Overweight, obese preschoolers lose more weight when parent is also treated

Primary care treatment of overweight and obese preschoolers works better when treatment targets both parent and child compared to when only the child is targeted, according to research published this week in Pediatrics and conducted at the University at Buffalo and Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.Children enrolled in this study were overweight or obese and had one parent who participated in the study who also was overweight or obese, according to body mass index (BMI) measurements, calculated based on height and weight.During the course of the study, children who were treated concurrently with a parent experienced more appropriate weight gain while growing normally in height. Children in the intervention group gained an average of 12 pounds over 24 months compared to children in the control group who gained almost 16 pounds. This more appropriate weight accrual resulted in a decrease of 0.21 percent over BMI from baseline to 24 months.Parents in the intervention group lost an average of 14 pounds, resulting in a BMI decrease of over 2 units while the weight of parents in the control group was essentially unchanged.”Our results show that the traditional approach to overweight prevention and treatment focusing only on the child is obsolete,” says Teresa A. Quattrin, MD, senior author and UB Distinguished Professor, chair of the Department of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and pediatrician-in-chief at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.”This study is important because while we know that it is critical to begin treating overweight or obese children early, there has been limited data on what works best in preschool-aged children,” she says.The research was part of Buffalo Healthy Tots, a novel family-based, weight control intervention in preschool children that Quattrin directed in urban and suburban pediatric practices in Western New York.When funded in 2010 with a $2.6 million grant by the National Institutes of Health, Buffalo Healthy Tots was the first of its kind in the U.S. The goal was to compare traditional approaches where only the child is treated to family-based, behavioral treatment implemented in pediatric primary care practices.The study of 96 children ages 2-5 found that when overweight and obese youth and their parents were treated in a primary care setting with behavioral intervention, parents and children experienced greater decreases in body mass index (BMI) than did the children who received the traditional treatment, focusing only on the child. Weight loss for both parent and child was sustained after a 12-month followup.Quattrin notes that an important feature of the study was the use of practice enhancement assistants, trained in psychology, nutrition or exercise science. These assistants worked with the families both during treatment and education sessions and afterward by phone.The intervention was delivered through the parents, who were instructed about the appropriate number of food servings for children and appropriate calorie values. They were taught to avoid “high-energy” foods, such as those with high sugar content, more than 5 grams of fat per serving or artificial sweeteners.Parents monitored the number of servings in each food category, using a simple diary to cross off icons pertaining to the food consumed or type of physical activity performed. Parents also were taught to record their own and their child’s weight on a simple graph.Weight loss goals for children were 0.5 to 1 pound per week and for parents it was at least 1 pound per week.Quattrin says that the study results suggest that overweight or obese children and their parents can be successfully treated in the primary care setting with the assistance of practice enhancers.”Instead of the more traditional approach of referring these patients to a specialty clinic, the patient-centered medical home in the pediatrician’s office may be an ideal setting for implementing these family-based treatments,” she says.”We have entered a new era where students, trainees and specialists have to learn how to better interact with primary care providers and implement care coordination. This paper suggests that, indeed, family-based strategies for any chronic disorder, including obesity, can be successful in primary care. …

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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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Antidepressants during pregnancy linked to preterm birth

Antidepressant medications taken by pregnant women are associated with increased rates of preterm birth. This finding reinforces the notion that antidepressants should not be used by pregnant women in the absence of a clear need that cannot be met through alternative approaches, say researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Vanderbilt University, MetroWest Medical Center and Tufts Medical Center.”Preterm birth is a major clinical problem throughout the world and rates have been increasing over the past two decades. At the same time, rates of antidepressant use during pregnancy have increased approximately four-fold,” says lead author Krista Huybrechts, MS PhD, from the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “Therefore it is essential to determine what effects these medications have on pregnancy.”Huybrechts and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies that evaluated women who took antidepressants during pregnancy and had information on gestational age at birth. The results appear online in the journal PLOS ONE.”We studied 41 papers on this topic and found that the available scientific evidence is becoming clearer that antidepressant use in pregnancy is associated with preterm birth,” says senior author Adam Urato, MD, a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist at Tufts Medical Center and MetroWest Medical Center. “The complication of preterm birth did not appear to be due to the maternal depression but rather it appears likely to be a medication effect.””Several of the studies in this review controlled for maternal depression and these studies continued to show increased rates of preterm birth in the antidepressant exposed pregnancies,” adds Reesha Shah Sanghani MD, MPH, from Vanderbilt University.”It is important to keep in mind, however, that the issue of treatment of depression during pregnancy is complex and that there are many factors to consider. Pregnant women and their providers need to weigh many issues,” says Urato. “It is crucial, though, that the public gets accurate information on this topic.”Rates of preterm birth have been increasing over the past two decades and it is a major public health concern. Children born preterm have higher infant mortality rates than full-term babies and surviving infants are at increased risk of health problems ranging from neurodevelopmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy and intellectual delays to other chronic health problems like asthma. Costs to society have been estimated to be as high as $26.2 billion per year in the US.Of the 41 studies which the authors reviewed, the majority showed increased rates of preterm birth in patients taking antidepressants. …

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Coal plant closure in China led to improvements in children’s health

Decreased exposure to air pollution in utero is linked with improved childhood developmental scores and higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a key protein for brain development, according to a study looking at the closure of a coal-burning power plant in China led by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health.The study is the first to assess BDNF and cognitive development with respect to prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), a component of air pollution commonly emitted from coal burning. Results appear online in the journal PLOS ONE.The 2004 closure of a coal-burning power plant in Tongliang, China provided the opportunity to investigate the benefits to development and the impacts on BDNF associated with decreased levels of exposure to PAH. This study has linked decreases in air pollution with decreased levels of PAH-DNA adducts in cord blood, a biological marker of exposure, and reported an association between PAH exposure and adverse developmental outcomes in children born before the plant closure. Currently, coal-fired power plants produce more than 70% of China’s electricity.Deliang Tang, MD, DrPH, and his colleagues followed two groups of mother-child pairs from pregnancy into early childhood. One of the groups was made up of mothers pregnant while the coal power plant was still open and the other after it closed. Developmental delay was determined using a standardized test, the Gesell Developmental Schedule (GDS), which was adapted for the Chinese population. The GDS assesses children in four areas: motor skills, learned behaviors, language, and social adaptation.The researchers found that, as hypothesized, decreased PAH exposure resulting from the power plant closure was associated with both increased BDNF levels and increased developmental scores. PAH-DNA adducts were significantly lower in the babies born after the coal power plant shutdown as compared to those born before the closure, indicating a meaningful exposure reduction. Moreover, the researchers found that the mean level of BDNF was higher among children born after the closure of the power plant. The impacts of PAH exposure and BDNF on developmental scores was also analyzed considering all the children, including both the pre- and post-closure groups. …

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Guns Loom Large in Childhood Death Statistics

You can’t go more than a couple of months without seeing another news headline about a school shooting, or a shooting incident involving a child. While these stories are shocking, school shootings account for only a small number of the gun-related injuries and fatalities that children suffer every year as a result of gunshots. In fact, most gun injuries happen in the home and at the hands of other children who had no intention of hurting anybody.Children and Gun DeathsAccording to a recent study presented to a conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, over 500 children die every year from gunshot wounds. That number represents a 60 percent increase in a single decade. Handguns, by far, account for the most injuries and deaths. Over 80 percent of all children who are injured by firearms suffer injuries inflicted by handguns.The study looked at data compiled between 1997 and 2009. In 1997, 4,270 children under the age of 20 suffered a gunshot injury. By 2009, that number increase to 7,730, a jump of about 55 percent. Further, 317 children died of gunshot injuries in 1997, while 503 died of such injuries in 2009.Disproportionate DangerOther studies have shown that gunshots pose a disproportionately high fatality risk to children. Even though gunshot wounds account for only 1% of the total number of injuries children suffer each year, they account for 21% of deaths that result from childhood injury.When a child is shot, that child has a 32% chance of requiring major surgery. …

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Parents should try to find middle ground to keep teens safe online

Parents might take a lesson from Goldilocks and find a balanced approach to guide their teens in making moral, safe online decisions, according to Penn State researchers.In a study on parenting strategies and online adolescent safety, the researchers found evidence that suggests that parents should try to establish a middle ground between keeping their teens completely away from the internet not monitoring their online activities at all.”It’s a Goldilocks problem,” said Pamela Wisniewski, a postdoctoral scholar in information sciences and technology. “Overly restrictive parents limit the positive online experiences a teen can have, but overly permissive parents aren’t putting the right types of demands on their children to make good choices.”Active mediation and monitoring online behavior, not blanket rules, may be a better strategy.”Parents should have some level of monitoring their teens online usage, but not necessarily in a covert way because that may create trust problems, ” said Wisniewski, who works with Mary Beth Rosson, professor; John M. Carroll, Distinguished Professor and Heng Xu, associate professor, all of information sciences and technology.Ideally, parents would start to work with their teens to guide their moral development in making decisions about online behavior when their children are young. The earlier the better, according to Wisniewski.”By the time they are age 16 or 17, it’s probably too late to jump in and start to intervene,” said Wisniewski.Parents who learn more about technology can better guide their children, according to the researchers, who presented their findings at the recent Computer Supported Cooperative Work conference in Baltimore.”Our analysis also suggests that parents’ level of digital literacy moderates their mediation strategies,” the researchers noted. “Parents who knew more about technology tended to be more actively engaged in their teens’ online behaviors while parents who were less technically inclined tended to be more in favor of restricting how their teens engaged with others online.”The researchers studied the parenting styles and mediation strategies of 12 pairs of parents and their teen children, who ranged in age from 13 to 17. They interviewed the children and parents separately about online activities such as illegal downloading, cyber bullying and identity theft.The researchers assessed responses to 270 statements on moral behavior based on a common six-staged chart of moral development used by psychologists. They also analyzed 555 parental statements that indicated their parenting and mediation styles, from authoritarian with active mediation to indulgent with little mediation.Most of the younger teens were more compliant to parents — considered stage one of the moral development scale — while older teens tended to make moral decisions by weighing personal rewards and punishment — a second stage strategy on the scale.The researchers are currently conducting a study with a larger group of parents and teens. Eventually, these studies could help software designers create online monitoring software that helps parents actively engage with their teens in developing moral guidelines for online behavior, as opposed to just imposing restrictions on teens’ online activities.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. The original article was written by Matt Swayne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Future generations could inherit drug and alcohol use

Parents who use alcohol, marijuana, and drugs have higher frequencies of children who pick up their habits, according to a study from Sam Houston State University.The study, “Intergenerational Continuity of Substance Use,” found that when compared to parents who did not use substances, parents who used alcohol, marijuana, and other illicit drugs were significantly more likely to have children who used those same drugs. Specifically, the odds of children’s alcohol use were five times higher if their parents used alcohol; the odds of children’s marijuana use were two times higher if their parents used marijuana; and the odds of children’s other drug use were two times higher if their parent used other drugs. Age and other demographic factors also were important predictors of substance use.”The study is rare in that it assesses the extent to which parent’s substance use predicts use by their children within age-equivalent and developmentally-specific stages of the life course,” said Dr. Kelly Knight of the College Criminal Justice’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. “If a parent uses drugs, will their children grow up and use drugs? When did the parent use and when did their children use? There appears to be an intergenerational relationship. The effect is not as strong as one might believe from popular discourse, but when you measure it by developmental stage, it can provide important information on its impact in adolescence and early adulthood, specifically.”The study examined the patterns of substance use by families over a 27-year period. It documents substance use over time, giving a more complete understanding of when substance use occurs, when it declines, and the influence of parents in the process.According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2011, about 22.6 million Americans age 12 years and older said they used illicit drugs in the last month. Other studies show that drug use is associated with reduced academic achievement, lower employment rates, poorer health, dependency on public assistance, neighborhood disorganization, and an increase in the likelihood of involvement in crime, criminal victimization and incarceration. …

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Children’s Sleep: what is your routine? (Zarbee’s Coupon)

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Zarbee’s Naturals. I received product samples and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.With daylight saving time hitting us hard last week (seriously, ugh.), the entire house has had trouble sleeping and getting back on schedule. I actually think our 2-year-old handled it the best. Our 4-year-old just couldn’t get to bed “earlier” and with the time change, that meant he was staying up late and sleeping in. That first Monday? Ryan slept in until 8:20am and we had to leave for school by 8:40, eek! It’s so hard to wake a sleeping babe though!How did your family make it out of the daylight saving drama? Did it take …

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Ivy is 11 months old!

Eric, Ivy and I just arrived in Seattle last night to visit my sister and to go to the AWP conference, while my mom watches the other kids. It’s the first time we’ve left our children and gone somewhere together. I’m looking forward to good food, warmer (if wetter) weather, lots of fun sight-seeing, and best of all one-on-one time with Ivy during the day. Thanks to all my blog readers who sent in suggestions of things to do! She does this funny scrunchy thing with her face when she smiles Having only one child is SO EASY in comparison to four. Only one little person to get dressed and feed and clean up after and buckle into carseats/strollers and get in and …

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The rise of spring allergies: Fact or fiction?

The spring 2014 allergy season could be the worst yet, or at least that is what you might hear. Every year is coined as being the worst for allergy sufferers, but are spring allergies really on the rise?”A number of factors, such as weather patterns, predict how intense the spring allergy season will be,” said allergist Michael Foggs, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “While allergies are on the rise, affecting more and more Americans every year, each spring isn’t necessarily worse than the last.”According to ACAAI, 23.6 million Americans were diagnosed with hay fever in the last year. The prevalence of allergies is surging upward, with as many as 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children having at least one allergy.”With more people being affected by seasonal allergies, it may seem like every year is the worst yet for sufferers,” said Dr. Foggs. “But in reality, there might just be more people complaining about symptoms.”Following are factors that influence the severity of allergy season, along with some explanations about why more Americans are being diagnosed with allergies.• Climate Change – Recent studies have shown pollen levels gradually increase every year. Part of the reason for this is due to the changing climate. The warmer temperatures and mild winters cause plants to begin producing and releasing pollen earlier, making the spring allergy season longer. Rain can promote plant and pollen growth, while wind accompanying rainfall can stir pollen and mold into the air, heightening symptoms. The climate is not only responsible for making the allergy season longer and symptoms more bothersome, but may also be partially to blame for the rise in allergy sufferers.• Priming Effect – A mild winter can trigger an early release of pollen from trees. …

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Preschoolers can outsmart college students at figuring out gizmos

Preschoolers can be smarter than college students at figuring out how unusual toys and gadgets work because they’re more flexible and less biased than adults in their ideas about cause and effect, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Edinburgh.The findings suggest that technology and innovation can benefit from the exploratory learning and probabilistic reasoning skills that come naturally to young children, many of whom are learning to use smartphones even before they can tie their shoelaces. The findings also build upon the researchers’ efforts to use children’s cognitive smarts to teach machines to learn in more human ways.”As far as we know, this is the first study examining whether children can learn abstract cause and effect relationships, and comparing them to adults,” said UC Berkeley developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik, senior author of the paper published online in the journal, Cognition.Using a game they call “Blickets,” the researchers looked at how 106 preschoolers (aged 4 and 5) and 170 college undergrads figured out a gizmo that works in an unusual way. They did this by placing clay shapes (cubes, pyramids, cylinders, etc), on a red-topped box to see which of the widgets — individually or in combination — could light up the box and play music. The shapes that activated the machine were called “blickets.”What separated the young players from the adult players was their response to changing evidence in the blicket demonstrations. For example, unusual combinations could make the machine go, and children caught on to that rule, while the adults tended to focus on which individual blocks activated the machine even in the face of changing evidence.”The kids got it. They figured out that the machine might work in this unusual way and so that you should put both blocks on together. But the best and brightest students acted as if the machine would always follow the common and obvious rule, even when we showed them that it might work differently,” wrote Gopnik in her forthcoming column in The Wall Street Journal.Overall, the youngsters were more likely to entertain unlikely possibilities to figure out “blicketness.” This confirmed the researchers’ hypothesis that preschoolers and kindergartners instinctively follow Bayesian logic, a statistical model that draws inferences by calculating the probability of possible outcomes.”One big question, looking forward, is what makes children more flexible learners — are they just free from the preconceptions that adults have, or are they fundamentally more flexible or exploratory in how they see the world?” said Christopher Lucas, lead author of the paper and a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. “Regardless, children have a lot to teach us about learning.”Other co-authors of the study are Thomas Griffiths and Sophie Bridgers of the UC Berkeley Department of Psychology.A new study shows children can sometimes outsmart grownups when it comes to figuring out how gadgets work because they’re less biased in their ideas about cause and effect. (Video by Roxanne Majasdjian and Philip Ebiner) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHQ0DemKcEAStory Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of California – Berkeley. The original article was written by Yasmin Anwar. …

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Passive smoking causes irreversible damage to children’s arteries

Exposure to passive smoking in childhood causes irreversible damage to the structure of children’s arteries, according to a study published online today in the European Heart Journal.The thickening of the arteries’ walls associated with being exposed to parents’ smoke, means that these children will be at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes in later life. The researchers from Tasmania, Australia and Finland say that exposure to both parents smoking in childhood adds an extra 3.3 years to the age of blood vessels when the children reach adulthood.The study is the first to follow children through to adulthood in order to examine the association between exposure to parental smoking and increased carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) — a measurement of the thickness of the innermost two layers of the arterial wall — in adulthood. It adds further strength to the arguments for banning smoking in areas where children may be present, such as cars.The study was made up of 2401 participants in the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study, which started in 1980, and 1375 participants in the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study, which started in 1985 in Australia. The children were aged between three and 18 at the start of the studies. The researchers asked questions about parents smoking habits and they used ultrasound to measure the thickness of the children’s artery walls once they had reached adulthood.The researchers found that carotid IMT in adulthood was 0.015 mm thicker in those exposed to both parents smoking than in those whose parents did not smoke, increasing from an average of 0.637 mm to 0.652 mm.”Our study shows that exposure to passive smoke in childhood causes a direct and irreversible damage to the structure of the arteries. Parents, or even those thinking about becoming parents, should quit smoking. This will not only restore their own health but also protect the health of their children into the future,” said Dr Seana Gall, a research fellow in cardiovascular epidemiology at the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania and the University of Tasmania.”While the differences in artery thickness are modest, it is important to consider that they represent the independent effect of a single measure of exposure — that is, whether or not the parents smoked at the start of the studies — some 20 years earlier in a group already at greater risk of heart disease. For example, those with both parents smoking were more likely, as adults, to be smokers or overweight than those whos parents didn’t smoke.”The results took account of other factors that could explain the association such as education, the children’s smoking habits, physical activity, body mass index, alcohol consumption and biological cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels in adulthood.Interestingly, the study did not show an effect if only one parent smoked. “We think that the effect was only apparent with both parents smoking because of the greater overall dose of smoke these children were exposed to,” said Dr Gall. “We can speculate that the smoking behaviour of someone in a house with a single adult smoking is different. …

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Majority of children unaware of cigarette warning labels, international study shows

An international study of children’s perceptions of cigarette package warning labels found that the majority of children are unaware that they exist. Children in countries where larger warning labels are used, and which include a compelling graphic image of the negative health impacts of smoking, were more likely to be aware of and understand the health risks of tobacco products.The study, led by Dina Borzekowski, Ed.D, in the University of Maryland School of Public Health (UMD SPH), and Joanna Cohen, PhD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH), showed that only 38% of children had any awareness of warning labels currently being featured on cigarette packages. Even after showing warning labels to participating children, around two-thirds (62%) of the children were unable to explain what the health warnings were about. Among the six countries studied, awareness and understanding of health warning labels was greatest among children in Brazil, where graphic warning labels, often featuring extremely gruesome pictures, have been featured since 2002 and cover 100% of either the front or back of the cigarette package.Their findings, published in the Journal of Public Health, offer data from a sample of 2,423 five and six year-old children interviewed in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia about their awareness and understanding of cigarette health warning labels.”Pro-smoking messages are reaching the world’s most susceptible audiences,” explains Dr. Borzekowski, research professor in the UMD SPH Department of Behavioral and Community Health. “We need to do a better job globally to reach children with anti-smoking messages. To do this, health warning messages should be big and clear, especially for low-literacy populations, children and young people.” According to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), tobacco product packages and labeling should effectively communicate the health risks associated with tobacco use, and that the effectiveness of these health warnings and messages increases with their prominence and with the use of pictures.This new study follows recent work by Borzekowski and Cohen published in the journal Pediatrics in October 2013. The earlier piece, drawn from the same sample of five and six year olds, provided evidence that young children recognize cigarette brands. More than two-thirds could identify cigarette brand logos, with the highest percentages in the sample from China (86% could identify at least one brand).In contrast to the higher awareness among children in Brazil, where tobacco warning labels and large and graphic, awareness and understanding of health warning labels was lowest among children from Indian and Nigeria. The Indian warning label shows an image of a symbolic scorpion and the Nigerian warning label uses only a vague text message (“The Federal Ministry of Health warns that smokers are liable to die young.”)”Heath warning labels on cigarette packs are an important medium for communicating about the serious health effects caused by tobacco products,” said Dr. …

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DNA test better than standard screens in identifying fetal chromosome abnormalities

A study in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine potentially has significant implications for prenatal testing for major fetal chromosome abnormalities. The study found that in a head-to-head comparison of noninvasive prenatal testing using cell free DNA (cfDNA) to standard screening methods, cfDNA testing (verifi prenatal test, Illumina, Inc.) significantly reduced the rate of false positive results and had significantly higher positive predictive values for the detection of fetal trisomies 21 and 18.A team of scientists, led by Diana W. Bianchi, MD, Executive Director of the Mother Infant Research Institute at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, reports the results of their clinical trial using non-invasive cell-free DNA prenatal testing in a general obstetrical population of pregnant women, in an article entitled “DNA sequencing versus standard prenatal aneuploidy screening.”The multi-center, blinded study analyzed samples from 1,914 pregnant women, and found that noninvasive cfDNA testing had a ten-fold improvement in the positive predictive value for trisomy 21, commonly known as Down syndrome, compared to standard prenatal aneuploidy screening methods (aneuploidy is a term for one or more extra or missing chromosomes). Importantly, the cfDNA test performed consistently well in a general population of pregnant women, regardless of their risk for fetal chromosomal abnormalities. Previous studies have shown that the tests were more accurate for women who had higher risks for fetal chromosomal abnormalities, but this was the first time that the cfDNA tests were compared in a general obstetrical population to the variety of blood and ultrasound tests that comprise the current standard of care in the United States.”We found that the major advantage of noninvasive prenatal DNA testing was the significant reduction of the false positive rate,” said Bianchi. “Prenatal testing using cell-free DNA as a primary screen could eliminate the need for many of the invasive diagnostic procedures (such as amniocentesis) that are performed to confirm a positive screen.”Prenatal screening for fetal aneuploidy is recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as part of routine prenatal care. Researchers compared current standard noninvasive aneuploidy testing techniques — serum biochemical assays and nuchal translucency measurements using ultrasound — with a noninvasive, cell-free DNA test. Serum biochemical assays identify biomarkers for chromosomal abnormalities while nuchal translucency measurements use ultrasound examinations to measure the thickness of a space at the back of the baby’s neck. With Down syndrome, more fluid is present, making the space appear thicker. Cell-free DNA testing works by mapping and counting DNA fragments in a mother’s blood sample and comparing the measurements to normal reference samples. …

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Continuous handling of receipts linked to higher urine BPA levels

Study participants who handled receipts printed on thermal paper continuously for 2 hours without gloves had an increase in urine bisphenol A (BPA) concentrations compared to when they wore gloves, according to a study in the February 26 issue of JAMA.Human exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) has been associated with adverse health outcomes, including reproductive function in adults and neurodevelopment in children exposed shortly before or after birth. “Exposure to BPA is primarily through dietary ingestion, including consumption of canned foods. A less-studied source of exposure is thermal receipt paper, handled daily by many people at supermarkets, ATM machines, gas stations, and other settings,” according to background information in the article. Thermal paper has a coating that is sensitive to heat, which is used in the process of printing on the paper, and has been shown to be transferred to skin with handling.Shelley Ehrlich, M.D., Sc.D., M.P.H., of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and colleagues conducted a study to examine the effect of handling thermal receipts on urine BPA levels. The authors recruited 24 volunteers who provided urine samples before and after handling (with or without gloves) of receipts printed on thermal paper for a continuous two hours. BPA was detected in 83 percent (n = 20) of urine samples at the beginning of the study and in 100 percent of samples after handling receipts without gloves. The researchers observed an increase in urinary BPA concentrations after continuously handling receipts for 2 hours without gloves, but no significant increase when the participants used gloves.The clinical implications of the height of the peak level and of chronic exposure are unknown, but may be particularly relevant to populations with occupational exposure such as cashiers, who handle receipts 40 or more hours per week, the authors write. “A larger study is needed to confirm our findings and evaluate the clinical implications.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by The JAMA Network Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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5 ways to help motivate an inactive child

Learn more about Herbalife – Follow @Herbalife on Twitter- Like Herbalife on Facebook- What is Herbalife? More fitness advice – Watch ‘Fit Tips’ Videos on YouTube- Straightforward exercise advice- Get fit = be happy. Positivity advice Nutrition advice for you – Watch ‘Healthy Living’ on YouTube- Dieting advice you might like- Interesting weight loss articles Copyright © 2013 Herbalife International of America, Inc.

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Pregnancy study for overweight women leads to fewer high birth weight babies

The world’s biggest study offering healthy eating and exercise advice to pregnant women who are overweight or obese has shown a significant reduction in the number of babies born over 4kg (8.8 pounds) in weight.The LIMIT Study, led by researchers from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Institute and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, involved more than 2200 pregnant women from 2008-2011.In the first major results from the LIMIT Study, published this week in the British Medical Journal, the researchers say that providing advice and assistance to adopt a healthy diet and regular exercise during pregnancy has led to an 18% reduction in the chance of a baby being born over 4kg.”This is a very important finding,” says the lead author of the study, Professor Jodie Dodd from the University’s Robinson Institute and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.”We know that babies who are born over 4kg have a two-fold increased risk of being overweight or obese as children, which often carries into later life, bringing with it a range of health concerns such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. So we’re pleased to see that the study has led to a significant reduction in the risk of a baby being born over 4kg.Professor Dodd says overweight and obesity during pregnancy are common, affecting approximately 50% of women, and until now there has been little evidence about the benefit of dietary and lifestyle interventions on clinical outcomes in this group of women.About half of the women who took part in the study were provided with dietary and lifestyle advice promoting healthy eating and exercise, consistent with current Australian recommendations. The remaining women continued to receive routine antenatal care.”Our focus was on providing simple, practical lifestyle advice that is very achievable in the real world. It wasn’t about going on a diet, but focused on healthy eating and increasing activity levels on a daily basis,” Professor Dodd says.”There were no differences in the amount of weight women gained during pregnancy between the two study groups. It will be very important to look in more detail at the changes women have made to their diet and physical activity, and that will be the subject of a future paper.”This study has been funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The full paper can be found at the British Medical Journal website.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Adelaide. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Growing number of chemicals linked with brain disorders in children

Toxic chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neurodevelopmental disabilities among children — such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dyslexia — according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The researchers say a new global prevention strategy to control the use of these substances is urgently needed.The report will be published online February 15, 2014 in Lancet Neurology.”The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis. They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes,” said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH.The report follows up on a similar review conducted by the authors in 2006 that identified five industrial chemicals as “developmental neurotoxicants,” or chemicals that can cause brain deficits. The new study offers updated findings about those chemicals and adds information on six newly recognized ones, including manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos and DDT (pesticides), tetrachloroethylene (a solvent), and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants).The study outlines possible links between these newly recognized neurotoxicants and negative health effects on children, including:Manganese is associated with diminished intellectual function and impaired motor skills Solvents are linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior Certain types of pesticides may cause cognitive delays Grandjean and co-author Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai, also forecast that many more chemicals than the known dozen or so identified as neurotoxicants contribute to a “silent pandemic” of neurobehavioral deficits that is eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, and damaging societies. But controlling this pandemic is difficult because of a scarcity of data to guide prevention and the huge amount of proof needed for government regulation. “Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity,” they write.The authors say it’s crucial to control the use of these chemicals to protect children’s brain development worldwide. They propose mandatory testing of industrial chemicals and the formation of a new international clearinghouse to evaluate industrial chemicals for potential developmental neurotoxicity.”The problem is international in scope, and the solution must therefore also be international,” said Grandjean. “We have the methods in place to test industrial chemicals for harmful effects on children’s brain development — now is the time to make that testing mandatory.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Early childhood education can pay big rewards to families, society

High quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children can simultaneously reduce inequality and boost productivity in America, contends James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and one of the nation’s leading experts on early childhood education.”With the global rise in income inequality, children born into disadvantaged environments are at much greater risk of being unskilled and facing many obstacles in life — which is bad for individuals and bad for societies,” said Heckman, who delivered a talk “Giving Kids a Fair Chance Early in Life: A Strategy that Works” on Feb. 14 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual meeting in Chicago.He pointed out that economic and socially related gaps in cognitive and non-cognitive skills emerge early, and can be traced in part to adverse early environments.”With smart policies we can arrest the polarization between skilled and unskilled, focusing on early years when change is possible,” he said. Strong early childhood education programs can help overcome the gaps and help children become better prepared for success in life, he said.Heckman spoke at a seminar titled “Talking to Kids Really Matters: Early Language Experience Shapes Later Life Chances.” At the session, scholars discussed the importance of verbal engagement by caretakers in the development of children’s language and cognitive abilities.Researchers have found that the timing, quality and quantity of talking with children are crucial to the development of language and cognitive abilities. In one study, some mothers spoke many thousands of words a day to children, while another spoke only 600 words to her infant over a 10-hour day, organizers of the seminar pointed out.The gap reduces the children’s vocabularies and undermines their performance in school, scholars contend. Early childhood education programs can make up for some of the differences.Heckman has studied extensively early childhood programs, including the Perry Preschool Project and the Abecedarian Project, and found that they were especially effective in helping children from disadvantaged families succeed in school and later in life.When the oldest participants were studied (at age 40 for the Perry program and age 35 for Abecedarian), the people who received services when they were younger scored higher on achievement tests, attained higher levels of education, required less special education, earned higher wages, had better physical health, were more likely to own a home, and were less likely to go on welfare or be incarcerated than other children from similar backgrounds.Non-cognitive skills, which can be fostered at an early age, are as important in the children’s futures as are academic preparation, Heckman said. Those skills include perseverance, attentiveness, motivation, and self-confidence. Those skills help students perform better in school and later on jobs, he has found.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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