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Friday, March 15th, 2013
Babies may prefer to be around individuals who pick on, or even mildly bully, members of a group who are different in some way from the others. Researchers at Yale University and the University of British Columbia have determined their findings based on a study of babies who were observing puppets, beans, and balls. The results may help scientists better understand the roots of violence and discrimination, the Boston Globe reports:
Led by scientists at Yale University and the University of British Columbia, the researchers posed a complicated social scenario to 9-month-old and 14-month-old babies: If they saw a rabbit puppet who was either similar or different from them in some fundamental way—in this case, preferring graham crackers or green beans—would they care how others treated the rabbit?
The researchers already knew two basic things about the choices and preferences of infants. Just like adults, who tend to like people who are similar to them, babies are drawn to others who share their tastes in food and toys. Hollywood movies leverage our impulse to cheer for do-gooder heroes over villains; babies similarly prefer a character that helps someone else climb a mountain rather than pushing them down it, a previous study had shown.
But would babies always, universally, prefer heroes to villains? Or would their preference depend on who was being helped or hindered? The researchers wondered: would they see the enemy of their enemy as a friend?
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“I was surprised, and my liberal bleeding heart sunk like a stone, when we found them actually choosing, really robustly, the puppet who punishes” the rabbit puppet that did not share the baby’s preference, said Karen Wynn, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale and senior author of the work, published in the journal Psychological Science.
Image: Rabbit puppet, via Shutterstock
Friday, September 7th, 2012
Women have long-relied on cranberry juice to help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). A new study suggests that certain types of cranberry juice may do the same for kids, Reuters reports.
The small study, published in the Journal of Urology, involved kids who’d had at least two UTIs in the last year. Researchers asked them to drink either a cranberry juice that contained high levels of proanthocyanidins (PACs), compounds that appear to fight the bacteria behind UTIs, or a cranberry-free juice.
Over the next year, kids who drank cranberry juice had UTIs at a rate of 0.4 per child, compared with 1.15 in the comparison group.
The power of cranberries against UTIs “was initially regarded as an old wives’ tale,” said Dr. Hiep Nguyen of Boston Children’s Hospital, who was not involved in the study.
But Nguyen said he now often recommends cranberry—either juice or supplements—when kids have recurrent UTIs.
“It can be a great alternative to prophylactic (preventive) antibiotics,” Nguyen said.
That doesn’t mean cranberry is the cure-all. If a child has frequent UTIs, Nguyen said, antibiotics may be necessary to “break the cycle.”
Not all cranberry juice has a high PAC content, and researchers didn’t give specifics about brands. Nguyen warned against brands with too much sugar, and against drinking too much. From Reuters:
“Pure cranberry juice often doesn’t taste so good,” [Nguyen] noted. So manufacturers often mix it with something more palatable, like apple juice, or add a lot of sugar.
Cranberry juice mixed with other juices would likely have lower PAC levels. If there’s added sugar, that means calories; drinking a lot of sugary juice can also cause diarrhea in kids.
“We do worry about the sugar content,” Nguyen said.
Image: Cranberry juice via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, September 4th, 2012
A new study suggests that pregnant women who drink sweet sodas regularly may be more likely to deliver their babies too early, Reuters reports.
Researchers studied more than 60,000 pregnant women in Norway and found that those who drank one sugar-sweetened soda a day were up to 25 percent more likely to give birth prematurely than those who avoided sugary drinks. And pregnant women who drank artificially sweetened sodas daily were 11 percent more likely to give birth prematurely than those who skipped sweet drinks. But it’s not clear if sodas themselves deserve the blame.
[T]he new findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cannot prove that sugary drinks cause preterm births. Lifestyle and other factors that go along with high sugar consumption may also play a role. Nutrition, maternal age, smoking, alcohol, obesity, chronic health problems like diabetes, and genetic conditions, have all been implicated in preterm birth.
The authors note in their report that women who drank the most sweetened drinks were also more likely to smoke, eat more calories, and have a higher body mass index (BMI) – a measure of weight relative to height – than those who drank fewer sugary drinks.
The researchers said they aren’t ready to recommend that pregnant women give up all sweetened soft drinks, but they do recommend that moms-to-be watch their sugar intake and eat more fruits and vegetables.
Image: Soft drink via Shutterstock.
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Monday, September 3rd, 2012
A new study from Cornell University suggests that just as brand names tempt us to buy certain soft drinks or candy bars, certain brands can also lead kids to select healthy foods, CNN.com reports.
In this case, the “brand” was Elmo. Researcher Brian Wansink wondered if Elmo stickers would make foods more appealing to kids.
Wansink and his team observed 208 children ages 8 to 11 as they ate lunch on five consecutive days. Each day the kids could choose an apple or a cookie (or both). On the first day, they were offered “unbranded” cookies and apples without Elmo stickers, so researchers could see their baseline choices. For the next three days, researchers offered cookies and apples with or without Elmo or another cartoon character the kids didn’t know. The last day, the cookies and apples were again sticker-free to determine if the effect lasted.
There was very little difference in the number of children who chose the cookies with the Elmo sticker versus the number who chose the unbranded package. But Wansink says he was surprised at the impact the Elmo sticker had on kids’ apple decisions – more than double chose to take the branded fruit. And that healthy effect lasted through the weekend.
“This study suggests that the use of branding or appealing branded characters may benefit healthier foods more than indulgent, more highly processed foods,” the authors wrote in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine journal.
Now if we could just figure out how to get that furry red face on some broccoli!
Image: Elmo via CNN.com
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Tuesday, August 28th, 2012
It’s often the worst part of colds in little ones: the cough that keeps them (and their parents) up at night. A new study published in the journal Pediatrics builds the evidence that honey can help.
The small study involved 300 children ages 1 to 5, none of whom had asthma or pneumonia, the Washington Post reports. All had been coughing an average of three days due to a cold. Researchers randomly assigned them one of three types of honey or a date syrup placebo, and gave the kids 10 mg about a half hour before bed. Parents later completed a survey about their child’s cough. From the Washington Post:
Comparing the night the children took honey or the placebo with the previous night, coughing was less frequent and less severe, on average, for all the children, whether they got honey or the placebo. Their sleep improved, too, as did their parents’. However, as measured on a 20-point scale that considered all symptoms, improvement was greater among children who had taken honey.
Experts warn that over-the-counter cold and cough remedies can have dangerous side effects in young children, making honey a handy tool. But the researchers did stress that honey should never be given to children younger than 1 year because of the risk of botulism.
Image: Honey pot via Shutterstock.
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