Your Teen

Sugary Drinks May Increase Early Menstruation in Girls


The consumption of sugar-filled beverages has been linked to an increased risk of childhood obesity and type2 diabetes. A new study shines another light on the association between high-sugar drinks and young girl’s potential health problems.

Researchers found that, on average, girls who consumed more than 1.5 servings of sugar-sweetened beverages started menstruation 2.7 months earlier than girls who consumed two or fewer servings of these drinks each week.

The team said their findings raise concerns because earlier menstruation has been associated with increased risk of breast cancer. They say a 1-year decrease in age at first menstruation is estimated to raise the risk of breast cancer by 5%. "Thus, a 2.7-month decrease in age at menarche likely has a modest impact on breast cancer risk."

In another study, early menstruation has also been linked to a slight increase of risk for hypertension, heart attack and stroke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately half of the US population consumes sugary drinks on any given day, including around 60% of females aged 2-19 years.

This latest study is the first to associate sugary drink consumption in girls with the age of first menstruation, or menarche.

To reach their findings, Prof. Karin Michels, associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, and her team analyzed 5,583 girls aged 9-14 years who were a part of the Growing Up Today Study, which involves 16,875 children of participants from the Nurses Health Study II.

At the beginning of the study in 1996, none of the girls had started their periods. In a follow-up in 2001, 159 girls (3% of the participants) had started menstruation.

During the 5-year study, the girls were required to complete a dietary questionnaire that revealed their consumption of sugary drinks. The drinks contained added sugars such as sucrose, glucose and corn syrup.

They were also asked how often they consumed the drinks.

The team found that at any age between 9 and 18.5 years, girls who consumed more than 1.5 servings of sugary drinks each day were approximately 24% more likely to begin menstruation in the next month than girls who drank two or fewer servings each week.

Overall, the girls who drank the most sugar-laden drinks began their periods aged 12.8 years, while those who drank the least amount began menstruation at age 13.

These results remained significant even after the researchers accounted for other factors that could influence the age of first menstruation, such as body mass index (BMI), birth weight, height physical activity, ethnicity/race, family composition and how often the girls ate dinner with their family.

The team notes sugary drinks have a higher glycemic index than naturally sweetened drinks, which can trigger a rise in insulin concentrations. An increase in insulin concentrations can lead to a rise in concentrations of sex hormones, which can cause earlier menstruation - a potential explanation for the team's findings.

While drinking too many sugary drinks may lead to early menstruation in young girls, the more pressing health problem is likely to be obesity and type2 diabetes. These are problems that can lead to more serious health issues over a child’s lifetime.

Helping children understand the health benefits of laying –off these kinds of drinks (whether regular or artificially sweetened), when they are young will make it much easier for them to resist getting hooked by the time they reach the age of puberty.

The study’s findings were published in the journal Human Reproduction.

Source: Honor Whiteman,

Your Teen

Teen’s Social Media Posts May Damage College Chances

2.00 to read

Teens and social media post are practically synonymous these days. Kids have grown up tweeting, texting and posting pictures without giving it too much thought. It’s just what they do. But now, it’s getting time to think about college or a first job and all that personal information may come back to haunt them.

Colleges are increasingly searching applicant’s names on the Internet.  Most college applications are submitted online, so an administrator only has to open a new tab to learn more about a hopeful candidate’s public profile. Background checks are easily available as well. 

The percentages of college admissions officers who say they have Googled an applicant (29%) or visited an applicant’s Facebook or other social networking page to learn more about them (31%) have risen to their highest levels yet, according to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2013 survey of college admissions officers*. When Kaplan first began tracking this issue in 2008, barely 10% of admissions officers reported checking an applicant’s Facebook page. Last year, 27% had used Google and 26% had visited Facebook — up from 20% and 24%, respectively, in 2011.

“As social media has skyrocketed from being the domain of a younger generation to societal ubiquity, the perceived taboo of admissions officers checking applicants online has diminished,” said Seppy Basili, Vice President, Kaplan Test Prep.  “Granted, most admissions officers are not tapping into Google or Facebook, and certainly not as a matter of course. But there’s definitely greater acknowledgment and acceptance of this practice now than there was five years ago.”

Nobody really knows how much importance colleges place on what they find online about a prospective student.

Mark Sklarow, CEO of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, a national organization of private college admissions advisers, tells teens to review their postings and profiles with a critical eye. For example, Sklarow would ask student: “Do comments make you sound like a misogynist? A bully? Do hundreds and hundreds of ‘selfies’ convey narcissism?”

Parents need to be connected with their kids on social media sites so they can know what their child is posting. You can do your own investigation by Googling your child to see what kinds of information is readily available such as pictures, threads and what they like on Facebook and other social media sights. 

Many children have already been told that whatever they post is on the web forever, whether they delete it or not.

The Kaplan Test Prep survey also revealed that 50 percent of high school respondents said they were “not at all concerned” about online searches hurting their chances of admission. While optimism is a wonderful trait, teens and adults may view online posts differently. What may seem like common language and behavior between teens may not translate the same to adults. Parents can help teens understand what is acceptable and what might be considered inappropriate to someone considering a college or job application.

Online posts can also work in a teen’s favor. Many young people volunteer, take an interest in the environment, support worthwhile charities, take extra classes or work part time.  These are all activities that can leave a positive impression and help a student stand out.

Parents can help their teen prepare for college in many different ways. Talking to your child about their online profile is a good start.  There’s no guarantee that the college of their choice will be checking them out online, but if it does make sure they will have nothing to be concerned about.

 Sources: Jacoba Urist,

Your Teen

The “Cinnamon Challenge” Danger

2.00 to read

Many people know cinnamon as an ancient spice that was highly regarded as a gift to the gods. These days, in the social media world, the spice has become a sort of double- dare-you as the “Cinnamon Challenge.” Young people attempt to swallow a heaping helping of cinnamon without water. The dare has gone viral on YouTube with over 79 million views.

Calls to poison centers concerning kids ingesting cinnamon as part of the cinnamon challenge have dramatically increased this year according to the Association of Poison Control Center’s National Poison Data System (AAPCC).

As a result of the increase, poison control experts are now warning parents and teens about the health risks associated with the intentional misuse or abuse of cinnamon, according to Alvin C. Bronstein, MD, managing and medical director for the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center.

“Although cinnamon is a common flavoring, swallowing a spoonful may result in unpleasant effects that can pose a health risk,” Bronstein said.

“We urge parents and caregivers to talk to their teens about the cinnamon challenge, explaining that what may seem like a silly game can have serious health consequences. AAPCC does not recommend using cinnamon this way.”

Why is ingesting cinnamon dangerous? Because it’s a fine powder that can cause a violent reaction.

Doctors say the challenge is impossible because the cinnamon cannot be digested without water and warn that by inhaling the cinnamon dust teens run the risk of inflaming or scarring their lungs.

“If you have some fine particles, like cinnamon in your lungs, it may be hard to clear out,” said Dr. Robert Zaid of Providence Hospital in Mobile, Ala.  ”Your lungs can kind of collapse on you. There have been several cases reported where kids needed ventilator support because they weren’t able to maintain their airway.”

Dr. Russell Migita, Clinical Director of Emergency Services at Seattle Children’s Hospital, says, “The extreme coughing most people experience can be a harmful side effect." 

“People who cough that hard can have problems that can range from collapsing a lung to having lungs that get really inflamed, or pulmonary edema,” Migita says.

Amy Hanoian-Fontana, education specialist at the Connecticut Poison Control Center, says that the biggest concerns of ingesting cinnamon come from side effects such as vomiting or an allergic reaction. People with asthma or respiratory-compromised conditions are more at risk.

“People usually vomit,” Hanoian-Fontana says. "The dry fine powder coats all the mucous membrane; someone could end up with respiratory distress or trouble breathing. The risk is more from a mouth, throat or lung injury than any poisoning reaction from the cinnamon.”

School districts are trying to keep an eye out for kids who may be trying the “cinnamon challenge.” Like many other social media movements, schools face their own challenge trying to catch a trend before it does any harm. Some schools have started sending notes home to parents warning them of the dangers of swallowing dry cinnamon, hoping to update them on the latest and  –potentially dangerous- fad.

So, if you should find your child looking through the pantry or spice rack, ask them what they are looking for, and let them know that the cinnamon is off limits.


Your Teen

Sex Infections Still Rising Among Teens

Sexually transmitted diseases continue to rise according to the latest study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2008 there were 1.2 million new cases of chlamydia, a sometimes symptom-less infection that can lead to infertility in women. It was the most ever reported, up from the old record of 1.1 million cases in 2007. 

Better screening is the most likely reason, said Dr. John M. Douglas Jr. of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Syphilis, which was on the verge of being eliminated in the United States about 10 years ago, also has been on the rise. Statistics show that about 13,500 cases of the most contagious form of the disease were reported in 2008, up from about 11,500 the year before. Syphilis can kill if untreated, but chlamydia is not life-threatening. Neither is gonorrhea, which appears to have plat eaued in recent years. Gonorrhea cases dropped to about 337,000 cases in 2008, down from about 356,000 cases. Girls, ages 15 through 19, had the largest reported number of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases, accounting for more than one in four of those cases. But they're often screened more than other people, since 1993 federal recommendations that emphasize testing for sexually active women age 25 and under. Syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea can all be treated with antibiotics but untreated can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy and can infect newborns. Overall, CDC estimates that 19 million new sexually transmitted infections occur each year, almost half among 15- to 24-year-olds.

Your Teen

Too Much TV Can Make Teens Depressed

A new study reports that greater exposure to TV during the teenage years appears to raise the risk of depression in young adulthood, especially among boys.Parents now have a legitimate reason to be concerned that their teen may be watching too much television. A new study reports that greater exposure to TV during the teenage years appears to raise the risk of depression in young adulthood, especially among boys.

The report appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Dr. Brian A. Primack at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and his colleagues studied the media habits over 4-thousand healthy, non-depressed teens. Researchers asked them how many hours they spent during the week watching TV or videos, playing computer games or listening to the radio. The report shows the teens had an average of 5.68 hours of media exposure each day, including 2.3 hours of TV viewing per day. Seven years later, at the average age of 21.8 years old, the study subjects were screened. 308 (7.4 percent) of the subjects had developed symptoms of depression. The report also showed the teens had a statistically significant greater likelihood of developing depression in young adulthood. Young women were given the same amount of media exposure, but the report showed they were less likely to develop symptoms of depression than young men.

Your Teen

Schools Start Too Early, Teens Sleep Deprived


It’s a battle that is picking up steam, whether to start school a little later so teenagers can get the sleep they need or keeping schedules as they are for the sake of planning before and after school activities.

Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that teenagers are biologically programmed to go to bed later than most adults and sleep later in the morning.

Last year, the AAP issued a set of guidelines recommending that school schedules are modified across the U.S. to start at 8.30 a.m. This way, children and teens would be able to meet the recommended sleep hours per night during school days.

Fewer than one in five middle and high schools in the United States start at 8:30 am or later, as recommended, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The same recommendations suggested that indeed, the biological rhythm of teenagers particularly is very different than that of adults. While they need 8 and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep per night, their circadian rhythm doesn’t allow them to go to sleep before midnight or a little after.

School nights are particularly difficult for adolescents because in order to get the rest they need, they have to go to bed earlier than their minds and bodies are set to fall asleep.

The CDC released a new study supporting the recommendations of the AAP. According to the findings, 83 percent of U.S. schools still start before 8:30 a.m. On average, the starting time was calculated at 8:03 a.m., based on data collected from 39,700 combined schools, middle schools, and high schools between 2011-2012.

Depriving teens of that sleep could wreak havoc on their academic performance, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"Getting enough sleep is important for students' health, safety, and academic performance," said Anne Wheaton, lead author and epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Population Health.

"Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need."

The issue is driving a heated debate between supporters of later school start times and school administrators.

Safwan Badr, former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine stated:

“It makes absolutely no sense. You’re asking kids to learn math at a time their brains are not even awake”.

On the other hand, Daniel Domenech, the executive director of the School Superintendents Association stated with regards to changing school starting time:

“It’s a logistical nightmare. This has been going on forever, and kids have been graduation from school and going to college. It certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt them all these years”.

Some experts note that the long-term consequence of sleep deprivation is hurting our teens and has been for quite some time.

Judith Owens, the director of sleep medicine at Boston’s Children Hospital suggests that chronically sleep deprivation characterizes the majority of today’s teens. This results in increased risk of onset depression, substance abuse, unhealthy BMIs. Long-term effects of sleep deprivation result in type 2 diabetes or heart diseases.

There are things that parents can do to help their teens at least rest better if they can’t fall asleep earlier. The first and foremost agitator for sleep is viewing or being on a computer or smartphone right before bed.

Recent studies have shown that the use of any electronic device in the hour before bedtime was associated with an increased risk of taking longer than 60 minutes to fall asleep. In particular, the use of a computer, smartphone or MP3 player in the hour before bedtime was strongly linked with taking longer to fall asleep.

Make your teen’s bedroom a quiet place that can be a retreat at night from busy schedules and social media.

Your teen can take a hot bath or shower before bed to boost deep sleep. Then keep his or her room cool (about 68 F) to cool down the body. One study showed that sleep happens when the body cools. Wakefulness occurs when the body temperature warms up.

Aromatherapy helps some people fall off to sleep. Certain scents are shown to be relaxing such as orange blossom, marjoram, chamomile, and lavender. You can apply these oils before bed or put them on pillows, sheets or in potpourri. If candles are used, make sure they are put out before getting in bed. 

Having a regular schedule can help the body adjust. Going to bed at the same time each night can assist in adjusting the body’s circadian rhythm.  

More high schools are considering changing their schedules to a later start time, but currently most schools are keeping with the typical earlier schedules. You may not be able to convince the school board to start school at little later, but you can help your teen find what works for them at night to help them get the amount of sleep they need to function at their best.

Sources: Bonnie Gleason,




Your Teen

New Guidelines for Treating Acne

2.30 to read

I recently ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in about 5 years. We were catching up on each other’s lives when her teenage son joined us. The last time I saw “John” he was about 11 years old and full of pre-teen energy and curiosity. This time however, he was quiet and kept his head down when he said hello. When he finally looked up, I saw why he had been avoiding full-face eye contact. “John” had a pretty severe case of acne. Not a few pimples, but entire areas on his face that were red and dotted with large pustules and cysts.  It looked painful.

Typically, acne isn’t a serious medical condition. It comes and goes throughout life and is more of an annoyance than anything else. For some though, acne can cause emotional distress and lead to scarring of the skin and psyche.

Fortunately, there are many over-the-counter (OTC) medications that when combined with a consistent face cleaning routine, keep breakouts to a minimum.

But for some people, teens in particular, acne can progress to the point where OTC medications don’t control the problem. Pediatricians are often called upon to help teens come up with a plan of treatment. 

There is a range of medications that can clear up even severe cases of acne, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Writing in the May issue of its journal Pediatrics, the group throws its support behind new guidelines from the American Acne and Rosacea Society that detail how to treat acne in children and teens of all ages.

That "all ages" part is important because acne is becoming more and more common in pre-teens, too, said Dr. Lawrence Eichenfield, the lead author of the AAP report. One study of 9- and 10-year-old girls found that more than three-quarters had pimples.

A possible reason for why kids are experiencing breakouts at a younger age is that, on an average, boys and girls are starting puberty earlier than in past generations says Eichenfield.

According to the AAP, milder cases of acne can be managed with OTC soaps, washes, lotions or gels containing benzoyl peroxide.  Another common ingredient used to battle acne is salicylic acid. Department stores now have sections of aisles filled with these types of products making them easy to find.

But what if the OTC medications do not help clear up your teen’s acne? The AAP recommends going to the next step of trying a topical retinoid. Retin-A, Avita and Differin are the most commonly prescribed treatments. They are vitamin A derivatives and work by speeding up skin cell turnover, which helps unclog pores.

The main side effects of all the topical treatments are skin irritation and dryness, the AAP said.

If the acne is considered moderate to severe and other treatments have failed to work, the next step may be oral antibiotics. When pores become clogged with oil and skin cells, bacteria can grow in the pore and cause inflammation. Antibiotics help by killing bacteria and soothing inflammation.

But, Eichenfield said, "it's important to use antibiotics appropriately."

Antibiotics can have their own set of problems and should be used with caution. The overuse of antibiotics has made some acne causing bacteria more resistant. Other side effects can be stomach upset, dizziness and, in girls - yeast infections.

When all else fails and acne is severe, the prescription drug isotretinoin may be an option. Brand names include Roaccutane (formerly known as Accutane) and Claravis.

The drug is very effective, but it can cause birth defects, so girls and women have to use birth control and get regular pregnancy tests if they go on the medication. Isotretinoin also has been linked to inflammatory bowel disease, depression and suicidal thoughts in some users, although it's not clear the drug is to blame, the AAP said. (Severe acne itself can cause depression and suicidal thoughts, for example.) Other side effects can include sun-sensitivity, dry eyes, mouth, lips nose and skin as well as itching, nosebleeds and muscle aches.

Why do we get acne?

Acne occurs when hair follicles become plugged with oil secretions, dead skin cells and sometimes bacteria. The most common areas on the body where acne erupts are the face, neck, chest, back and shoulders. It takes time for acne lesions to heal and quite often another breakout will appear as one is finally clearing up.

Hormones and certain medications can play a role in triggering acne. Whether diet is a factor is still up for debate. "The idea that food plays a role became relegated to myth," Eichenfield said. But recently, he added, some researchers have been revisiting the issue. There is some evidence that a sugary diet may promote acne, for example. But for now, it's not clear whether any diet changes will actually help keep kids' skin clear, Eichenfield said.

Stress may not cause acne but it can aggravate it.

Keeping skin pores open and unclogged is the key ingredient to preventing acne. While it may seems that scrubbing your face, using astringents and drying masks would help do that, they aren’t generally recommended. Too much washing and scrubbing can irritate the skin.

It's best to wash your face gently twice a day, with a soap-free pH-balanced cleanser, the AAP said. Facial toners -- which commonly come in pre-packaged acne regimens -- can help clear away oil. But the group suggested going easy on toners, since they can irritate the skin.

One myth that seems to never go away is that tanning and more time in the sun is good for acne. A sunburned face may look better to you because your whole face is red instead of just certain areas. Too much sun can actually make acne worse for some people. It also ages your skin and can cause skin cancer. Certain medications (including some for acne treatment) can make your skin very sensitive to the sun’s rays. Always use a “face-friendly” sunscreen that doesn’t clog the pores.

I really felt bad for my friend’s son when I saw how miserable he was. To me he’s still handsome and has a bright and interesting future ahead of him. I’m not so sure that he thinks that, at least not until his acne is under control.

The bottom line, Eichenfield says, is that many treatment options are available. "There's no reason that children have to live with acne that is severe and troubling to them.”

Sources: Amy Norton,


Your Teen

Early Puberty and Bone Health

1.50 to read

The normal rate of bone mass decline in adulthood is about 1 to 2 percent each year. This means that a 10 to 20 percent increase in bone density resulting from a naturally early puberty could provide an additional 10 to 20 years of protection against normal age-related decline in bone strength, according to the researchers.A new study suggest the earlier your child starts puberty, the lower the risk he or she will have osteoporosis later in life.

The research was based on 78 girls and 84 boys, who were studied from the time they began puberty until they reached sexual maturity. The investigators found that adult bone mineral density was influenced by age at puberty onset, with greater bone mass linked to early puberty and less bone mass associated with later puberty. However, bone strength did not seem to be affected by how long puberty lasted. "Puberty has a significant role in bone development," study leader Dr. Vicente Gilsanz, director of clinical imaging at the Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, said in a hospital news release. "During this time, bones lengthen and increase in density. At the end of puberty the epiphyseal plates close, terminating the ability of the bones to lengthen. When this occurs, the teenager has reached their maximum adult height and peak bone mass," Gilsanz explained. Reduced bone mineral density leads to osteoporosis, which affects 55 percent of Americans aged 50 and older. The normal rate of bone mass decline in adulthood is about 1 to 2 percent each year. This means that a 10 to 20 percent increase in bone density resulting from a naturally early puberty could provide an additional 10 to 20 years of protection against normal age-related decline in bone strength, according to the researchers. The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of Pediatrics. Pediatricians have long understood the role of pediatric bone development in osteoporosis prevention. The tween and teen years are critical for bone development because most bone mass accumulates during this time. In the years of peak skeletal growth, teenagers accumulate more than 25 percent of adult bone. By the time teens finish their growth spurts around age 17, 90 percent of their adult bone mass is established. Following the teen years, bones continue to increase in density until a person is about age 30. The need for calcium in the diet. Calcium is critical to building bone mass to support physical activity throughout life and to reduce the risk of bone fractures, especially those due to osteoporosis. The onset of osteoporosis later in life is influenced by two important factors: •   Peak bone mass attained in the first two to three decades of life •   The rate at which bone is lost in the later years Although the effects of low calcium consumption may not be visible in childhood, lack of adequate calcium intake puts young people at increased risk for osteoporosis later in life. Other foods, including dark green, leafy vegetables such as kale, are also healthy dietary sources of calcium. But, it takes 11 to 14 servings of kale to get the same amount of calcium in 3 or 4 8-ounce glasses of milk. In addition to calcium, milk provides other essential nutrients that are important for optimal bone health and development, including: •       Vitamins D, A, and B12 •       Potassium •       Magnesium •       Phosphorous •       Riboflavin •       Protein The role of physical activity in bone development. Weight-bearing physical activity helps to determine the strength, shape, and mass of bone. Activities such as running, dancing, and climbing stairs, as well as those that increase strength, such as weight lifting, can help bone development. For children and teenagers, some of the best weight-bearing activities include team sports, such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, and softball. Studies show that absence of physical activity results in a loss of bone mass, especially during long periods of immobilization or inactivity.

Your Teen

Pediatricians Take on Bullies

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wants doctors to take an active role in preventing bullying in schools and violence among dating teenagers. An updated policy, published in the July 2009 issue of Pediatrics, gives pediatricians tips for doing that. Doctors should tell parents to talk to their children about bullying, teach children how to resolve conflicts and promote respectful relationships in dating, the policy says. It also suggests doctors volunteer to talk about the topics at schools, churches and youth organizations.

This is the first time the AAP has addressed the issue in detail. "Violence is a public health problem that needs to be dealt with in the context of health care," said Dr. Joseph Wright of Children's National Medical Center in Washington. Wright heads the academy's violence prevention committee and helped write the recommendations. Studies suggest children's early home life, if stimulating and emotionally supportive, can protect them from being victims of bullying later in life, Wright said. "Having meals with your child, watching television with your child" are among ideas that doctors can share with parents at "every single visit between birth and age 21," Wright said. The policy also says a European program that emphasizes the role of bystanders in preventing bullying in schools could be a good model for prevention efforts in the U.S. Dr. Robert Sege of Boston Medical Center, who also helped write the policy update, said the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program teaches children that bullies are kids with problems and bystanders can protect victims. Schools that use the program teach children "we take care of our own," Sege said. Kids learn "even if you have freckles or wear glasses, it's our job to include you in the social environment."



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Some kids are playing sports before they are potty trained? Yes! This is crazy!