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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

Can Dogs Help Kids Be Less Anxious?

1:45

Scientific studies have already linked fewer allergies and asthma in kids that own dogs, now a new study says you can also add less anxiety to the list of benefits from man’s best friend.

Researchers say a new study shows kids who live in a home with a pet dog score far lower on clinical measures of anxiety.

Although the study was small, the results were not surprising. Researchers focused on 643 kids between 6 and 7. But the team at Bassett Medical Center in New York found that just 12 percent of children with pet dogs tested positive for clinical anxiety, compared to 21 percent of children without a dog.

"It may be that less anxious children have pet dogs or pet dogs make children less anxious," Dr. Anne Gadomski and colleagues wrote in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Previous studies have also shown that adults benefit from owning a pet as well as kids. In fact, many health officials suggest that adults should consider getting a dog. Not only can they provide companionship but can encourage more exercise.

Gadomski acknowledged how special pets can be to a child by noting that, "Sometimes their first word is the name of their pet," she told NBC News. "There is a very strong bond between children and their pets."

What makes dogs such special pets for kids?  Godmski’s team said, "From a mental health standpoint, children aged 7 to 8 often ranked pets higher than humans as providers of comfort and self-esteem and as confidants," they wrote.

"Animal-assisted therapy with dogs affects children's mental health and developmental disorders by reducing anxiety and arousal or enhancing attachment," they added.

"Because dogs follow human communicative cues, they may be particularly effective agents for children's emotional development."

The researchers asked parents for specific details about what type of anxiety a child showed.

Pets seemed to help in several areas.

"Significant differences between groups were found for the separation anxiety component ('My child is afraid to be alone in the house') and social anxiety component ('My child is shy') favoring pet ownership," they wrote.

Most of the families in the study - 73 percent - had a pet of some kind. Most - 58 percent - had dogs. Families with pets may be more stable and may be more affluent, but the researchers suggest there's more to it than that.

"A pet dog can stimulate conversation, an ice-breaking effect that can alleviate social anxiety via a social catalyst effect," they wrote.

Other studies have also shown that playing or cuddling with a dog can release the bonding hormone oxytocin, and lower the stress hormone cortisol, they noted.

There’s already an abundance of research on dogs and families, which is one of the reasons Gadomski chose to look at the relationship between dogs and kids for this study.

However, she noted that cat lovers might also benefit from the same type of interaction.

If you’re interested in getting a dog as a pet for your family, there are several websites that offer a quiz to help families decide which breed may best be suited for them. Just search “best dog breeds for families.”

Shelters also have puppies and dogs that make wonderful pets.  Many of the older dogs are already house trained and socialized. Shelter staff can answer your questions about whether a particular dog that is up for adoption would be suitable for a family and small children.

Source: Maggie Fox, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/heres-reason-get-puppy-kids-pets-have-less-anxiety-n469591

Image:http://www.popsugar.com/moms/Benefits-Dogs-Kids-36052085#photo-36052085

 

 

 

 

Your Child

Antibiotics Often Prescribed When Not Needed

2.00 to read

By now, most parents understand that antibiotics are not effective for viral infections, only for illnesses caused by bacteria.

However, that hasn’t deterred many physicians from over-prescribing antibiotics for children with ear and throat infections.

More than 11 million antibiotic prescriptions written each year for children and teens may be unnecessary, according to researchers from University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital. This excess antibiotic use not only fails to eradicate children's viral illnesses, researchers said, but also supports the dangerous evolution of bacteria toward antibiotic resistance.

"I think it's well-known that we prescribers overprescribe antibiotics, and our intent was to put a number on how often we're doing that," said study author Dr. Matthew Kronman, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Seattle Children's Hospital.

"But as we found out, there's really been no change in this [situation] over the last decade," added Kronman. "And we don't have easily available tools in the real-world setting to discriminate between infections caused by bacteria or viruses."

 Doctors have limited resources when it comes to differentiating between bacterial or viral infections. Physicians can use the rapid step test to determine if the streptococcus bacteria is the cause of a child’s sore throat, but that is about it for immediate diagnostic tools.

Most colds are virus related and one of the first symptoms will be a sore or scratchy throat. It will typically go away after the first day or so and other cold symptoms will continue. Strep throat is often more severe and persistent.

A virus often causes ear infection as well. Many doctors treat ear infections as though they are bacterial to be on the safe side and avoid serious middle ear infections.

To determine antibiotic prescribing rates, Kronman and his colleagues analyzed a group of English-language studies published between 2000 and 2011 and data on children 18 and younger who were examined in outpatient clinics.

Based on the prevalence of bacteria in ear and throat infections and the introduction of a pneumococcal vaccine that prevents many bacterial infections, the researchers estimated that about 27 percent of U.S. children with infections of the ear, sinus area, throat or upper respiratory tract had illnesses caused by bacteria.

But antibiotics were prescribed for nearly 57 percent of doctors' visits for these infections, the study found.

Kronan hopes that the study’s results will encourage the development of more diagnostic tools and will spur doctors to think more critically about prescribing antibiotics unless clearly needed.

Previous research has shown that parents often pressure their doctor to prescribe an antibiotic to treat their child’s ear or sore throat symptoms. However, when parents are given other suggestions on how to alleviate the symptoms they have been much more receptive than when their doctor just flat out says he won’t prescribe antibiotics.

Many physicians and researchers are concerned that the amount of antibiotics being prescribed these days is setting us all up for future problems when dealing with bacterial infections. Bacteria are adaptable and mutate over time becoming less responsive to antibiotics. When possible, it’s much healthier in the long run to treat your child’s symptoms with simpler therapies. Ask your physican ways you can make your little one more comfortable until the symptoms pass. 

The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Maureen Salamon, http://consumer.healthday.com/infectious-disease-information-21/antibiotics-news-30/antibiotics-prescribed-twice-as-often-as-needed-in-children-study-says-691686.html

Your Baby

Can More Fruit Consumed During Pregnancy Raise Baby’s IQ?

1:30

The USDA recommends that women consume 2 cups of fruit daily. This can include fruits that are fresh, canned, dried or frozen, as well as 100-percent fruit juice.

Fruit not only contains important vitamins, minerals and fiber but may also provide benefits for the children of moms-to-be who consume more fruit during pregnancy.

According to a new study from Alberta, Canada, the children of mothers that consumed higher levels of fruit during pregnancy, had better cognitive development by the time they were one-year-old.

Researchers said the effects of eating more fruit on test scores were significant.

"It's quite a substantial difference," Dr. Piush Mandhane, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta, said in a press release.  "We know that the longer a child is in the womb, the further they develop -- and having one more serving of fruit per day in a mother's diet provides her baby with the same benefit as being born a whole week later."

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 688 one-year-old children collected as part of the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development study, and considered the amount of fruit their mothers consumed during pregnancy, gestational age at birth, parental lifestyle factors, including income and education, and cognitive tests given to the children.

Two-thirds of the population falls between 85 and 115 on the traditional IQ scale, with the average at about 100. The researchers found if pregnant mothers ate six or seven servings of fruit or fruit juice per day, their children scored six or seven points higher on IQ tests at one year old. There was no improvement in learning when only the babies were fed fruit.

The researchers noted that future studies will explore longer-term benefits of increased fruit consumption during pregnancy beyond one year of life, as well as whether higher intake of fruit affects development of other parts of the brain.

"We found that one of the biggest predictors of cognitive development was how much fruit moms consumed during pregnancy. The more fruit moms had, the higher their child's cognitive development," Mandhane said.

Experts recommend that pregnant women eat a variety of foods throughout the day to make sure they and their baby get the nutrients they need. A balanced diet contains fruits and vegetables, breads and grains, protein and dairy. Doctors often prescribe prenatal vitamins just in case a mom-to-be isn’t able to get all the nutrients she needs by diet alone.

While fruit is important to one’s overall diet, pregnant women should consult with their OB/GYN about their intake if they are diabetic or susceptible to gestational diabetes.

The study was published in the online edition of EBioMedicine,

Story source: Stephen Feller, http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2016/05/26/Eating-fruit-while-pregnant-helps-babys-cognitive-development-study-says/3311464273928/?spt=sec&or=hn

Your Child

Study: More and Younger Children Suffering From Concussion

2:00

In order to develop statistics on how many U.S. children and teens are being diagnosed with concussion, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzes emergency room data from around the country.

But, a new study finds that children’s concussions may be vastly underreported because family pediatricians, not ER doctors, are doing the examinations.

In the study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, researchers from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the CDC used CHOP's regional pediatric network to figure out when and where children were diagnosed with a concussion.

They found approximately 82 percent had their first concussion visit at a primary care site like a pediatrician's office, 12 percent were diagnosed in an emergency department, 5 percent were diagnosed from a specialist, such as a sports medicine doctor or neurologist, and 1 percent were directly admitted to the hospital.

The authors noted that the findings indicate that many more children have suffered a concussion than recent stats suggest.

In another surprising turn, researchers found that one-third of those injured were under the age of 12.  Many reports have been focused on teen athletes instead of younger children.

"We learned two really important things about pediatric concussion healthcare practices," Kristy Arbogast, lead author and Co-Scientific Director of CHOP's Center for Injury Research and Prevention, said in a statement today. "First, four in five of this diverse group of children were diagnosed at a primary care practice -- not the emergency department. Second, one-third were under age 12, and therefore represent an important part of the concussion population that is missed by existing surveillance systems that focus on high school athletes."

Alex Diamond, a pediatric sports medicine specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and director of the injury prevention program, told ABC News that these findings are important to help health officials understand how prevalent concussions really are. Diamond was not involved in the study.

Pediatricians are a good choice for seeking advice and diagnosis on concussions because they know the history of the child, Diamond said.

"That’s why it’s great for a pediatrician to deal with this," Diamond said. "They know the kid at baseline and they know the family."

The findings may have far-reaching implications for what we know about the number of concussions in the U.S., the authors said, noting that this study suggests that the condition is extremely underreported if the vast majority of concussions are diagnosed outside the emergency department.

"We need surveillance that better captures concussions that occur in children and adolescents," Dr. Debra Houry, director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a statement today. "Better estimates of the number, causes, and outcomes of concussion will allow us to more effectively prevent and treat them, which is a priority area for CDC's Injury Center."

Concussions often happen without a loss of consciousness and can have long-term effects.

In fact, a brief loss of consciousness or "blacking out" doesn't mean a concussion is any more or less serious than one where a child didn't black out.

If your child might have had a concussion, go to the emergency room or see your pediatrician if he or she has any of these symptoms:

•       Loss of consciousness

•       Severe headache, including a headache that gets worse

•       Blurred vision

•       Trouble walking

•       Confusion and saying things that don't make sense

•       Slurred speech

•       Unresponsiveness (you're unable to wake your child)

•       Ringing in the ears

•       Nausea

•       Vomiting

Some symptoms of concussions may be immediate or delayed in onset by hours or days after injury, such as:

•       Concentration and memory complaints

•       Irritability and other personality changes

•       Sensitivity to light and noise

•       Sleep disturbances

•       Psychological adjustment problems and depression

•       Disorders of taste and smell

Symptoms in infants and toddlers may be more difficult to recognize because they cannot express how they feel. Nonverbal clues of a concussion might include:

•       Appearing dazed

•       Listlessness and tiring easily

•       Irritability and crankiness

•       Loss of balance and unsteady walking

•       Crying excessively

•       Change in eating or sleeping patterns

•       Lack of interest in favorite toys

Experts recommend that parents take their child in for an evaluation if their child receives more than a light bump on the head.

Story sources: Gillian Mohney, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/concussions-children-vastly-underreported-study-finds/story?id=39506549

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/concussion/basics/symptoms/con-20019272

Your Child

New Studies Look At Childhood Asthma

1.45 to read

2 new studies take a look at childhood asthma. One suggests that antibiotics given to babies in the first year of life may increase a child’s chances of getting asthma by age 18, while the other study cautions that childhood food allergies may be a predictor of asthma later in life.2 new studies take a look at childhood asthma. One suggests that antibiotics given to babies in the first year of life may increase a child’s chances of getting asthma by age 18, while the other study cautions that childhood food allergies may be a predictor of asthma later in life

Antibiotic Use and Childhood Asthma Pediatricians have cautioned parents about taking antibiotics, and giving their children antibiotics, without a true medical need. Now a study appearing online in the journal Pediatrics, suggests that infants who take antibiotics during the first year of life may be at a slightly increased risk of developing asthma by age 18. In a separate analysis, the children of women who took antibiotics during pregnancy were nearly 25% more likely to have asthma compared to mothers who did not take the drug. Asthma can be a life threatening condition. Nine million children under age 18 in the U.S. have asthma, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Here’s how the study was conducted. Researchers gathered data from 22 previous studies between 1950 and 2010. Two of the 22 studies looked at antibiotic exposure during pregnancy while 19 studies evaluated antibiotic exposure during the first year of life. One study assessed antibiotic exposure during both time periods. Other studies have shown that infants who receive antibiotics are at an increased risk for developing asthma by age 7, and the more courses of the drug given that first year, the greater the risk. This review analyzed the results of studies using over 600,000 participants. It also grouped studies according to design type to see how the results were affected. When all 20 studies were grouped together, researchers found that infants who took antibiotics during their first year of life were about 50% more likely than babies who never received the drugs to be diagnosed with asthma. Researchers also analyzed studies where children who were treated with antibiotics for respiratory infections, were removed.  The respiratory infections skewed the overall results because of the possibility that the infections themselves might be a precursor to asthma. In studies that adjusted for these respiratory infections, a child who took antibiotics was 13% more likely to be diagnosed with asthma than a child who never took the medication. The researchers say they are not suggesting that early antibiotic exposure causes childhood asthma, but that even a slight increase in risk may be a good enough reason to avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics during pregnancy and the first year of life. Food Allergies and Childhood Asthma Infants and toddlers often have some type of food allergy, while teens and adults are more prone to dust, ragweed and mold allergies according to U.S. researchers. A preliminary release of the Quest Diagnostics Health Trends Report, Allergies Across America, is based on laboratory testing from more than 2 million U.S. patient visits. In this report the findings reveal a pattern of allergen sensitivity consistent with the "allergy march," a medical condition by which allergies to foods in early childhood heighten the risk for the development of additional and more severe allergy-related conditions - including asthma- later in life. "Allergy and asthma often go hand in hand, and the development of asthma is often linked to allergies in childhood via the allergy march," Study investigator Dr. Harvey W. Kaufman says in a statement. "Given the growing incidence of asthma in the United States, our study underscores the need for clinicians to evaluate and treat patients, particularly young children, suspected of having food allergies in order to minimize the prospect that more severe allergic conditions and asthma will develop with age." The most common foods responsible for allergic reactions are eggs, cow's milk, peanuts, soya, fish and shellfish in children and peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish and fish in adults. Substances that are used as food additives and preservatives can also affect individuals. Although a causal link has not been determined, increased awareness of the heightened risks of having both childhood asthma and allergen sensitivity plus good patient-parent education and management of both conditions, can lead to improved health and medical outcomes.

Your Child

Healthier Choices for Students in School Lunch Lines

1:30

School lunches have changed over the years and in many school cafeterias, food options are healthier than ever before, according to a new study.

Elementary school cafeterias are offering more vegetables, fresh fruit, salad bars, whole grains and more healthy pizzas, while the availability of high-fat milks, fried potatoes and regular pizza has decreased, researchers report.

"School food service programs have worked hard to improve the nutritional quality of school lunches, and largely have been very successful," said lead researcher Lindsey Turner, director of the Initiative for Healthy Schools at Boise State University, in Idaho.

Although in some schools food choices are improving, that’s not the case everywhere. Turner noted that more work needs to be done to make sure every student has the same healthy choices in the lunch line.

In the study of more than 4,600 elementary schools that are part of the U.S. National School Lunch Program, researchers found that school lunches improved significantly between 2006-2007 and 2013-2014.

Despite improvements in food choices, disparities were still found. For example, schools in the West were more likely to offer salad bars than schools in the Northeast, Midwest or South, the researchers found.

Schools with a majority of black or Hispanic children were less likely to offer fresh fruit than schools with a preponderance of white students.

Also, schools in poor areas were less likely to offer salads regularly.

Over the course of the study, Midwestern schools slightly reduced offering pre-made salads in favor of salad bars, but Southern schools were more likely to offer pre-made salads and less likely to have salad bars, the researchers found.

On the other side of offering healthier foods is choosing to eat those foods. Just because there are better food options available, doesn’t mean that kids will eat them. One expert noted that it takes time and effort for kids to change their eating habits. It not only has to look good, it has to taste good.

"It is not only important to improve the quality of school lunches but to make these foods attractive, tasty, easily seen and accessible," said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center, in New York City.

Studies have found that putting fresh fruit in a nice bowl, in a conveniently located, well-lit area in the school cafeteria increased sales of fruit by 102 percent, she noted.

"A brightly lit, hot-and-cold salad bar filled with colorful fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts, mushroom and spinach pizza, and veggie tacos center-stage in the lunchroom would be very attractive to students and staff alike," Heller said.

This approach works well at home, too, she added.

"Kids are more likely to grab healthy foods like cut-up melon, carrots, peppers, edamame and hummus when they are upfront and easy to grab in the fridge," Heller said.

The study was published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Story source: Steven Reinberg, http://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/food-and-nutrition-news-316/america-s-school-lunches-getting-healthier-study-709097.html

Your Child

Whooping Cough Vaccine Effectiveness Fades

2:00

While the measles outbreak was making headlines around the country, another vaccine related outbreak was already an epidemic.

In the last five years, state health officials twice declared whooping cough (also known as pertussis) an epidemic – once in 2010 and again in 2014. Eleven thousand people were sickened and three infants died.

Whooping cough is a serious infection of the respiratory system caused by bacterium. It is easily spread from person to person.

Symptoms include runny nose, nasal congestion, fever and severe coughing that can sometimes end in the “whooping” sound when a person gasps for air.

Pertussis mainly affects infants younger than 6 months old before immunizations, and kids 11 to 18 years old whose immunity has started to fade.

Although whooping cough can also make adults very ill, sometimes leading to pneumonia and hospitalization, another major concern is that adults are the most common source of infection in infants.

An analysis of a recent whooping cough epidemic in Washington state shows that the effectiveness of the Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis)  used to fight the illness waned significantly over time.

For adolescents who received all their shots, effectiveness within one year of the final booster was 73 percent. The effectiveness rate plummeted to 34 percent within two to four years.

The vaccine has changed over the years and those changes may be responsible for the fading effectiveness. The pertussis protection is from the acellular pertussis vaccine. It was introduced in 1997 to replace the whole-cell vaccine, which caused more side effects. Monday's report confirms earlier analysis that the acellular pertussis vaccine may be safer, but less effective, than the old one.

The latest analysis does not mean or even suggest that children and adults should not get the pertussis vaccine. Someone who is vaccinated, but becomes sick with whooping cough, should have a less severe course of illness. The Tdap vaccine is also recommended for college students who did not receive the vaccine as a preteen or teen.

The authors said that new vaccines are "likely needed to reduce the burden of pertussis disease." But Dr. Art Reingold, who leads the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices group on pertussis, said he doesn't know of any pertussis vaccine development in the pipeline.

An added dose doesn’t seem to help either according to research that was presented to the ACIP group. "(An additional dose) would have very little impact on pertussis," Reingold said, "in terms of cases prevented."

Unvaccinated babies are at the highest risk for whooping cough. Since infants can’t be vaccinated until they are 2 months old, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women get the Tdap vaccine during the last trimester of their pregnancy.

"Babies will be born with circulating antibodies," Reingold said, "and there's pretty good evidence that that will reduce the risk of hospitalization and death in babies."

Reingold also drew an interesting distinction between measles and pertussis having to do with herd immunity. If a large enough percentage of the population is immunized against measles, both individuals and the broader community are protected against outbreak. That's because the measles vaccine protects you against the virus that actually causes the measles illness.

But in pertussis, toxins that are released by bacteria cause the disease. The pertussis vaccine protects you against those toxins, but may not prevent you from spreading the bacteria to others — and causing illness in them.

While the vaccine is helpful in reducing symptoms, Reingold believes that "Pertussis is not going to go away with the current vaccine."

Sometimes there can be a bit of confusion between the DTaP and Tdap vaccines; the letters are similar and they are used to help prevent the same diseases.

DTaP is the vaccine that helps children younger than 7 - years  - old develop immunity to diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Tdap is the booster immunization given at age 11 that offers continued protection.

The Tdap vaccine is the one discussed in this study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Sources: Lisa Aliferis, http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/05/05/404407258/whooping-cough-vaccines-protection-fades-quickly

http://www.webmd.com/children/vaccines/dtap-and-tdap-vaccines

 

 

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

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