Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Children who have televisions in their bedrooms have higher risks of developing health problems including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found. More from NBC News:
“Specifically, youngsters ages 5 to 18 who had TVs in their rooms were up to 2.5 times more likely than others to have bigger waists and more fat mass. Those who watched TV more than five hours a day were at twice the risk for fat around their internal organs, a dangerous precursor for disease.
“It’s really troubling to see these kids with fat around their heart and liver,” said Amanda Staiano, a scientist with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.
Staiano and her colleagues knew that previous studies had shown a link among bedroom TVs, longer TV viewing and being overweight or obese, which affects two-thirds of U.S. youth. But in a country where 70 percent of kids have TVs in their rooms, according to a 2010 study, Staiano said they wanted to understand exactly where the kids were adding fat, and whether they were at risk for conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
“We wanted to see kind of a more precise relationship between TV and health,” said Stainao, who studied 369 children and teens in Louisiana. Her findings are reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
They took the kids’ height, weight and waist measurements, logged their blood pressure, analyzed their blood and examined the fat deposits in their bodies using special scanners, among other exams.
Nearly 66 percent of the young people in the study had TVs in their rooms and about a third watched at least five hours of TV a day. There wasn’t a distinction by age, so even the youngest kids — 5-year-olds — had their own TVs, Staiano said.
Those with bedroom TVs had the higher odds for being in the top tiers of kids with extra belly fat, bigger waists, greater risk of heart disease and diabetes and elevated triglycerides, or fat in their bloodstream.
While Stainano’s study couldn’t say whether bedroom TV and long hours in front of the screen actually causes the extra fat and disease risk, it renews the debate about whether TVs should be allowed in kids’ rooms at all.
The American Academy of Pediatrics frowns on the practice, saying children’s TV viewing should be limited to less than two hours a day, ideally in a central location with parents watching, too.”
Image: Kids watching TV in bed, via Shutterstock
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Friday, May 4th, 2012
A large new study of children with Type 2 diabetes has found that the disease develops more quickly and is more difficult to treat than when adults are diagnosed with the same disease. The New York Times reports:
Why the disease is so hard to control in children and teenagers is not known. The researchers said that rapid growth and the intense hormonal changes at puberty might play a part.
The study followed 699 children ages 10 to 17 at medical centers around the country for about four years. It found that the usual oral medicine for Type 2 diabetes stopped working in about half of the patients within a few years, and they had to add daily shots of insulin to control their blood sugar. Researchers said they were shocked by how poorly the oral drugs performed because they work much better in adults.
The results of the study and an editorial were published online on Sunday by The New England Journal of Medicine.
The findings could signal trouble ahead because poorly controlled diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease, eye problems, nerve damage, amputations and kidney failure. The longer a person has the disease, the greater the risk. So in theory, people who develop diabetes as children may suffer its complications much earlier in life than previous generations who became diabetic as adults.
“I fear that these children are going to become sick earlier in their lives than we’ve ever seen before,” Dr. Nathan said.
Researchers urge aggressive, individualized treatment plans to keep the disease under control in children.
Image: Child at doctor’s office, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, March 5th, 2012
A new technology that mimics the monitoring of blood sugar and release of insulin done by a healthy pancreas is making a difference in the lives of some children, leading a CNN.com medical writer to refer to it as a “vacation from diabetes.”
From Elizabeth Cohen’s report:
Medical device companies are racing to be the first to market an artificial pancreas, which takes over the work of the diabetic’s malfunctioning organ. The device could potentially be used for Type 1 diabetics or Type 2 diabetics who use insulin.
“It’s transformative technology,” says Aaron Kowalski, assistant vice president for treatment therapies research at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
JDRF is funding artificial pancreas trials at 13 sites worldwide, including Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Virginia and the University of Colorado. Device companies also are funding several other studies.
“It’s looking incredibly promising,” Kowalski says. “I hope very much we’ll have a system on the market within four years, and I’ll be very disappointed if we don’t.”
In January, [12-year-old] Elle [Shaheen] walked into Massachusetts General Hospital to start the trial.
Doctors fitted her for an artificial pancreas. In the future, the device will be the size of a cell phone, but for now Elle is hooked up to a laptop.
For three days, the device did the work Elle’s pancreas can no longer do.
“It went very smoothly — her blood sugar control was really very, very good,” said Dr. Steven Russell, an instructor at Harvard Medical School. “We were really very pleased by what we saw with Elle.”
Russell’s research partner, Edward Diamano, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University, says the device learned Elle’s blood sugar patterns and made changes accordingly.
“It’s making adjustments every five minutes,” he says.
For that one weekend, Elle didn’t have to draw blood, and she could eat foods she hadn’t eaten in large quantities for four years.
“She ate Spaghetti-O’s and grilled cheese and french fries and hamburgers,” Shaheen says. “She ate between 67 and 100 grams of carbs a day, and usually she can only eat between 40 and 50.”
Image: Diabetic child checking blood sugar, via Shutterstock.
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Friday, February 3rd, 2012
Citing reasons ranging from the childhood obesity epidemic to heightened diabetes, liver problem, and high cholesterol risks, a group of researchers has published a commentary in the journal Nature urging the government to regulate sugar in the same way it regulates alcohol and tobacco. Journalist Christopher Wanjek reports on LifeScience.com:
The researchers propose regulations such as taxing all foods and drinks that include added sugar, banning sales in or near schools and placing age limits on purchases.
Although the commentary might seem straight out of the Journal of Ideas That Will Never Fly, the researchers cite numerous studies and statistics to make their case that added sugar — or, more specifically, sucrose, an even mix of glucose and fructose found in high-fructose corn syrup and in table sugar made from sugar cane and sugar beets — has been as detrimental to society as alcohol and tobacco.
[Robert] Lustig, a medical doctor in UCSF’s Department of Pediatrics, compares added sugar to tobacco and alcohol (coincidentally made from sugar) in that it is addictive, toxic and has a negative impact on society, thus meeting established public health criteria for regulation. Lustig advocates a consumer tax on any product with added sugar.
Among Lustig’s more radical proposals are to ban the sale of sugary drinks to children under age 17 and to tighten zoning laws for the sale of sugary beverages and snacks around schools and in low-income areas plagued by obesity, analogous to alcoholism and alcohol regulation.
Read on for Parents’com’s High Chair Times blog’s take on the proposal, and Heather’s question: What about artificial sweeteners?
Image: Sugary sprinkles, via Shutterstock.
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Friday, January 27th, 2012
Whole milk and white bread are among the casualties of a set of school lunch changes the USDA announced this week. The infusion of $3.2 billion of federal funding for the National School Lunch Program intends to offer children lunches higher in whole grain, vegetables, and fruits, and lower in fat and sodium. The lunches will also monitor portion sizes in a way that leaders hope will help curb the childhood obesity epidemic that affects an estimated 17 percent of American children and teens. Each lunch will cost a projected 6 cents more than current school lunches.
The changes are meant to appeal to kids’ palates as well as being good for their bodies. According to the projected new menu, oven-baked fish nuggets will replace breaded beef patties; whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce will replace hot dogs; and bean and cheese burritos will be replaced with turkey submarine sandwiches. Pizza day, a sacred school institution, will survive, but the cheese pizzas will be served on whole wheat crust, accompanied with baked sweet potato fries rather than the tater tots of yore.
The new regulations are the first changes to national school lunch policy in 15 years, the result of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The changes will begin to be phased in next fall, and will be fully implemented over 3-5 years.
Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokeswoman for the Maryland-based School Nutrition Association, told MSNBC.com she applauds the changes, but encourages parents to participate in the process of encouraging their kids to make healthier food choices. “We all have to work to get the kids to make these healthier choices,” she said. “Students are more apt to pick up a fruit or vegetable in the lunch line if they have been introduced to those foods at home.”
Image: School lunch tray, via Shutterstock.
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