Academic workplace bias against parents hurts nonparents too

Parents have reported before that trying to balance work and family obligations comes with career costs. But a new study from Rice University and the University of California, San Diego, shows that university workplace bias against scientists and engineers who use flexible work arrangements may increase employee dissatisfaction and turnover even for people who don’t have children.”As researchers, we’re interested in understanding the gap between the traditional 9-to-5 work setting and what workers actually need,” said Erin Cech, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice and the study’s lead author. “The majority of parents are in the workforce today, yet the expectations and arrangements of work have stayed more or less the same as they were post-World War II. We’re trying to understand this mismatch and its consequences.”The study, “Consequences of Flexibility Stigma Among Academic Scientists and Engineers,” examined “flexibility stigma” — employers’ and co-workers’ negative attitudes toward employees who seek or are presumed to need flexible work arrangements to deal with child care responsibilities — at one university. The study found that people who reported an awareness of the flexibility stigma in their departments — regardless of whether they are parents themselves — were less interested in staying at their jobs, more likely to want to leave academia for industry and less satisfied with their jobs than those who did not report a flexibility stigma in their department. They also felt as though they had worse work-life balance.”Flexibility stigma is not just a workers’ problem,” said study co-author Mary Blair-Loy, an associate professor of sociology at UC San Diego and founding director of the Center for Research on Gender in the Professions. “Workplaces where this bias exists are more likely to have a toxic culture that hurts the entire department, not only in terms of work-life balance but also retention and job satisfaction, which may affect department productivity.”The researchers suggest that the study sheds light on workplace issues across a wide spectrum of professional fields.”Because this is an academic setting, faculty tend to have a great deal of freedom to re-arrange their busy schedules to accommodate family responsibilities,” Cech said. “We imagine that the effects of flexibility stigma on job satisfaction and employee turnover might be even more counterproductive in professional workplaces that have less schedule control. Dealing with work-life balance issues is not just about instituting the right polices, but it is also about undermining the stigma that comes along with using those policies.”Cech also noted that one consequence of flexibility stigma — employee turnover — can be expensive.”It can be extremely costly — on average, between $90,000 and $400,000 when accounting for lab space and student assistants — for startup packages for new science and engineering faculty,” she said. “This suggests that reducing flexibility stigma would not only be good for workers, but good for the bottom line as well.”Blair-Loy said that the work-devotion schema — the idea that one’s career requires intense time commitments and strong loyalty — is a mandate that is unconsciously part of most professional workplaces and underlies the flexibility stigma.”Work devotion is useful for employers because it helps motivate senior management, but is destructive to people trying to care for family members,” Blair-Loy said. …

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Can gratitude reduce costly impatience?

The human mind tends to devalue future rewards compared to immediate ones — a phenomenon that often leads to favoring immediate gratification over long-term wellbeing. As a consequence, patience has long been recognized to be a virtue. And indeed, the inability to resist temptation underlies a host of problems ranging from credit card debt and inadequate savings to unhealthy eating and drug addiction.The prevailing view for reducing costly impatience has emphasized the use of willpower. Emotions were to be tamped down in order to avoid irrational impulses for immediate gain. But as Northeastern University psychologist David DeSteno notes, “Emotions exist to serve adaptive purposes, so the idea that emotions would always be a hindrance to long-term success makes little sense.”In a potentially landmark study forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science, a team of researchers from Northeastern University, the University of California, Riverside, and Harvard Kennedy School challenge the conventional view by demonstrating that feelings of gratitude automatically reduce financial impatience.The StudyImpatience was assessed using a set of decisions pitting desire for instant gratification against waiting for larger, future rewards. For example, participants chose between receiving $54 now or $80 in 30 days. To increase the stakes, participants had the chance to obtain one of the financial rewards they selected. But before making these decisions, participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions in which they wrote about an event from their past that made them feel (a) grateful, (b) happy, or (c) neutral, depending on condition.Although participants feeling neutral and happy showed a strong preference for immediate payouts, those feeling grateful showed more patience. For example, they required $63 immediately to forgo receiving $85 in three months, whereas neutral and happy people required only $55 to forgo the future gain. What’s more, the degree of patience exhibited was directly related to the amount of gratitude any individual felt. …

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Hearing loss affects old people’s personality

As people approach old age, they generally become less outgoing. New research from the University of Gothenburg shows that this change in personality is amplified among people with impaired hearing. The findings emphasise the importance of acknowledging and treating hearing loss in the elderly population.The researchers studied 400 individuals 80-98 years old over a six-year period. Every two years, the subjects were assessed in terms of physical and mental measures as well as personality aspects such as extraversion, which reflects the inclination to be outgoing, and emotional stability. The results show that even if the emotional stability remained constant over the period, the participants became less outgoing.Interestingly, the researchers were not able to connect the observed changes to physical and cognitive impairments or to age-related difficulties finding social activities. The only factor that could be linked to reduced extraversion was hearing loss.’To our knowledge, this is the first time a link between hearing and personality changes has been established in longitudinal studies. Surprisingly, we did not find that declining overall health and functional capacity make people less outgoing. But hearing loss directly affects the quality of social situations. If the perceived quality of social interaction goes down, it may eventually affect whether and how we relate to others,’ says Anne Ingeborg Berg, PhD, licensed psychologist and researcher at the Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg.The study yields interesting knowledge about personality development late in life, and also points to the importance of acknowledging and treating hearing loss among the elderly.The utilisation of hearing aids did not affect the correlation found, which suggests that there is a need for support in the use of aids such as hearing devices.’Our previous studies have shown that outgoing individuals are happier with their lives. It is hypothesised that an outgoing personality reflects a positive approach to life, but it also probably shows how important it is for most people to share both joy and sadness with others. …

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Rural versus urban causes of childhood concussion

Researchers at Western University (London, Canada) have found youth living in rural areas are more likely to sustain concussions from injuries involving motorized vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes, whereas youth living in urban areas suffer concussions mostly as a result of sports. Hockey accounts for 40 per cent of those injuries. The study which reveals where and how children are receiving concussions is published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery.Dr. Doug Fraser, a scientist with the Children’s Health Research Institute at Lawson Health Research Institute and Tanya Charyk Stewart, the Injury Epidemiologist for the Trauma Program at Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and their team tracked all the youth under the age of 18 who presented to the LHSC emergency departments with a concussion over a six year period. There were 2,112 paediatric concussions, with a steady increase in number treated each year.”It was important for us to learn about who is getting injured, where they’re getting injured, and why they’re getting injured. Once you answer those questions, then you can implement targeted injury prevention programs,” says Dr. Fraser, an associate professor in the Departments of Paediatrics, Physiology & Pharmacology and Clinical Neurological Sciences at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.Concussions are a particular concern for children and adolescents because their brains are still developing and they are more susceptible to effects of a head injury. The goal following this research is to create injury prevention programs that target and educate those at high risk of sustaining a concussion.Concussions can often be predictable. Along with properly following the rules of the sport and wearing the protective equipment, Charyk Stewart suggests, “In sports, if you have been hit, then just get off the field immediately and stop play. If you are experiencing any symptoms, be seen by a doctor.”Dr. …

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Number of babies mom has may play role in future cardiovascular health

Women who give birth to four or more children are much more likely to have evidence of plaque in their heart or thickening of their arteries — early signs of cardiovascular disease — compared with those having fewer pregnancies, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.While earlier studies have shown an association between several aspects of pregnancy — physiological changes, complications, number of pregnancies — and future heart disease risk, many questions remain about how pregnancy might affect cardiovascular risk. To better understand the potential link, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center set out to determine whether the number of live births is associated with early signs of cardiovascular disease.”This is not a recommendation for women to only have two or three children,” said Monika Sanghavi, M.D., chief cardiology fellow, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and lead investigator of the study. This is the first study to look at two markers of subclinical atherosclerosis — a gradual narrowing and hardening of the arteries that can eventually block blood flow and lead to stroke and heart attack.”Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that the changes associated with pregnancy may provide insight into a woman’s future cardiovascular risk and deserves further attention.”The study included 1,644 women from the Dallas Heart Study, a multiethnic population-based cohort, who had both self-reported information about the number of live births and relevant imaging study data available. The average age at the time of analysis was 45 years and slightly more than half of the women (55 percent) were African-American. Coronary artery calcium (CAC) scores were measured using computed tomography imaging and aortic wall thickness (AWT) by magnetic resonance imaging to determine whether or not women had evidence of subclinical atherosclerosis in the heart and artery walls. CAC was positive if it was greater than 10 and AWT was abnormal if it was greater than the 75th percentile for age and gender. These tests were done as part of standard subject participation in the Dallas Heart Study.Using women who had two or three live births as a reference, women who had given birth to four or more children had an approximately two-fold increased risk of having abnormal CAC or AWT. This association remained even after adjusting for socioeconomic status, education, race and factors known to heighten the risk of cardiovascular disease. Women who had more babies were more likely to be older, Hispanic, have high blood pressure, higher body mass index and lower socioeconomic status.Curiously, women who had zero or just one live birth were also more likely to show evidence of subclinical atherosclerosis — revealing a U-shaped relationship.Authors say it is unclear why this might be the case. But Sanghavi and others speculate they may have captured some women in this group who have an underlying condition that prevents them from carrying a first or second pregnancy to term, which may also predispose them to cardiovascular disease or risk factors. …

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Too many diet drinks may spell heart trouble for older women

It appears healthy postmenopausal women who drink two or more diet drinks a day may be more likely to have a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problems, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.In fact, compared to women who never or only rarely consume diet drinks, those who consumed two or more a day were 30 percent more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event and 50 percent more likely to die from related disease. Researchers analyzed diet drink intake and cardiovascular risk factors from 59,614 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, making this the largest study to look at the relationship between diet drink consumption, cardiac events and death.”Our findings are in line with and extend data from previous studies showing an association between diet drinks and metabolic syndrome,” said Ankur Vyas, M.D., fellow, Cardiovascular Diseases, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and the lead investigator of the study. “We were interested in this research because there was a relative lack of data about diet drinks and cardiovascular outcomes and mortality.”Information on women’s consumption of diet drinks was obtained through a questionnaire that asked them to report their diet drink consumption habits over the previous three months. This information was assessed at follow-up year three of the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. Each drink was defined as the equivalent of a 12-ounce beverage and included both diet sodas and diet fruit drinks. For the purposes of the analysis, researchers divided the women into four consumption groups: two or more diet drinks a day, five to seven diet drinks per week, one to four diet drinks per week, and zero to three diet drinks per month.After an average follow-up of 8.7 years, the primary outcome — a composite of incident coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack, coronary revascularization procedure, ischemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease and cardiovascular death — occurred in 8.5 percent of the women consuming two or more diet drinks a day compared to 6.9 percent in the five-to-seven diet drinks per week group; 6.8 percent in the one-to-four drinks per week group; and 7.2 percent in the zero-to-three per month group.The association persisted even after researchers adjusted the data to account for demographic characteristics and other cardiovascular risk factors and comorbidities, including body mass index, smoking, hormone therapy use, physical activity, energy intake, salt intake, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and sugar-sweetened beverage intake. Women who consumed two or more diet drinks a day were younger, more likely to be smokers, and had a higher prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and higher body mass index.But Vyas says the association between diet drinks and cardiovascular problems raises more questions than it answers, and should stimulate further research.”We only found an association, so we can’t say that diet drinks cause these problems,” Vyas said, adding that there may be other factors about people who drink more diet drinks that could explain the connection.”It’s too soon to tell people to change their behavior based on this study; however, based on these and other findings we have a responsibility to do more research to see what is going on and further define the relationship, if one truly exists,” he adds. “This could have major public health implications.”About one in five people in the U.S. consume diet drinks on a given day, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2009-2010). But Vyas cautions that this particular study only applies to postmenopausal women. …

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Obesity prevention programs can lower kids’ blood pressure, even if they don’t reduce body fat

One of the serious health consequences of obesity is elevated blood pressure (BP), a particular problem in children because research has found that high BP in children usually follows them into adulthood, carrying with it a wide range of possible negative consequences.Even modest elevations in the BP of adolescents, according to recent research, can pose cardiovascular problems later in life.A systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies of the effect of child obesity intervention programs on blood pressure has found that whether such programs prevented obesity or not, many of them reduced BP in children. It also found that the most effective programs in this regard promoted both healthy eating and physical activity.The study, one of the first of its kind, “Effect of Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs on BP: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” was led by epidemiologist Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, of the University at Buffalo and conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, UB and other institutions.It was published online in the journal Circulation on Feb. 19, 2014 in advance of print publication.Wang said, “Of the 28 obesity interventions with complete data that we analyzed, 13 (46 percent) had a favorable effect on both adiposity and BP and 11 interventions (39 percent) had a significant effect on the reduction of BP, even if they did not affect adiposity. “It is important to identify obesity intervention programs that can help children develop healthy lifestyles and keep BP at an optimal level,” he says, “because these programs help them avoid many long-term health consequences.”Wang’s research team, now based at UB, is working on projects in the U.S. and abroad funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that aim to assess the additional benefits of obesity prevention programs for children and to develop the most effective programs possible.The team also is using transnational comparison studies to analyze factors suspected of contributing to the global obesity epidemic.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University at Buffalo. The original article was written by Pat Donovan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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TV linked to poor snacking habits, cardiovascular risk in middle schoolers

Middle school kids who park themselves in front of the TV for two hours or more each day are more likely to consume junk food and have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, even compared to those who spend an equal amount of time on the computer or playing video games, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.”While too much of both types of screen time encourages sedentary behavior, our study suggests high TV time in particular is associated with poorer food choices and increased cardiovascular risk,” said Elizabeth Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Michigan Systems, Ann Arbor, Mich., and the senior author of the study.In fact, sixth-graders who reported watching between two and six hours of TV a day were more likely to have higher body mass index, elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressure and slower recovery heart rate compared with those reporting low screen time or kids who had comparable computer/video game use. This is the first time researchers have looked at the impact of different kinds of screen time kids get in relation to snacking habits and physiological measures associated with heart health, according to the authors.The study included 1,003 sixth-graders from 24 middle schools participating in Project Healthy Schools across five diverse communities in Southeast Michigan. Researchers used standardized questionnaires to collect information about health behaviors including the type and frequency of screen time, snacking habits, and food and beverage choices in the last 24 hours. Physiological measurements were also assessed, including blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate recovery after exercise (a marker of fitness), height and weight. Students were divided into three groups: low screen time (less than one-half hour a day), high TV time (two to six hours a day) and high computer/video games (two to six hours a day). Self-reported snack behavior and physiologic markers were then compared.The research found that kids who spent more time in front of a screen — regardless of the type — snack more frequently and are more likely to choose less healthy snacks. High TV viewers and computer/video game users both reported eating roughly 3.5 snacks a day — one full snack more than kids who had minimal exposure to these technologies. But children who watched two to six hours a day of TV were more likely than the high computer/video game group to eat high-fat foods such as French fries and chips.Jackson said this is likely because these kids are bombarded by TV commercials that tend to reinforce less healthy foods — often higher in sugar, salt and fats. In addition, kids tend to have free hands while watching TV as opposed to when they are on the computer or playing video games, which provides more opportunity for mindless snacking. Earlier studies have also shown that children tend to eat more when they watch TV.”Snacks are important, and choosing a piece of fruit rather than a bag of chips can make a really big difference for one’s health,” Jackson said. …

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Stigmas, once evolutionarily sound, are now bad health strategies

Stigmatization may have once served to protect early humans from infectious diseases, but that strategy may do more harm than good for modern humans, according to Penn State researchers.”The things that made stigmas a more functional strategy thousands of years ago rarely exist,” said Rachel Smith, associate professor of communication arts and sciences and human development and family studies. “Now, it won’t promote positive health behavior and, in many cases, it could actually make the situation worse.”Stigmatizing and ostracizing members stricken with infectious diseases may have helped groups of early humans survive, said Smith, who worked with David Hughes, assistant professor of entomology and biology. Infectious agents thrive by spreading through populations, according to Smith and Hughes, who published an essay in the current issue of Communication Studies.For early humans, a person who was stigmatized by the group typically suffered a quick death, often from a lack of food or from falling prey to a predator. Groups did not mix on a regular basis, so another group was unlikely to adopt an ostracized person. Infectious disease stigmas may have evolved as a social defense for group-living species, and had adaptive functions when early humans had these interaction patterns.However, modern society is much larger, more mobile and safer from predators, eliminating the effectiveness of this strategy, according to Smith.”In modern times, we mix more regularly, travel more widely, and also there are so many people now,” Smith said. “These modern interaction patterns make stigmatization unproductive and often create more problems.”Hughes studies disease in another successful society, the ants, which have strong stigma and ostracism strategies that serve group interests at the cost to individuals.”Ants are often held up as paragons of society and efficiency but we certainly do not want to emulate how they treat their sick members, which can be brutal,” said Hughes.Stigmatization could actually make infectious disease management worse. The threat of ostracization may make people less likely to seek out medical treatment. If people refuse to seek treatment and go about their daily routines, they may cause the disease to spread farther and faster, according to the researchers, who are both investigators in the Center of Infectious Disease Dynamics in Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.Stigmatization may harm a person’s ability to survive a disease. Ostracization may increase stress, lessening the body’s ability to fight off diseases and infections.”People are very sensitive to rejection and humans worry about being ostracized,” said Smith. “These worries and experiences with rejection can cause problematic levels of stress and, unfortunately, stress can compromise the immune system’s ability to fight off an infection, accelerating disease progression.”Once applied, a stigma is difficult to remove, even when there are obvious signs that the person was never infected or is cured. …

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Are statins good for your love life?

Statins are associated with a significant improvement in erectile function, a fact researchers hope will encourage men who need statins to reduce their risk of heart attack to take them, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.Erectile dysfunction is common in older men, especially among those with cardiovascular risk factors where cholesterol-lowering statins are frequently prescribed. Previous research has suggested a negative association between statin therapy and testosterone levels, leading to questions about the effects of these widely used medications on the quality of erection.In the first meta-analysis of previous studies on erectile dysfunction and statins, researchers identified 11 randomized, controlled trials that measured erectile function using the International Inventory of Erectile Function — a self-administered survey with five questions, each scored on a five-point scale and totaled, with lower values representing poorer sexual function. Analysis of all 11 studies combined found a statistically significant effect of statins on erectile function in men who had both high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction. Overall, erectile function scores increased by 3.4 points in men who took statins (from 14.0 to 17.4, a 24.3 percent increase).”The increase in erectile function scores with statins was approximately one-third to one-half of what has been reported with drugs like Viagra, Cialis or Levitra,” said John B. Kostis, M.D., director of the Cardiovascular Institute and associate dean for Cardiovascular Research at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and the lead investigator of the study.”It was larger than the reported effect of lifestyle modification,” Kostis said. “For men with erectile dysfunction who need statins to control cholesterol, this may be an extra benefit.”Researchers believe that statins may work to improve erectile function by helping blood vessels dilate properly and improving vascular blood flow to the penis, which is often restricted in men with erectile dysfunction. While statins are not recommended as a primary treatment for erectile dysfunction in patients with healthy cholesterol levels, the added benefit may encourage more men who need statins to take them. Millions of Americans are prescribed statins to prevent heart disease, but some stop taking the medication or take less than the prescribed dose, Kostis said. Rather than preventing the possibility of a heart attack in the future, the more immediate benefit of improving erectile function might improve adherence to statin therapy, he added.Erectile dysfunction affects an estimated 18 million to 30 million men and occurs more often in men over the age of 40. Common causes include heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, tobacco use, depression and stress.Kostis said that larger randomized controlled trials are needed to further investigate the link between statin therapy and erectile function.This study will be simultaneously published online in the Journal of Sexual Medicine at the time of presentation.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American College of Cardiology. …

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Quality early childhood programs help prevent adult chronic disease, research shows

High-quality early childhood development programs with health care and nutritional components can help prevent or delay the onset of adult chronic disease, according to a new study by Nobel laureate economist James Heckman and researchers at the University of Chicago, University College London and the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina.Based on more than three decades of data from the landmark Abecedarian early childhood program in North Carolina, the study shows that children who participated in the intervention combining early education with early health screenings and nutrition had much lower levels of hypertension, metabolic syndrome and obesity in their mid-30s than a control group that did not participate in early learning program. The results are published in the March 28 issue of the journal Science.”Prior to this research, we had indications that quality early childhood development programs helped produce better health later in life,” said Heckman. “Abecedarian shows that investing in early learning programs that offer health components can boost education, health and economic outcomes. It also offers a different way to fight costly adult chronic diseases: Investing early in the development of children to build the knowledge and self-regulation necessary to prevent chronic disease and help them lead healthy, productive lives.”The Carolina Abecedarian Project, one of the oldest and most cited early childhood programs, was designed to test whether a stimulating early childhood environment could prevent developmental delays among disadvantaged children. The study involved 111 children from low-income families, born in or near Chapel Hill, N.C. between 1972 and 1977. It also included a health care and nutritional component. Children received two meals and an afternoon snack at an early learning center and were offered daily health screenings and periodic medical checkups. Participants who received this intervention, as well as those in the control group who did not, have been followed for more than 30 years to determine the effectiveness of the early intervention program.This is the first time their health outcomes have been analyzed. Researchers found that men in the treatment group had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure and were less likely to develop Stage I hypertension. …

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Religion, spirituality influence health in different but complementary ways

Religion and spirituality have distinct but complementary influences on health, new research from Oregon State University indicates.”Religion helps regulate behavior and health habits, while spirituality regulates your emotions, how you feel,” said Carolyn Aldwin, a gerontology professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.Aldwin and colleagues have been working to understand and distinguish the beneficial connections between health, religion and spirituality. The result is a new theoretical model that defines two distinct pathways.Religiousness, including formal religious affiliation and service attendance, is associated with better health habits, such as lower smoking rates and reduced alcohol consumption. Spirituality, including meditation and private prayer, helps regulate emotions, which aids physiological effects such as blood pressure.The findings were published recently in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Co-authors were Crystal L. Park of the University of Connecticut, and Yu-Jin Jeong and Ritwik Nath of OSU. The research was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.”No one has ever reviewed all of the different models of how religion affects health,” said Aldwin, the Jo Anne Leonard endowed director of OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research. “We’re trying to impose a structure on a very messy field.”There can be some overlap of the influences of religion and spirituality on health, Aldwin said. More research is needed to test the theory and examine contrasts between the two pathways. The goal is to help researchers develop better measures for analyzing the connections between religion, spirituality and health and then explore possible clinical interventions, she said.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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People unwilling to swallow soda tax, size restrictions

Those hoping to dilute Americans’ taste for soda, energy drinks, sweetened tea, and other sugary beverages should take their quest to school lunchrooms rather than legislative chambers, according to a recent study by media and health policy experts.Soda taxes and beverage portion size restrictions were unpalatable to the 1,319 U.S. adults questioned in a fall 2012 survey as part of a study reported online this month in the journal Preventive Medicine.Adding front-of-package nutrition labels and removing sugary beverages from school environments garnered greater support: 65 percent and 62 percent, respectively — compared to 22 percent for taxes and 26 percent for portion size restrictions.”I think these findings reflect public enthusiasm for regulation that maintains a value on consumer choice in the marketplace rather than government intervention, while tolerating more paternalism in restricting the choices available to children,” said lead author Sarah Gollust, assistant professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.The study is the first of its kind to assess the levels of public support for multiple policies to promote public health and prevent obesity through the reduced consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. It was conducted in collaboration with Colleen Barry, associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Jeff Niederdeppe, assistant professor of communication at Cornell University.”Strategies to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages are a key component of public health promotion and obesity prevention, yet the introduction of many of these policies has been met with political controversy,” they wrote in the study. “The results provide policymakers and advocates with insights about the political feasibility of policy approaches to address the prevalent consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.”Advocates of reduced sugar consumption might also want to borrow a page from the tobacco opponents’ playbook, according to Niederdeppe, who has done research into the effectiveness of large-scale anti-tobacco media campaigns.”Increasingly, health advocacy groups have focused attention on the behavior of the beverage industry, highlighting their marketing tactics aimed at young people and their heavily-funded efforts to oppose regulation. And similarly to the patterns we’ve seen over the years with big tobacco companies, people with negative views of soda companies are in favor of stricter regulations on their products,” Niederdeppe said.”Unlike many other health issues like alcohol and tobacco, parents have not yet been mobilized to advocate for policy strategies to change their children’s beverage consumption,” Niederdeppe said.The findings of a strong positive relationship between years of education and policy support may suggest rising recognition among higher socioeconomic status groups of the value of policy interventions to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, the study authors wrote.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Online gaming augments players’ social lives, study shows

New research finds that online social behavior isn’t replacing offline social behavior in the gaming community. Instead, online gaming is expanding players’ social lives. The study was done by researchers at North Carolina State University, York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.”Gamers aren’t the antisocial basement-dwellers we see in pop culture stereotypes, they’re highly social people,” says Dr. Nick Taylor, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of a paper on the study. “This won’t be a surprise to the gaming community, but it’s worth telling everyone else. Loners are the outliers in gaming, not the norm.”Researchers traveled to more than 20 public gaming events in Canada and the United Kingdom, from 2,500-player events held in convention centers to 20-player events held in bars. The researchers observed the behavior of thousands of players, and had 378 players take an in-depth survey, with a focus on players of massively multiplayer role-playing games such as EVE Online and World of Warcraft.The researchers were interested in tracking the online and offline behavior of gamers, focusing on how they communicated with each other. They found that gaming was only one aspect of social behavior at the gaming events.”We found that gamers were often exhibiting many social behaviors at once: watching games, talking, drinking, and chatting online,” Taylor says. “Gaming didn’t eliminate social interaction, it supplemented it.”This was true regardless of which games players were playing, and whether a player’s behavior in the online game was altruistic. For example, a player could be utterly ruthless in the game and still socialize normally offline.”The researchers also found that gamers didn’t distinguish between the time they spent playing games and the time they spent watching other people play games.”It all fell under the category of gaming, which they view as a social activity,” Taylor says.Taylor notes that this work focused on Western gaming communities, and he’s interested in studying the relationship between social behaviors and gaming in other cultures.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. …

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Public smoking bans linked with rapid fall in preterm births, child hospital visits for asthma

The introduction of laws banning smoking in public places and workplaces in North America and Europe has been quickly followed by large drops in rates of preterm births and children attending hospital for asthma, according to the first systematic review and meta-analysis examining the effect of smoke-free legislation on child health, published in The Lancet.The analysis of 11 studies done in North America and Europe, involving more than 2.5 million births, and nearly 250 000 asthma exacerbations, showed that rates of both preterm births and hospital attendance for asthma were reduced by 10% within a year of smoke-free laws coming into effect.Currently only 16% of the world’s population is covered by comprehensive smoke-free laws, and 40% of children worldwide are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. To date, most studies have looked at the impact of smoking bans on adult outcomes, but children account for more than a quarter of all deaths and over half of all healthy years of life lost due to exposure to second-hand smoke.After searching systematically for both published and unpublished studies over 38 years (1975-2013) reporting on the impact of public smoking restrictions on health outcomes in children aged 12 years or younger, Dr Jasper Been from the Maastricht University Medical Centre, in the Netherlands, and colleagues identified 11 suitable studies — five North American studies describing local bans and six European studies looking at national bans.”Our research found significant reductions in preterm birth and severe asthma attacks in childhood, as well as a 5% decline in children being born very small for gestational age after the introduction of smoke-free laws,” says Dr Been.”Together with the known health benefits in adults, our study provides clear evidence that smoking bans have considerable public health benefits for perinatal and child health, and provides strong support for WHO recommendations to create smoke-free public environments on a national level.”*”This research has demonstrated the very considerable potential that smoke-free legislation offers to reduce preterm births and childhood asthma attacks,” says study co-author Professor Aziz Sheikh, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, USA, and the University of Edinburgh, UK. “The many countries that are yet to enforce smoke-free legislation should in the light of these findings reconsider their positions on this important health policy question.”*Writing in a linked Comment, Sara Kalkhoran and Stanton Glantz from the University of California San Francisco in the USA point out that, “Medical expenses for asthma exceeded US$50 billion in the USA in 2007, and US$20 billion in Europe in 2006. If asthma emergency department visits and admissions to hospital decreased by even 10%, the savings in the USA and Europe together would be US$7 billion annually.”They conclude, “The cigarette companies, their allies, and the groups they sponsor have long used claims of economic harm, particularly to restaurants, bars, and casinos, to oppose smoke-free laws despite consistent evidence to the contrary. By contrast, the rapid economic benefits that smoke-free laws and other tobacco control policies bring in terms of reduced medical costs are real. Rarely can such a simple intervention improve health and reduce medical costs so swiftly and substantially.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by The Lancet. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Beer marinade could reduce levels of potentially harmful substances in grilled meats

The smells of summer — the sweet fragrance of newly opened flowers, the scent of freshly cut grass and the aroma of meats cooking on the backyard grill — will soon be upon us. Now, researchers are reporting that the very same beer that many people enjoy at backyard barbeques could, when used as a marinade, help reduce the formation of potentially harmful substances in grilled meats. The study appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.I.M.P.L.V.O. Ferreira and colleagues explain that past studies have shown an association between consumption of grilled meats and a high incidence of colorectal cancer. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are substances that can form when meats are cooked at very high temperatures, like on a backyard grill. And high levels of PAHs, which are also in cigarette smoke and car exhaust, are associated with cancers in laboratory animals, although it’s uncertain if that’s true for people. Nevertheless, the European Union Commission Regulation has established the most suitable indicators for the occurrence and carcinogenic potency of PAHs in food and attributed maximum levels for these compounds in foods. Beer, wine or tea marinades can reduce the levels of some potential carcinogens in cooked meat, but little was known about how different beer marinades affect PAH levels, until now.The researchers grilled samples of pork marinated for four hours in Pilsner beer, non-alcoholic Pilsner beer or a black beer ale, to well-done on a charcoal grill. Black beer had the strongest effect, reducing the levels of eight major PAHs by more than half compared with unmarinated pork. “Thus, the intake of beer marinated meat can be a suitable mitigation strategy,” say the researchers.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. …

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Mosquito season unpredictable; year-round heartworm prevention is best

Although it may not feel like spring yet, it’s time to start thinking about protecting your pets from spring pests, particularly mosquitoes, according to a Kansas State University veterinarian.Susan Nelson, clinical associate professor of the university’s Veterinary Health Center, says mosquitoes carry heartworm, a blood parasite that can be deadly when spread to cats and dogs. Almost 100 percent of dogs exposed to heartworm will develop the disease. While that number is not as high for cats, it is often more fatal for felines.”Cats are sometimes a little less obvious with their heartworm disease,” Nelson said. “It can be just a little weight loss or lethargy, but we can also see asthma-type signs in cats. They can have trouble breathing, develop a cough, chronic gagging and vomiting.”It only takes one or two worms to cause significant harm to a cat and unlike dogs, there is no treatment for heartworm once cats are infected. That’s why it is important to use prevention tools.”We really want to preach prevention for our pets because it’s so much easier and so much cheaper for them, especially since treatment is hard on them,” Nelson said.Nelson also stresses that prevention year-round is key to protecting your pet because just like the weather, mosquito season is unpredictable.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Kansas State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Secret to cutting sugary drink use by teens found by new study

A new study shows that teenagers can be persuaded to cut back on sugary soft drinks — especially with a little help from their friends.A 30-day challenge encouraging teens to reduce sugar-sweetened drink use lowered their overall consumption substantially and increased by two-thirds the percentage of high-school students who shunned sugary drinks altogether.The “Sodabriety” challenge, piloted by Ohio State University researchers, was an effort to confront the largest source of added sugar in the U.S. diet: sugar-sweetened soft drinks, sports and energy drinks, and flavored milk and coffee.Students were tapped to establish teen advisory councils, whose members led the interventions at two rural Appalachian high schools. They designed marketing campaigns, planned school assemblies and shared a fact per day about sugar-sweetened drinks over the morning announcements.The primary message to their peers: Try to cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages for 30 days. Students opted not to promote eliminating these drinks entirely during the challenge.Overall, participating teens did lower their intake of sugary drinks, and the percentage of youths who abstained from drinking sugar-sweetened beverages increased from 7.2 percent to 11.8 percent of the participants. That percentage was sustained for 30 days after the intervention ended.In an unexpected result, water consumption among participants increased significantly by 60 days after the start of the program, even without any promotion of water as a substitute for sugar-sweetened drinks.”The students’ water consumption before the intervention was lousy. I don’t know how else to say it. But we saw a big improvement in that,” said Laureen Smith, associate professor of nursing at Ohio State and lead author of the study. “And there was a huge reduction in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. The kids were consuming them fewer days per week and when they were consuming these drinks, they had fewer servings.”Smith co-authored the study with Christopher Holloman, associate professor of statistics at Ohio State. The research is published in a recent issue of the Journal of School Health.Smith originally set out to conduct a community-based study concerning the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in Appalachian Ohio. …

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Exercise training improves health outcomes of women with heart disease more than of men

In the largest study to ever investigate the effects of exercise training in patients with heart failure, exercise training reduced the risk for subsequent all-cause mortality or all-cause hospitalization in women by 26 percent, compared with 10 percent in men. While a causal relationship has previously been observed in clinical practice between improved health outcomes and exercise, this trial is the first to link the effects of exercise training to health outcomes in women with cardiovascular disease. This study, an exploratory analysis, recently was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure.”This trial was uniquely positioned to review results of exercise training in women compared with men since we included a pre-specified analysis of women, we used the largest testing database ever acquired of women and the population was optimized with medical therapy,” said Ileana Pia, M.D., M.P.H., associate chief, Academic Affairs, Division of Cardiology, Montefiore Medical Center, professor of Medicine and Epidemiology & Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, the NHLBI-sponsored clinical trial investigator and chair of the Steering Committee. “Heart disease has a major impact on women. Our goal is for these findings to greatly impact the management of this challenging syndrome.”Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, responsible for one-in-four female deaths. Although women are twice as likely as men to develop heart failure following heart attack or cardiac ischemia, they are less often directed to complete an exercise program.Women with cardiovascular disease are largely underrepresented in past exercise research, and no large trial has previously studied the impact of exercise training on health outcomes for women with heart failure. The randomized, multicenter, international HF-ACTION (The Heart Failure — A Controlled Trial Investigating Outcomes of Exercise Training) trial included the largest cohort of women with heart failure to undergo exercise training, and examined potential gender differences that could affect physical exercise prescription.”These findings are significant because they represent important implications for clinical practice and patient behaviors,” said Dr. Pia. “Findings suggest physicians should consider exercise as a component of treatment for female patients with heart failure, as they do for male patients.”The clinical trial randomized 2,331 patients with heart failure and a left ventricular ejection fraction of less than or equal to 35 percent to either a formal exercise program plus optimal medical therapy, or to optimal medical therapy alone. Prior to randomization, patients underwent symptom-limited cardiopulmonary exercise tests to assess exercise capacity, as measured by peak oxygen uptake (VO2). …

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Cereal flake size influences calorie intake

People eat more breakfast cereal, by weight, when flake size is reduced, according to Penn State researchers, who showed that when flakes are reduced by crushing, people pour a smaller volume of cereal into their bowls, but still take a greater amount by weight and calories.”People have a really hard time judging appropriate portions,” said Barbara Rolls, professor of nutritional sciences and Helen A. Guthrie Chair in Nutrition. “On top of that you have these huge variations in volume that are due to the physical characteristics of foods, such as the size of individual pieces, aeration and how things pile up in a bowl. That adds another dimension to the difficulty of knowing how much to take and eat.”According to Rolls, national dietary guidelines define recommended amounts of most food groups in terms of measures of volume such as cups.”This can be a problem because, for most foods, the recommended amounts have not been adjusted for variations in physical properties that affect volume, such as aeration, cooking, and the size and shape of individual pieces.” Rolls said. “The food weight and energy required to fill a given volume can vary, and this variation in the energy content of recommended amounts could be a challenge to the maintenance of energy balance.”The researchers tested the influence of food volume on calorie intake by systematically reducing the flake size of a breakfast cereal with a rolling pin so that the cereal was more compact and the same weight filled a smaller volume. In a crossover design, the team recruited 41 adults to eat cereal for breakfast once a week for four weeks. The cereal was either standard wheat flakes or the same cereal crushed to reduce the volume to 80 percent, 60 percent or 40 percent of the standard. The researchers provided a constant weight of cereal in an opaque container and participants poured the amount they wanted into a bowl, added fat-free milk and non-calorie sweetener as desired and consumed as much as they wanted.The researchers reported their results in the current issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.The research showed that as flake size was reduced, subjects poured a smaller volume of cereal, but still took a significantly greater amount by weight and energy content. Despite these differences, subjects estimated that they had taken a similar number of calories of all versions of the cereal. They ate most of the cereal they took, so as flake size was reduced, breakfast energy intake increased.”When faced with decreasing volumes of cereal, the people took less cereal,” Rolls said. …

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