Thursday, June 26th, 2014
The obesity rate among American kids may actually be higher than the 18 percent of children the Centers for Disease Control currently classifies as obese, according to an analysis published in the journal Pediatric Obesity. As many as 25 percent of obese or overweight kids may not be counted because the tally is based on the body mass index (BMI), a calculation that researchers say is flawed because children’s height and weight change rapidly as they grow–and not always in proportion with each other.
More from The Wall Street Journal:
“BMI is not capturing everybody who needs to be labeled as obese,” said Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, director of preventive cardiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who headed the study with Asma Javed, a pediatric endocrinology fellow.
Measuring body-mass index is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to screen for obesity among large groups of people, such as children in a school setting. A problem is that BMI, a calculation based on a person’s height and weight, isn’t well suited to children because their height and weight don’t proportionally increase as they grow, said Ruth Loos, a professor of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, who wasn’t involved with the Mayo study.
“It doesn’t mean that we cannot use BMI in childhood but it requires extra caution,” she said.
Other recent research has linked everything from sleep deprivation to weight-based name calling with an elevated risk of childhood obesity. Research released earlier this year had claimed a significant drop in the childhood obesity rate in the U.S., but subsequent research actually showed a sharp increase in the number of severely obese kids.
Image: Scale, via Shutterstock
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Friday, June 20th, 2014
Pregnant women who are overweight may have an electrical “switch” in their uterine muscle that makes Cesarean section delivery more likely, according to new research published in the journal Nature Communications. The switch is believed to play a role in the progression of labor, and in overweight women is often found to be faulty. More from ScienceDaily:
It’s well known that strong rhythmic contractions of the uterus are needed to allow the baby’s head to dilate the cervix. However little was known about what controls these contractions until now.The groundbreaking research from Monash University, the Royal Women’s Hospital and the Hunter Medical Research Institute, show that a potassium ion channel called hERG in the uterus is responsible.
Acting as a powerful electrical brake, hERG works during pregnancy to suppress contractions and prevent premature labour. However, at the onset of labour a protein acts as a switch to turn hERG off, removing the brake and ensuring that labour can take place.
The team, led by Professor Helena Parkington from the School of Biomedical Sciences at Monash University, found that in overweight women the switch doesn’t work, failing to turn hERG off.
“We’ve known for years that women who are overweight are much more likely to experience complications during pregnancy and labour — but we didn’t know why,” Professor Parkington said.
“Pinpointing the mechanism is a major breakthrough, not only does it ensure a smooth pregnancy, but knowing when contractions kick in at more or less the right time, is crucial to our understanding of the labour process.”
Image: C-section prep, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, June 18th, 2014
Despite the idea that kids would be playing and moving around outside during the summer months, new research from Harvard University shows that summertime is actually when kids are most at risk of packing on pounds. Part of the reason may be school-led efforts to offer healthier lunches and ban sugary drinks, but also at fault could be sedentary summer habits, less structure, and more (and less healthy) snacks. More from Today.com:
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health looked at data from seven studies that included more than 10,000 kids ages 5 to 12 in the United States, Canada and Japan. In all but one of the studies published between 2005 and 2013, the findings suggested that weight gain accelerated among kids during the summer — mostly for black and Hispanic youngsters and children and teens who were already overweight.
“It’s especially those kids who are already at risk who are the most at risk during the summer,” said Rebecca Franckle, a Harvard doctoral student who led the study published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.
In one study of more than 5,300 kindergarten and first-graders in 310 U.S. schools, researchers found that the kids’ body mass index growth, one measure of excess weight, was more than twice as fast during summer vacation as during the school year.
“Although schools may not provide ideal environments for healthy BMI growth, it appears that they are healthier than most children’s non-school environment,” researchers concluded in the 2007 study in the American Journal of Public Health.
About a third of children and teens in the U.S. are either overweight or obese, according to federal health estimates. Piling on extra weight at a young age can lead to serious health problems later in life.
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Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
Babies who don’t get enough sleep may end up weighing more later in childhood, according to a study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital. More from Time.com:
Plenty of studies connect poor sleep habits in adults to obesity, but few track the long term effect of infants’ sleep throughout childhood. That’s why Dr. Elsie Taveras, chief of general pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, and her colleagues followed babies every year from 6 months old until they were 7. At each visit, the team recorded height, weight, body fat, waist and hip circumference and sleep habit information to get the most complete picture yet of how sleep patterns are connected to childhood health.
Taveras rated the children’s sleep according to the recommended amounts for their age group set by the National Sleep Foundation and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute—for those under 2, that was more than 12 hours a day; for 3-4 year olds, that was more than 10 hours a day; and for kids 5 to 7, that was more than nine hours daily. At age 7, children with the lowest sleep scores throughout their young lives had the highest rates of obesity and body fat, specifically abdominal fat which other studies have linked to a higher risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
What sets Taveras’ work apart is that it shows how consistently disrupted sleep throughout childhood can have a cumulative effect on health. “This lends more evidence to the fact that insufficient sleep has significant health implications,” she says.
Consistently skimping on shut-eye, especially at an early age, may interfere with appetite hormones that control how hungry and full we feel. And because sleep is an important time for the body’s metabolism to reset itself, sleep deprivation can also skew the body’s circadian clock, changing the body’s ability to burn calories from the diet and leading to higher blood sugar levels.
The researchers recommend that parents maximize their kids’ sleep with healthy practices including consistent bedtime routines, limiting stimulating food and drink–especially caffeine-containing beverages–and eliminating electronic devices like televisions or mobile devices from kids’ bedrooms.
Need help getting Baby to sleep? Here’s what you need to know now!
Image: Sleeping toddler, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Boys who start smoking before age 11–very young smokers–are far more likely to have sons who battle weight and obesity issues, according to a new British study. The finding puts emphasis on a growing body of research supporting the idea that childhood habits can affect the health of offspring years down the line. More from Reuters:
The scientists said the findings, part of ongoing work in a larger “Children of the 90s” study, could indicate that exposure to tobacco smoke before the start of puberty in men may lead to metabolic changes in the next generation.
“This discovery of transgenerational effects has big implications for research into the current rise in obesity and the evaluation of preventative measures,” said Marcus Pembrey, a professor of genetics at University College London, who led the study and presented its findings at a briefing on Wednesday.
Smoking rates in Britain and some other parts of Europe are on the decline, but worldwide, almost one billion men smoke – about 35 percent of men in developed countries and 50 percent in developing ones, according to the World Health Organization.
While previous studies in animals and in people have found some transgenerational health impacts, the evidence so far is limited. It points, however, to epigenetics – a process where lifestyle and environmental factors can turn certain genes on or off – having an effect on the health of descendants.
Pembrey said his team’s research was prompted in part by signals from earlier Swedish studies that linked how plentiful a paternal ancestor’s food supply was in mid childhood with future death rates in grandchildren.
For the new study, published in the European Journal of Human Genetics, the researchers had access to detailed lifestyle, genetic and other health data from 9,886 fathers.
Of these, 5,376, or 54 percent, were smokers at some time and of those, 166, or 3 percent, said they had started smoking regularly before the age of 11.
Looking at the next generation, the team found that at age 13, 15 and 17, the sons of men who started smoking before 11 had the highest Body Mass Index (BMI) scores compared with the sons of men who had started smoking later or who had never smoked.
“These boys had markedly higher levels of fat mass – ranging from an extra five kilograms (kg) to 10kg between ages 13 and 17,” the study said.
Although it was there, the effect was not seen to the same degree in daughters.
Image: Young man smoking, via Shutterstock
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