Sport University Cologne. Researchers found that strength or resistance training was particularly beneficial in those who were older and more physically mature. Not surprisingly, those who trained longer and performed more sets also had higher strength gains. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, kids as young as 7 or 8 can do strength training exercises as long as they can follow instructions and can perform the exercises safely. Other benefits aside from muscle strength include bone building, improving balance, and increasing body awareness.
Move over Inhaler
A study involving 361 children ages four weeks to three years shows that both bacterial respiratory infections and viral infections are linked to asthma attacks. Children with both types of infections had high rates of asthma attacks and the relationship observed between bacterial infections and asthma attacks was “above and beyond the expected relationship between viral infections and attacks," according to Hans Bisgaard, professor of pediatrics at Danish Paediatric Asthma Centre in Copenhagen where the study was conducted. Viral infections cannot be cured, but bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics and this study has prompted the development of a larger study looking at whether antibiotics would treat asthma attacks in children with bacterial infections.
Sugar Drinks Taking Over
Children in the United States are not drinking enough plain water and even mild dehydration can lead to a decrease in physiological functioning, fatigue, muscle weakness, and impaired cognitive and mental performance. According to a study of almost 4,000 kids under 19 published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, only 15 to 60 percent of boys and 10 to 54 percent of girls (depending upon age) drink the minimum amount of water recommended by the US Institute of Medicine. Children are more apt to meet their fluid needs through sugar-sweetened beverages instead, increasing caloric intake and the risk of excess body weight. Parents are encouraged to start kids off early in life enjoying the taste of plain water over sugary beverages such as sodas and sports drinks.
More Support Equals Less Stress
Much research has been done on the role that maternal affection plays in the future mental health of children, but research into fathers has been lacking. A new study from California State University hopes to send a message that fathers are just as important to the development of a child. In a study of over 900 adult men and women, the researchers found that men who reported a poor relationship with their fathers were 4 percent more likely to encounter stress during the day and react negatively to the stressor. They were also more likely to develop health problems from daily stress. Many participants cited a lack of confidence stemming from lack of support. Lead author Melanie Mallers said “The difference may sound small, but it’s enough to really affect your quality of life.”
More Than 70,000 Each Year
Researchers from the US Food and Drug Administration have found that more than 70,000 children and teens go to the ED each year for injuries and complications from medical devices. About one-fourth of the problems were infections and eye abrasions in contact lens wearers. Other common problems include puncture wounds from hypodermic needles breaking off in the skin while injecting medicine or illegal drugs, infections in young children with ear tubes, and skin tears from pelvic devices used during gynecological exams in teen girls. The most serious injuries involved implanted devices such as brain shunts for kids with hydrocephalus, chest catheters for patients receiving home chemotherapy, and insulin pumps for type 1 diabetics. Malfunction and misuse were the most common reasons.
Cause and Effect Not Confirmed
A study led by a team of researchers from Boston University School of Public Health suggests that exposure to polyfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs) is linked to an increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Blood samples taken from 571 children found that those with the neurological disorder had higher levels of detectable PFC. It is not known if there is a cause-and-effect relationship. Per lead author Kate Hoffman, the children may also have engaged in behavior that led to increased exposure. PFCs are compounds that are used in industrial and commercial products such as stain-resistance coatings, food packaging, and fire-fighting foam. Previous animal studies have suggested that exposure to the chemical can have neurotoxic effects.
Doubles the Risk
Spending too much time in front of the television and playing video games can double the risk of attention problems in children and young adult, according to new research from the Iowa State University and published in the July issue of the AAP journal Pediatrics. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day for children aged 2 and older. Researcher Edward Swing compared participants who watched TV or played games less than two hours a day to those who watched more. “Those who exceeded the AAP recommendation were about 1.6 times to 2.2 times more likely to have greater than average attention problems,” he said. The effect was less pronounced on middle school students than in college students, according to Swing’s research.
Kids Are Vulnerable to Effects
Children along the Gulf Coast are most at risk from toxins and chemicals in the oil washing up on beaches from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill. Children live and breathe closer to the ground where heavier-than-air compounds are more concentrated, says Irwin Redlener of the National Commission on Children and Disasters. Toddlers tend to put objects in their mouths, increasing the risk. Children also have a large skin-to-body-mass ratio, which means that they can absorb more toxins through their skin than adults. Unborn children also face dangers because the petrochemicals can reach fetuses through a mother’s placenta or be ingested by infants through breast milk. Health officials are also concerned about psychological stress that the oil spill is causing among Gulf families.
High Fructose Diets Not for Kids
A laboratory study has found that when fructose sugar is present as children’s fat cells mature, it makes more of these differentiate into visceral (belly) fat and less able to respond to insulin, thus increasing the risk of both heart disease and type 2 diabetes. By measuring biopsies from the precursors to adipocytes of 32 healthy-weight children who had not yet undergone puberty, the researchers found that fructose, present as high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks and processed foods, had different effects on the maturing fat cells than glucose, or regular table sugar. The results, presented at The Endocrine Society’s 92nd Annual Meeting, indicate that fructose has a greater effect on the risk of cardiometabolic disease in growing children than in mature adults.
Too Much Burgers Are Never Good
The International Study on Allergies and Asthma in Childhood revealed that eating three or more burgers a week can boost a child's risk of asthma and wheeze. The research was based on data collected between 1995 and 2005 on 50,000 children ranging from eight to 12-years-old, and from rich and poor countries. The findings showed that a child's diet can influence the prevalence of asthma and wheeze. An unhealthy, fatty diet had the biggest effect on children developing respiratory symptoms. A diet that consisted of high-intake of fruit, fish and cooked green vegetables protected children against wheezing. The study does note that, "Burger consumption could be a proxy for other lifestyle factors. Particularly as the increased asthma risk associated with it was not found in poor countries."
Low Education, Income Up Risk
A major Swedish study of more than one million children has found that attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is strongly linked with limited maternal education, single parent families, and receiving welfare benefits. Researchers from the Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University found that women who had only the most basic education were 130 percent more likely to have a child on ADHD medication. Children from single parent households had a 54 percent greater risk of being treated and families receiving welfare benefits had a 135 percent increased chance of having ADHD children. "Our study showed that almost half of the cases could be explained by the socioeconomic factors included in our analysis,” said Prof. Anders Hjern. The study is published in the journal Acta Paediatrica.
Not getting enough calcium in the earliest days of life could have a profound, lifelong impact on bone health, according to new research from North Carolina State University. In the study, pigs were used as a model for human health because they are similar to humans in their bone growth and nutrition needs. During an 18-day-trial, the researchers documented lower levels of bone density in the group of piglets that were fed a calcium-deficient diet. In addition, the pigs that received less calcium also had changes to certain stem cells in the bone marrow that appears to play a significant role in obesity. Because of a mechanism involving cell replication, a calcium deficiency in infancy predisposed the pigs to form more fat cells and retain less of the mineral for building bone.
Epilepsy and Happiness
Children with epilepsy often face challenges that inhibit their learning abilities and social acceptance from peers. Nevertheless, a recent survey suggests that children with epilepsy are happier than we think and their quality of life is comparable to that of their healthy siblings. Dr. Christine Bower Baca, a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar and a clinical instructor in the UCLA Department of Neurology, and her colleagues assessed 143 children with epilepsy, matching each to a healthy, non-epileptic sibling as a control, and to their parents or guardians. The study found that parents' ratings of their children's quality of life were significantly lower for their children. In contrast, children with epilepsy rated their own quality of life on a par with their siblings.
Freud Was Right
Good mothering is critical for the healthy development of children. Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 56 percent of all child abusers are women. The most common form of abuse is psychological. Dr. Philip Muskin of Columbia University says that “Neglect and emotional abuse are every bit as damaging as sexual abuse.” Constant criticism or withholding affection affects academic achievement, social growth, and self-worth, even into adulthood. The most vulnerable years are during infancy and toddlerhood, when mom is the primary nurturer. Learning to move forward from a painful past is difficult, but not impossible. The key is to get social support from others early.
Beyond Height Stimulation
Human growth hormone (HGH) can benefit deficient children as well as those who are hormonally normal but genetically destined to be short says Dr. Judith L. Ross, pediatric endocrinologist, Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia. HGH can add between one and a half to as many as four inches to a child’s height. Its cost of tens of thousands of dollars a year is often not covered by insurance. HGH therapy is highly controversial but a report by Dr. Ross, published in the journal Pediatrics, says that children who are deficient in growth hormone could reduce side effects associated with the deficiency including low bone density, high cholesterol and heart disease. Doctors warn that the long-term effects of HGH therapy, especially in children with normal levels, are not known.
Relatives No Better for Kids
Children living with relatives other than their birth parents could have an increased risk for physical and mental health problems. Sara B. Eleoff, MD, from the University Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York, used data from a 2007 national survey of more than 91,000 children. She concluded that, "Children who live in kinship care with a relative have more special health care needs, mental health problems such as ADHD and depression, and dental problems compared with children who live with their parents." Dr. Eleoff suggests health care providers, educators and public health agencies should identify and monitor these children as they may need additional services and supports.
Making Health Fun for Kids
The responsibility that comes with having diabetes can force kids to grow up fast, but Bayer has recently developed a device that can let kids keep an eye on their health and have fun at the same time. The DIDGET is a glucose monitor that plugs into Nintendo DS and DS Lite gaming systems, and is also compatible with most PC and Mac browsers. Consistent testing behavior is rewarded with points and access to new levels of the two included games. The DIDGET uses the same technology and test strips as the CONTOUR system. The monitor requires very little blood and comes with an under-fill detection feature. Bayer is also planning a password-protected online community at www.bayerdidget.com, where children can use their points and set up their own websites.
Results in Mental Disorders
Stifling your kids? You may be damaging their brains, according to a new Japanese study which found a link between overprotective parents and defects in a part of their childrens’ brains. Kosuke Narita, who led the study, scanned the brains of 50 young people who also filled out a survey about their parental relationships while growing up. Those whose parents were controlling or overprotective, or who had neglectful fathers, showed less gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, which is connected with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Scientists attribute this abnormality to the release of an excessive amount of the stress hormone cortisol. The controversial study is being challenged by some researchers for not taking other factors, such as socioeconomic status, into account.
Year Round Sports To Blame
Childen’s sports-related injuries are on the rise, according to research presented at a recent meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Adolescents are as susceptible as adults to sports-related injuries but the long-term effects may be different because of their growing bodies. Doctors blame increased exposure - playing year round or in multiple sports - for the rise in pediatric injuries but say that awareness and early treatment are key to kids’ safety. Thomas M. DeBerardino, MD, orthopedic surgeon at UConn spoke at the meeting and asked if we are pushing our kids too hard. “Even athletes at the college and pro levels have mandated downtimes. We cannot wait for kids to reach the college level to modify their training, because by that time it could be too late."