When mothers are active so are their children — but many mothers are not

Parents are strong influences in the lives of young children, with patterns of behaviour established in the early years laying the foundation for future choices. A new study suggests that, when it comes to levels of physical activity, it is mothers who set (or don’t set) the pace.An analysis of the physical activity levels of more than 500 mothers and pre-schoolers, assessed using activity monitors to produce accurate data, found that the amount of activity that a mother and her child did each day was closely related. Overall, maternal activity levels were strikingly low: only 53% of mothers engaged in 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at least once a week. The UK Government recommends achieving 150 minutes of at least ‘moderate intensity physical activity’ (such as brisk walking) over the week as one of the ways of achieving its physical activity guidelines.The results of the study are published in the journal Pediatrics on 24 March 2014. The paper ‘Activity Levels in Mothers and Their Preschool Children’ suggests that, given the link between mothers and young children, policies to improve children’s health should be directed to whole families and seek to engage mothers in particular.The research was overseen by Dr Esther van Sluijs at the MRC Epidemiology Unit and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research, University of Cambridge, and led by Kathryn Hesketh (formerly of Cambridge and now UCL), in collaboration with researchers at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton.The study is the first to show a direct association in a large sample of mothers and children, both fitted with activity monitors at the same time. It shows that young children are not ‘just naturally active’ and that parents have an important role to play in the development of healthy activity habits early on in life. The research also provides important evidence for policy makers to inform programmes that promote physical activity in families with young children. Its findings suggest that all family members can benefit from such efforts.It is well established that physical activity is closely linked to health and disease prevention. Research shows that active mothers appear to have active school-aged children, who are in turn more likely than their less active peers to have good health outcomes. However, there has been little large-scale research into the association between the activity of mothers and that of preschool-aged children or about the demographic and temporal factors that influence activity levels in mothers of young children.The research published in the Pediatrics paper drew on data obtained from 554 women and their four-year-old children who are participants in the Southampton Women’s Survey, devised and run by the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit. …

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Link between missing DNA, birth defects confirmed

In 2010, scientists in Italy reported that a woman and her daughter showed a puzzling array of disabilities, including epilepsy and cleft palate. The mother had previously lost a 15-day-old son to respiratory failure, and the research team noted that the mother and daughter were missing a large chunk of DNA on their X chromosome. But the researchers were unable to definitively show that the problems were tied to that genetic deletion.Now a team from the University of Pennsylvania and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has confirmed that those patients’ ailments resulted from the genetic anomaly. Creating mice that lacked the same region of DNA, the Penn and CHOP researchers showed that these animals suffered the same problems that afflicted the mother, daughter and son — cleft palate, epilepsy and respiratory difficulties, a condition called human Xq22.1 deletion syndrome. And, by clarifying the syndrome’s genetic basis, the researchers have laid the foundation for identifying the underlying molecular mechanism of these troubles and potentially treating them at their biological root.”This study has demonstrated that deleting this region in mice causes them to respond like humans with the same deletion,” said P. Jeremy Wang, senior author on the study and professor in the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Animal Biology. “Now that we have a mouse model, we can dissect and try to genetically pinpoint which genes are responsible.”Wang co-led the study with his postdoctoral researcher Jian Zhou. Additional coauthors included Penn Vet’s N. Adrian Leu and CHOP’s Ethan Goldberg, Lei Zhou and Douglas Coulter.The study appears in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.To investigate the effects of missing this portion of DNA, more than 1 million base pairs long, the Penn team crossed existing mice that had particular deletions in their DNA to create a mouse that lacked the entire stretch that the human patients were missing. They quickly observed that all male mice died at birth due to respiratory failure. …

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Mother’s diet linked to premature birth: fruits, vegetables linked to reduced risk of preterm delivery

Pregnant women who eat a “prudent” diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and who drink water have a significantly reduced risk of preterm delivery, suggests a study published on bmj.com today. A “traditional” dietary pattern of boiled potatoes, fish and cooked vegetables was also linked to a significantly lower risk.Although these findings cannot establish causality, they support dietary advice to pregnant women to eat a balanced diet including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and fish and to drink water.Preterm delivery (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) is associated with significant short and long term ill-health and accounts for almost 75% of all newborn deaths.Evidence shows that a mother’s dietary habits can directly affect her unborn child, so researchers based in Sweden, Norway and Iceland set out to examine whether a link exists between maternal diet and preterm delivery.Using data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, they analyzed preterm births among 66,000 women between 2002 and 2008.To be included, participants had to be free of diabetes, have delivered a live single baby, and completed a validated food frequency questionnaire on dietary habits during the first four to five months of pregnancy.Factors that may have affected the results (known as confounding), including a mother’s age, history of preterm delivery and education were taken into account. Preterm delivery was defined as delivery between 22 and <37 weeks of pregnancy.</p>The researchers identified three distinct dietary patterns, interpreted as “prudent” (vegetables, fruits, oils, water as a beverage, whole grain cereals, poultry, fibre rich bread), “Western” (salty and sweet snacks, white bread, desserts, processed meat products), and “traditional” (potatoes, fish, gravy, cooked vegetables, low fat milk).Among the 66,000 pregnant women, preterm delivery occurred in 3,505 (5.3%) cases.After adjusting for several confounding factors, the team found that an overall “prudent” dietary pattern was associated with a significantly reduced risk of preterm delivery, especially among women having their first baby, as well as spontaneous and late preterm delivery.They also found a significantly reduced risk of preterm delivery for the “traditional” dietary pattern. However, the “Western” dietary pattern was not independently associated with preterm delivery.This indicates that increasing the intake of foods associated with a prudent dietary pattern is more important than totally excluding processed food, fast food, junk food, and snacks, say the authors.They stress that a direct (causal) link cannot be drawn from the results, but say the findings suggest that “diet matters for the risk of preterm delivery, which may reassure medical practitioners that the current dietary recommendations are sound but also inspire them to pay more attention to dietary counselling.”These findings are important, as prevention of preterm delivery is of major importance in modern obstetrics. They also indicate that preterm delivery might actually be modified by maternal diet, they conclude.In an accompanying editorial, Professor Lucilla Poston at King’s College London, says healthy eating in pregnancy is always a good idea.She points to several studies that have proposed the benefit of a diet rich in fruit and/or vegetables in prevention of premature birth, and says health professionals “would therefore be well advised to reinforce the message that pregnant women eat a healthy diet.”

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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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Premature infants benefit from adult talk, study shows

Research led by a team at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University has been published in the February 10, 2014 online edition of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.The research indicates that premature babies benefit from being exposed to adult talk as early as possible.The research, entitled “Adult Talk in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) with Preterm Infants and Developmental Outcomes,” was led by Betty Vohr, MD, director of Women & Infants’ Neonatal Follow-Up Program and professor of pediatrics, along with her colleagues Melinda Caskey, MD, neonatologist and assistant professor of pediatrics; Bonnie Stephens, MD, neonatologist, developmental and behavioral pediatrician, and assistant professor of pediatrics; and Richard Tucker, BA, senior research data analyst.The goal of the study was to test the association of the amount of talking that a baby was exposed to at what would have been 32 and 36 weeks gestation if a baby had been born full term, using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd Edition (Bayley — III) cognitive and language scores.It was hypothesized that preterm infants exposed to higher word counts would have higher cognitive and language scores at seven and 18 months corrected age.”Our earlier study identified that extremely premature infants vocalize (make sounds) eight weeks before their mother’s due date and vocalize more when their mothers are present in the NICU than when they are cared for by NICU staff,” explained Dr. Vohr.At 32 weeks and 36 weeks, staff recorded the NICU environment for 16 hours with a Language Environment Analysis (LENA) microprocessor. The adult word count, child vocalizations and “conversation turns” (words of mother or vocalizations of infant within five seconds) between mother and infant are recorded and analyzed by computer.”The follow-up of these infants has revealed that the adult word count to which infants are exposed in the NICU at 32 and 36 weeks predicts their language and cognitive scores at 18 months. Every increase by 100 adult words per hour during the 32 week LENA recording was associated with a two point increase in the language score at 18 months,” said Dr. Vohr.The results showed the hypothesis to be true. Dr. Vohr concluded, “Our study demonstrates the powerful impact of parents visiting and talking to their infants in the NICU on their developmental outcomes. Historically, very premature infants are at increased risk of language delay.The study now identifies an easy to implement and cost effective intervention — come talk and sing to your baby — to improve outcomes.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Women & Infants Hospital. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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In-hospital formula use deters breastfeeding

When mothers feed their newborns formula in the hospital, they are less likely to fully breastfeed their babies in the second month of life and more likely to quit breastfeeding early, even if they had hoped to breastfeed longer, UC Davis researchers have found.”We are a step closer to showing that giving formula in the hospital can cause problems by reducing how much women breastfeed later,” says Caroline Chantry, lead author and professor of clinical pediatrics at UC Davis Medical Center. “Despite being highly motivated to breastfeed their babies, in-hospital formula use limits this important practice. Given the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby, this is a public health issue.””In-Hospital Formula Use Shortens Breastfeeding Duration” was published online in The Journal of Pediatrics today. The study only included women who intended to exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least a week, meaning they did not plan to use formula in the hospital.While previous studies have examined the relationship between formula use and breastfeeding, some have questioned the results, wondering if mothers using formula were simply less committed to breastfeeding. To examine this objection, the UC Davis team surveyed expectant mothers to determine their intentions toward breastfeeding and then followed them closely after delivery to see how they fared.In the study, 210 babies were exclusively breastfed in the hospital (UC Davis Medical Center), while 183 received at least some formula. Over the next two months, breastfeeding dropped dramatically in the formula group. Between the first and second month, 68 percent of the babies receiving in-hospital formula were not fully breastfed, compared to 37 percent of babies who were exclusively breastfed in the hospital. After two months, 33 percent of the formula babies were not being breastfed at all. By contrast, only 10 percent of the hospital breastfed group had stopped breastfeeding.Perhaps most significant, in-hospital formula feeding dramatically reduced the likelihood of later fully breastfeeding as well as any breastfeeding, even after adjusting for the strength of the mothers’ intention to continue these practices. Early formula use nearly doubled the risk of formula use from the first to the second month and nearly tripled the risk of ending all breastfeeding by the end of the second month.The study also found that breastfeeding deterrence was dose dependent. …

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Christian Olsen and Michael Bradley – 2 young guys battling mesothelioma

Both Christian and Michael are brave mesothelioma warriors who both live in the USA. Michael is 29 years of age and Christian has just celebrated his 34th birthday with his wife Lisa and their 2 small children.Michael is at home after a few days in hospital to get his pain under control. He is doing it tough at the moment – however he know has his own wheelchair and is getting out during the day to his favourite places with family and friends – there is no tying Michael to his bed!(This link below is for Michael’s facebook page)https://www.facebook.com/groups/315461631836891/?fref=tsChristian is due to start chemotherapy tomorrow morning cisplatin/alimta. I have been speaking with him today and he has been asking relevant questions that I …

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Fewer than half of women attend recommended doctors visits after childbirth

Medical associations widely recommend that women visit their obstetricians and primary care doctors shortly after giving birth, but slightly fewer than half make or keep those postpartum appointments, according to a study by Johns Hopkins researchers.The researchers found that women with pregnancy complications were more likely to see a doctor post-delivery, but overall, visit rates were low.”Women need to understand the importance of a six-week visit to the obstetrician — not only to address concerns and healing after delivery, but also to follow up on possible future health risks, review the pregnancy and make the transition to primary care,” says Wendy Bennett, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and the lead researcher for the study, described online last week in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. “Women with pregnancy complications are at higher risk for some chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, and these visits are an opportunity to assess risks and refer to primary care providers to work on long-term preventive care.”Physician groups, such as the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, recommend women with complications like high blood pressure during pregnancy or gestational diabetes not only visit their obstetricians six weeks after a birth, but that they also see their primary care doctors within a year.For the study, the researchers collected data from one commercial health insurance plan and multiple Medicaid insurance plans in Maryland. The aims were to determine different predictors of receiving post-delivery primary and obstetric care in women with and without pregnancy complications, including gestational or pregestational diabetes mellitus and hypertensive disorders, such as preeclampsia. Women with these conditions are much more likely to develop long-term health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.Among women with tax-supported Medicaid insurance, 56.6 percent of those with a complicated pregnancy and 51.7 percent of those without a complicated pregnancy visited a primary care doctor within a year. Among women with commercial health insurance, 60 percent of those with a complicated pregnancy and 49.6 percent of those without a complicated pregnancy did so.White patients, older patients and patients with depression or preeclampsia were also more likely to visit their primary care doctor.Of the women on Medicaid, 65 percent of those with complicated pregnancies and 61.5 percent of those without complicated pregnancies had a postpartum obstetric visit within three months. Numbers were slightly lower for those with commercial insurance, at 50.8 percent of those with complicated pregnancies and 44.6 percent of those without complicated pregnancies.Bennett says providers need to develop creative ways to improve attendance at postpartum visits. A pilot project at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, for example, involves combined “mommy-baby” visits, she says. If the baby’s checkup is included in the mother’s visit, the mother may be more likely to keep the appointment, and thus would receive important education about improving health behaviors and the need for primary care follow-up. Other options are home visits and collaborations with day care centers, community centers and churches to make visits and health promotional activities more convenient.Bennett says more work is also needed by hospitals and physicians to coordinate future appointments, or to arrange transportation or child care if needed.”Pregnancy is a teachable moment — many women are very motivated to make healthier lifestyle choices to keep themselves and their babies healthy. After a birth, we need to keep them motivated,” she says.Bennett and her team say their findings add to evidence that access to health care alone — having insurance and a physician — is not enough to assure proper care. …

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HomeLogic: natural cleaning products (giveaway)

Product was received from Natural HomeLogic to facilitate this review of natural cleaning products. All opinions are my own.I think my husband and I have always been environmentally conscious—his civil engineering degree is with a specialty in environmental and one of my BS degrees is in environmental science—but never so much as when we had kids. It’s just something about being solely responsible for the well-being of a helpless, tiny human being! We made a lot of changes, but one that was a priority was making sure anything that went on their skin was safe and natural. This includes skincare products like soaps and shampoos and cleaning supplies (that are inhaled or end up on their skin as they move around the house—and then possibly …

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Owner of transport firm sentenced for safety failings

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2013 » 10 » Owner of transport firm sentenced for safety failingsOwner of transport firm sentenced for safety failingsThe owner of a Leicestershire-based transport firm has been sentenced for a number of safety failings that led to the death of a mechanic.Mark Wintersgill, 25, of Leicester, was trying to jack up a double-decker lorry trailer at the PPR Transport Services site in Lutterworth on June 25th 2012 when the fatal incident took place.Leicester Crown Court was told by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecutors that the jack the man was using separated from the heavy good vehicle’s axle and struck him – causing what were described as “catastrophic” head injuries.Mr Wintersgill died at the scene and the efforts of his colleagues to save his life were in vain.Upon hearing of the young mechanic’s death, the HSE launched an inspection and found business owner Paul Roberts should have planned the lifting of lorry trailers in a safer manner and implicated him in the 25-year-old’s death.For these failings, Mr Roberts, also of Leicester, was fined £12,000 and told to pay costs of £43,000 after he pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety of Work etc Act 1974 for failing to protect his employees. He was not given a custodial sentence.After the hearing HSE inspector David Lefever commented: “This was a tragic incident that could have been prevented had a few basic precautions been taken.”Mr Roberts should have ensured that this regular work activity was carried out in a safe location on firm, level ground. He should also have ensured his employees were supplied with the correct equipment and that they were trained in how to use that equipment safely.”The fatally injured mechanic’s mother, Jeanine Erasmus spoke after the trial about the love she had for her son, calling it a “privilege and honour” to have seen him grow up over the years until his untimely death.But now, the grieving mother said, she will have to go on living with an “emptiness” inside her left in her son’s absence.By Francesca WitneyOr call us on 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Women in labor can ditch ice chips, drink protein shake instead

Oct. 13, 2013 — Women in labor can enjoy a chocolate or vanilla protein shake during labor rather than being relegated to the tedium of ice chips, according to a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY™ 2013 annual meeting. Mothers who drank a protein drink during childbirth reported higher satisfaction rates, although nausea and vomiting rates were the same as for mothers who were only given ice chips.”Giving birth is a tremendous stress on both mother and baby,” said Manuel C. Vallejo, M.D., D.M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown. “Anything we can do to increase patient satisfaction during labor without increasing adverse events is a major positive. Physicians should feel comfortable replacing ice chips or water with a high-protein drink supplement.”Nausea and vomiting is an unfortunate side effect for some women in childbirth. Restrictions on eating and drinking during childbirth began more than 50 years ago when women often gave birth under general anesthesia. The risk of aspiration of food and drink into the lungs is a rare but potentially fatal complication of general anesthesia and therefore, women in labor generally have their eating and drinking restricted.In the study, 150 women were split into two groups. The first group received a 325 mL, 160 calorie Premier Nutrition Protein Shake, which contained 30 grams of protein, one gram of sugar, eight amino acids and 24 vitamins and minerals, in addition to ice chips and water. The second group served as the control and only received the ice chips and water. …

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Genes outside nucleus have disproportionate effect

Oct. 12, 2013 — New research from the University of California, Davis, shows that the tiny proportion of a cell’s DNA that is located outside the cell nucleus has a disproportionately large effect on a cell’s metabolism. The work, with the model plant Arabidopsis, may have implications for future treatments for inherited diseases in humans.Plant and animal cells carry most of their genes on chromosomes in the nucleus, separated from the rest of the cell. However, they also contain a small number of genes in organelles that lie outside the nucleus. These are the mitochondria, which generate energy for animal and plant cells, and chloroplasts, which carry out photosynthesis in plant cells.The influence of genes outside the nucleus was known to an earlier generation of field ecologists and crop breeders, said Dan Kliebenstein, professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences and Genome Center and senior author on the paper published Oct. 8 in the online journal eLife. This is the first time that the effect has been quantified with a genomic approach, he said.Bindu Joseph, a postdoctoral researcher in Kliebenstein’s lab, and Kliebenstein studied how variation in 25,000 nuclear genes and 200 organellar genes affected the levels of thousands of individual chemicals, or metabolites, in leaf tissue from 316 individual Arabidopsis plants.They found that 80 percent of the metabolites measured were directly affected by variation in the organellar genes — about the same proportion that were affected by variation among the much larger number of nuclear genes. There were also indirect effects, where organellar genes regulated the activity of nuclear genes that in turn affected metabolism.”At first it’s surprising, but at another level you almost expect it,” Kliebenstein said. “These organelles produce energy and sugar for cells, so they are very important.”Similar effects could also occur in mammalian cells, Kliebenstein said. That has implications for in vitro fertilization therapies aimed at preventing diseases caused by faulty mitochondria being passed from mother to child. …

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Now hear this: Scientists discover compound to prevent noise-related hearing loss

Aug. 29, 2013 — Your mother was right when she warned you that loud music could damage your hearing, but now scientists have discovered exactly what gets damaged and how. In a research report published in the September 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists describe exactly what type of damage noise does to the inner ear, and provide insights into a compound that may prevent noise-related damage.Share This:”Noise-induced hearing loss, with accompanying tinnitus and sound hypersensitivity is a common condition which leads to communication problems and social isolation,” said Xiaorui Shi, M.D., Ph.D., study author from the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery at the Oregon Hearing Research Center at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. “The goal of our study is to understand the molecular mechanisms well enough to mitigate damage from exposure to loud sound.”To make this discovery, Shi and colleagues used three groups of 6 — 8 week old mice, which consisted of a control group, a group exposed to broadband noise at 120 decibels for three hours a day for two days, and a third group given single-dose injections of pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF) prior to noise exposure. PEDF is a protein found in vertebrates that is currently being researched for the treatment of diseases like heart disease and cancer. The cells that secrete PEDF in control animals showed a characteristic branched morphology, with the cells arranging in a self-avoidance pattern which provided good coverage of the capillary wall. The morphology of the same cells in the animals exposed to wide-band noise, however, showed clear differences — noise exposure caused changes in melanocytes located in the inner ear.”Hearing loss over time robs people of their quality of life,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “It’s easy to say that we should avoid loud noises, but in reality, this is not always possible. Front-line soldiers or first responders do not have time to worry about the long-term effects of loud noise when they are giving their all. If, however, a drug could be developed to minimize the negative effects of loud noises, it would benefit one and all.”Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. …

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Research shows negative effects of half-siblings

Aug. 11, 2013 — Adolescents who have half-siblings with a different father are more likely to have used drugs and had sex by age 15 than those who have only full siblings. That’s according to new research from Karen Benjamin Guzzo, an assistant professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University, and Cassandra Dorius, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University.Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, they examined a phenomenon known as “multi-partnered fertility” or MPF. This happens when parents who are not romantically involved with each other form new relationships and have another child with a new partner.”It’s not new behavior, but it’s happening more often as more people are having children outside of marriage,” said Guzzo.According to Guzzo, this is one of the first studies to examine the effect of parental MPF on children over the long-term, and the only study that takes into account background factors (such as the mother’s level of education and household poverty) and the number of changes in family structure the adolescent experienced.The researchers looked at the connections between this re-partnering and additional childbearing on adolescent drug use and early sex. They focused on mothers and first-born children who lived with their mother most of their lives.”For children, MPF means having a half-sibling, but it also means, for first-born children, that they usually experienced their biological parents splitting up — if they were together at all, lived in a single mother household for some time, experienced their mother finding a new partner at least once and perhaps lived with a stepfather, and finally experienced their mother having a baby with a new partner,” Guzzo explained.Researchers looked at the mother’s educational background, her own family structure growing up, and whether the child experienced bouts of poverty. They also examined family factors — whether the father lived with them at birth, how many family transitions the adolescents experienced, and whether the mother ever married or cohabited, with the child’s father or another partner.”We find that first-born adolescents with half-siblings with the same mother but a different father do have less favorable outcomes compared to their peers with only full siblings, even after accounting for the mother’s background characteristics, socioeconomic factors the child experienced growing up, and family instability and structure,” Guzzo said.”Adolescents with a half-sibling with a different father are about 65 percent more likely to have used marijuana, uppers, inhalants, cocaine, crack, hallucinogens, sedatives, or other drugs by the time of their 15th birthday than those who have only full siblings. They are also about 2.5 times more likely to have had sex by their 15th birthday than their peers with only full siblings.”Guzzo said it’s not clear yet what drives these outcomes, but that in the future she and Dorius plan to explore differences in maternal behaviors, father and stepfather involvement, and adolescent perceptions of their relationship with their mother to see if these factors explain the association between having half-siblings with a different father and risky adolescent behavior.”We are also planning to look at whether this association holds for children other than the first-born, who tend to experience the most instability,” Guzzo said.

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Moms’ high-fat, sugary diets may lead to heavy offspring with a taste for alcohol, sensitivity to drugs

Aug. 4, 2013 — Vulnerability to alcohol and drug abuse may begin in the womb and be linked to how much fatty and sugary foods a mother eats during pregnancy, according to findings from animal lab experiments presented at APA’s 121st Annual Convention.”The majority of women in the U.S. at child-bearing age are overweight, and this is most likely due to overeating the tasty, high-fat, high-sugar foods you find everywhere in our society. The rise in prenatal and childhood obesity and the rise in number of youths abusing alcohol and drugs merits looking into all the possible roots of these growing problems,” said Nicole Avena, PhD, a research neuroscientist with the University of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute.Compared to pups of rats that ate regular rodent chow, the offspring of rats that ate high-fat or high-sugar diets while pregnant weighed more as adults and drank more alcohol, and those on high-sugar diets also had stronger responses to commonly abused drugs such as amphetamine, Avena said. Her presentation examined experiments from three studies, each lasting about three months and involving three to four adult female rats and 10 to12 offspring in each dietary condition.Researchers compared weight and drug-taking behavior between the offspring of rats fed diets rich in fats, sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup with the offspring of rats fed regular rodent chow during gestation or nursing. They tested both sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup because they are chemically different and could cause different outcomes, Avena said. Sucrose occurs naturally and is commonly processed from sugar cane or sugar beets into table sugar, whereas high-fructose corn syrup is synthesized from corn.To determine effects of the mothers’ diets during gestation, the offspring of rats fed the high-fat, high-sucrose or high- fructose corn syrup diets were nursed by mother rats that were eating regular chow. To determine the effects of the mothers’ diets on the offspring during nursing, the pups with mothers that had eaten regular chow were nursed by mother rats that were eating either the high-fat, high-sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup diets.The pregnant rats’ high-fat diet contained 50 percent fat, 25 percent carbohydrate and 25 percent protein, whereas the control diet reflected a recommended human diet, with 25 percent fat, 50 percent carbohydrate and 25 percent protein, Avena said. The offspring of rats that had high-fat diets while pregnant drank significantly more alcohol in adulthood than the offspring of rats with the regular chow diet, while there were no differences in the average daily amount of water they drank or chow they ate. The offspring of rats on the high-fat diet while pregnant also had significantly higher levels of triglycerides, a type of fat found in the bloodstream that can increase the risk of heart disease. …

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Breastfed children are less likely to develop ADHD later in life, study suggests

July 22, 2013 — We know that breastfeeding has a positive impact on child development and health — including protection against illness. Now researchers from Tel Aviv University have shown that breastfeeding may also help protect against Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the most commonly diagnosed neurobehavioral disorder in children and adolescents.Seeking to determine if the development of ADHD was associated with lower rates of breastfeeding, Dr. Aviva Mimouni-Bloch, of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Head of the Child Neurodevelopmental Center in Loewenstein Hospital, and her fellow researchers completed a retrospective study on the breastfeeding habits of parents of three groups of children: a group that had been diagnosed with ADHD; siblings of those diagnosed with ADHD; and a control group of children without ADHD and lacking any genetic ties to the disorder.The researchers found a clear link between rates of breastfeeding and the likelihood of developing ADHD, even when typical risk factors were taken into consideration. Children who were bottle-fed at three months of age were found to be three times more likely to have ADHD than those who were breastfed during the same period. These results have been published in Breastfeeding Medicine.Understanding genetics and environmentIn their study, the researchers compared breastfeeding histories of children from six to 12 years of age at Schneider’s Children Medical Center in Israel. The ADHD group was composed of children that had been diagnosed at the hospital, the second group included the siblings of the ADHD patients, and the control group included children without neurobehavioral issues who had been treated at the clinics for unrelated complaints.In addition to describing their breastfeeding habits during the first year of their child’s life, parents answered a detailed questionnaire on medical and demographic data that might also have an impact on the development of ADHD, including marital status and education of the parents, problems during pregnancy such as hypertension or diabetes, birth weight of the child, and genetic links to ADHD.Taking all risk factors into account, researchers found that children with ADHD were far less likely to be breastfed in their first year of life than the children in the other groups. At three months, only 43 percent of children in the ADHD group were breastfed compared to 69 percent of the sibling group and 73 percent of the control group. At six months, 29 percent of the ADHD group was breastfed, compared to 50 percent of the sibling group and 57 percent of the control group.One of the unique elements of the study was the inclusion of the sibling group, says Dr. Mimouni-Bloch. Although a mother will often make the same breastfeeding choices for all her children, this is not always the case. …

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Placental cells may prevent viruses from passing from mother to baby

July 1, 2013 — Cells of the placenta may have a unique ability to prevent viruses from crossing from an expectant mother to her growing baby and can transfer that trait to other kinds of cells, according to researchers at Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Their findings, published in the early online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shed new light on the workings of the placenta and could point to new approaches to combat viral infections during pregnancy.It is imperative that the fetus be protected from infections of its mother in order to develop properly, said co-senior investigator Yoel Sadovsky, M.D., Elsie Hilliard Hillman Chair of Women’s Health Research, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine, Pitt School of Medicine, and MWRI director. But how the placenta, long thought to be just a passive barrier between mother and child, accomplishes this feat has not been clear.”Our findings reveal some of the complex and elegant mechanisms human placental cells, called trophoblasts, have evolved to keep viruses from infecting cells,” Dr. Sadovsky said. “We hope that we can learn from this to devise new therapies against viral infections.”Led by Dr. Sadovsky and co-senior investigator Carolyn Coyne, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Pitt and MWRI member, the research team studied human trophoblast cells in the lab, exposing them to a panel of viruses. Unlike non-placental cells, trophoblasts were resistant to viral infection, but that trait was not a result of an inability of viruses to bind or enter the cells.The researchers noted that when the medium, or fluid environment, in which the trophoblasts were cultured was transferred to non-placental cells, such as those that line blood vessels, they became resistant to viral infection, too.The team noted that when the medium was exposed to sonication, which involves exposure to sound waves, viral resistance was no longer transferred to non-placental cells. This finding led them to take a closer look at exosomes, which are tiny spheres called nanovesicles that are secreted by trophoblasts and are sensitive to sonication. They found that fragments of genetic material called microRNAs contained within the exosomes, as well as lab-synthesized mimics of them, were able to induce autophagy, a mechanism of prolonged cellular recycling and survival. Blocking autophagy at least partially restored the cells’ vulnerability to viral infections.”Our results suggest this pathway could be a powerful evolutionary adaptation to protect the fetus and mother from viral invaders,” Dr. …

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Food contaminants worsen metabolic problems in obese mice

June 27, 2013 — Certain food contaminants are suspected of triggering metabolic disorders, or of worsening them, particularly when they accompany a high-fat diet. In order to get a better understanding of these effects, researchers from the Inserm cardiovascular, metabolism, diabetology and nutrition unit (U1060 ” Laboratoire de recherche en cardiovasculaire, métabolisme, diabétologie et nutrition ” Inserm/Inra/Université Lyon 1) introduced a “cocktail” of contaminants mixed with low doses of dioxin, PCB, bisphenol A and phtalates into the feeding of mice that had already been rendered obese by a high-fat diet. The results show that metabolic changes occur in these mice, but that the effects differ depending on the gender. Females appeared to be more affected. Their obesity-induced glucose intolerance worsened and their estrogen pathway was altered.These works have been published in the FASEB Journal.Obesity is a major public health problem because it is a risk factor in the development of metabolic complications (diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc.). It is a multi-factorial disorder. In addition to genetic predispositions and a life style that combines overeating with lack of exercise, there is a great volume of proof to suggest that contaminants, particularly in the food we eat, are responsible for the obesity epidemic and the resulting metabolic changes.Researchers have put forward the hypothesis that contaminants in food could worsen certain metabolic problems already caused by eating an over-rich or a high-fat diet.In this study, the researchers fed mice a high-fat diet (already a health risk), to which low doses of contaminants had been added. They were given this diet throughout their lives. Their mother had been nourished with this diet prior to their birth and during the gestation and lactation periods. Therefore, they suffered chronic exposure to this diet.Two environmentally persistent contaminants[1] (dioxin and PCB) and two non-persistent contaminants[2] (phtalate and bisphenol A) were added to the high-fat (obesogenic) diet of the mice. …

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Giving children non-verbal clues about words boosts vocabularies

June 24, 2013 — The clues that parents give toddlers about words can make a big difference in how deep their vocabularies are when they enter school, new research at the University of Chicago shows.By using words to reference objects in the visual environment, parents can help young children learn new words, according to the research. It also explores the difficult-to-measure quality of non-verbal clues to word meaning during interactions between parents and children learning to speak. For example, saying, “There goes the zebra” while visiting the zoo helps a child learn the word “zebra” faster than saying, “Let’s go to see the zebra.”Differences in the quality of parents’ non-verbal clues to toddlers (what children can see when their parents are talking) explain about a quarter (22 percent) of the differences in those same children’s vocabularies when they enter kindergarten, researchers found. The results are reported in the paper, “Quality of early parent input predicts child vocabulary three years later,” published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”Children’s vocabularies vary greatly in size by the time they enter school,” said lead author Erica Cartmill, a postdoctoral scholar at UChicago. “Because preschool vocabulary is a major predictor of subsequent school success, this variability must be taken seriously and its sources understood.”Scholars have found that the number of words youngsters hear greatly influences their vocabularies. Parents with higher socioeconomic status — those with higher income and more education — typically talk more to their children and accordingly boost their vocabularies, research has shown.That advantage for higher-income families doesn’t show up in the quality research, however.”What was surprising in this study was that social economic status did not have an impact on quality. Parents of lower social economic status were just as likely to provide high-quality experiences for their children as were parents of higher status,” said co-author Susan Goldin-Meadow, the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at UChicago.Although scholars have amassed impressive evidence that the number of words children hear — the quantity of their linguistic input — has an impact on vocabulary development, measuring the quality of the verbal environment — including non-verbal clues to word meaning — has proved much more difficult.To measure quality, the research team reviewed videotapes of everyday interactions between 50 primary caregivers, almost all mothers, and their children (14 to 18 months old). The mothers and children, from a range of social and economic backgrounds, were taped for 90-minute periods as they went about their days, playing and engaging in other activities.The team then showed 40-second vignettes from these videotapes to 218 adults with the sound track muted. Based on the interaction between the child and parent, the adults were asked to guess what word the parent in each vignette used when a beep was sounded on the tape.A beep might occur, for instance, in a parent’s silenced speech for the word “book” as a child approaches a bookshelf or brings a book to the mother to start storytime. In this scenario, the word was easy to guess because the mother labeled objects as the child saw and experienced them. …

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Rare pregnancy condition programs babies to become overweight in later life

June 24, 2013 — Babies born to mothers who suffer from a rare metabolic complication during pregnancy are programmed to be overweight, according to a study published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.The study is the first to look at the long term effects on babies born to mothers with intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), also called obstetric cholestasis, a rare complication of pregnancy characterised by the build-up of bile acids in the bloodstream.The findings add to the strong evidence that the environment that babies are exposed to in the womb is a major cause of metabolic diseases in adults.ICP can affect up to one in 50 pregnant women in different populations. It is caused by disruption in the flow of bile, a fluid produced by the liver to help with the digestion of fats. This can result in some leakage of bile, and in particular bile salts, into the bloodstream leading to symptoms including persistent itching and complications for both mother and baby.The researchers looked at a cohort of babies born in Northern Finland between 1985 and 1986 and identified 45 babies who were born to mothers with ICP who were of healthy weight and had no other known diseases or complications, such as diabetes.Although there were no differences in the birth weights of these babies compared with infants born during the same period from normal pregnancies, the team found that by age sixteen, boys born from cholestatic pregnancies had a much higher body mass index, by up to four points. They also had higher levels of the hormone insulin after a period of fasting, a symptom of type 2 diabetes. Whilst the effect in girls was smaller, waist measurements from girls of the same age born to mothers with cholestasis were increased by up to 9cm and hip measurements by up to 5cm compared with girls born from normal pregnancies.To further investigate the effects of cholestasis during pregnancy on the health of the offspring, the researchers created a mouse model of the disease by supplementing the diet of normal mice with cholic acid, a type of bile acid. Mice born from these pregnancies were also more prone to obesity and diabetes, confirming the findings from the human studies.Dr Georgia Papacleovoulou, first author of the study from Imperial College London, explains: “This is the first evidence that cholestasis during pregnancy can have long-term effects on the health of the baby as it grows into adulthood.”Both the human and mouse studies revealed an increase in fats and excessive cholesterol transport in placentas from mothers with cholestasis compared with healthy mothers, consistent with a disruption in the metabolism of fats. The researchers propose that this shift in the nutrients supplied by the mother is likely to affect the energy balance in the unborn baby, something that could continue after the baby is born, resulting in an altered metabolism in adult life that could give rise to diseases such as obesity and diabetes.Using another mouse model, the researchers showed that feeding bile salts to mice during pregnancy resulted in chemical changes to the DNA of the offspring, or epigenetic changes.Professor Catherine Williamson, lead author of the study from Imperial College London and King’s College London, said: “We don’t yet know the exact mechanisms of how the increase in bile salts in the mothers’ blood programs the unborn baby towards metabolic disease but it seems likely that epigenetics plays a role. We need to do more experiments to work out how these chemical changes to the DNA of the baby affect its ability to metabolise fats.”Dr Alison Cave, Head of Cellular, Developmental and Physiological Sciences at the Wellcome Trust, said: “We’re in the grips of an epidemic of obesity and diabetes and this study adds to the increasing evidence which suggests that it may not be explained by unhealthy diets and lack of exercise alone. We know that the environment that babies are exposed to before they are born can have a huge impact on their health in later life. Studies like this are important to help us develop interventions that might be able to prevent these diseases arising in young adults.”

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