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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

Child’s Chronic Cough Could Mean Something More Serious

1:45

Children that continue to cough for weeks after an acute respiratory illness should be seen by their pediatrician and examined for the possibility of an underlying lung disease, according to a new study.

That’s one of the lessons from a Queensland, Australia, study of 839 children presenting to Emergency Room Departments with an acute respiratory illness.

The researchers found that 20 percent of the children still had a persistent cough when followed up 4 weeks later.

When those children were examined, 47 percent were diagnosed with protracted bacterial bronchitis.

When reviewed by a pulmonologist, 31% of the children with chronic cough were found to have an undiagnosed chronic lung disease, such as asthma, obstructive sleep apnea and bronchiectasis, a condition where the walls of the airway thicken as a result of chronic inflammation or infection.

The finding of high rates of chronic cough with an underlying disease shows the importance of making sure a child is examined early or has a follow up appointment if he or she continues coughing after a respiratory illness.

Lead author, Dr. Kerry-Ann O’Grady (PhD), an epidemiologist at the Centre for Children’s Health Research in Brisbane, said it was notable that one-third of the children with chronic cough, in the study, had wet cough — a key symptom of persistent lower airway bacterial infection.

If not treated promptly, the underlying conditions revealed in the reviews could lead to irreversible lung damage, she said.

“If you can knock it off and pick it up early in kids, then you’re likely to lead to long-term better health outcome.”

Story source: https://www.pharmacynews.com.au/News/Latest-news/Why-you-should-never-ignore-kids-with-chronic-coug

Your Baby

No Link Between Vaccines and Autism

1.30 to read

A new study slated to appear in the Journal of Pediatrics, says that there is no association between the amount of vaccines a young child receives and autism. Some parents have worried that there may be a link and have opted out of having their child vaccinated or reduced the number of vaccines recommended.

The percentage of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased by 72% since 2007. Some experts believe that changes in the diagnostic criteria may account for some of the increase as well as better screening tools and rating scales.

According to a statement released from the journal, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Abt Associates analyzed data from children with and without ASD.

Researchers examined each child's cumulative exposure to antigens, the substances in vaccines that cause the body's immune system to produce antibodies to fight disease, and the maximum number of antigens each child received in a single day of vaccination, the journal's statement said.

The antigen totals were the same for children with and without ASD, researchers found.

Scientists believe genetics play a fundamental role in the risk for a child developing autism (80-90%), but recent studies also suggests that the father’s age at the time of conception may also be a contributor by increasing risks for genetic mistakes in the sperm that could be passed along to offspring.

Parents have worried about a link between vaccines and autism for decades despite the growing body of scientific evidence disproving such an association.

Source: Luciana Lopez, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/29/us-usa-health-autism-idUSBRE92S0GO20130329

Your Child

Honey Relieves Kid’s Cough

1.45 to read

My grandmother used to say a little honey was the best thing to stop a cough. A new study, published in the September issue of Pediatrics confirms what mothers and grandmothers have been saying for decades… a couple of teaspoons of honey soothes the throat, stops the coughing and helps you sleep better.

It’s tough for parents to find an over-the-counter solution to treat colds and coughs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines don't work for children younger than 6 years and may pose risks. The FDA takes a similar stance.

In the new study, 270 children aged 1 to 5 with nighttime cough due to simple colds received one of three types of honey or a non-honey liquid of similar taste and consistency 30 minutes before bedtime. Parents completed questionnaires about their child's cough and sleep on the night before the study began and then again the night after their kids were treated.

Children received either 2 teaspoons of eucalyptus honey, citrus honey, Labiatae honey, or similar-tasting silan date extract 30 minutes before bed. All kids did better the second night of the study, including those given the date extract. But children who received honey coughed less frequently, less severely, and were less likely to lose sleep due to the cough when compared to those who didn't get honey. 

The study was co-funded by the Honey Board of Israel.

Not only were the children able to sleep better, parents were able to sleep through the night as well. That’s a huge relief especially for parents who have to be at the office or on the job site the next day.

Mild coughing isn’t always a bad thing: it helps clear mucus from the airway. But an acute cough can be relentless - causing vomiting and gasping for air.

Honey can be part of a supportive care regimen for children with colds, says Alan Rosenbloom, MD. He is a pediatrician in private practice in Baldwin, N.Y.

There are a few caveats, he says. Honey is not appropriate for children younger than 1 because they are at risk for infant botulism. "Never give honey to a child under the age of 1."

Skip the honey, and call your pediatrician if your child also has:

  • Fever
  • Prolonged, worsening cough
  • Wheezing
  • Cold symptoms that last longer than two weeks

If your child has a cold, Rosenbloom suggests a couple of other ways you can help them be more comfortable. Try saline drops or nasal spray, a humidifier in the bedroom to keep the air moist, and propping up the child's head during sleep to stop the postnasal drip that can trigger coughing.

If you want to give honey a try, there’s no need for a “special” kind of honey – any honey will do. It may be the best choice in the first few days of a cold – less coughing, better sleep, safer and more effective than OTC medications.

Looks like grandma was right—as always.

Source: http://children.webmd.com/news/20120806/mom-was-right-honey-can-calm-cou...

Parenting

Energy Drinks and Hyperactivity in Kids

2:00

A new study suggests that energy drinks may contribute to hyperactivity and inattention in middle-school students.

Researchers looked at 1,600 students in an urban school district in Connecticut where the average age was 12 years old. They found that children who drank energy drinks were 66 percent more likely to be at risk for hyperactivity and inattention symptoms, according to the study in the current issue of the journal Academic Pediatrics.

Not only did the drinks contain caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant, but were also packed with sugar. The study also took into account other sugar-sweetened drinks consumed by the students.

"As the total number of sugar-sweetened beverages increased, so too did risk for hyperactivity and inattention symptoms among our middle-school students. Importantly, it appears that energy drinks are driving this association," study leader Jeannette Ickovics, a professor in the School of Public Health, said in a Yale news release.

"Our results support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that parents should limit consumption of sweetened beverages and that children should not consume any energy drinks," she added.

The students in this study drank an average of two sugary drinks a day. The number of daily sugary drinks ranged from none to as many as seven or more such drinks. Some sugar-sweetened beverages and energy drinks contain up to 40 grams of sugar each. Depending on how old they are, children should only have about 21 to 33 grams of sugar a day, according to the researchers.

On an average, boys tended to drink more energy drinks than girls.

Along with the hyperactivity and inattention in school, researchers were concerned about the risk of obesity for children that consume these types of drinks.

Lots of kids and even some parents confuse sports drinks and energy drinks – thinking that they are the same thing. They are not.

Energy drinks contain substances not found in sports drinks that act as stimulants, such as caffeine, guarana and taurine. Caffeine – by far the most popular stimulant – has been linked to a number of harmful health effects in children, including effects on the developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems.

As soda sales slip, energy drinks have increased nearly 7 percent creating a $9.7 billion dollar industry according to Bloomberg. Concerns have been raised that some energy drink manufacturers are marketing energy drinks directly at kids.

The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) that deals specifically with children’s health issues, has emphatically stated that energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents.

Sources: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/energy-drinks-tied-to-low-attention-and-hyper-behavior-in-middle-schoolers-study-696275.html

http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Kids-Should-Not-Consume-Energy-Drinks,-and-Rarely-Need-Sports-Drinks,-Says-AAP.aspx

Your Teen

Blogging Could Be Good Therapy for Teens

1.45

When I was a teen if you had something you really wanted to get off your chest, but didn’t want anyone to know, you’d write it down in your diary. It was a safe place to express sadness, confusion, anxiety, joy and excitement. And being a teenager, all those emotions were swirling inside my head pretty much all the time. For some strange reason, I always felt better after writing it all down, clicking the lock shut, and placing the diary in a spot I thought no one would look. My musings were usually personal thoughts that I didn’t think anyone would understand anyway. In fact, I thought Bob Dylan captured my anxiety pretty well when he sang “If my thought-dreams could be seen -
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine.”

Today’s kids are much more likely to share their “thought-dreams” over the Internet in a personal blog, and a new study says that could actually be very helpful.

Research has long supported the therapeutic value of diary keeping and journaling for teens and adults. But now, researchers suggest that blogging might even be better.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Services and conducted by Meyran Boniel-Nissim and Azy Barak, psychology professors at the University of Haifa, Israel, found that engaging with an online community was more effective in relieving the writer’s social distress than a private diary would be.

So, how did they discover that? They randomly surveyed high school students in Israel who said they had difficulty making new friends or relating to friends they already had. Researchers selected 161 teens to participate in the study. The average age was around 15 and there were 124 girls and 37 boys. 

The teens were then divided into 6 groups. The first two groups were asked to blog about their social difficulties, with one group asked to open their posts to comments. The second two groups were asked to blog about whatever struck their adolescent fancy; again, with one group allowing comments. All four groups were told to write in their blogs at least twice a week. As a control, two more groups were told to keep either an old-fashioned print diary or to do nothing at all.

Four psychologists reviewed the blog entries to determine each writer’s relative social and emotional state. In all the groups, the greatest improvement in mood occurred among those bloggers who wrote about their problems and allowed people to respond.

People who responded offered positive feedback and support, and that appears to be the key.

“The only kind of surprise we had was that almost all comments made by readers were very positive and constructive in trying to offer support for distressed bloggers,” Dr. Barak wrote in an email to the New York Times.

 Royar Loflin, a 17-year-old blogger from Norfolk, Va., who did not participate in the study, says that blogging helps her find a little peace of mind.  “I definitely write posts in which I talk about being overwhelmed, and it helps me to relax. People will write in the comments, ‘I remember when I was in your shoes’ ” and ‘Don’t worry — you’ll get through the SATs!’ and it’s wonderful,” she said. “It really helps put everything into perspective.”

Once again I am reminded -The times they are a changing.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/fashion/blogging-as-therapy-for-teenag...

Your Child

Study: Bedtime Routine Offers Kids Many Benefits

1:45

If your child doesn’t have a nightly bedtime routine, he or she is missing out on a tremendous amount of health and behavioral benefits according to a new study. And you’re not alone.

A multinational study consisting of over 10,000 mothers from 14 counties reported that less than 50 percent of their infants, toddlers and preschoolers had a regular bedtime routine every night.

Researchers determined that the participant’s children who did have a regular bedtime routine benefitted on many levels. The study found that children with a consistent bedtime routine had better sleep outcomes, including earlier bedtimes, shorter amount of time in bed before falling asleep, reduced night waking, and increased sleep duration. Children with a bedtime routine every night slept for an average of more than an hour longer per night than children who never had a bedtime routine. Institution of a regular bedtime routine also was associated with decreased sleep problems and daytime behavior problems, as perceived by mothers.


“Creating a bedtime routine for a child is a simple step that every family can do,” said principal investigator and lead author Jodi Mindell, PhD, professor of psychology at Saint Joseph’s University and associate director of the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It can pay off to not only make bedtime easier, but also that a child is likely to sleep better throughout the entire night.”

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, positive bedtime routines involve the institution of a set sequence of pleasurable and calming activities preceding a child’s bedtime. The goal is to establish a behavioral chain leading up to sleep onset. Activities may include giving your child a soothing bath, brushing teeth and reading a bedtime story.

“It’s important that parents create a consistent sleep schedule, relaxing bedtime routine and soothing sleep environment to help their child achieve healthy sleep,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler.


Researchers found that consistency was an important factor in helping children sleep well

“For each additional night that a family is able to institute a bedtime routine, and the younger that the routine is started, the better their child is likely to sleep,” said Mindell. “It’s like other healthy practices:  Doing something just one day a week is good, doing it for three days a week is better, and doing it every day is best.”

Mothers participated in the study by completing a validated, online questionnaire that included specific questions about their child’s daytime and nighttime sleep patterns, bedtime routines and behavior. The questionnaire was translated into each language and back-translated to check for accuracy.

“The other surprising finding is that we found that this effect was universal,” said Mindell.  “It doesn’t matter if you are a parent of a young child in the United States, India, or China, having a bedtime routine makes a difference.”

Sleep deprivation is becoming an all too common problem with today’s children and adults. The earlier a good sleep routine can be established and practiced, the better for a child in the long run.

Study results are published in the May issue of the journal Sleep.

Source: http://www.healthcanal.com/disorders-conditions/sleep/63298-study-shows-that-children-sleep-better-when-they-have-a-nightly-bedtime-routine.html

Your Child

More PE in School Linked to Higher Math Scores

1:45

Students in the Washington D.C. school system who spent more time doing physical activity also increased their standardized math scores significantly, according to a new study American University study.

A law passed in 2010, requires D.C. students to adhere to certain requirements regarding nutrition and physical activity at school to receive federal funding. They are also obligated to report how they implement these programs.

“This finding demonstrates that students’ academic performance improves when there’s a balance between time spent on physical education and time spent on learning,” said Stacey Snelling, dean of American University’s School of Education.

The study divided the city’s elementary schools into four groups based on how much physical education they offered: the lower 25 percent, lower-middle 25 percent, upper-middle 25 percent and upper 25 percent.

The researchers then took the average DC CAS math proficiency score, from the 2012-2013 school year, for each of these four groups and found that schools offering more physical activity posted higher math scores.

The upper 25 percent had an average of 151 minutes of physical education and saw an average math proficiency rate of 56.66. The lower 25 percent had an average of 29 minutes of physical education per week and an average math proficiency rate of 47.53. Some of the findings also were published in the academic journal Appetite. 

Researchers graded each school on how it implemented various aspects of the legislation — including building school gardens, serving healthy lunches and offering ample physical education time — on a 33-point scale. They found that, despite socioeconomic differences, there were no significant variations in how schools performed on the 33-point-scale across the District’s eight wards.

There were certain limitations pointed out in the findings. Researchers said that the data is based on schools’ self-reporting – which can leave room for errors. Several schools have also closed and opened during the five –year study, yielding inconsistent data.

D. C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who authored the original 2010 legislation, applauded the report’s findings, adding that although schools effectively provided more nutritious lunches, there is still more room for more physical ­activity.

“When children are fed and they are not hopping all around because their hungry, they’re better learners, and that’s translated throughout,” Cheh. “I was impressed with the findings.”

More schools across the country are taking a second look at adding back PE to students’ school week. Many schools have cancelled PE classes in order to use that time to prepare students for testing. As study after study comes in pointing out the benefits, including higher test scores, of children engaging in some sort of physical activity during the school day, school administrations are beginning take notice.

Source: Perry Stein, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2016/02/09/is-more-physical-education-at-school-linked-to-higher-student-math-scores/

 

Your Child

Kids and Caffeine

2.00 to read

While sipping on a coffee-laced Frappuccino, I’m reading about a current study on caffeine and kids. It made me think about my own dependence on caffeine and when it started. For as long as I can remember, my parents would drink several cups of coffee in the morning before going to work, and even as late as right before they retired for the night.  I suspect my mother had a cup while I was busy being born.

I can’t remember exactly when I joined the family coffee drinking ritual, but I know I was pretty young.  Fall and winter demanded hot steaming cups of coffee and iced coffee helped cool the torturous Texas summers. Spring was a combination of both. Sometimes I think that by now, there’s probably coffee bean residue percolating in my blood stream. 

I kind of wish that I’d never started drinking coffee, because it’s the caffeine I really crave- not necessarily the taste of the brew.  When I’ve tried to quit, my body and mind rebels with headaches and bad attitudes. Which brings me back to the study on kids and caffeine.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that children and teens are now getting less caffeine from soda, but more from caffeine-heavy energy drinks and coffee.

"You might expect that caffeine intake decreased, since so much of the caffeine kids drink comes from soda," said the study's lead author, Amy Branum, a statistician at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "But what we saw is that these decreases in soda were offset by increases in coffee and energy drinks."

Not too long ago, energy drinks were just a fad, something that was more likely to give you the shakes than boost your energy level. That was before they were tweaked and bottled or canned in fruity flavors, sugary beverages and clever advertising. Once kids (and adults) got a taste of the “new and improved” tasty stimulates, the caffeinated beverages began to become a part of every day life – at least Monday through Friday when school and work beckoned.

"In a very short time, they have gone from basically contributing nothing to 6 percent of total caffeine intake," Branum said.

“Energy drinks have more caffeine than soda,. That's their claim to fame," she said. "That's what they're marketed for."

So, what effect does excessive caffeine intake have on our kids? Scientists are not sure yet. There are concerns and a lot of questions about the possible adverse consequences for kids who are still developing.  Caffeine addiction, obesity from sugar heavy beverages, high blood pressure, rapid heart beats and anxiety are some of the side –effects researchers are exploring. 

Using data from the 1999 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Branum's team estimated that 73 percent of American children consume some level of caffeine each day.

Although much of their caffeine still comes from soda, the proportion has decreased from 62 percent to 38 percent. At the same time, the amount of caffeine kids get from coffee rose from 10 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2010, the researchers found.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents and in general, caffeine-containing beverages, including soda, should be avoided. The AAP suggests that children should drink water or moderate amounts of juice instead.

The genie is probably out of the preverbal bottle as far as some adolescents and college-aged kids are concerned.  Although, if they are more aware of the possible health risks associated with excessive caffeinated beverages, they may decide to look at healthier energy producing sources such as exercise, meditation and more rest.

Where parents can have the most influence is with their younger children.  Refraining from purchasing caffeinated products (there’s even “energy” gum) and keeping them out of the home is a good first step.

And by all means, avoid introducing your kids to coffee at a young age. It might seem kind of cute, but twenty years down the road, they may wish you hadn’t slid that first cup of java their way.

The report was published in the February edition of the online journal Pediatrics.

Sources: Steven Reinberg,  http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20140210/energy-drinks-coffee-increasing-sources-of-caffeine-for-kids-cdc-says

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