Thursday, August 29th, 2013
A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that schools are making some strides in helping kids make healthy choices. The report revealed a jump in the number of schools phasing out junk foods, and found more elementary schools offering gym classes. More from The Washington Post:
[A]fter years of efforts to phase out junk food like candy and chips, the percentage of school districts that prohibited such food in vending machines increased from 29.8 percent in 2006 to 43.4 percent in 2012, according to the CDC’s 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study. Also, slightly more than half of school districts – up from about 35 percent in 2000 — made information available to families on the nutrition and caloric content of foods available to students.
“Schools play a critical role in the health and well-being of our youth,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, in the news release. “Good news for students and parents — more students have access to healthy food, better physical fitness activities through initiatives such as ‘Let’s Move,’ and campuses that are completely tobacco free.”
Since 2000, the number of school districts that require elementary schools to teach physical education increased. In addition, the number of districts entering into agreements with local YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs or local parks and recreation departments went up, according to the study.
Meanwhile, the percentage of districts with policies that prohibited all tobacco use during any school-related activity increased from 46.7 percent in 2000 to 67.5 percent in 2012.
The CDC study is a periodic, national survey that examines key components of school health at the state, district, school, and classroom level, including health education; physical education and activity; health services; mental health and social services; nutrition services; healthy and safe school environment; faculty and staff health promotion; and family and community involvement.
Image: Student in cafeteria, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 8th, 2013
Babies who are born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, often referred to as fetal alcohol syndrome, suffer brain development delays well into their childhood and even into adolescence, not only at birth and in young infanthood, according to a new research from the University of Alberta. More from ScienceDaily:
Researchers used an advanced MRI method that examines white matter in the brain. White matter forms connections between various regions of the brain and usually develops significantly during childhood and adolescence. Those who took part in the study were imaged multiple times, to see what kinds of changes occurred in brain development as the participants aged. Those without the disorder had marked increases in brain volume and white matter — growth that was lacking in those with FASD. However, the advanced MRI method revealed greater changes in the brain wiring of white matter in the FASD group, which the authors suggest may reflect compensation for delays in development earlier in childhood.
“These findings may suggest that significant brain changes happened earlier in the study participants who didn’t have FASD,” says the study’s first author, Sarah Treit, who is a student in the Centre for Neuroscience at the U of A. “This study suggests alcohol-induced injury with FASD isn’t static — those with FASD have altered brain development, they aren’t developing at the same rate as those without the disorder. And our research showed those with FASD consistently scored lower on all cognitive measures in the study.”
Treit said the research team also made other important observations. Children with FASD who demonstrated the greatest changes in white matter development also made the greatest gains in reading ability — “so the connection seems relevant.” And those with the most severe FASD showed the greatest changes in white matter brain wiring. Scans also confirmed those with FASD have less overall brain volume — this issue neither rectified itself nor worsened throughout the course of the study.
Image: Pregnant woman drinking alcohol, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
The urge to smoke may be genetic, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics. Fox News has more:
In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers discovered that the children of people who smoked only in their teenage years were still 3.2 times more likely to also pick up the habit, compared to children whose parents had never smoked.
For the study, researchers gathered data from a sample of ninth grade students in St. Paul, Minn. They followed this group from 1988 through age 38 – and then also gathered data from the children of that cohort, starting at age 11.
Overall, they found the rate of smoking was 23 to 29 percent among kids ages 11 and older whose parents had once smoked or currently smoked, compared with 8 percent among children of parents who had never smoked, MedPage Today reported. Children who had older siblings who smoked were also more likely to smoke, researchers reported.
“We don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but my hypothesis is that there is a genetic predisposition toward smoking,” Dr. John Spangler, a family and community medicine specialist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., told MedPage Today. “Whether it is a genetic predisposition toward risk taking behavior, genetic disposition toward experimentation of substances, or even a genetic disposition toward nicotine addiction itself.”
Spangler went on to say that parents shouldn’t take the findings as a reason to give up trying to stop their kids from taking up the habit. He urged parents to talk to children about the dangers of smoking, and encourage healthy lifestyle habits to help parents stop, and kids never start, smoking.
Image: Cigarettes and pacifier, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, July 31st, 2013
As part of a campaign to combat childhood obesity in New York City, two area hospitals have begun a pilot program that involves sending kids home from exams with prescriptions for fruits, vegetables, and other healthy choices. More from Time.com:
Pediatricians at Lincoln Medical Center and Harlem Hospital are sending young children who visit the hospital for obesity treatment home with prescriptions to eat one more serving of fruits and vegetables each day. The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription (FVRx), a four month pilot program, allows the patients with prescriptions to get coupons for fresh produce at farmers markets and the city’s green carts.
With more pediatricians treating kids for diseases formerly only seen in adults, some hospitals, feeling pressure to address one of the leading causes of health problems in their communities, are taking the lead in finding better ways to encourage children to eat better and exercise more.
Image: Tomatoes, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson is defending his company’s food quality, and its use of its clown mascot, Ronald McDonald. The Huffington Post reports on the interview Thompson gave to Bloomburg TV’s Betty Liu:
“We have tremendously high quality proteins,” he says. “It is all real food,” he continues. “We have always supported high quality food. We support farmers, fresh food.”
Liu brings up kids’ food at McDonald’s and Thompson responds, “We’ve added more fruits, more vegetables, we’ve changed our milks…we’ve done a lot of things.” He also reaffirms that the company will “continue to try to do more.”
Thompson gets defensive though, when it comes to marketing to children. People blame Ronald McDonald for peddling food to children, he claims, but argues that the blame is misguided. Ronald is merely a brand icon that is involved with the company’s charities, he explains. “When is the last time you saw Ronald eating food or marketing to your children? You haven’t seen Ronald do that,” he says.
The CEO gets more personal when he discusses his own children. “I bring my kids to McDonald’s now because the food is high-quality. It’s safe.”
Image: Drive-thru fast food, via Shutterstock
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