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Your Teen

Newer Cars Safer for Teen Drivers


One of the most exciting days in a teen’s life is when he or she gets their driver’s license. It’s also one of the scariest for parents. Parents know that it takes time and experience to become a competent driver. Teens often believe that because they can stop at stop signs, put on their seat belt, Parallel Park and stay in a well-defined lane, they are competent enough.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), list motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.  Seven teens –ages 16 to 19- die every day from motor vehicle injuries.  According to a new study, more teens could survive serious auto accidents if they are driving newer cars.

While older cars may be less expensive, newer models are more likely to come with better standard safety features. Larger and heavier cars may also offer more protection.

"We know that many parents cannot afford a new vehicle," said the study's lead author, Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "Our message to parents is to get the most safety they can afford."

Researchers analyzed data from 2008 to 2012 from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which included information on 2,420 drivers ages 15 to 17 and 18,975 drivers ages 35 to 50.

The majority of teens that died (82%) were in cars that were at least 6 years old. A smaller, but significant proportion of teens (31%) were in cars 11 to 15 years old. For comparison, fatally injured teens were almost twice as likely as their middle-aged counterparts to be driving a car that was 11 to 15 years old.

Researchers say that they can’t prove that older cars driven by teens actually increase the risk of death if they are in a motor vehicle accident. However, there is good reason to think that teens would be safer in newer cars.

Older cars have older seatbelts that can wear and tear with age. Airbags were not required in cars till 1997 and 1998 for trucks. Today, they are standard equipment. The biggest safety upgrade though, has been the addition of electronic stability control.

Ultimately, McCartt said, though newer model cars tend to have more safety features, protecting your teens is not as straight forward as just steering clear of older vehicles. "We did find older vehicles that met our safety criteria," she said.

Still, it's a rare older vehicle that has electronic stability control — an important safety feature that helps drivers keep control in extreme maneuvers, McCartt said. "That's something that is standard on new cars since it was a requirement starting in 2012," she added.

Extreme maneuvers can quickly happen when something unexpected happens while driving. There are also plenty of distractions that can take your eyes off the road such as reading or replying to a text, eating or drinking while driving, cell phone calls, Changing CDs or radio stations, video watching, looking at or entering data for a GPS, talking to passengers. The list goes on. These distractions are certainly not limited to teens, but they have the least experience behind the wheel.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has compiled a list of affordable used vehicles that meet important safety criteria for teen drivers that can be found at

They also have a list of recommendations to consider when purchasing a car for a teenager. They are:

•       Young drivers should stay away from high horsepower. More powerful engines can tempt them to test the limits.

•       Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. They protect better in a crash, and HLDI analyses of insurance data show that teen drivers are less likely to crash them in the first place. There are no mini-cars or small cars on the recommended list. Small SUVs are included because their weight is similar to that of a midsize car.

•       Electronic stability control (ESC) is a must. This feature, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads, reduces risk on a level comparable to safety belts.

•       Vehicles should have the best safety ratings possible. At a minimum, that means good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, acceptable ratings in the IIHS side crash test and four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Most teens will eventually get their driver’s license – that’s a given.  If a teen is still a minor, it’s up to the parents or responsible guardians to help choose a car that will give them the best chance of survival if an accident should happen. That choice may include a newer model.

The study was published online in the journal, Injury Prevention.

Source: Linda Carroll,

Your Teen

Young Male Athletes, Parental Pressure and Doping


When 129 young male athletes, whose average age was 17, were asked what would make them consider “doping” as a way to boost their athletic ability – the majority said parental pressure.

A new study from the University of Kent in England asked the young male athletes about their attitudes on "doping" -- the use of prohibited drugs, such as steroids, hormones or stimulants, to increase athletic competence.

These substances, sometimes called performance-enhancing drugs, can potentially alter the human body and biological functions. However, they can be extremely harmful to a person's health, experts warn.

The study group was also asked about four different aspects of perfectionism. The areas were: parental pressure; self-striving for perfection; concerns about making mistakes; and pressure from coaches.

Only parental pressure was linked to positive feelings about doping among the athletes, the study authors found. Although the study was small, it did point out how important demanding expectations from parents can be to kids. 

Lead author of the study, Daniel Madigan, a Ph.D. student in the university's School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, said the findings suggest that parents need to recognize the consequences of putting too much pressure on young athletes in the family.

"The problem of pressure from parents watching their children play sports is widely known, with referees and sporting bodies highlighting the difficulties and taking steps to prevent it," Madigan said in a university news release.

"With the rise of so-called 'tiger' parenting-- where strict and demanding parents push their children to high levels of achievement -- this study reveals the price young athletes may choose to pay to meet their parents' expectations and dreams," Madigan added.

The researchers only focused on young men for this study but plan to investigate if the same result will occur with young female athletes, and if there are differences between athletes in team versus individual sports.

The study findings are scheduled for publication in the April print issue of the Journal of Sports Sciences.

Story source: Robert Preidt,


Your Teen

Are Energy Drinks Rotting Your Teen’s Teeth?

2:00 to read

A lot of parents know that too many high sugar sodas are not only hazardous to their child’s waistline and health, but they can also cause cavities. But what about the energy drinks teens are gulping down? A new study suggests those drinks could be stripping the enamel right off their teeth.   

In a study published in the May/June issue of General Dentistry, researchers have looked for the first time at the effects of energy drinks on teeth. It turns out there's often a lot of citric acid in the drinks.

To give drinks a long shelf life and to enhance flavors, preservatives are added. It’s the preservatives that are very good at stripping the enamel off of teeth.

Dentists are especially worried about teens. 30 to 50 percent are now drinking energy and sports drinks and losing enamel. Once it's gone, teeth are more prone to cavities and more likely to decay.

"We are well aware of the damage that sugar does in the mouth and in the whole body — the role it can play in obesity, diabetes, etc," says Poonam Jain, an associate professor in the School of Dental Medicine at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, and the lead author of the study. "But the average consumer is not very well aware that acid does all kinds of damage, too."

To measure just how energy and sports drinks affect teeth, the researchers looked at the fluoride levels, pH, and something called "titratable acidity" of 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks, including Gatorade and Red Bull.

The researchers then measured how much enamel the drinks took off teeth, dousing sliced-up molars in a petri dish with the beverages for 15 minutes, followed by artificial saliva for two hours. This was repeated four times a day for five days.

The researchers found that teeth lost enamel with exposure to both kinds of drinks, but energy drinks took off a lot more enamel than sports drinks.

Drink labels list citric acid in the ingredients, but they don’t have to show the precise amount.

The American Beverage Association (ABA) was quick to respond to the study.  

"It is irresponsible to blame foods, beverages or any other single factor for enamel loss and tooth decay (dental caries or cavities)," the ABA said in a statement responding to Jain's paper. "Science tells us that individual susceptibility to both dental cavities and tooth erosion varies depending on a person's dental hygiene behavior, lifestyle, total diet and genetic make-up."

"This study was not conducted on humans and in no way mirrors reality," the ABA noted in its statement. "People do not keep any kind of liquid in their mouths for 15 minute intervals over five day periods. Thus, the findings of this paper simply cannot be applied to real life situations."

Jain is concerned about health effects beyond cavities. She says consuming a lot of citric acid can lead to loss of bone mass and kidney stones. "This has become a big concern because people are drinking more of these drinks and less milk," she says.

Dentist Dr. Jennifer Bone, spokesperson for Academy of General Dentistry, the organization that publishes the journal, said in the statement that teens and adults should curb their intake of these types of drinks. If they're going to drink one anyway, she recommends they chew sugar-free gum or rinse their mouth with water after drinking the beverage.

"Both tactics increase saliva flow, which naturally helps to return the acidity levels in the mouth to normal," Bone said.


Your Baby

Eating Fish During Pregnancy Benefits Baby’s Brain Development


Can eating more fish during pregnancy help babies’ brains function better as they grow older? Yes, according to a new study from Spain. The researchers say that mothers who eat three substantial servings of fish – each week- during pregnancy may be giving their children an advantage as they mature.

Researchers followed nearly 2,000 mother-child pairs from the first trimester of pregnancy through the child’s fifth birthday and found improved brain function in the kids whose mothers ate the most fish while pregnant, compared to children of mothers who ate the least.

Even when women averaged 600 grams, or 21 ounces, of fish weekly during pregnancy, there was no sign that mercury or other pollutants associated with fish were having a negative effect that offset the apparent benefits.

“Seafood is known to be an important source of essential nutrients for brain development, but at the same time accumulates mercury from the environment, which is known to be neurotoxic,” lead author Jordi Julvez, of the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, said in an email to Reuters Health.

This important health concern prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to come up with a guideline for pregnant women in 2014. It encourages women to eat more fish during pregnancy, but limit the intake to no more than 12 ounces per week.

For this study, researchers analyzed data from the Spanish Childhood and Environment Project, a large population study that recruited women in their first trimester of pregnancy, in four provinces of Spain, between 2004 and 2008.

Julvez and colleagues focused on records of the women’s consumption of large fatty fish such as swordfish and albacore tuna, smaller fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines, anchovies or salmon, and lean fish such as hake or sole, as well as shellfish and other seafood.

Women were tested for blood levels of vitamin D and iodine, and cord blood was tested after delivery to measure fetal exposure to mercury and PCB pollutants. At ages 14 months and five years, the children underwent tests of their cognitive abilities and Asperger Syndrome traits to assess their neuropsychological development.

On average, the women had consumed about 500 g, or three servings, of seafood per week while pregnant. But with every additional 10 g per week above that amount, children’s test scores improved, up to about 600 g. The link between higher maternal consumption and better brain development in children was especially apparent when kids were five.

The researchers also saw a consistent reduction in autism-spectrum traits with increased maternal fish consumption.

Mothers’ consumption of lean fish and large fatty fish appeared most strongly tied to children’s scores, and fish intake during the first trimester, compared to later in pregnancy, also had the strongest associations.

“I think that in general people should follow the current recommendations,” Julvez said. “Nevertheless this study pointed out that maybe some of them, particularly the American ones, should be less stringent.”

Julvez noted that there didn’t appear to be any additional benefit when women ate more than 21 ounces (about 595 g) of fish per week.

“I think it's really interesting, and it shed a lot more light on the benefits of eating fish during pregnancy,” said Dr. Ashley Roman, director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

“I think what's interesting about this study compared to some data previously is that they better quantify the relationship between how much fish is consumed in a diet and then the benefits for the fetus and ultimately the child,” said Roman, who was not involved in the study.

Roman also noted that pregnant women should avoid certain fish such as tilefish, shark, swordfish and giant mackerel. These are larger fish with longer life spans that may accumulate more mercury in their tissue.

While fish may be a great source of protein and benefit brain development in utero, most experts agree that women should consult their obstetrician about what fish are safer to eat and how much they should eat during pregnancy.

The study was published online in the January edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology

Source: Shereen Lehman,




Your Child

What Food is Best for Your Child's Breakfast?


What’s the best choice for your child’s breakfast? According to a new study, eggs. Researchers found that children who eat eggs for breakfast tend to consume fewer calories at lunch and benefited from the protein and vitamins they provide.

The study looked at 40 eight to ten year olds who ate a 350 calorie breakfast-of eggs, porridge or cereal. Between breakfast and lunch they played physically active games.

The children were asked throughout the morning how hungry they were and parents kept a food journal of what else the children ate.

The research, led by Tanja Kral of the university’s Department of Biobehavioural Health Science, found children who ate the eggs for breakfast reduced their calorie intake by about four percent (70 calories) at lunch.

The scientists noted that children who regularly eat more than their daily calorie limit could gain weight, leading to obesity. Eggs contain about 6 grams of high quality protein and are a good source of vitamins and amino acids.

 "I'm not surprised that the egg breakfast was the most satiating breakfast," said Kral. He was however, surprised that the children said that the egg breakfast didn’t actually make them feel fuller than cereal or oatmeal even though they ate less at lunchtime.

”It's really important that we identify certain types of food that can help children feel full and also moderate caloric intake, especially in children who are prone to excess weight gain.“

The study was published in the International journal, Eating Behaviours.

Source: Emma Henderson,



Your Baby

Chubby Baby = Obese Child?

2.00 to read

“Look at those cute little rolls of fat and chubby cheeks.” “It’s just baby-fat, he’ll grow out of it.” Common comments when people see a chubby baby. But, what was once thought of as a well-fed and healthy infant might prove to be just the opposite.

Researchers say they’ve found a way to determine if a rapid growing baby will become obese later in life. A new study says that if your baby has passed two key milestones, on a doctor’s growth chart by the age of two, then he or she has double the risk of being obese by the age of 5.  Rapid growers were also more likely to be obese at age 10, and infants whose chart numbers climbed that much during their first 6 months faced the greatest risks.

Children who grew more slowly were less likely to be obese by the same age.

That kind of rapid growth should be a red flag to doctors, and a sign to parents that babies might be overfed or spending too much time in strollers and not enough crawling around, said pediatrician Dr. Elsie Taveras, the study's lead author and an obesity researcher at Harvard Medical School.

Contrary to the idea that chubby babies are the picture of health, the study bolsters evidence that "bigger is not better" in infants, she said.

In an online article on Dr. Michelle Lampl, director of Emory University's Center for the Study of Human Health, expressed concerns.

“It’s a bad idea that could backfire in the long run,” said Lampl.

"It reads like a very handy rule and sounds like it would be very useful _ and that's my concern," Lampl said. The guide would be easy to use to justify feeding infants less and to unfairly label them as fat. It could also prompt feeding patterns that could lead to obesity later, she said.

Lampl noted that many infants studied crossed at least two key points on growth charts; yet only 12 percent were obese at age 5 and slightly more at age 10. Nationally, about 10 percent of preschool-aged children are obese, versus about 19 percent of those aged 6 to 11.

Taveras said the rapid growth shown in the study should be used to raise awareness and not to put babies on a diet.

The study involved 45,000 infants and children younger than age 11 who had routine growth measurements during doctor checkups in the Boston area from 1980 through 2008.

Growth charts help pediatricians plot weight, length in babies and height in older kids in relation to other children their same age and sex. Pediatricians sometimes combine an infant's measures to calculate weight-for-length _ the equivalent of body-mass index, or BMI, a height-to-weight ratio used in older children and adults.

The charts are organized into percentiles. For example, infants at the 75th percentile for weight are heavier than 75 percent of their peers.

An infant whose weight-for-length jumped from the 19th percentile at 1 month to the 77th at 6 months crossed three major percentiles _ the 25th, 50th and 75th _ and would be at risk for obesity later in childhood, the authors said.

Larger infants were most at risk for obesity later on, but even smaller babies whose growth crossed at least two percentiles were at greater risk than those who grew more slowly.

About 40 percent of infants crossed at least two percentiles by age 6 months. An analysis of more than one-third of the study children found that 64 percent grew that rapidly by age 2.

Dr. Joanna Lewis, a pediatrician at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., said she supports the idea that infancy is not too young to start thinking about obesity.

Still, she emphasized that rapid growth in infancy doesn't mean babies are doomed to become obese. "It's not a life sentence," and there are steps parents can take to keep their babies at a healthy weight without restrictive diets, she said.

Lewis said many of her patients are large babies whose parents feed them juice or solid food despite guidelines recommending nothing but breast milk or formula in the first six months.

"The study reinforces what we try to tell parents already: Delay starting solids and don't put juice in a bottle," Lewis said.

Your Teen

More Teens Fall Victim to Dating Violence


The teenage years are supposed to be filled with laughter, fun and testing the boundaries of parental control. It’s also a time when many boys and girls will start dating. For some teens, the beginning of couple relationships is about as far away from fun as it could possibly be.

Some teenagers may think that teasing and name-calling are somehow linked with a fondness for someone, and that might have been true when they were six or seven years old. However, by the time a young girl or boy reaches their teenage years, that kind of behavior can take on a much different tone. What was once an awkward attempt at gaining someone’s attention can turn into physical and sexual abuse.

According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is happening more than you might think.

Twenty-one percent of high school girls have been physically or sexually assaulted by someone they dated -- a figure twice as high as previously estimated.

Ten percent of high school boys also reported being physically or sexually assaulted by someone they had dated.

The authors of the new report noted that the CDC has changed the way it phrases its questions about teen dating violence, leading more students to report assaults.

Sadly, teens that have experienced dating violence are at risk for other serious problems as well. Research has shown that they are more than twice as likely to consider suicide. They are also more likely to get into fights, carry a weapon, use alcohol, marijuana or cocaine and to have sex with multiple partners. Not the kind of life any parent would want for their teenager or the one that they would truly want for themselves.  

Researchers don't know if any of these events causes the others. While it's possible that dating violence could cause thoughts of suicide, it's also possible that children who are depressed are more likely than others to fall into abusive relationships, says Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston who was not involved in the study.

Assaults by romantic partners often aren't isolated events. Many teens reported being assaulted multiple times, according to the study, based on the CDC's Youth Behavior Risk Surveillance System using questionnaires answered by more than 13,000 high school students.

"If there is violence once, there is likely to be violence again," Spinks-Franklin says. "It has to be taken very seriously."

Spinks-Franklin says she has seen violence even among relationships between 10- and 11-year-olds.

"If a parent is concerned that a child is in an unhealthy relationship, they need to address it, but do it in a way that doesn't make the child shut down," she says. "They need to feel safe telling a parent."

Teens often hide the abuse from their parents, Spinks-Franklin says. Teens may not be able to confide in friends, either, because abusers sometimes isolate their victims from loved ones. Teens are sometimes more willing to talk to doctors, especially if their parents are not in the room.

Some schools have taken the lead in promoting awareness of and education on teen dating violence. Pediatricians can also discuss this important topic with their patients and parents. If time is limited, brochures in the waiting room can offer information and open the door for questions.

"This study makes it even more important for parents to ask lots of questions and get to know their teen's friends and significant others, and not ignore anything that makes them uncomfortable," says McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital. "They also shouldn't ignore any changes in their teen's behavior."

Dating violence may never be eliminated one hundred percent, but can be considerably lessoned when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.

One of the best strategies for prevention is for parents and teens to be able to communicate about serious topics without judgmental attitudes or closed-minded opinions. Your teen wants your help even if he or she doesn’t know how to ask. They'll appreciate you being there before and when they need you.

The new study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Sources: Liz Szabo,

Your Baby

No Link Found Between Induced Labor and Autism


In 2013, a study suggested there might be a link between induced labor using a medication such as oxytocin, and a higher risk of the baby developing autism.  New research out of Boston, Massachusetts says there is no connection between the two.

"These findings should provide reassurance to women who are about to give birth, that having their labor induced will not increase their child's risk of developing autism spectrum disorders," said senior researcher Dr. Brian Bateman. He's an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Induced labor is sometimes needed when a mother’s labor stalls or the infant is endangered. Because of the former study, many women have had concerns about labor induction and the risk of autism.

Bateman's team of American and Swedish researchers, led by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, decided to investigate the issue.

They used a database on all live births in Sweden from 1992 through 2005, and looked at child outcomes for more than 1 million births through 2013, to identify any children diagnosed with a neuropsychiatric condition.

They also identified all the children's brothers, sisters and cousins on their mother's side of the family. The health of the children's mothers was also taken into account.

Eleven percent of the inductions were due to health complications such as preeclampsia, diabetes or high blood pressure. Twenty-three percent were induced because of late deliveries (after 40 weeks of pregnancy).

Results showed that 2 percent of the babies in the study were later diagnosed with autism.

When just looking at unrelated children, the researchers did find a link between induced labor and a greater risk for an autism spectrum disorder. This association disappeared, however, once they also considered the women's other children who were not born from an induced labor.

"When we used close relatives, such as siblings or cousins, as the comparison group, we found no association between labor induction and autism risk," said study author Anna Sara Oberg, a research fellow in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School.

Explaining further, she said in a university news release, "many of the factors that could lead to both induction of labor and autism are completely or partially shared by siblings -- such as maternal characteristics or socioeconomic or genetic factors." Therefore, Oberg said, "previously observed associations could have been due to some of these familial factors, not the result of induction."

Other experts have agreed with the new study’s findings.

"Pregnant women have enough things to worry about," said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

"If a woman's doctor recommends that labor be induced, the expectant mother should not worry about an increased risk of the child having an autism spectrum disorder," Adesman said.

If you have concerns about a connection between labor induction and autism, speak to your OB/GYN to learn more. 

The study was published in  in the July 25th online edition of JAMA Pediatrics.

Story source: Mary Elizabeth Dallas,


Daily Dose

Kids & Too Much TV

1:30 to read

Another recent study has just been released which confirms that children are getting close to 4 hours of background TV noise each day. While many parents are aware of the need to limit their children’s active screen time (which includes TV, video game, telephone texting and computer screens) to no more than 2 hours per day, background TV time may be equally important. The American Academy of Pediatrics also discourages any TV viewing for children under age 2 years. 

*The study from The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication defines background TV as “TV that is on in the vicinity of the child that the child is not attending to”.  The research looked at TV exposure in 1,454 households with children aged 8 months-8 years. The study found that younger children and African-American kids were exposed to more background TV than other children.  Having background TV noise of any kind can disrupt mental tasks for all and may also interfere with language development in younger children. 

Those households that had the least background TV exposure were those that did not have a TV in the child’s room!! That doesn’t seem to be a surprising finding at all. Many parents leave the TV on in a child’s room to help them sleep, although there are numerous studies to show exactly the opposite effect, TV disrupts sleep. I now routinely ask every parent during their child’s check up if there is a TV in the child’s room. I also ask every older child the same question, and there are many teens who are not happy with me when I encourage their parents to take the TV out of the bedroom of their adolescent. There is just no need to have a TV in the bedroom of children of any age.  I have given up on this discussion with my college aged patients! 

While many parents are doing a good job of monitoring what their children are watching on TV, and how long they are watching, we may not be doing as well when it comes to background TV.  While older kids hear news stories or language that they needn’t be exposed to, a younger child’s language skills may be delayed due to background TV noise. 

So, the kitchen TV needn’t be on while you are making your children their breakfast before school or in the evening while eating dinner. Family dinner is one of the most important times of the day and conversation is the key. No one needs to try to talk over the TV, just turn it off! 

Lastly, keep reading those bedtime stories for children of all ages; this is key to language, and appropriate language at that. 

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


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