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High Blood Pressure Risk Evident In Kids

A recent study from New Zealand suggests that people at risk of developing high blood pressure before age 40 can be identified in childhood. Researchers from the University of Otago tracked more than 1,000 people in Dunedin, a coastal city in New Zealand, from their births in 1972-73 to the present. They collected information about the blood pressure of all the individuals from the time they were 7 years old until they reached 38 and found that more than one third were at risk of developing high blood pressure by early mid-life. Those at highest risk were male, had a family history of high blood pressure, were first born and were born with a lower than normal birth weight. In addition, the researchers reported that having a high body mass index and smoking cigarettes were linked to increasing blood pressure over time, especially among those having the other risk factors. The study also showed that the individuals at risk of high blood pressure were also more likely to have higher cholesterol levels as well as other health problems by age 38. The researchers suggested that losing weight (or maintaining a healthy weight) and not smoking might help reduce the overall risks, and noted that their findings could help physicians identify individuals at risk of high blood pressure while they’re still young. 

How to Make Kids Smarter

The key may be physical fitness. A new study suggests that kids who are aerobically and physically fit may have developed better brainpower and thinking skills than kids who are not so fit. Earlier research has linked higher levels of fitness to better attention, memory and academic skills, and the study authors noted that exercise is known to increase brainpower temporarily – which is why working out before taking a test is a good idea. So far, however, they haven’t determined whether physical fitness makes kids permanently smarter. For the new study, the researchers scanned the brains of 24 nine and 10 year olds, looking for differences in white matter, which facilitates communication between brain regions. Some of the kids were fit and some weren’t. The differences suggested that the fit kids had better-connected brains, but another researcher noted that the less fit kids in the study weighed more than the fit kids, raising the question of whether obesity, not fitness, explains the difference in brainpower. The same research team is now engaged in a five-year randomized, controlled trial to see whether white matter improves over time in kids who begin and maintain a new fitness routine.

Laura Chaddock-Heyman, Arthur Kramer, Charles Hillman et al, “Aerobic fitness is associated with greater white matter integrity in children,” frontiers in Human Neuroscience, August 2014, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00584

Sports and Energy Drinks: No Good for Kids?

Teenage boys who regularly consume sports and energy drinks aren’t only expending energy on sports. Instead, a new study has found that these kids spend more time playing video games than boys who consume energy drinks less than once week. Worse, the study found a link between teenage consumption of sports and energy drinks and such unhealthy behaviors as smoking, high dietary intake of other sugary drinks, and prolonged time spent watching TV in addition to playing video games. The researchers, from the University of Minnesota and Duke University, gathered their data from 2,793 adolescents across 20 public middle and high schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area during the 2009-10 school year. The researchers reported that despite a decline in the prevalence of soft drink and fruit drink consumption, kids have tripled their intake of sports and energy drinks in recent years. These drinks are high in both sugar and caffeine. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) kids should consider consuming sports drinks only after vigorous and prolonged physical activity. As for energy drinks, the AAP’s position is that kids shouldn’t drink them at all because they offer no health benefits and pose risks for overstimulation of the nervous system, which can lead to increased anxiety and disturbed patterns of sleep.

Nicole Larson et al, “Adolescent Consumption of Sports and Energy Drinks: Linkages to Higher Physical Activity, Unhealthy Beverage Patterns, Cigarette Smoking, and Screen Media Use. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2014; 46 (3): 181 DOI: 10.1016/j.jneb.2014.02.008

What’s Your Take on Stroller Use? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the use of a stroller for children and at what age a child should no longer use a stroller: When to Retire the Stroller? Check out the article and let us know your opinion on when a stroller should no longer be used.

Dad’s Diet Key for Healthy Kids

We have known for some time that adequate folate (vitamin B9) in women’s diets can protect against miscarriage and birth defects in their babies, but a new animal study suggests that a father’s folate levels may be just as important. The research from Canada’s McGill University concluded that men eating high-fat, fast food diets or who are obese may not be able to use or metabolize folate in the same way as those with optimal levels of the vitamin. Working with mice, the researchers compared the offspring of fathers with insufficient folate in their diets with the offspring of fathers whose diets contained sufficient folate levels. They observed that a folate deficiency in the male mice was associated with an almost 30 percent increase in birth defects of various kinds in their offspring, compared to the offspring of fathers with diets containing adequate folate. Foods containing folate include spinach, green vegetables and beans as well as fortified products such as orange juice, baked goods, and cereals. Other natural sources of folate include asparagus, bananas, melons, lemons, legumes, yeast, and mushrooms.

Sarah Kimmins et al, "Low paternal dietary folate alters the mouse sperm epigenome and is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes," Nature Communications 2013; 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3889