Monday, September 9th, 2013
Children who have diagnosed behavioral problems or who experience “adverse events” in their lives before age 8 may be more likely to develop physical inflammation later in adolescence and adulthood, putting them at greater risk for inflammation-related disorders including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. More from ScienceDaily.com on the findings of a new study, which was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology:
[Children with behavioral problems or who had suffered "adversities" by age 8] had higher levels of two proteins (C-reactive protein — CRP; and Interleukin 6 — IL-6) in their blood when tested at the age of 10. This was the case even after a large number of other factors, including sex, race, background, and medication use, were taken into account.
Having raised levels of CRP and IL-6 can be an early warning sign that a person may be at risk of chronic or inflammatory conditions later in life.
Previous research has shown that children with behavioral problems can go on to develop health problems during adulthood, but this is the first time that a link has been found between mental health and inflammation in childhood.
The researchers believe the link may be due to the fact that many behavioral problems are associated with how the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis works. The HPA axis plays a major role in controlling reactions to stress and the immune system and, if it malfunctions, it can stimulate the release of the two proteins that cause chronically elevated levels of inflammation, which is tissue’s response to injury.
Speaking about the findings, Karestan Koenen, PhD, the report’s senior author and associate professor of Epidemiology, said: “This new research shows for the first time that having behavioral problems in childhood can put children on the path to ill health much earlier than we previously realized. The important message for healthcare professionals is that they need to monitor the physical health as well as the mental health of children with behavioral problems in order to identify those at risk as early as possible.”
Image: Sad child, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Monday, August 19th, 2013
There’s been a flurry of recent headlines about giant babies born around the world, weighing in at 13 pounds or more. One British baby, born in March via vaginal delivery, clocked in at a whopping 15 pounds.
Researchers say the risk of having a big baby has increased because more mothers are obese when they give birth, and many women are delaying motherhood, boosting their risk of gestational diabetes, which contributes to over-sized babes.
This trend not only scares expecting moms, but also sets up newborns for poor health, reports NBCNews.com:
Along with the risk of a difficult birth, there is the impact on the health of the babies once they are born, says Dr. Irina Burd, an assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics and neurology and director of the integrated research center for fetal medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
It’s not uncommon for overweight moms to have diabetes or to develop it during pregnancy. And some of the high blood sugar in the mom flows through the placenta to the baby. That, in turn, forces the baby’s pancreas to pump up insulin production, which can leave babies with low blood sugar after they are born, Burd says.
Another problem is that sugar acts like a growth factor, and not all the growth is in sync, says Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, chief of maternal fetal medicine and vice chair for obstetrics at McGee Women’s Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
“In some ways very large babies look more mature because of their size,” Simhan adds. “But in terms of their lungs, they may be immature.”
Even more concerning are the effects felt by big babies as they grow up. “So they’re not just obese at delivery, but there are epigenetic changes that program them for the rest of their lives,” Burd says. And those include a heightened risk for obesity and cancer, she says.
That’s why doctors have tried to encourage pregnant patients who are obese to gain very little weight during pregnancy.
Newborn baby on scale, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Though certain lifestyle habits, including watching television and eating school lunches, are linked with childhood obesity, sixth grade girls and boys also face some gender-specific risk factors. Reuters reports:
Involvement in sports, for example, was tied to a lower risk of obesity in boys but not girls and drinking milk was linked to lowered risk among girls but not boys, according to researchers from the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor.
The study’s authors, led by Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, write in the journal Pediatrics that understanding obesity risk factors for specific genders may help target programs aimed at weight loss or preventing weight gain in children.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 17 percent of children and teens are obese.
For the new study, Jackson and her colleagues used data collected between 2004 and 2011 from 1,714 sixth-grade students at 20 middle schools in and around Ann Arbor.
Overall, about 18 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls were obese, which is defined as children who are in the top-fifth percentile of body mass index – a measurement of weight in relation to height.
Among boys who were not obese, about 56 percent participated in at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity at least five times per week, compared to about 43 percent of boys who were obese.
But there was no difference between the percentage of obese and non-obese girls who reported regular vigorous physical activity.
Playing on at least one sports team was also linked to decreased risk of obesity for boys but not girls.
The lack of an association between obesity and physical activity in girls may be explained by girls not reporting some activities like cheerleading or dance, because children may not consider those activities sports, the researchers write.
They did find, however, that drinking two or more servings of milk per day was tied to about a 20 percent decreased risk of obesity among girls but not boys. One possible explanation is that milk is displacing sugary drinks in the girls’ diets, Jackson’s team writes.
Image: Overweight girl, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Friday, August 9th, 2013
A decline–small, but significant, experts say–in the obesity rate among preschoolers growing up in low-income family is offering a glimmer of hope that efforts to combat the childhood obesity epidemic may be working. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released news of the decline in a recent report. USA Today has more:
Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands had the largest absolute decreases in prevalence of obesity, with a drop of at least 1 percentage point, the report says. Obesity rates held steady in 20 states and Puerto Rico. They rose in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
Researchers analyzed weight and height data of about 11.6 million children ages 2 to 4 in federally funded maternal- and child-nutrition programs. The data came from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System.
“Although obesity remains epidemic, the tide has begun to turn for some kids in some states,” Frieden says. “While the changes are small, for the first time in a generation they are going in the right direction.”
Previous research has shown that about one in eight preschoolers are obese in the USA, the CDC says. Preschoolers who are overweight or obese are five times more likely than their normal-weight peers to be overweight or obese as adults.
“It’s great news, but it’s too early to say that I feel confident that we are securely on the path to improvement,” said James Marks, senior vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropy devoted to public health.
The results are surprising, he said, “because of the speed at which the epidemic appears to be turning around.” The report shows “the highest-risk children in almost half of the states are getting healthier.” Marks, a pediatrician, is the director of the health group of the Princeton, N.J.-based foundation.
Image: Healthy girl, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Children as young as five are at a heightened risk of being obese if they regularly drink sugary beverages such as sodas, juices, and sports drinks, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Children who drink sweet drinks less often are less likely to be obese, according to the study. More from Reuters:
Although the link between sugary drinks and extra weight has been well documented among teens and adults, researchers said that up until now, the evidence was less clear for young children.
“Even though sugar-sweetened beverages are relatively a small percentage of the calories that children take in, that additional amount of calories did contribute to more weight gain over time,” said Dr. Mark DeBoer, who led the study at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
He and his colleagues surveyed the parents of a nationally-representative group of 9,600 children when the kids were two, four and five years old. The children were all born in 2001. Parents reported on their income and education, as well as how often children drank sugary beverages and watched TV.
The children and their mothers were weighed at each survey visit.
The proportion of kids who had at least one soda, sports drink or sugar-sweetened juice drink each day ranged from 9 to 13 percent, depending on their age.
Those children were more likely to have an overweight mother and to watch at least two hours of TV each day at age four and five.
After accounting for those influences as well as families’ socioeconomic status, the researchers found five-year-olds who had at least one sugary drink each day were 43 percent more likely to be obese than those who drank the beverages less frequently or not at all.
Kids were considered obese if they had a body mass index – a measure of weight in relation to height – above the 95th percentile for their age and gender, as calculated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Image: Child drinking sweet beverage, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment