Thursday, February 27th, 2014
Mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may be more common in children born to fathers who are “middle aged,” or age 45 and older, according to new research conducted in Sweden. The New York Times has more:
In recent years, scientists have debated based on mixed evidence whether a father’s age is linked to his child’s vulnerability to individual disorders like autism and schizophrenia. Some studies have found strong associations, while others have found weak associations or none at all.
The new report, which looked at many mental disorders in Sweden, should inflame the debate, if not settle it, experts said. Men have a biological clock of sorts because of random mutations in sperm over time, the report suggests, and the risks associated with later fatherhood may be higher than previously thought. The findings were published on Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
“This is the best paper I’ve seen on this topic, and it suggests several lines of inquiry into mental illness,” said Dr. Patrick F. Sullivan, a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina, who was not involved in the research. “But the last thing people should do is read this and say, ‘Oh no, I had a kid at 43, the kid’s doomed.’ The vast majority of kids born to older dads will be just fine.”
Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler, a professor of psychiatry and human molecular genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University, also urged caution in interpreting the results. “This is great work from a scientific perspective,” he said. “But it needs to be replicated, and biomedical science needs to get in gear and figure out what accounts for” the mixed findings of previous studies.
The strengths of the new report are size and rigor. The research team, led by Brian M. D’Onofrio of Indiana University, analyzed medical and public records of some 2.6 million people born in Sweden from 1973 to 2001. Like many European countries, Sweden has centralized medical care and keeps detailed records, so the scientists knew the father’s age for each birth and were able to track each child’s medical history over time, as well as that of siblings and other relatives. Among other things, the analysis compared the mental health of siblings born to the same father and found a clear pattern of increased risk with increasing paternal age.
Compared with the children of young fathers, aged 20 to 24, those born to men age 45 and older had about twice the risk of developing psychosis, the signature symptom of schizophrenia; more than three times the likelihood of receiving a diagnosis of autism; and about 13 times the chance of having a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder. Children born to older fathers also tended to struggle more with academics and substance abuse.
The researchers controlled for every factor they could think of, including parents’ education and income. Older couples tend to be more stable and have more income — both protective factors that help to temper mental problems — and this was the case in the study. But much of the risk associated with paternal age remained.
“We spent months trying to make the findings go away, looking at the mother’s age, at psychiatric history, doing sub-analyses,” Dr. D’Onofrio said. “They wouldn’t go away.”
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Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
Women who take the over-the-counter medication aceitaminophen during pregnancy may have babies with a greater risk of being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) later in childhood, a new study has found. More from The Huffington Post:
The findings, published in JAMA Pediatrics on Monday, are preliminary and do not establish cause and effect. However, they do intensify questions about the risks and benefits of taking the medication while pregnant.
Aspirin and ibuprofen — nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs — are generally not recommended as pain relievers for pregnant women, particularly during the last three months. Acetaminophen-based medications such as Tylenol, however, have generally been thought to be safe, and estimates suggest that more than 50 percent of women in the United States take acetaminophen at some point while pregnant.
“It is important we follow up [on] the potential health risks that acetaminophen may cause,” Zeyan Liew, a Ph.D. candidate with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and an author on the study, told The Huffington Post. “ADHD incidence has been noticed to be increased in the last decades, and we are interested in searching for avoidable environmental factors that may contribute to the trend.”
Liew and his co-authors looked at data on more than 64,000 women and their children taken from the Danish National Birth Cohort. They found that children whose mothers took acetaminophen while pregnant had a 13 percent to 37 percent greater risk of later being diagnosed with hyperkinetic disorder (which is similar to ADHD, but uses different diagnostic criteria), taking medications for ADHD, or displaying ADHD-like behaviors at age 7.
That link was stronger among women who took acetaminophen in multiple trimesters or who used it more frequently. For example, the risk of behavioral issues was elevated by 50 percent or more in children whose mothers took the pain reliever for more than 20 weeks while pregnant.
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Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
American children are exposed to at least double the levels of chemicals that are known to affect the brain in ways that are linked with disorders including autism, ADHD, and dyslexia–all disorders that have been on the rise in recent years. Time.com reports on new research that has found radical changes in chemical exposure since 2006:
In 2006, scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai identified five industrial chemicals responsible for causing harm to the brain — lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (found in electric transformers, motors and capacitors), arsenic (found in soil and water as well as in wood preservatives and pesticides) and toluene (used in processing gasoline as well as in paint thinner, fingernail polish and leather tanning). Exposure to these neurotoxins was associated with changes in neuron development in the fetus as well as among infants, and with lower school performance, delinquent behavior, neurological abnormalities and reduced IQ in school-age children.
Now the same researchers have reviewed the literature and found six additional industrial chemicals that can hamper normal brain development. These are manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene and polybrominated diphenyl ethers. Manganese, they say, is found in drinking water and can contribute to lower math scores and heightened hyperactivity, while exposure to high levels of fluoride from drinking water can contribute to a seven-point drop in IQ on average. The remaining chemicals, which are found in solvents and pesticides, have been linked to deficits in social development and increased aggressive behaviors.
The research team acknowledges that there isn’t a causal connection between exposure to any single chemical and behavioral or neurological problems — it’s too challenging to isolate the effects of each chemical to come to such conclusions. But they say the growing body of research that is finding links between higher levels of these chemicals in expectant mothers’ blood and urine and brain disorders in their children should raise alarms about how damaging these chemicals can be. The developing brain in particular, they say, is vulnerable to the effects of these chemicals, and in many cases, the changes they trigger are permanent.
“The consequence of such brain damage is impaired [central nervous system] function that lasts a lifetime and might result in reduced intelligence, as expressed in terms of lost IQ points, or disruption in behavior,” they write in their report, which was published in the journal Lancet Neurology.
They point to two barriers to protecting children from such exposures — not enough testing of industrial chemicals and their potential effect on brain development before they are put into widespread use, and the enormous amount of proof that regulatory agencies require in order to put restrictions or limitations on chemicals.
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ADHD, Autism, brain chemistry, chemicals, dyslexia, fluoride, pesticides, toxic chemicals | Categories:
Child Health, Must Read, New Research, Trends
Monday, December 16th, 2013
The rising number of diagnoses with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), particularly among kids, has been paired, logically, with a sharp rise in the number of prescription drugs distributed to treat the condition. But some medical experts, even longtime advocates for better diagnostic tools and more aggressive treatment, are questioning whether drug companies have played fair with their marketing tactics. More from NBC News:
The rise of A.D.H.D. diagnoses and prescriptions for stimulants over the years coincided with a remarkably successful two-decade campaign by pharmaceutical companies to publicize the syndrome and promote the pills to doctors, educators and parents. With the children’s market booming, the industry is now employing similar marketing techniques as it focuses on adult A.D.H.D., which could become even more profitable.
Few dispute that classic A.D.H.D., historically estimated to affect 5 percent of children, is a legitimate disability that impedes success at school, work and personal life. Medication often assuages the severe impulsiveness and inability to concentrate, allowing a person’s underlying drive and intelligence to emerge.
But even some of the field’s longtime advocates say the zeal to find and treat every A.D.H.D. child has led to too many people with scant symptoms receiving the diagnosis and medication. The disorder is now the second most frequent long-term diagnosis made in children, narrowly trailing asthma, according to a New York Times analysis of C.D.C. data.
Behind that growth has been drug company marketing that has stretched the image of classic A.D.H.D. to include relatively normal behavior like carelessness and impatience, and has often overstated the pills’ benefits. Advertising on television and in popular magazines like People and Good Housekeeping has cast common childhood forgetfulness and poor grades as grounds for medication that, among other benefits, can result in “schoolwork that matches his intelligence” and ease family tension.
A 2002 ad for Adderall showed a mother playing with her son and saying, “Thanks for taking out the garbage.”
The Food and Drug Administration has cited every major A.D.H.D. drug — stimulants like Adderall, Concerta, Focalin and Vyvanse, and nonstimulants like Intuniv and Strattera — for false and misleading advertising since 2000, some multiple times.
Sources of information that would seem neutral also delivered messages from the pharmaceutical industry. Doctors paid by drug companies have published research and delivered presentations that encourage physicians to make diagnoses more often that discredit growing concerns about overdiagnosis.
Many doctors have portrayed the medications as benign — “safer than aspirin,” some say — even though they can have significant side effects and are regulated in the same class as morphine and oxycodone because of their potential for abuse and addiction. Patient advocacy groups tried to get the government to loosen regulation of stimulants while having sizable portions of their operating budgets covered by pharmaceutical interests.
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Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
New research by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention reports that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects 11 percent of American children, spiking a staggering 43 percent since 2003 and growing by 2 million children since 2007. Researchers, far from being alarmed, are saying the finding shows that public awareness efforts and better diagnostic tools are helping families and doctors make an accurate number of diagnoses. More from CNN.com:
Today, 6.4 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 – 11% of kids in this age group – have received an ADHD diagnosis, according to the study, which is based on a survey of parents. That’s 2 million more children than in 2007.
The number of children using medications to treat ADHD is also rising. Since the last survey taken in 2007, there has been a 28% increase in children taking drugs to manage the disorder. More than 3.5 million children in the 4 to 17 age group, or 6%, are taking ADHD medications, the survey found.
These data are part of the CDC’s National Survey of Children’s Health, a national cross-sectional, randomized telephone survey. The survey is conducted every four years, and questions about ADHD diagnosis have been included since 2003. The latest data are from interviews conducted via telephone from February 2011 and June 2012, with 95,677 interviews completed and an overall response rate of 23%.
But while rising rates of ADHD diagnosis may be an alarming headline, Dr. John Walkup, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, found some positive news when looking at rates of prevalence and treatment. In his view, the data suggest that the increasing diagnosis rate of ADHD is getting closer to the true prevalence of ADHD, which is even higher.
“We’ve been working so hard for so long to improve treatment,” Walkup said. “If the prevalence rate is 9 to 11% and we’re getting 8% currently diagnosed, it suggests that the public advocacy for treatment is paying off.”
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