May 08 2011
Differences between males and females abound, of course -- but some are found in the oddest places. New research has found that women tend to have shorter, earlier sleep cycles then men. This makes women typically go to bed earlier and get up earlier in the morning. It could also cause women's higher rates of insomnia and seasonal depression.
"This has implications for how easily they can fall asleep and how well they can stay asleep," said study researcher Jeanne Duffy of Harvard Medical School. "It could alter and contribute to differences between individuals as to when it's easy to go to bed or wake up."
The researchers found that, on average, women's 24-hour sleep-wake cycle (called the circadian rhythm) is about six minutes shorter than men, but in the reality of sleeping and waking, this equates waking up about 30 minutes earlier.
The research team, led by Duffy and advisor Charles Czeisler, studied the sleep cycles of 52 women and 105 men for two to six weeks in the lab. They studied two indicators of circadian rhythm, the patient's core body temperature and levels of the hormone melatonin -- thought to play a role in setting sleep-wake cycles -- while the patients followed extreme schedules (following a sleep-activity cycle spread across a 20 or 28 hour day, instead of the normal 24) in a dimly lit room.
This environment allows the researchers to measure the natural circadian rhythms of the individuals, which are normally reset daily by exposure to natural light. Without outside cues, the body reverts to its natural cycle, which is sometimes longer or shorter than 24 hours. In this study, about 35 percent of women had circadian rhythms shorter than 24 hours, compared to 14 percent of men.
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THURSDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- While new mothers are strongly encouraged to breast-feed their babies for at least a year, a small study of child-care centers suggests that relatively few are set up to help moms to do so.
The research, led by doctors at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, revealed that only 12 percent of infants enrolled in child-care centers in two counties near Cincinnati were being fed their mother's milk, even though 96 percent of the center directors said they'd be comfortable facilitating the practice.
"We were surprised to find that despite the high staff comfort levels in feeding human milk, only a small percentage of infants were being fed human milk," said study author Dr. Kristen Copeland, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
One big stumbling block seems to be a lack over overnight refrigerated storage at centers for any pumped breast milk mothers might care to leave, the study found.
"We know that centers that allow pumped milk to be stored overnight make it easier for women to provide a constant supply of milk for their babies," Copeland said, "so if more centers offered overnight storage, it might increase the number of infants who are fed human milk."
The findings were presented this week at a joint meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies/Asian Society for Pediatric Research in Denver.
According to the researchers, roughly half of all infants in the United States are in child care, and 18 percent are in centers.
For the study, Copeland and her colleagues conducted telephone surveys with the directors of 167 child-care centers in two urban counties in southwestern Ohio. The directors were asked how many infants currently enrolled at their centers were being fed pumped breast ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
FRIDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- Fathers have a major influence on how often their children eat at fast-food and other types of restaurants, new research shows.
The study included 312 families in Houston who were interviewed about parents' work schedules, parenting style, beliefs about family meals and the amount of time the children spend in the car with parents. The children in the families were aged 9 to 11 and 13 to 15.
Factors associated with eating out more included: both parents having standard work schedules; kids spending more time in the family car; and fathers' use of restaurants, according to the researchers at Texas A&M University.
Meals served at restaurants tend to be higher in fat, calories and salt than meals prepared at home, researchers said in a journal news release.
The study authors made special note of the strong association between fathers' and children's use of and time spent in both fast-food and full-service restaurants.
The study is published in the May/June issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
"Since dietary behaviors, like relying on food away from home and eating fast food, have been shown to track from childhood through adolescence into young adulthood, fathers should be encouraged to model healthful food choices when they obtain food and to eat with children at home. After all, fathers who believe that dinner is an important family ritual reduce children's use of fast food; this perception should be encouraged among fathers," study author Alex McIntosh said in a journal news release.
The findings highlight the importance of pinpointing factors that increase American families' use of restaurants, according to the researchers.
May 08 2011
Many foreign-born American citizens have said they feel that their fellow U.S. citizens question their Americanness. This spurning can be particularly difficult for immigrants' U.S.-born children: some Asian-American kids, for instance, have sought plastic surgery or blue contact lenses to give their eyes a more "American" appearance. Now comes evidence that immigrants' kids may even eat more in an effort to fit in with U.S.-born kids, which is to say they try to be fat.
The study, which will be published next month in Psychological Science, notes that by the late 1990s, 27% of Asian-American teens born to immigrant Asian parents were obese, compared with 25% of white American adolescents.
The authors of the study - a team led by Maya Guendelman of the University of California, Berkeley - begin with a survey they conducted, asking college students about embarrassing food memories from childhood. When questioned about bringing a dish for elementary-school lunch "that your parents cooked at home," 68% of Asian-American students said they would have been uncomfortable. Only 27% of white American students responded the same way.
The Asian-American students listed chicken feet, fish eyes and pig-blood clots in their lunches as being especially embarrassing. None of the white American kids surveyed could think of a single dish they brought to school that would have embarrassed them. (Speaking as a former food writer, I happen to love the chicken feet I've eaten in Manhattan's Chinatown. Fish eyes are O.K., but I have never tried pig-blood clots. And I hope I never do.)
The authors of the Psychological Science paper then conducted two experiments. In the first, they had a white American researcher approach various students who had either a white or Asian appearance. Then the researcher asked: Do you speak ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
THURSDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy could protect women against brain aneurysms later in life, a new study suggests, although one neurologist questioned the quality of the research.
Cerebral aneurysms occur when a blood vessel in the brain weakens and balloons out, potentially leading to a hemorrhagic (or bleeding) stroke if the vessel bursts. These types of aneurysms are more common in women than men, possibly because lower levels of female hormones after menopause play a role in their development, the study authors noted.
Brain aneurysms are more common after the age of 40 and are most likely to burst when people are in their 50s.
In the study, Dr. Michael Chen, of Rush University Medical Center, and colleagues interviewed 60 women who had experienced brain aneurysms and asked about their use of birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, and compared their answers to those from a group of almost 4,700 other women in the general U.S. public.
The women who had brain aneurysms were significantly less likely to have taken birth control pills or received hormone replacement therapy, and were also more likely to have entered menopause earlier, according to the report published online May 4 in the Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery.
Previous research has suggested that taking birth control pills lowers the risk of hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke in later life. However, women who either begin menstruating at an early age, don't have children, or both, face a higher risk.
Because estrogen is important for the repair and maintenance of blood vessel walls, a drop in the levels of the female hormone is believed to be the reason for the increased risk to the structure of these vessels, the study authors noted in ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
THURSDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Children have longer hospital stays if their parents or other main caregivers have poor English language skills, a U.S. study finds.
The research, published in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, included almost 1,300 children admitted to a children's hospital in the Midwest for treatment of infections requiring long-term antibiotics.
Among the parents or primary caregivers of those children, about 97 percent were proficient in English and the rest had limited English proficiency. The parents/caregivers with poorer English were more likely to be Hispanic and either uninsured or covered by Medicaid.
The median length of hospital stay for all patients was about four days, but was about six days for children with less fluent parents, said the researchers from Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo.
The study also found that children of parents with less-than-proficient English were less likely to receive a home health care referral than those with English-proficient parents (6.9 percent vs. 32.6 percent).
The researchers noted that a language other than English is now spoken in 14 million U.S. households by more than 55 million -- about one in five -- U.S. residents. Nearly half of those people say they have limited English proficiency or speak English less than well.
As this group continues "growing exponentially, the medical community must ensure that all patients with [limited English proficiency] receive adequate interpreter services," the study authors concluded. "Increasing the number and quality of trained medical interpreters and translators, improving the infrastructure for a multilingual approach to care, and further minimizing multi-tiered care based on language are important areas for advocacy."
WEDNESDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- Children's health problems caused by air pollution, exposure to toxic chemicals and other environmental pollutants cost the United States $76.6 billion in 2008, a new study finds.
That was 3.5 percent of the nation's total health-care costs that year, compared with 2.8 percent in 1997, said researchers from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and colleagues.
They examined the cost of childhood cancer and chronic conditions such as asthma, autism, attention deficit disorder, and intellectual disability linked at least in part to toxins and contaminants in the water, air, soil and food, as well as in homes and neighborhoods.
The costs included medical care and indirect costs such as lost work productivity among parents caring for sick children.
Among the main findings:
Childhood cancer cost $95 million.
Lead poisoning cost $50.9 billion.
Autism cost $7.9 billion.
Intellectual disability cost $5.4 billion.
Exposure to mercury (methyl mercury) cost $5.1 billion.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder cost $5 billion.
Asthma cost $2.2 billion.
The study, funded by The Kresge Foundation, appears in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs.
"Left unchecked, these preventable environmental factors will continue to harm the health of our children and push up health-care costs," study author Leonardo Trasande, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said in a journal news release.
"By updating environmental regulations and laws aimed at protecting the public's health, we can reduce the toll taken by such factors on children's health and the economy," Trasande said.
May 08 2011
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Droopy eye affects about 1 in 12,500 kids, which is about what doctors expected, a new study says.
Droopy eye, or ptosis, is usually caused by damage to the muscle that raises the eyelid and can be present at birth or result from later injuries or disease. It often forces kids to raise their eyebrows or lift up their chins to see.
Parents of kids with a droopy eyelid often ask their physician how common it is, Dr. Richard Lisman, an eye surgeon at the New York University Medical Center, told Reuters Health.
"We now have a very good study that we can quote to parents," said Lisman, who was not involved in the new work. He added that if parents suspect their child has the condition, they should see an eye doctor to find out if anything needs to be done.
Droopy eyelids are generally treated with surgery -- though only if they interfere with vision, according to Lisman.
Dr. Brian Mohney, who led the new research, said droopy eye usually affects only one eye.
"But in some kids, it's so severe that they can't see, even with their chin up," Mohney, a pediatric eye doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told Reuters Health.
The danger is that kids can develop "lazy eye" in the droopy eye, which weakens their vision and can become permanent if left untreated.
Mohney's team looked at the medical records of kids younger than 19 who were diagnosed with droopy eye between 1965 and 2004 in Olmsted County, Minnesota.
Over 40 years, 107 kids were diagnosed with the eye disorder, according to the new findings, published in the journal Ophthalmology.
In most of the cases -- 81 ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
May 08 2011
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – An hour spent playing video games may make teenage boys eat more over the rest of the day, a small study suggests.
The study, of 22 normal-weight teens, found that the boys ate a bigger lunch when they had a pre-meal video game, versus an hour spent relaxing. And they did not make up for the extra bites by burning more calories through gaming, or by eating less later in the day.
On average, the boys downed 163 calories more on the day when they played video games, researchers report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Exactly what that means for video gamers' waistlines is unknown. But the findings add to studies that have linked kids' screen time -- from TV and computers -- to the odds of being overweight.
While those studies observed patterns, and do not prove cause-and-effect, the current study actually tested the idea that something about video-gaming itself might affect eating habits, explained lead researcher Jean-Philippe Chaput.
It's not clear why boys ate more on game day, according to Chaput, who researches obesity and lifestyle at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada.
"We didn't see an increase in hunger," he told Reuters Health, adding that neither the boys' self-ratings of hunger nor their levels of appetite hormones appeared to be affected by playing video games.
Instead, Chaput speculated that there is a subtle "mental-stress effect," and eating food may satisfy the brain's need for a "reward."
"And most of the food we'd want," Chaput said, "would be sugary and fatty."
He noted that in past research, he has found a similar effect of computer work on calorie intake.
For the current study, Chaput's team had ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
May 08 2011
The brains of children who have autism spectrum disorder are larger than those of other children, a difference that seems to arise before they are 2 years old, according to a new study.
In 2005, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that 2-year-old children with autism had brains up to 10 percent larger than other children of the same age. This new study reveals that the children with enlarged brains at age 2 continued to have enlarged brains at ages 4 and 5, but by no more than the amount at age 2.
"Brain enlargement resulting from increased folding on the surface of the brain is most likely genetic in origin and a result of an increase in the proliferation of neurons in the developing brain," study researcher Heather Cody Hazlett, an assistant professor in UNC’s Department of Psychiatry, said in a statement.
Hazlett and her colleagues conducted behavioral assessments and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans on 97 children at age 2, of whom 59 had received an autism diagnosis.
About two years later, she and her colleagues repeated the tests on those same children who were still available to them: 57 in all, of whom 36 had an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.
The researchers found that children with an autism spectrum disorder had larger brain volume (including more white and gray matter) at all ages than children without autism. However, the rate of brain growth had been similar to the rate seen in children who did not have autism.
Research has shown that the brain overgrowth occurs during the latter part of the first year of life, and the new finding reveals that there is a relationship between onset of autistic behavior and brain overgrowth, the study said.
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