Archive for the ‘ Must Read ’ Category

Childhood Obesity Rate May Be Undercounted

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

The obesity rate among American kids may actually be higher than the 18 percent of children the Centers for Disease Control currently classifies as obese, according to an analysis published in the journal Pediatric Obesity.  As many as 25 percent of obese or overweight kids may not be counted because the tally is based on the body mass index (BMI), a calculation that researchers say is flawed because children’s height and weight change rapidly as they grow–and not always in proportion with each other.

More from The Wall Street Journal:

“BMI is not capturing everybody who needs to be labeled as obese,” said Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, director of preventive cardiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who headed the study with Asma Javed, a pediatric endocrinology fellow.

Measuring body-mass index is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to screen for obesity among large groups of people, such as children in a school setting. A problem is that BMI, a calculation based on a person’s height and weight, isn’t well suited to children because their height and weight don’t proportionally increase as they grow, said Ruth Loos, a professor of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, who wasn’t involved with the Mayo study.

“It doesn’t mean that we cannot use BMI in childhood but it requires extra caution,” she said.

Other recent research has linked everything from sleep deprivation to weight-based name calling with an elevated risk of childhood obesity.  Research released earlier this year had claimed a significant drop in the childhood obesity rate in the U.S., but subsequent research actually showed a sharp increase in the number of severely obese kids.

Kids and Chronic Health Concerns
Kids and Chronic Health Concerns
Kids and Chronic Health Concerns

Image: Scale, via Shutterstock

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Father Charged with Murder in Toddler’s Death in a Hot Car

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

A Georgia man whose 22-month-old son died after allegedly having been accidentally left too long in a hot car has been charged with murder after police discovered evidence that he may have knowingly left the child strapped in his seat for hours on a day when the temperature topped out at 92 degrees.  Justin Ross Harris, the arrest warrant alleges, strapped his son Cooper into his rear-facing car seat after they ate breakfast at a fast food restaurant.

Harris allegedly then drove to work at a Home Depot corporate office about a half-mile away, leaving Cooper in the car until his lunch break, at which point he reportedly visited the car to put something in the front seat.  Just after 4 pm, he returned to the car and left work.  Moments later, he pulled into a shopping center parking lot and called for help with Cooper, who had been in the car for seven hours by that point.  The child was pronounced dead at the scene.

The story was first reported as an accidental death–and a horrifying cautionary tale for harried parents who read accounts that Harris had simply forgotten to drop Cooper off at day care.  But further investigation led to the felony murder and child cruelty charges, as CNN.com reports:

“Within moments of the first responders getting to the scene and doing their job and questions began to be asked about the moments that led up to their arrival at the scene, some of those answers were not making sense to the first responders,” [Sgt. Dana] Pierce [of the Cobb County police] said.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 34 years. What I know about this case shocks my conscience as a police officer, a father and a grandfather.”

Last week, Harris pleaded not guilty to felony murder and child cruelty charges. He’s being held without bond at the Cobb County Jail and is scheduled to appear before a county judge July 3.

Cooper’s mother, Leanna Harris, told CNN last week that she’s been advised not to discuss the case with the media.

“We have been in communication with the mother throughout the investigation. At this time, I’m not at liberty to discuss her involvement. That’s a part of the case our detectives are working on,” Pierce said.

Cobb County Medical Operations Manager Mike Gerhard confirmed that the autopsy of the child is complete, but the boy’s manner of death has not been released.

Forty-three children died from being left too long in hot cars in 2013, Parents magazine reports, and children are at greater risk than adults of overheating in a car because internal cooling systems–chiefly through sweat–are not as quick to react as adults’.

Click here to read 7 tips for ensuring you never forget your child in a hot car, including practicing extra vigilance when you are starting a new routine, and adopting a “Look Before You Lock” habit whenever you leave your car.  The Parents report also shares how quickly temperatures can rise inside a closed vehicle even on a day when the weather is relatively mild:

This is how quickly the temperature inside a vehicle rises on a 70°F day, based on research by Jan Null, department of earth and climate sciences, San Francisco State University. Null also found that keeping the windows open slightly had little effect and that car interiors with darker colors heat up faster.

After 10 minutes = 89°F

After 20 minutes = 99°F

After 30 minutes = 104°F

After 60 minutes = 113°F

After 2 hours = 120°F

Image: Car door, via Shutterstock

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Some Fortified Cereals May Pose Health Risk to Kids

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Some breakfast cereals that are overly fortified with nutrients like vitamin A, zinc, and niacin may actually pose health risks to children because the foods are fortified to provide an adult’s recommended intake of those nutrients.  These are the findings of a report by the Environmental Working Group, a health advocacy organization that says millions of American children are eating overly fortified cereals every day.  Part of the problem, the group says, is that nutrition labels are not age-specific–and higher nutrient levels on cereal packages may actually sway parents’ purchasing decisions because they think the products are healthier for their kids.

More from USA Today:

Only “a tiny, tiny percentage” of cereal packages carry nutrition labels that list age-specific daily values, Sharp says. “That’s misleading to parents and is contributing to the problem.”

The daily values for most vitamins and minerals that appear on nutrition facts labels were set by the FDA in 1968 and haven’t updated, she says, making them “wildly out-of-sync” with currently recommended levels deemed safe by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences.

Getting adequate amounts of all three nutrients is needed to maintain health and prevent disease, but the report says that routinely ingesting too much vitamin A can, over time, lead to health issues such as liver damage and skeletal abnormalities. . High zinc intakes can impair copper absorption and negatively affect red and white blood cells and immune function, and consuming too much niacin can cause short-term symptoms such as rash, nausea and vomiting, the report says.

Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids
Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids
Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids

Image: Cereal bowl with milk, via Shutterstock

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Judge: Unvaccinated Kids Can Be Barred from School During Illnesses

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

A New York City policy allowing schools to prohibit unvaccinated kids from attending school when there are reported cases of vaccine-preventable diseases has been upheld by a federal judge, despite the claims by three families that the policy violates their constitutional right to make medical decisions based on religious beliefs.  The New York Times reports:

Citing a 109-year-old Supreme Court ruling that gives states broad power in public health matters, Judge William F. Kuntz II of Federal District Court in Brooklyn ruled against three families who claimed that their right to free exercise of religion was violated when their children were kept from school, sometimes for a month at a time, because of the city’s immunization policies.

The Supreme Court, Judge Kuntz wrote in his ruling, has “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations.”

The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Patricia Finn, said she plans to appeal the decision, announced this month. On Thursday, Ms. Finn asked the district court to rehear the case.

Amid concerns by public health officials that some diseases are experiencing a resurgence in areas with low vaccination rates, the decision reinforces efforts by the city to balance a strict vaccine mandate with limited exemptions for objectors. Pockets of vaccination refusal persist in the city, despite high levels of vaccination overall.

State law requires children to receive vaccinations before attending school, unless a parent can show religious reservations or a doctor can attest that vaccines will harm the child. Under state law, parents claiming religious exemptions do not have to prove their faith opposes vaccines, but they must provide a written explanation of a “genuine and sincere” religious objection, which school officials can accept or reject.

Some states also let parents claim a philosophical exemption, though New York does not. Some parents refuse to have their children vaccinated because of a belief that vaccines can cause autism, though no link has ever been proved.

Two of the families in the lawsuit who had received religious exemptions challenged the city’s policy on barring their children, saying it amounted to a violation of their First Amendment right to religious freedom and their 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law, among other claims. Their children had been kept from school when other students had chickenpox, their suit said.

The third plaintiff, Dina Check, sued on somewhat different grounds, saying that the city had improperly denied her 7-year-old daughter a religious exemption. She said the city rejected her religious exemption after it had denied her a medical exemption, sowing doubts among administrators about the authenticity of her religious opposition. But Ms. Check said the request for a medical exemption had been mistakenly submitted by a school nurse without her consent.

Flu Vaccine Tips with Tia Mowry
Flu Vaccine Tips with Tia Mowry
Flu Vaccine Tips with Tia Mowry

Image: School lockers, via Shutterstock

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Autism Linked to Pesticide Exposure During Pregnancy

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Pregnant women who are exposed to chemical pesticides, especially those used to treat large farm fields, may be more likely to have babies who are later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental delay.  A new study conducted at the University of California Davis reported these findings–the third major study to link pesticide exposure with autism rates–but stopped short of saying that pesticide exposure is definitely a cause of ASD.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest numbers suggest that 1 in 68 American children has an autism spectrum disorder, with its causes remaining one of the most vexing mysteries in modern medicine.  The debate over whether vaccines cause autism is ongoing despite copious research disproving any link, and a recent British study found that genetics may play as much of a role as whether a child is autistic as environmental exposure does.

Reuters has more on the new study, which was conducted in California where agricultural pesticide use is carefully reported and mapped:

For the new study, the researchers used those maps to track exposures during pregnancy for the mothers of 970 children.

The children included 486 with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), 168 with a developmental delay and 316 with typical development.

….

In the new study, about a third of mothers had lived within a mile of fields treated with pesticides, most commonly organophosphates.

Children of mothers exposed to organophosphates were 60 percent more likely to have an ASD than children of non-exposed mothers, the authors report in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism

Image: Tractor spraying a field, via Shutterstock

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