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Your Baby

Does Your Unborn Baby Hear You?

2.00 to read

More than twenty years ago I remember reading that fetuses can learn to recognize their mothers and father’s voices and then respond to those voices as newborns. I thought… well maybe… but it seemed to me that voices from outside of the womb would sound muffled from inside. Of course, I don’t remember my in utero experience so I don’t really know how words sound.

Over the years though, scientists have continued to examine how and what babies learn before they are born.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland have determined that fetuses not only hear and recognize voices but they can become familiar with different words and different pitches used when saying those words.

The study involved 33 moms-to-be, and examined their babies after birth. While pregnant, 17 mothers listened at a loud volume to a CD with (2), four-minute sequences of the made-up words “tatata” or “tatota.” The words were said with several different pitches. The moms-to-be listened to the recordings beginning at 29 weeks of pregnancy -about 7 months along- until birth. They heard them around 50 to 71 times.

Following birth, researchers tested the babies for normal hearing and then performed an electroencephalograph (EEG) brain scan to see if the newborns would respond to the made-up words and different pitches. And sure enough, the brain scans showed increased activity from the babies who had been listening to the CD in utero when the words were played to them after birth. Not only did they respond to the words, but also seemed to recognize the different pitches used when they heard them.  

The babies born to the mothers who had not listened to the CDs while pregnant showed little reaction to the words or pitches.

 “We have known that fetuses can learn certain sounds from their environment during pregnancy,” Eino Partanen, a doctoral student and lead author on the paper, said via email.

“We can now very easily assess the effects of fetal learning on a very detailed level—like in our study, [we] look at the learning effects to very small changes in the middle of a word.”

Some experts believe the finding shows that not only can a third-trimester fetus hear and recognize voices; he or she can also detect subtle changes and process complex information.

“Interestingly, this prenatal exposure also helped the newborns to detect changes which they were not exposed to: the infants who have received additional prenatal stimulation could also detect loudness changes in pseudo words but the unexposed infants could not,” Partanen says.

“However, both groups did have responses to vowel changes (which are very common in Finnish, and which newborns have been many time previously been shown to be capable of).”

You may be wondering why is it even important that scientists know if fetuses can recognize voices or words.  Partanen says because sounds heard in utero may shape the developing human brain in ways that affect speech and language development after birth.

“The better we know how the fetus’ brain works, the more we’ll know about early development of language,” Partanen says. “If we know better how language develops very early, we may one day be able to develop very early interventions [for babies with abnormal development].” 

An abstract for the Finnish study is published on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences website.

Does talking and singing to your baby before it’s born actually stimulate his or her brain activity and increase language learning? Some experts say definitely yes, others say it has no impact. But really, most moms and dads enjoy baby bump bonding whether it’s productive or not. And who knows, maybe your pre-born hears you loud and clear. 

Source: Meghan Holohan, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/unborn-babies-are-hearing-you-loud-clear-8C11005474

Your Child

High Cholesterol Putting Kids at Risk for Heart Attack

2:00

Abnormally high cholesterol levels are putting American children at higher risk for a heart attack or stroke later in life. One in five kids has high cholesterol according to a review of 2011-2014 federal health data compiled by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Overall, slightly more than 13 percent of kids had unhealthily low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol -- the kind that actually might help clear out arteries. The CDC says just over 8 percent had too-high levels of other forms of cholesterol that are bad for arteries, and more than 7 percent had unhealthily high levels of "total" cholesterol.

Obesity was seen as a major contributing factor, the CDC said. For example, more than 43 percent of children who were obese had some form of abnormal cholesterol reading, compared to less than 14 percent of normal-weight children.

Not surprisingly, rates of abnormal cholesterol readings rose as kids aged. For example, while slightly more than 6 percent of children aged 6 to 8 had high levels of bad cholesterol, that number nearly doubled -- to 12 percent -- by the time kids were 16 to 19 years of age, the CDC said.

Knowing how obesity can impact the heart, cardiologists were not shocked by the findings.

"When one looks at the data it is clear that the obesity epidemic is responsible for a substantial portion of these abnormal cholesterol values," said Dr. Michael Pettei, who co-directs preventive cardiology at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. "Approximately one-third of U.S. children and adolescents are either overweight or obese.

"Clearly, the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) recommendations to screen all children for cholesterol status, and to take measures to prevent and manage obesity, are more appropriate than ever," he said.

Dr. Kevin Marzo, chief of cardiology at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., agreed.

"Abnormal cholesterol is a key modifiable risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, in adulthood," he said. "This study confirms that preventive strategies must start in childhood, including healthy eating habits, regular exercise, and maintaining ideal body weight."

The AAP recommends that all children begin having their cholesterol checked between the ages of 9 and 11.

An acceptable total cholesterol level for a child is below 170 with LDL below 110. A borderline reading in total cholesterol is 170-199 with LDL between 110-129.  And a high classification in total cholesterol is above 200 with LDL above 130.

There may be other reasons a child can have high cholesterol such as diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease or an underactive thyroid. If an initial test shows high cholesterol, your pediatrician will check your child’s blood again at least 2 weeks later to confirm the results. If it is still high, the doctor will also determine if your child has an underlying condition.

Some children can also have high cholesterol that is passed down through families.  It’s called familial hypercholesterolemia and is an inherited condition that causes high levels of LDL cholesterol levels beginning at birth, and heart attacks at an early age. Any child with a family history of high cholesterol should begin having his or her levels in infancy.

The findings were published Dec. 10 as a Data Brief from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

Sources: E.J. Mundell, http://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/high-cholesterol-health-news-359/one-in-five-u-s-kids-over-age-5-have-unhealthy-cholesterol-cdc-706032.html

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Cholesterol-Levels-in-Children-and-Adolescents.aspx

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, http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/news/20130506/pediatricians-endorse-new-acne-treatment-guidelines

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acne/DS00169

 

Your Child

Concussion’s Effects May Linger in Kids

2.00 to read

Concussions have been in the news a lot lately, particularly when they relate to children. Awareness about the dangers of concussions has changed how schools, coaches and parents watch for and treat this kind of injury. A new study released this week points out that some concussion side effects can last longer than thought.

Children who suffer even a mild concussion can have attention and memory problems a year after their injury.

The study results were published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, and suggest that problems such as forgetfulness, dizziness,  and fatigue may linger for up to about 20 percent after an accident.

Forgetfulness, difficulty paying attention, headaches and fatigue were more common in study children who lost consciousness or who had other mild head trauma that caused brain abnormalities on imaging tests, compared with kids who didn't get knocked out or who had normal imaging test results.

Longer lasting symptoms were not determined since the study only followed children for a year after their injury. For that year though, children who had injury-related symptoms experienced "significant functional impairment in their daily lives."

"What parents want to know is if my kid is going to do OK. Most do OK, but we have to get better at predicting which kids are going to have problems," said study author Keith Owen Yeates, a Neuropsychologist at Ohio State University's Center for Biobehaviorial Health.

Children who have concussion symptoms may need temporary accommodations such as extra time taking school tests, or wearing sunglasses if bright light gives them headaches, Yeates said.

Most of the children in the study received their concussion from a sports related injury or fall, but about 20 percent had a mild brain trauma injury from a traffic accident or some other cause.

The study included 186 children, aged 8 to 15, with mild concussions and other mild brain injuries treated at two hospitals in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. The reports are based on parents' reports of symptoms up to 12 months after the injuries.

The brain injuries studied were considered mild because they involved no more than half an hour of unconsciousness; 60 percent of kids with concussions or other brain trauma had no loss of consciousness.

Overall, 20 percent who lost consciousness had lingering forgetfulness or other non-physical problems a year after their injury; while 20 percent who had abnormal brain scans had lingering headaches or other physical problems three months after being injured.

The study adds to research showing that mild traumatic brain injuries, including concussions "should not necessarily be treated as minor injuries," Dr. Frederick Rivara, Archives' editor, said in a journal editorial.

More information is needed to determine who is most at risk for lingering problems after these injuries, and to determine what type of treatment and activity restriction is needed, said Rivara, a pediatrician and University of Washington researcher.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a concussion as a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way the brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. Even a “ding,” “getting your bell rung,” or what seems to be mild bump or blow to the head can be serious.

According to the CDC, if your child has any symptoms of a concussion - which include different sleeping patterns, mood changes or problems with cognitive processes - you should bring them to a medical professional. If the child is having a headache that won't go away, weakness or decreased coordination, vomiting or nausea, slurred speech, will not nurse or eat and/or is crying and cannot be consoled, they need to be taken to a hospital immediately.

Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57391791-10391704/kids-with-concu...

http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/sports/index.html

Daily Dose

Acetaminophen & Vaccines

1:30 to read

A recent article in Lancet was quite thought provoking as it studied the common practice of giving infants a dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) with their routine immunizations.

Many parents and some pediatricians routinely dose their infants with acetaminophen prior to receiving their vaccines at two, four and six months of age. In the study of 459 infants from 10 different centers in the Czech Republic, patients were randomized to either receive three doses of acetaminophen every six to eight hours at the time of vaccination or no acetaminophen. The researchers then looked at both the reduction of febrile reactions post vaccination and at antibody titers among the two groups. Interestingly, there were both some expected and some not so expected results. Not surprisingly, the group that received acetaminophen had a lower incidence of fever post immunization. Of those that received acetaminophen 94 out of 226 (42 percent) developed a fever, compared to 154 out of 233 (66 percent) in the non-treated group after their primary immunization series. After booster vaccination 64 out of 178 (36 percent) in the treated group and 100 out of 172 (58 percent) developed fever. So the widespread perception by both many parents and doctors that routine acetaminophen use with vaccination does reduce the incidence of fever was supported.

The most interesting result of this study was the vaccine antibody response in the acetaminophen treated group. Surprisingly, antibody responses to several of the routinely administered vaccines (including tetanus, diphtheria, h. flu, and pneumococcal serotypes) were lower in the group who received routine acetaminophen. This was also seen after booster doses of the same vaccines between 15 to 18 months of age. The hypothesis is that acetaminophen may reduce the inflammatory response and that this may also induce less of an immune response. So, it would seem prudent to no longer encourage routine use of acetaminophen with vaccines unless a baby develops significant fever, or is at risk for fever and febrile seizures. As a parent you are always trying to “protect” you child, and this would include any pain or fever that might develop with vaccination. Now we have science to show how this may actually provide less protection, against disease. Thought provoking!

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Child

Doctors May Unknowingly Discourage HPV Vaccine for Preteens

2:00

The majority of physicians say that the HPV vaccine given to preteens, before they become sexually active, can help prevent infections with viruses that can cause cervical, penile and anal cancers as well as genital warts.

However, about 27 percent of doctors may inadvertently discourage parents from having their preteens vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a new study, because they don’t recommend the vaccine strongly enough.

Pediatricians and family physicians deliver the bulk of HPV vaccines. Some of these physicians do not offer the vaccines as strongly as they do when urging parents to vaccinate against meningococcal disease or to get tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis booster shots, the study reported.

The study, which is based on a national online survey of 776 doctors, found a quarter did not strongly endorse the need for HPV vaccination with the parents of the 11- and 12-year-olds under their care.

Nearly 60 percent were more likely to recommend the vaccine for adolescents they thought were at higher risk of becoming infected — perhaps because the doctors knew or suspected they were sexually active — than for all 11- and 12-year-olds.

“You kind of get the sense that some [health care] providers see this as a somewhat uncomfortable situation,” said lead author Melissa Gilkey, a behavioral scientist in the department of population medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Many parents don’t like to think about the possibility of their child having sex, particularly when they are only 11 or 12 years old. The vaccine is actually meant to provide protection for when they are older. That’s why it is recommended before a child typically begins engaging in sexual activity. Studies have also shown preteens get the best immune response to the vaccines.

Evidence generated by one of Gilkey’s earlier studies suggests it’s not necessarily parents that are squeamish about the vaccination, but physicians that overestimate a parent’s response when the vaccination is urged. 

 “It’s not necessarily that physicians always are negative about it. But it’s kind of that HPV vaccine may get damned with faint praise, if you will,” Gilkey said. “Compared to the way that they recommend these other vaccines, parents may suspect that there’s something wrong with it.”

The aim of the research is to help figure out why HPV vaccination rates remain disappointingly low. The CDC reported that in 2014, 40 percent of adolescent girls and 22 percent of adolescent boys had received the recommended three doses of HPV vaccine. The agency says girls and boys should have all three doses by their 13th birthday.

According to the study, how the information is presented has an impact on how well it is received. Doctors who started conversations about the HPV vaccination by telling parents the vaccines protect against cancers and genital warts gave stronger recommendations than those who opened saying HPV viruses are sexually transmitted.

The study was published Thursday in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Although Gilkey declared no conflicts of interest, the senior author of the study, Noel Brewer of the University of North Carolina, has received research funding and speaker fees from companies that sell HPV vaccines.

Source: Helen Branswell, https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2015/10/21/study-says-doctors-inadvertently-discourage-hpv-vaccines/LuJaMFoEupeOeYrrUOlYRN/story.html

 

 

 

 

 

Your Teen

Kid's Poor Sleep Habits and Depression

1.50 to read

A 2010 study of 392 boys and girls published online in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that those who had trouble sleeping at 12 to 14 years old were more than two times as likely to have suicidal thoughts at ages 15 to 17 as those who didn't have sleep problems at the younger age.Scientists are discovering that children with chronic sleep problems are at increased risk for developing a mental illness later in life.

Recent studies show that children who have persistent sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or not getting enough night-time shut-eye, are more likely later to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders and to abuse alcohol and drugs than kids without sleep problems. The findings add to previous research that has linked children's sleep problems to a host of issues, including aggressive behavior, learning and memory problems and obesity. A 2010 study of 392 boys and girls published online in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that those who had trouble sleeping at 12 to 14 years old were more than two times as likely to have suicidal thoughts at ages 15 to 17 as those who didn't have sleep problems at the younger age. In a study published last year in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, involving 386 participants, children whose mothers reported that they were overtired when 3 to 8 years old were 2.8 times as likely to binge drink when they were 18 to 20 years old. And a study of 1,037 children revealed that 46% of those who were considered to have a persistent sleep difficulty at age 9 had an anxiety disorder at age 21 or 26. By comparison, of the children who didn't have sleep problems at age 9, 33% had an anxiety disorder as young adults, according to the research, which was published in 2005 in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Scientists caution that some study-sample sizes are small and research is still in its early stages. Psychiatrists and psychologists say they hope that by addressing sleep problems in childhood, some of the instances of later mental illness can be prevented. Clinicians also have developed effective treatments for poor sleep and are experimenting with some new approaches that teach kids how to reduce the frequency and strength of anxious thoughts that can crop up at night. In general, doctors do not recommend using medication to help kids sleep. "We think that healthy, optimal sleep may be a buffer against developing anxiety and depression in kids," says Ronald E. Dahl, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a leading researcher on pediatric sleep. Anxiety disorders and depression are the most common mental illnesses: 28.8% of the general population will have an anxiety disorder in their lifetime and 20.8% will have a mood disorder, according to a 2005 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Anxiety disorders emerge early in life: The median age of onset is 11, according to the study. Rates of depression spike in adolescence, too. And those who develop depression young tend to have a more serious disease, with a higher risk of relapse. Scientists aren't certain as to why poor sleep in childhood increases the risk of anxiety disorders and depression. It could be that sleep problems lead to changes in the brain, which, in turn, contribute to the psychiatric illnesses, they say. Or some underlying issue, partly explained by genetics and early childhood experiences, could be a precursor to both poor sleep and the mental disorders. Researchers say that before puberty—between the ages of about 9 and 13—is a key time to tackle poor sleep. That's before the spike in rates of depression and the upheavals of adolescence and while the brain is still very responsive. "The brains of children are far more plastic and amenable to change," says Candice Alfano, assistant professor of psychology and pediatrics at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Sleep changes dramatically after puberty: Circadian rhythms shift so kids naturally stay up later. With schools starting early, kids often don't get enough sleep. Academic and social pressures surge, too. A small study suggested healthy sleep may be able to help protect kids from depression—even those at high-risk because of genetics. (Both anxiety disorders and depression are believed to be partly inherited.) The study, published in 2007 in the journal Development and Psychopathology, found that children who fell asleep quicker and spent more time in the deepest stage of sleep were less likely to develop depression as young adults. A larger body of research shows that improving sleep in kids and adults who already have mental-health problems also leads to a stronger recovery. A Good Night Most parents underestimate the amount of sleep children should get a day. They need: Infants: 14 to 15 hours Toddlers: 12 to 14 hours Preschoolers: 11 to 13 hours School-age kids: 10 to 11 hours Teenagers: 9 to 10 hours Strategies to encourage healthy sleep in kids Set a regular bedtime and wake time, even on weekends. Make the bedroom a dark and quiet oasis for sleep. No homework in bed. Create a calming bedtime routine. For younger kids: a bath and story. For older kids: Reading or listening to mellow music. Limit caffeine consumption, especially after 4 p.m. Ban technology (TV, Web surfing, texting) in the half hour before bed. The activities are stimulating. The light from a computer can interfere with the production of the sleep-promoting hormone, melatonin. Don't send kids to bed as punishment or allow them to stay up late as a reward for good behavior. This delivers a negative message about sleep. Help kids review happy moments from the day. Have them imagine a TV with a 'savoring channel.' Relegate anxious thoughts to 'a worry channel.'

Your Baby

Eating Chocolate While Pregnant May Improve Mom and Baby’s Health!

1:45

 Put another check in the win column for a reason to eat chocolate - as though anyone really needs one!

 A new study suggests that moms-to-be that eat a small piece of chocolate every day may improve their baby’s cardiovascular health and reduce the risk for preeclampsia.

 Researchers found that their findings held up regardless of whether the chocolate consumed contained high or low amounts of flavonoids, a group of phytochemicals that have antioxidant abilities. Various studies have also suggested that flavonoids may offer heart health benefits.

 As with most studies, the research did not prove that eating chocolate during pregnancy caused better circulatory health in pregnant women and their babies, only that there was an association.

 "Our observations suggest that a regular small consumption of dark chocolate -- whether or not the level of flavanol is high -- from the first trimester of pregnancy, could lead to an improvement of placental function," said study author Dr. Emmanuel Bujold. He is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Universite Laval in Quebec City, Canada.

 Bujold's team decided to see whether differences in flavanol content had any effect on the pregnancies of nearly 130 women.

 All of the women in the study were at the 11- to 14-week mark of their pregnancy, and carrying one child.

 All were instructed to consume 30 grams of chocolate (a little more than one ounce) each day over a 12-week period. That's equivalent to about one small square of chocolate per day, Bujold said.

 Half of the women consumed high-flavanol chocolate, while the other half was given low-flavanol chocolate. All were then tracked until their delivery date.

 Regardless of which type of chocolate was consumed, the women faced the same risk for both preeclampsia and routine high blood pressure. Placental weight and birth weight was also the same in both groups, the investigators found.

 Similarly, fetal and placental blood circulation levels, as well as in-utero blood velocity, did not appear to be affected by shifting flavanol levels.

 However, simply consuming a small amount of chocolate -- no matter what the flavanol content -- was associated with notable improvements in all blood circulation and velocity measures compared to the general population, the researchers said.

 Bujold said this suggests that there's something about chocolate, apart from flavanol levels, that may exert a positive influence on the course of pregnancy. Finding out exactly what that is "could lead to improvement of women's and children's health, along with a significant reduction of treatment cost," he said.

 While that’s good news for chocolate lovers, Bujold cautions that pregnant women keep the portion small and calorie intake low.

 So, a bit of chocolate daily while pregnant is not going to hurt you, in fact it just may give you and your baby’s health a little boost.

 The findings were scheduled for presentation at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, in Atlanta. The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

 Source:  Alan Mozes, http://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/food-and-nutrition-news-316/small-square-of-chocolate-each-day-during-pregnancy-may-help-mom-and-baby-707736.html

Your Child

Exercise Boosts Kids’ Grades!

2:00 to read

We all know that exercise is good for the heart, lungs, weight-control and now a new study suggests that it’s good for increasing academic performance as well.

The Dutch researchers reviewed several prior studies conducted in the United States, one from Canada and another out of South Africa. What they discovered was that all the studies showed that the more physically active students are, the better they do in the classroom.

"We found strong evidence of a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance," the researchers, led by Amika Singh of the Vrije Universiteit University Medical Center at the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, said in a journal news release.

"The findings of one high-quality intervention study and one high-quality observational study suggest that being more physically active is positively related to improved academic performance in children," the authors noted.

A total of 14 studies were reviewed. They involved students between the ages of 6 and 18. Some studies were smaller, working with 50 students, while another study had as many as 12,000 students. 

Researchers noted that students who exercised had increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain. These school-age children did better in the schoolroom. The analysis suggests that exercise also increases the levels of hormones responsible for curtailing stress and boosting mood, while at the same time establishing new nerve cells and synapse flexibility.

In recent years, there has been increasing evidence that has shown that many functions of the brain are highly dynamic, or “plastic”, meaning that the brain is able to continually change in response to stimulus and experience. This flexibility is thought to be a key property in allowing the nervous system to support short-term and sustained changes in output, associated with learning and memory.

Other studies have shown that people with early dementia benefit from exercise. Again, the increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain helps improve memory and learning function.

So, getting the kids off the couch and onto the playground (no matter whether it’s a public playground or the backyard) can help children stay physically fit and mentally alert.

The Dutch researchers would like to see more high quality studies conducted in this area of investigation.

"Relatively few studies of high methodological quality have explored the relationship between physical activity and academic performance," they acknowledged. "More high-quality studies are needed on the dose-response relationship between physical activity and academic performance and on the explanatory mechanisms, using reliable and valid measurement instruments to assess this relationship accurately."

It’s a pretty safe bet though, that the more a family exercises together, the healthier everyone will be.

The findings are published in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Sources: http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=660288 / http://www.sussex.ac.uk/aboutus/annualreview/2011/mindandbrain

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

Can homemade products cure Hand-Foot-Mouth disease?

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