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Keeping Kids Heart Healthy

Daily Dose

Anemia

1:30 to read

Adolescent females are at greater risk for anemia than adolescent boys. This may due to several reasons including the fact that adolescent girls lose blood each month during their menstrual cycles and many teenage girls eat less red meat than adolescent boys.  

 

While some adolescents with anemia (low hemoglobin and hematocrit) complain of headaches, irritability or fatigue (which are very common teenage complaints), others are completely asymptomatic.  It is recommended that teens have a screening complete blood count around the age of 13 and then every 5 years or so thereafter. At the same time, the AAP recommends more frequent blood counts in those with risk factors for anemia, including diets low in iron rich foods (meat, eggs, fortified cereals) teens who have significant physical activity (especially female adolescent athletes) those with vegetarian or vegan diets and for any adolescent girl with excessive menstrual bleeding. Obese teens also have a higher incidence of anemia and should be screened. This list includes many of my patients.

 

Interestingly, you can have low iron stores without yet being anemic.  I have now started looking at the serum ferritin levels in teens with risk factors for anemia, as I am finding that some of my athletic patients have low ferritin levels, with a normal blood count. Some recent studies have shown that low ferritin may impact athletic performance including fatiguability. While fatigue during exercise is a subjective symptom,  maintaining iron stores is important for overall health.

 

Lastly, iron deficiency may impact cognitive function in adolescents. There have been several studies showing that girls who had higher serum ferritin levels had statistically significant improvement on cognitive tests of verbal learning and memory…so it may be worth looking at levels in a teen who is suddenly having difficulty in school, without previous issues. One blood test!

Daily Dose

Is Fruit Juice Healthy?

1:30 to read

I remember when my children were small that it was “routine” to begin offering infants dilute juice around 6-9 months of age.  Over the years the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) continued to advise against offering fruit juice to children under the age of 6 months.  Now…decades later, the AAP has just issued new guidelines including the recommendation “not to offer juice to children under the age of 1 year”.

 

The new recommendations will be published in the June issue of Pediatrics in which they write, “while parents may perceive fruit juice as healthy, it is not a good substitute for fresh fruit and just packs in more sugar and calories.”  The article continues to state, “small amounts in moderation are fine for older kids, but are absolutely unnecessary for children under 1 year.”

 

I always diluted juice for my children, even when they were older.  I would just add a few cans of water to concentrated juice and they never even knew it. It just seemed logical to me at the time. But while 100 percent fresh or reconstituted juice may be healthy, it should still be limited depending on a child’s age.  The concern over steadily increasing obesity rates as well as dental health and the risk of cavities makes even fresh fruit juice a culprit for added calories and sugar.

 

The recommendations include:  toddlers should never be given juice from a bottle or in a sippy cup that allows them to consume juice (even diluted) throughout the day. I continue to recommend that the bottle “goes bye-bye” at the 1 year birthday party and a child only drinks from a sippy cup at meals and snacks after that.  

 

The child should also not have a sippy cup to “wag around all day”.   Parents often tell me that “their child drinks water all day long” but again that may keep them from eating a healthy meal if they drink throughout the day. You know how many adult diets recommend “drink tons of water all day” so you won’t feel hungry…same may be said for a toddler who is already a picky eater.  

Small children get plenty of fluids at meals and snacks and are not hydrating for athletics like my older patients. There are no recommendations that young children drink a certain amount of water everyday….although parents swear their child needs 16 ounces a day?

 

In reality children of all ages should be encouraged to eat whole fruits and be educated about the difference between the fruit they choose and juice.  With “juicing” being so popular, they need to know that even “green juice” lacks dietary fiber and may contribute to excessive weight gain.  I agree that fruit juice is better than no fruit…but for toddler ages 1-3 years, no more than 4 ounces of juice a day, children age 4-6 only 4-6 ounces a day and for children 7-18 years only 8 ounces (1 cup) of juice. The recommendation is that a child should have 2-2.5 cups of whole fruit per day. 

 

I still recommend that my young patients only consume milk (low fat is fine) and water on an everyday basis and add juice later on…when their friends happen to tell them about juice boxes etc. If I am going to buy juice at all I recommend 100% fresh fruit juice and if you can, get juices with added calcium (a little extra never hurts!).

Lastly, juice is not appropriate for re-hydration or for the treatment of diarrhea. For those instances it is necessary to use an “oral re-hydration solution”.

Daily Dose

When Tests Should Be Ordered

1:30 to read

The American Academy of Pediatrics has been involved in a series of articles entitled “Choosing Wisely”, as it relates to when and why some tests should be ordered. The latest is related to endocrinology and the myriad of laboratory tests that are often ordered unnecessarily and are overused.

 

The AAP states that it is important to, “avoid ordering Vitamin D concentrations routinely in otherwise healthy children, which includes children who are overweight or obese”.  While a Vitamin D level is the correct screening lab to monitor for Vitamin D deficiency, it should only be ordered in patients with disorders associated with low bone mass (like rickets), some children with liver disease, or in those children who have recurrent low-trauma fractures (not one broken arm).

 

I have seen many patients who have had lab work done by another physician in which they “have a low Vitamin D level” and they are concerned that this is the reason their child is “fatigued”, “depressed”, “not doing well in school”….just to name a few of the statements. Vitamin D levels have not been correlated with any of the above. 

 

Due to the variability of tests available, and unclear cutoffs for deficiency, many children could be misclassified as having Vitamin D deficiency.  The uncertainty around “ normal levels” may lead to over diagnosis, with no clear benefit and may cause undue anxiety. 

 

More important than a Vitamin D level is the assurance that parents are routinely offering their children milk and dairy products high in Vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary to help the body use calcium, which is the building block for strong bones and teeth.  As many parents have stopped giving their children milk, but are offering more water, the daily recommended intake of Vitamin D and calcium may be difficult to reach.

 

Other foods high in Vitamin D include canned tuna, salmon and some fortified cereals.

 

If you have questions about Vitamin D intake talk to your pediatrician.  

 

 

Daily Dose

Your Kids Need Protein!

1:30 to read

Nutrition and healthy eating habits are always a topic of discussion during my patient’s check-ups.  Interestingly, I hear many tweens and teens tell me, “I am now a vegetarian”.  While I am thrilled that my patients are developing an awareness about their nutrition, I am equally amazed by what they think a vegetarian diet is.

Many a parent has cornered me before their child’s check up concerned about their child’s recent announcement that they are vegetarians and it has actually caused some heated family discussions surrounding nutrition and dietary requirements. The parents say that their child just decided that they no longer wanted to “eat meat” and that they were vegetarians. 

So…many of these new “vegetarians” don’t even like vegetables, and a few are confused by the difference between a vegetable and a fruit. When I ask them if they eat broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, eggplant and potatoes, I find that more than a few turn their noses up at most of those suggestions and simply eat potatoes as their vegetable of preference. They also eat avocados, and are surprised to find out that it is a fruit, but it is a good source of healthy mono unsaturated fats.  A few are a bit more adventuresome and actually eat a wide variety of vegetables including lentils and black beans as a source of protein.  

The same thing goes for fruits although for the most part they do admit to having a broader palate when it comes to fruits that they will eat.  Apples, bananas, berries, grapes are all favorites and many of these kids will eat fruit all day long.  Fruit is healthy for sure, but also contains sugars (far preferable to the sugar in the M & M’s I am eating while writing). 

The biggest problem with their “vegetarian diet”?   They just eat carbs! So I have coined the term “carbohydratarian” to describe them. Most of these patients are female and they eat carbs all day long.  They have cereal, toast, bagels for breakfast, followed by grilled cheese, french fries or a quesadilla for lunch and then dinner is pizza or pasta, and maybe a salad (lettuce only).  They like crackers, bread and almost all pasta (rarely whole wheat ). Rice is another favorite.

I too could probably eat a lot of these carbs every day….I think many people enjoy their carbs. But these kids are not meeting many of their nutritional requirements. They are getting very little protein! They are also growing…some at their most rapid rate during puberty. When I talk about adding protein to their diet they are often reticent to add eggs, fish or beans to their food choices. 

If your child decides that they want to change their lifestyle and might consider becoming a vegetarian or vegan, I would encourage you to have them meet with a certified nutritionist to explore their likes and dislikes as well as to educate them as to their nutritional needs.

I must say…..very few of these patients have maintained their vegetarian lifestyle, but if they choose to, they need to know the difference between a fruit and a veggie!

 

Your Baby

1 Egg a Day Improves Growth in Babies

1:30

While not as common in the United States, an astounding number of children worldwide suffer from stunted growth; mainly due to malnutrition or disease. It is a serious problem that impacts about 162 million children under the age of 5.

A new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St Louis, suggests that just one egg daily may significantly increase growth and reduce stunting in children.

"Eggs have the potential to contribute to reduced growth stunting around the world. They are also a good source of nutrients for growth and development in young children," said Lora Iannotti, an author and researcher in the Washington University study.

Researchers gave eggs to 80 infants between six and nine months of age for one year. Another 84 weren’t given eggs and served as a control group. Compared to these controls, the egg-eating youngsters had a 47 percent lower prevalence of stunting, which is defined as being too short for one’s age. Their length-for-age measurement also shot up by a significant margin.

Why would a daily egg have such a dramatic effect? Eggs are often referred to as “the perfect food.” They contain all of the necessary amino acids, as well as choline, various growth factors and DHA, a polyunsaturated fatty acid important for the brain. All of these are necessary for proper growth and development, and the normal function of the body.

There has been some concern in the past, that eggs may raise an infant’s cholesterol level or induce an allergic reaction.  However, research has not shown these hypotheses not to be true. The food appears to be safe and healthy for infants, says Iannotti.

Eggs are easily available for parents and affordable as a food option. Lots of families are even experimenting with raising chickens for their eggs in communities across the country.

Iannotti believes this study shows that just one egg a day could have a dramatic impact, globally, on the number of children suffering from stunted growth.

The study was published in the June edition of the journal Pediatrics.

Story sources: Pawel Kopczynski / Reuters, http://www.newsweek.com/one-egg-day-boosts-growth-infants-621266

Neil Schoenherr, https://source.wustl.edu/2017/06/eggs-can-significantly-increase-growth-young-children/

Daily Dose

Your Child's Lunch

1:15 to read

I have been interested in the recent news article about a mother who had packed Oreo cookies in her child’s lunchbox. It seems that although she had also packed other lunch items, the school her child attended deemed the lunch “unhealthy” and not only did not allow her to eat the cookies, they  sent her mother a note encouraging her to “pack a nutritious lunch”.

WHAT??  Are schools and daycare centers now deciding what a parent may put in a child’s lunchbox?  I understand the need for nutritious lunches for our children. I talk about this everyday in my practice. But are there not bigger issues facing our schools than policing every child’s lunch. This mother did not “just” pack Oreos, her child had a sandwich and string cheese as well. Her mother stated that, “she was out of fruits and vegetables that day”, so she added some cookies.  

Schools are in the throes of changing menus in an effort to help our children make good choices at lunch. But, even without serving fried foods or soft drinks, they do still offer dessert during school lunch.  They have ice cream, frozen yogurt, pies, cookies....and unfortunately many children probably eat more than one.  

I once headed a committee at our sons’ school to change the school cafeteria’s policy to have a “soda fountain”.   I realized that even if I talked to my children about nutrition and health, and did not have soft drinks in our home, if they were offered a choice between soft drinks and milk I knew  that they would sometimes choose a soft drink (with free refills I might add). 

After about a year of discussions and some very unhappy parents and students our school did stop serving soft drinks. As I pointed out even then, this was for children who were buying school lunch and drinks....we were not telling parents what they could and could not send or have in their own homes.

At the minimum I think this poor 4 year old should not have been put in the middle of this discussion. Would it not have been more appropriate to send the mother a note asking her not to send cookies for lunch again?  Was there a notice of acceptable lunch items that had been posted at the beginning of school?  Is there a “zero tolerance” for cookies rule?

I guess schools will be sending sandwiches home that have white bread or bologna, or who knows what else. While I am a huge advocate for healthy eating habits and making changes in all of our homes...let’s not take it out on a 4 year old.

 

Daily Dose

Babies Do Not Need Water?

1.00 to read

With the temperatures sizzling across the country, I have started to get the question, “how much water does my baby need to drink during the hotter months?” 

I have to admit, I am still confused as to where this medical myth was started?  Babies, even in warm to hot weather can stay hydrated just by their breast milk or formula intake. An infant does not “need/require” extra water in order to stay hydrated during spring and summer months. Many young moms tell me that the grandparents are asking about more water. 

An infant can get all of the hydration they need from their mom’s breast milk or formula intake as there is free water in the milk.  The best source of hydration for a healthy baby is via their milk intake. This is true for babies who are eating baby foods but are still taking a bottle or getting breast fed as well.  

I know that when the weather warms up we may drink more water with exercise or when out in the heat. But a baby is not an athlete (yet) and they are not really losing more water via sweating etc like our older children do. 

It is okay to offer a baby a bottle of water, but they don’t “need” extra water. In many cases an infant won’t even drink plain water as they prefer their mother’s milk or formula and the water just dribbles out of their mouth as you try to get them to drink it. Don’t think that they “need” 8 12 ounces of extra water a day. Someone started this little rumor. 

The bottom line? If you think you need to change your baby’s fluid intake for the warmer weather you can cross that one off your worry list! But, if you have children who are going outside and playing, or adolescents who are participating in outdoor sports, it will soon be time to start thinking about keeping them hydrated during the heat.  More on hydrating your active kids and athletes to come.  Stay tuned! 

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow. 

Your Baby

Eating During Labor May Speed Up Delivery

1:45

In many hospitals, when a woman is in labor, all she is allowed to eat are a few ice chips. That rule may need updating, according to a new study that finds women who were allowed to eat before delivery had a slightly shorter labor than those who were restricted to ice chips or sips of water - although the study can't prove that eating caused deliveries to happen sooner.

The practice of limiting food during labor goes back a study in the 1940s in which women who delivered under general anesthesia were at risk of inhaling their stomach contents and choking in it, writes senior author, Dr. Vincenzo Berghella, of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and his colleagues in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“We really don’t know how much if anything people can eat or drink in labor," said Berghella,.

Whether women can have more than water or ice chips as they labor to give birth is a common discussion among healthcare providers, he told Reuters Health.

General anesthesia is not commonly used during delivery these days, but the old guidelines are still in use.

For the new study, the researchers compiled data from randomized controlled trials that compared the labor outcomes of women who were allowed to eat only ice chips or water and those who were allowed to eat or drink a bit more.

For example, one study allowed women to drink a mixture of honey and date syrup. Another study allowed all types of food and drinks. A few others allowed women to drink liquids with carbohydrates.

Overall, the researchers analyzed 10 trials that included 3,982 women in labor. All were only delivering one child - not twins or triplets - and were not at risk for cesarean delivery.

The women with the less restrictive diets were not at increased risk for other complications, including vomiting or choking, during the use of general anesthesia.

And women who were allowed to eat and drink more than the traditional ice chips and water had labors that were shorter, by an average of 16 minutes, compared to women with the more restrictive diets.

Speaking from experience, 16 minutes less of labor pains is a real bonus. How does adding more liquid or food during delivery help reduce the time before delivery? The researchers presented some ideas.

"If we’re well hydrated and have adequate carbohydrate in our body, our muscles work better," said Berghella. A woman's uterus is largely made of muscle.

Another of his studies, which found women who received more fluid than normal delivered faster than other women, reinforces the finding.

Berghella said it's still common practice for women with uncomplicated births to be restricted to water or ice chips during labor.

"The evidence from well-done studies is they can have more than that," he said.

Do women really want to eat much during labor? Probably not, there’s a lot going on in the body as labor progresses.  But more liquids and some light carbohydrates during the early part of labor may be welcomed – especially if they shorten the time between labor and when baby enters the world.

Story source: Andrew M. Seaman, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-pregnancy-labor-food-idUSKBN15O2ZR

 

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

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If your child snores, is this a sign of something more serious?

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