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Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be fed only formula or breast milk until they are 6 months old, but more than 90 percent of mothers are offering solid food to their babies earlier than that, with 40 percent offering solids before 4 months, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC survey, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, said the findings are “worrisome” in that babies may be at increased risk for developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, eczema, and celiac disease. More from NBC News:
The mothers who volunteered for the CDC study filled out food diaries and questionnaires designed to ferret out their opinions on why and when solid foods should be offered.
Among the moms offering solid foods to infants younger than 4 months, the most commonly cited reasons for doing so included: “My baby was old enough;” “My baby seemed hungry;” “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula,” “My baby wanted the food I ate;” “A doctor or other health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food;” and “It would help my baby sleep longer at night,” researchers reported.
What’s more, moms who fed their babies formula were far more likely to start solids too early versus those who exclusively breast-fed (53 percent versus 24 percent), the study showed.
One food expert unaffiliated with the CDC study suggested that some health-care providers may simply be unfamiliar with current baby-feeding recommendations.
“I think this is worrisome,” said Ann Condon-Meyers, a pediatric dietician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “I think it may show that word isn’t getting out that … it is 6 months before solid foods should be offered.”
Image: Baby being fed, via Shutterstock
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Friday, March 8th, 2013
Kraft Foods’ iconic macaroni and cheese is a favorite among kids, but its cheesy yellow color comes from food dyes that could be harmful to children’s health. That’s the claim made by a Change.org petition that has collected more than 50,000 signatures in an attempt to convince Kraft to refrain from using artificial food dyes Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 in their products.
Two North Carolina food bloggers, Vani Hari and Lisa Leake, started the petition after learning that a number of countries ban the chemical dyes, or require foods containing them to have a warning label. The Center for Public Interest has conducted research linking the dyes with conditions from migraine headaches to asthma.
“If an American company can take the time and expense to reformulate a safer food product for countries overseas, then I believe Americans deserve the same treatment,” said Leake, a mother of two girls and creator of the “100 Days of Real Food” website. “It’s rather shocking that we are still being fed ingredients, which are no longer used – and in some cases banned – elsewhere.”
In Europe, foods that contain Yellow #5 are required to carry a warning label. The chemical has been completely banned in Norway and Austria. In the United Kingdom, Kraft’s “Cheesey Pasta,” the British version of the American Macaroni and Cheese product, doesn’t contain artificial food dyes.
“After suffering some serious health issues, I became incredibly passionate about understanding what is in food – how it is grown, what chemicals are used in its production, and what eating food does or doesn’t do for the body,” said Hari, a popular food activist writer who has been featured in the New York Times and is a regular contributor to NBC’s Charlotte Today. “I knew I needed to do something.”
Image: Macaroni and cheese, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, March 7th, 2013
Food allergies in children seem to be getting more common, with foods like eggs and peanut butter as top culprits. New recommendations from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology urge parents to introduce highly allergenic foods, including fish, eggs, and nuts, to babies as young as ages 4 and 6 months, saying that early exposure may lower the risk of the allergy. More from the Wall Street Journal:
The recommendations are a U-turn from 2000, when the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines that children should put off having milk until age 1, eggs until 2 and peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts and fish until 3. In 2008, the AAP revised its guidelines, citing little evidence that such delays prevent the development of food allergies, but it didn’t say when and how to introduce such foods.
Food allergies affect an estimated 5% of children under the age of 5 in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The prevalence of a food allergy for children under 18 increased by 18% from 1997 to 2007.
“There’s been more studies that find that if you introduce them early it may actually prevent food allergy,” said David Fleischer, co-author of the article and a pediatric allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver. “We need to get the message out now to pediatricians, primary-care physicians and specialists that these allergenic foods can be introduced early.”
Dr. Fleischer said more study results are needed to conclusively determine whether early introduction will in fact lead to lower food-allergy rates and whether they should be recommended as a practice.
Image: Peanuts, via Shutterstock
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Friday, February 1st, 2013
An inexpensive course of antibiotics, when given in conjunction with long-used nutritional treatments, could save tens of thousands of children’s lives each year, two new studies have concluded. More from The New York Times:
The studies, in Malawi, led by scientists from Washington University in St. Louis, reveal that severe malnutrition often involves more than a lack of food, and that feeding alone may not cure it.
The antibiotic study found that a week of the medicine raised survival and recovery rates when given at the start of a longer course of a tasty “therapeutic food” made from peanut butter fortified with milk powder, oil, sugar and micronutrients. Malnourished children are prone to infections, and the drugs — either amoxicillin or cefdinir — were so helpful that researchers said medical practice should change immediately to include an antibiotic in the routine treatment of severe malnutrition.
“This is ready for prime time,” said Dr. Indi Trehan, an author of the study. The study was published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine. The senior author is Dr. Mark J. Manary, an expert on malnutrition and one of the pioneers in using the fortified peanut butter, which researchers say has saved countless lives.
Because of the results, the World Health Organization expects to recommend broader use of antibiotics in guidelines on treating malnutrition that are to be issued next month, said Zita Weise Prinzo, a technical officer in the group’s nutrition department. A week’s worth of drugs costs only a few dollars, so governments and donors are likely to accept the idea, researchers say.
Image: Empty hands, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Fast food, which is often cited as a major factor in the U.S. childhood obesity epidemic, is now being associated with asthma and eczema, two allergy-based illnesses. More on the study, which was published in the medical journal Thorax, from Yahoo! News:
The researchers found that, out of the 15 food types in the questionnaire, only fast food showed an association with asthma and eczema in both age groups regardless of gender and socio-economic status. Three or more servings a week was linked to a 39 percent increase in severe asthma among teens and a 27 percent increased risk among younger children.
“A consistent pattern for the adolescent group was found for the relationship between symptoms and fast foods,” the researchers wrote in the study. “As adolescents are generally known to be high consumers of fast food, these results that show a significant increased risk of developing each or all three conditions may be a genuine finding.”
Though both eczema and asthma can be triggered by food allergies—and typical fast-food meals are filled with common allergens like gluten, dairy, egg, and soy—Williams told Yahoo! Shine that allergies probably aren’t the main issue here.
“We did not look for gluten, although bread and pasta both have gluten (however gluten free pasta and bread are now widely available so when someone says yes to eating bread 3x per week it may well be that they ate gluten free as this practice is growing in some countries). So we cannot tease this out,” he wrote in an email. “There is no doubt that food allergy plays an important role in some people with severe asthma and eczema, but those people tend to recognize it and avoid those foods.”
“I doubt if our observation of an association between severe allergies and fast foods is mediated much by increased food allergens,” he added.
A 2011 study published in Nutrition Research and Practice suggested that additives in processed foods could also trigger an allergic reaction in some kids, but Williams and his team say that fat intake, not food allergies or additives, is probably the main culprit.
Image: French fries, via Shutterstock
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