Monday, July 22nd, 2013
Some 30,000 Boy Scouts and 7,000 leaders gathered July 15 in West Virginia for the annual National Scouts Jamboree, and for the second time in the event’s history, each of them was subject to a body mass index (BMI) cutoff that was designed to prohibit obese or unhealthily overweight people from participating in the event. The standard, organizers say, is in place to protect the health and safety of participants, as the Jamboree is packed with physical activities ranging from hiking to rock climbing.
“This policy is not meant to keep anyone out at all, and it’s just to make sure that they’re safe,” Boy Scouts of America’s public relations director Deron Smith told CNN. “We offer thousands of summer camp experiences (that) do not have this requirement.”
But Dr. Jennifer Shu, an Atlanta pediatrician, told CNN, “Any organization can make their own rules, but as a pediatrician I feel like we should be promoting physical activity for everybody, be as inclusive as possible, and only exclude from activity if there’s a physical threat to their health,” she said.
Boys whose BMI is slightly lower than 40, but who are still considered obese for their height can be admitted to the Jamboree, but they are subject to additional health scrutiny, including a personal health recommendation from a health care provider.
Image: Scout campsite, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
The high volume of salt-laden snack foods consumed by American children is the culprit cited in an article published in the journal Hypertension for a marked rise in cases of high blood pressure among US kids and teens. The percentage of kids between ages 8 and 17 with high blood pressure–a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and strokes–has increased 27 percent over the past 13 years, according to researchers. More from NBC News:
The new research, published Monday in the journal Hypertension, positively links rising blood pressure to increasing body mass index, especially waist circumference, and sodium intake. In short, far too many American children are too fat and eating too many salty snacks.
More than a third of children and teens in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The reason we’re seeing high blood pressure in kids, is due to the obesity epidemic,” said pediatrician Dr. Joanna Dolgoff.
Dolgoff has been seeing elevated blood pressure in so many of her young patients, she thought her equipment was broken.
“Recently, I’ve been a lot more of my patients having high blood pressure,” Dolgoff, a child obesity expert and creator of the “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right” nutrition program, said. “I thought perhaps my blood pressure machine was broken. But actually the incidence of high blood pressure in children is increasing.”
Being overweight is a key risk factor for high blood pressure in adults so “it stands to reason that it would be the same in children,” said Dolgoff.
Image: Child having blood pressure taken, via Shutterstock
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Friday, June 14th, 2013
The chemical compound bisphenol-a (BPA), which is found in plastics and many food containers, has been linked with childhood obesity in girls, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE. BPA has long been associated with health problems in boys and men, including prostate issues, but this study calls the compound a major environmental culprit in obesity among young girls. More from CNN:
[Dr. De-Kun Li, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California,] and colleagues studied 1,326 school-age children in Shanghai, China, and measured BPA levels in their urine. In girls ages 9 to 12, higher BPA urine levels were associated with a doubled risk of obesity. And as BPA urine levels increased, so did the girls’ obesity risk – measured using their weight in reference to weight distribution in the population.
But strikingly, only girls in this age group were affected, the research showed. Neither girls outside of the 9-12 age range nor boys experienced a risk of being overweight or obese, even with high levels of BPA in their urine.
“Girls seem to be more sensitive to environmental impact, and we don’t know exactly why,” said Li, the lead study author.
Researchers do know BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical. It enters the body and mimics estrogen, the main hormone involved in female development.
When BPA acts like estrogen in young girls, it may accelerate the onset of puberty and cause weight gain – thus earning its “endocrine-disrupting” title.
“It is biologically plausible that BPA interferes with your normal hormone process – then your body gets screwed up,” said Li.
In March, a study reported a link between BPA and childhood asthma, and last year, the FDA banned BPA from all baby bottles and sippy cups.
Image: Overweight girl, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, June 13th, 2013
Constipation and the pain associated with it is the number one specific diagnosis children receive when they visit the emergency room, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. The New York Times has more on the reasons, which are often related to potty training, for the frequent diagnoses:
[The study] looked at almost 10,000 visits to the emergency room at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh by children 1 to 18 years old with abdominal pain. Constipation was the most common specific diagnosis, the cause of the pain in more than a quarter of the childrenwho had any diagnosis made. “Parents are shocked that that’s their child’s diagnosis,” said Dr. Kerry S. Caperell, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and lead author of the study.
The highest rate of constipation, he said, was found in boys around 10. “My experience is the kids don’t like to go to the bathroom at school, so there’s a sort of voluntary retention that exacerbates itself.”
Constipation is often attributed to deficiencies in our modern diet — not enough fiber, not enough fruits and vegetables — or to the same combination of overprocessed foods and sedentary lifestyle that puts children (and adults) at risk for obesity. So there is often something judgmental in the air when the subject is raised. And mind you, it isn’t always raised. It is not, shall we say, a sexy topic.
Children often run into problems with constipation around the age of potty training, when toddlers find themselves in a test of wills with their parents. Jessica Hankinson, a pediatric psychologist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, said: “We definitely see around potty training what can be considered withholding behavior. They start doing the potty dance, crossing their legs, bending down.” Anything, in other words, to keep from cooperating with the parental agenda.
Sometimes those patterns persist. Some children may be physiologically predisposed. Pediatric gastroenterologists and specialty clinics see children with refractory constipation who haven’t gotten better with the treatments suggested by their regular doctors.
“Maybe the problem has been underrecognized and undertreated,” said Dr. Maria Oliva-Hemker, the chief of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and founder of a constipation clinic there.
And the longer children struggle with the problem, the more severe it can get, for reasons both behavioral and physiological.
“We call it defecation anxiety,” Dr. Hankinson said. “You have hard, difficult stools to pass, you have a painful bowel movement, you start withholding.” That, in turn, affects the functioning of the colon.
In extreme cases, children can develop what is called encopresis, when liquid stool leaks out around the hard, impacted stuff clogging up the colon. Parents may be worried about diarrhea, or angry about “accidents,” when the real problem is constipation.
Image: Emergency room, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
Telling children to “clean their plates” or finish all of their food at any given meal is associated with a higher risk of obesity later in life by a study published this week in the journal Pediatrics. More from CNN.com:
Denying certain foods to children or pressuring them to eat every bit of a meal are common practices among many parents. But researchers at the University of Minnesota found parents who restricted foods were more likely to have overweight or obese children. And while those who pressured children to eat all of their meals mostly had children of normal weight, it adversely affected the way those children ate as they grew older, according to the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Investigators combined data from two separate research studies. The first, EAT 2010 (Eating and Activity in Teens), studied around 2,800 middle and high school students from public schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Participants in the project responded to survey questionnaires designed to examine dietary intake and weight status.
Researchers combined that data with information from the Project F-EAT (Families and Eating and Activity Among Teens), a study designed to examine factors within the family environment on weight in adolescents.
From the combined information, researchers were able to gain a better understanding of how parents’ approach to food and feeding is related to adolescents’ weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States – triple the rate from just a generation ago.
“We found that between 50 and 60% of parents from our sample reported requiring that their child eat all of the food on their plate at a meal,” said researcher Katie Loth, the study’s lead author. “Further, we found that between 30-40% of parents from within our sample reported encouraging their child to continue eating even after their child stated that they were full.
“While these pressure-to-eat behaviors were more frequent among parents of non-overweight adolescents, they were still endorsed quite frequently by parents of overweight and obese adolescents, indicating that many parents endorse these behaviors regardless of their child’s current weight status,” she said.
Image: Child eating, via Shutterstock
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