Your Child

Building Strong Bones in Boys and Girls

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Children that get plenty of physical activity when they are young, tend to develop strong healthy bones. The benefits can last well into young adulthood.

A new study found that as children age into adolescence their physical activity levels drop, but the advantages of early exercise remain.

“What parents do to make sure kids are active today matters down the road,” said Kathleen Janz, the study’s lead author from the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

“When you accumulate physical activity as a child, you end up with what looks like better bone as an adolescent,” she told Reuters Health.

Participants in the research were part of the Iowa Bone Development Study, an ongoing study of bone health during childhood and young adulthood. The children had been recruited for that study between 1998 and 2002 when they were about five years old.

At ages five, eight, 11, 13, 15 and 17 years old, the 530 participants wore a device called an accelerometer for four or five consecutive days, including one weekend day, to measure their physical activity whenever they were awake.

When the participants were 17 years old, researchers used bone scans to measure the density, strength and brittleness of their bones. They also used pictures from the scans to estimate the precise geometry of the teenagers’ bone shape, a crucial factor in bone strength.

Researchers found what has sadly become the norm for many kids these days:

-       During childhood, less than 6 percent of the girls were highly active and by their late teens, almost all had become inactive.

-       Boys were more active than girls, but also became much less active as teens.

On average, girls went from being active for 46 to 48 minutes a day in early childhood to being active for just 24 minutes a day as 17-year-olds.

Among boys, activity levels fell from 60 to 65 minutes a day at the beginning of the study to an average of 36 minutes a day by the end.

At age 17, both boys and girls who had been the most active throughout their lives had denser bones and better bone shape than other participants their age that had been less active.

Janz acknowledges that it can be difficult to get teens up and moving.

“In an ideal world, children are active and maintain their activity into retirement, but this activity declines dramatically during adolescence, which is ironically a time when bone is most responsive to activity,” she said.

“It is not all that difficult for kids to be active, whereas sometimes getting adolescents to be active can be more difficult. They have different ideas as to how to spend their leisure time,” Janz said.

What kinds of exercise work best for kids to build strong bones? Janz says that running and jumping are great for building strong bones, but any activity is better than none.

The National Osteoporosis Society UK, also offers these five tips for kid’s bone building activities:

-       Team sports such as football or netball are good for getting children involved in fitness at a young age.

-       Skipping works well because it adds some impact to bones. Aim for 50 jumps a day or skipping for five minutes each day.

-       Jogging builds bone in both the hip and spine in younger people.

-       Tennis or badminton are more high-impact and enjoyable sports that build bone density.

-       Dancing and exercising to music are fun ways to boost bone health as well.

Parents hold the key to helping their children develop good exercise habits. These habits can offer benefits throughout their lives. Study after study reveals that kids are more likely to want to participate in and learn about fitness when they see their parents setting a good example.

Sources: Allison Bond MD, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/05/us-kids-exercise-bone-health-idUSKBN0EG1Q820140605

http://www.nos.org.uk/~/document.doc?id=500

Your Child

Are Artsy Kids Our Future Inventors?

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Does your child love to participate in the visual arts or tinker with metal or electronics? If so, you may be raising a future inventor or entrepreneur according to a new study.

Researchers at Michigan State University looked at the university’s Honors College graduates from 1990 to 1995 and paid particular attention to students who majored in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. They discovered that those who owned businesses or patents received up to eight times more exposure to the arts during childhood than the general public.

"The most interesting finding was the importance of sustained participation in those activities," Rex LaMore, director of MSU's Center for Community and Economic Development, said in a university news release. "If you started as a young child and continued in your adult years, you're more likely to be an inventor as measured by the number of patents generated, businesses formed or articles published. And that was something we were surprised to discover."

Musical training appeared to play a major role in the honor graduates’ lives. Researchers found that 93 percent of the alumni reported musical training at some point in their lives compared to 34 percent in the general population. Students also had a higher-than-average involvement in other arts such as acting, dance and creative writing.

A look into current patent owners revealed that 42 percent of the students were more likely to have been exposed to metal work and electronics during childhood and 30 percent to photography. Those exposed to architecture during childhood were 87.5 percent more likely to form a company.

What’s the connection between being involved in the visual arts as children and adults who are entrepreneurs and patent owners?  Researchers believe that participation as a child and young adult in arts and crafts stimulates creative thinking and multifaceted problem solving; two very important skills needed for success. They said they hope their findings will boost support for the continuation of arts programs in schools and noted that these platforms might even contribute to a healthier economy.

"Inventors are more likely to create high-growth, high-paying jobs in our state, and that's the kind of target we think we should be looking for," LaMore said. "So we better think about how we support artistic capacity, as well as science and math activity, so that we have these outcomes."

The study was recently published in the Economic Development Quarterly.

Resource: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/child-development-news-124/direlease-batch-986-681446.html

 

Your Child

Wrigley Stops Production of Caffeine Gum

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Before it has a chance to fly off the shelves, Wrigley has decided to stop production, sales and marketing of their new caffeinated gum. The company’s decision comes after meetings with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The government agency shared its concerns about the possible effects of caffeinated gum on children and adolescents.

Alert Energy Caffeine Gum was introduced into the marketplace less than a month ago. One piece contains 40 milligrams of caffeine, about the same amount that’s typically in a half-cup of coffee.

The gum was available in 2 flavors: mint and fruit. Once someone starts chewing the gum, caffeine is released into the saliva. Some of it is swallowed and some goes directly into the bloodstream through the cheeks or from under the tongue.

"The FDA applauds Wrigley's decision and its recognition that we need to improve understanding and, as needed, strengthen the regulatory framework governing the appropriate levels and uses of caffeine in foods and beverages," said Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. "The company's action demonstrates real leadership and commitment to the public health. We hope others in the food industry will exercise similar restraint."

Wrigley released its own statement about why they made their decision.

"When Wrigley launched Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, we took great strides to ensure that the product was formulated, distributed and marketed in a safe and responsible way to consumers 25 years old and over," Wrigley President Casey Keller said. "After discussions with the FDA, we have a greater appreciation for its concern about the proliferation of caffeine in the nation's food supply. There is a need for changes in the regulatory framework to better guide the consumers and the industry about the appropriate level and use of caffeinated products."

Caffeine seems to be the new marketing chemical of choice for just about anything you can put in your mouth. While Wrigley has made the decision to stop production of its caffeinated gum, other brands are still on the market.

In recent years, “energy” drinks have come under scrutiny by the FDA because of the high levels of caffeine in those products. Many health experts are calling for these drinks to be clearly labeled and health warnings to be added to labels.

Source: Saundra Young,  http://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/08/health/wrigley-caffeine-gum-production/index.html

Your Child

Can DHA Improve Your Child’s Reading Skills?

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Children whose reading test scores place them in the bottom 20% of their elementary class may benefit from supplements of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, according to a new controlled trial. 

Researchers at Oxford University’s Center for Evidence-Based Intervention studied 362 (7- to 9-year-old) children who had placed in the bottom third of their class in reading scores. For 16 weeks, the children were given either a placebo or 600 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The DHA was extracted from algae, which are the original source of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish.

Researched then tracked any changes in improvements based on a popular British reading skills test and followed up by asking parents and teachers to rate changes in the children’s behavior, including attention and restlessness. 

Over the 16-week trial, the children receiving placebos progressed in their reading skills as expected. But those students who received DHA and had scored in the bottom 20% of readers at the start of the study advanced by nearly an extra month, while those in the bottom 10% gained nearly two extra months of progress. Students whose reading skills were less impaired — those whose scores had placed them at the highest end of the bottom third — did not see extra improvements with DHA.

Parents of the kids who received DHA also rated their children as more attentive and less restless, as compared with those who got placebo. However, teachers did not report improvement in the children’s behavior.

Other studies have shown that kids with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), who were given omega-3 supplements, showed improved behavior. Lead author of the current trial, Alexandra Richardson, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Center notes: “What’s new here is that we’re showing a benefit outside of a clinical population in healthy children, albeit with reading difficulties, and we showed a meaningful improvement.”

DHA is an essential nutrient, which cannot be manufactured by the body, and is used by virtually all cells. It is especially important for vision and brain function, particularly during early development. “DHA is critical for vision and it’s possible that improvements in visual perception might allow children to read better, but it all remains speculative,” says Richardson.

“We focused specifically on reading here,” notes Paul Montgomery, a co-author of the paper and professor of psychosocial interventions at Oxford, explaining that the effects of poor reading in school-age children can be lifelong, contributing to everything from unemployment to the risk of criminal activity down the line. “If reading is not mastered at that stage, how that rattles through and affects children’s life chances later on is profound.”

Not everyone agrees that the statistical analysis used in the study was sufficient. Charles Hulme, professor of psychology at University College London, who was not associated with the new research, expressed some concerns. He called the overall design “good,” but he thinks that the way the data analysis was done may have overstated the effects of DHA. “For children like this, with relatively severe reading problems, [the change seen] is of little, if any, educational significance,” he says, adding, “I think this trial is too brief — only 16 weeks — to have a realistic chance of finding effects on reading, even if they exist.”

Richardson agrees that follow-up research is needed. “We’re the first to say this needs replication,” she says, noting that her group is already working on a larger study that targets only the children with the very lowest reading scores. “We’d like to think it should be taken up by others as well.”

Experts say the best way to make sure that your child is getting enough omega-3s is to improve their diet. Fatty fish such as salmon, herring, halibut and tuna  are good sources of DHA and EPA. Fish tacos are an excellent way to add omega-3s to the household menu as well as tuna sandwiches. Many other foods are now fortified with DHA such as yogurt, milk, soymilk, granola bars, bread, pasta, margarine, orange juice, cereal, peanut butter and even eggs. Nuts are also an excellent source.

Whether DHA can help improve your child’s reading skills is not known for sure. But the health benefits of adding omega-3 fatty acids to the diet are well researched. 

Supplements are also a good choice for children who have certain food allergies. While there is little danger from getting too many omega-3s in a typical diet, they do have anti-clotting actions and could be dangerous for people with blood clotting disorders or those taking anti-clotting medication.

Talk with your pediatrician or family doctor if you have any concerns about adding DHA to your child’s diet.

The Oxford research was published in the journal PLOS One. It was funded by DSM Nutritional Products, which made the supplement used in the study but was not involved in the data analysis.

Source: http://healthland.time.com/2012/09/07/omega-3s-as-study-aid-dha-may-help-lowest-scoring-readers-improve/#ixzz26ee6yHB3

Your Child

USDA New Rules: Healthier School Lunches

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Government funded school lunches will offer more fruit and vegetables and less fat on their lunch plates starting next September.

New guidelines by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)   were announced Wednesday when First Lady Michelle Obama, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, visited with elementary students.

"Improving the quality of the school meals is a critical step in building a healthy future for our kids," said Vilsack. "When it comes to our children, we must do everything possible to provide them the nutrition they need to be healthy, active and ready to face the future – today we take an important step towards that goal."

It’s been more than 15 years since the school lunch program has had an overhaul. The changes will affect over 32 million kids who eat at school. The new regulations will be phased in over the next three years, starting in the fall.

Under the new regulations, schools will be required to offer fruits and vegetables every day, increase the amount of whole-grain foods and reduce the sodium and fats in the foods served. Schools will also be required to offer only fat-free or low-fat milk. In addition, the menus will pay attention to portion sizes to make sure children receive calories appropriate to their age, according to Kevin Concannon, USDA under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services.

The new requirements are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed into law last year by President Barack Obama and championed by the First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let's Move! campaign.

"As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat, and ensure they have a reasonably balanced diet," Mrs. Obama said. "And when we're putting in all that effort the last thing we want is for our hard work to be undone each day in the school cafeteria."

The new guidelines apply to lunches that are subsidized by the federal government. The government will help school districts pay for some of the increased costs. Schools will receive an additional 6 cents per meal in federal funding. The overall cost to implement the changes is expected to be about $3.2 billion. To help with the costs, Concannon said schools will have more flexibility in how the program is administered. Students, for example, will be allowed to pick and choose more items as they move through the line, rather than getting a plate served to them.

Some of the changes will take place as soon as this September; others will be phased in over time. The subsidized meals are served as free and low-cost meals to low-income children. The 2010 law will also extend to nutrition standards of other foods, sold in schools, that aren't subsidized by the federal government. Included will be "a la carte" foods on the lunch line and snacks in vending machines. Those standards will be written separately and have not yet been proposed by the department.

Wendy Weyer, director of nutrition services for Seattle Public Schools, said her district is already complying with many of the new USDA standards, and taking other steps, such as having partnerships with local farmers and planting school gardens. "Seattle has been very progressive with changing the way we offer meals, offering fruits and vegetables every day, as well as whole grain-rich foods," she said.

Weyer said the biggest challenge is reducing sodium content, "while keeping the meals palatable for our students."

Statistics show that about 17 percent of U.S. children and teenagers are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new standards are aimed at providing a higher nutritional content as well as a variety of healthier choices. 

“We strongly support the regulations,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokeswoman for the Maryland-based School Nutrition Association. “The new nutrition standards for school meals are great news for kids.” Pratt-Heavner said parents will play an important role in supporting the new standards.  ”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.” 

Vilsack said food companies are reformulating many of the foods they sell to schools in anticipation of the changes. "The food industry is already responding," he said. "This is a movement that has started, it's gaining momentum."

The new standards did not come easily. Congress last year blocked the Agriculture Department from making some of the desired changes, including limiting french-fries and pizzas. Conservatives in Congress called the guidelines an overreach and said the government shouldn't tell children what to eat. School districts also objected to some of the requirements, saying they go too far and would cost too much.

Some schools are already making voluntary changes in their menus, but others still serve children meals high in fat, calories and sodium.  The guidelines are designed to combat childhood obesity and are based on 2009 recommendations by the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sources: http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/25/10234671-students-to-see-healthier-school-lunches-under-new-usda-rules,  http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article

Your Child

Baby Jogger Jump Seat Recall

Baby Jogger has received four reports of children falling from the seat, including reports of scrapes, bruises, cuts and one broken nose.About 1,545 Baby Jogger Jump Seat in the United States, and 450 in Canada, have been recalled because the seat does not lock properly and could allow a child to fall out.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Name of Product: Baby Jogger Jump Seats Units: About 1,545 (U.S.) and about 450 (Canada) Distributor: Baby Jogger LLC, of Richmond, Va. Hazard: If the Jump Seat does not properly lock into place, the Jump Seat could disengage from the stroller allowing the child to fall out. Incidents/Injuries: Baby Jogger has received four reports of children falling from the seat, including reports of scrapes, bruises, cuts and one broken nose. Description: This recall includes the Baby Jogger Jump Seat. The Jump Seat is a fabric seat accessory with the name "Baby Jogger" on the front that is attached to the mounting bracket on the frame of a Baby Jogger City Elite, Baby Jogger City Classic or Baby Jogger Summit stroller and allows a toddler and baby to ride together in the same stroller at the same time. The item number is printed on the product packaging. Item: Numbers J7J50 Sold: Beginning January 2008 Sold at: Juvenile products stores, mass merchandisers, and department stores nationwide and on the Web from January 2008 through July 2010 for about $100. Manufactured in: China Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the Jump Seat and contact Baby Jogger to receive Jump Seat safety straps and assembly instructions. Customer Contact: For additional information, contact Baby Jogger toll-free at (877) 506-2213 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET, e-mail the firm at recall@babyjogger.com, or visit the firm's website at www.babyjogger.com Note: Health Canada's press release is available at http://cpsr-rspc.hc-sc.gc.ca/PR-RP/recall-retrait-eng.jsp?re_id=1287

Your Child

Diabetic Children May Focus Too Much On Counting Carbs

Keeping an eye on the amount of carbohydrates consumed can help young people with type 1 diabetes control their blood sugar.

Keeping an eye on the amount of carbohydrates consumed can help young people with type 1 diabetes control their blood sugar.But they should also be careful about putting too much emphasis on carb counting alone, researchers say. Nutrition counseling for children and teens with type 1 diabetes often recommends carb counting. By calculating the grams of carbohydrates in a meal or snack, diabetics can more closely control blood sugar levels and adjust their doses of insulin appropriately. The small study, published in Diabetes Care, found that parents and kids sometimes put too much emphasis on carb quantity at the expense of diet quality. In interviews with 35 8 to 21-year-olds and their parents, the researchers found that some preferred packaged processed foods to "whole" foods, like fruits, whole grains and legumes, because the carb content was readily available on the product labels. In addition, some parents limited their children's intake of healthy choices like fruit and whole grains because of their carbohydrate content. This was despite the fact that parents and kids alike usually believed that fruits and vegetables were generally healthy foods, while "junk food" and fast food should be limited.
Your Child

Kidney Stones on the Rise in Children

Kidney stones are on the rise in children and doctors are trying to determine why. Kidney stones used to be an adult problem, one that causes excruciating pain. But in recent years, kidney stones have been turning up in rising numbers at hospitals around the country. At Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the number of children treated for kidney stones since 2005 has gone from about 10 patients a year to five a week, said Dr. Pasquale Casale.

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In a 2007 study in the Journal of Urology, doctors are North Shore-Long Island Jewish Medical Center reported a nearly fivefold increase in children brought in with kidney stones between 1994 and 2005. Eating too much salt can result in excess calcium in the urine. Some doctors blame kids' love of cheeseburgers, fries and other salty foods for the increased number of kidney stones. In children, most stones are calcium-bases. Dr. Uri Alon, director of the bone and mineral disorders clinic at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City says that children's eating habits, plus drinking too little water puts them at risk. Plenty of water is generally recommended to help prevent kidney stones. For an average-size-10-year-old about four cups of water a day on top of whatever else they are drinking is considered a good amount to dissolve the minerals in urine.

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Your Child

Sports Video Games May Help Kids Lose Weight

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Video games are often blamed for an increase in childhood obesity, but a new study suggests that certain types of games may actually assist kids in losing weight. Sports video games that require kids to actively participate may actually offer obese or overweight kids a new tool to help drop those extra pounds. 

The 16 - week study, sponsored by United Health Group, showed that overweight kids who expended energy by playing bowling, soccer or track and field video games, compared to those that simply followed a weight loss program, lost more than two and half times their Body Mass Index (BMI). That’s a pretty remarkable loss.

The study was based on a trial weight loss program that the United Health Group launched in 2011. The program is called Join for Me.

Join for Me borrows from the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program, conducted by the National Institutes of Health. It demonstrated that healthy eating and regular exercise along with counseling were more effective than medication at preventing diabetes. The success of that study led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch a similar 16-week program for adults in partnership with the YMCA and UnitedHealth. “Why not use the same winning formula?” says Deneen Vojta, a pediatrician in charge of clinical affairs at UnitedHealth, and a principal investigator on the JOIN for ME study.

Voita and other researchers decided to add sports video games to the weight loss program, hoping it would prod kids, ages 8 to 12, to increase their activity. Of the 75 kids in the program, 34 were given Microsoft’s Xbox 360 consoles and received two games, Kinnect Adventures and Kinnect Sorts.

Notably, children did not receive instructions on how long to use the games. Although Vojta doesn’t know whether the kids exercised the whole time in front of a screen, that group registered an additional 7.4 minutes a day in moderate to vigorous activity, which could translate into a yearly loss of four pounds of fat.

Although the results were impressive, two drawbacks remain; the games and console are expensive and kids often get bored with and tend to stop playing them after awhile.

Vojta is considering offering JOIN for ME online, which could lower costs, and make it more widely available. “No one believes that gaming 
is going to solve obesity,” she says.  “It’s a signal for the health care and gaming industries that although passive screen time contributed to obesity, it could contribute to a solution.”

These kinds of sports games are not a quick fix for kids who typically do not get much exercise, eat a diet high in calories and fat and are overweight or obese. However, entertaining video games that require active physical participation might be a good additional tool to help overweight children slim down. 

Source: Zina Moukheiber, http://www.forbes.com/sites/zinamoukheiber/2014/03/03/unitedhealth-study-shows-sports-video-games-help-children-lose-weight/

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