Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sedentary lifestyle may impair academic performance in boys


A sedentary lifestyle is linked to poorer reading skills in the first three school years in 6-8 year old boys, according to a new study from Finland. The study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland in collaboration with the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Cambridge was recently published in the Journal of Science and Medicine and Sport.

"Low levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and high levels of sedentary time in Grade 1 were related to better reading skills in Grades 1-3 among boys. We also observed that boys who had a combination of low levels of physical activity and high levels of sedentary time had the poorest reading skills through Grades 1-3," explains Eero Haapala, PhD, from the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyväskylä.

The study, constituting part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland and part of the First Steps Study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä, investigated the longitudinal associations of physical activity and sedentary time with reading and arithmetic skills in 153 children aged 6-8 years old in Grades 1-3 of the primary school. Physical activity and sedentary time were measured objectively using a combined heart rate and movement sensor in Grade 1, and reading and arithmetic skills were assessed by standardised tests in Grades 1-3.

The study showed that high levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, low levels of sedentary time, and particularly their combination in Grade 1 were related to better reading skills in Grades 1-3 in boys. High levels of physical activity and low levels of sedentary time were also associated with better arithmetic skills in Grade 1 only in boys. In girls, there were no strong and consistent associations of physical activity and sedentary time with reading or arithmetic skills.

Promoting physically active lifestyle may kick-start boys' school performance

The results of the study suggest that a combination of low levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and high levels of sedentary time might be particularly harmful for the development of academic skills in boys, and that increasing physical activity, reducing sedentary time, and especially their combination may improve academic achievement.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Early childhood household smoke exposure predicts later delinquency and dropout risk at age 12


Results of a new study led by Professor Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal's School of Psycho-Education show that the more children are exposed to household tobacco smoke in early childhood, the greater their risk of adopting antisocial behavior toward others, engaging in proactive and reactive aggression, having conduct problems at school, and dropping out at age 12.



"Young children have little control over their exposure to household tobacco smoke, which is considered toxic to the brain at a time when its development is exponential," said Pagani.
"The detection of early environmental factors that influence later child well-being represents an important target for individual and community health. Parents who smoke near where their children live and play often inadvertently expose them to second and third hand smoke. It was already known that environmental smoke places children at risk of short- and long-term health problems. However, now for the first time, we have compelling evidence which suggests other dangers to developing brain systems that govern behavioural decisions, social and emotional life, and cognitive functioning," she added. 
Pagani, her graduate student François Lévesque-Seck, and fellow Professors Isabelle Archambault and Michel Janosz, came to their conclusions after examining data from a longitudinal birth cohort of Quebec boys and girls born in 1997 and 1998. The Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development is a public database administered and coordinated by the Institut de la statistique du Québec. Every year, parents of 1,035 children from the longitudinal study reported whether anyone smoked at home when their children were aged 1.5 to 7.5 years. At age 12, their children self-reported their antisocial behaviour and academic characteristics. Overall, 60 percent of families reported never being exposed to tobacco smoke, while 27 percent reported intermittent exposure, and 13 percent reported chronic exposure. Pagani's team then analyzed the data to identify whether there was a significant link between early household smoke exposure and later signs of child deviance. This was done while eliminating the influence of numerous confounding factors such as exposure to tobacco smoke, drugs, and alcohol during pregnancy, and other parental and family characteristics that could have explained the observed link between early household smoke and later child deviance.
"Our goal was to eliminate any pre-existing conditions of the children or families that could shed a different light on our results or serve as alternative explanations," said the researcher.
Animal studies have suggested that exposure to tobacco smoke is toxic to the developing brain at a time when it is most vulnerable to environment input. Abnormal brain development can result from chronic or transient exposure to toxic chemicals and gases in second hand tobacco smoke. These compounds eventually solidify and create third hand smoke. Antisocial behavior is characterized by proactive intent to harm others, lack prosocial feelings, and violate social norms. Such behaviors include aggression, criminal offenses, theft, refusal to comply with authority, and destruction of property. In later childhood, antisocial behavior is often associated with academic problems, as highlighted in the study. Deviance and dropout risk are costly to society as a whole.
"These long-term associations should encourage policy-makers and public health professionals to raise awareness among parents about the developmental risks of second hand smoke exposure. In addition, schools could incorporate this knowledge into curricula at all grade levels in an effort to prevent further exposure to neurotoxins," she concluded.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Skipping breakfast and not enough sleep can make children overweight


FULL STORY

Mothers smoking in pregnancy, children skipping breakfast and not having a regular bedtime or sufficient sleep all appear to be important factors in predicting whether a child will become overweight or obese, according to new research led by UCL.

All three are early life factors which can be modified and the research highlights the possibility that prompt intervention could have an impact in curbing the growth in childhood overweight and obesity.
The paper, which was published in US journal Pediatrics, is the first research in the UK to look at the patterns of body mass index (BMI) weight development in the first 10 years of a child's life and to examine the lifestyle factors that appear to predict weight gain.

Being overweight or obese is linked to a child having poorer mental health, which can extend into adolescence and adulthood. This poorer psychosocial well-being includes low self-esteem, unhappiness as well as risky behaviours such as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption.

The research is based on the Millennium Cohort Study, a study of children born into 19,244 families in the UK between September 2000 and January 2002. Data on weight and height was collected when the children were 3, 5, 7 and 11.

This research used observational information which does not allow firm cause and effect conclusions to be drawn. However the results are based on data from thousands of children and the researchers were able to take account of many of the influences on the development of a child's weight.

"It is well known that children of overweight or obese mothers are more likely to be overweight themselves, probably reflecting the 'obesogenic' environment and perhaps a genetic predisposition to gain weight," said Professor Yvonne Kelly (UCL Epidemiology and Public Health), who led the research.

"This study shows that disrupted routines, exemplified by irregular sleeping patterns and skipping breakfast, could influence weight gain through increased appetite and the consumption of energy-dense foods. These findings support the need for intervention strategies aimed at multiple spheres of influence on BMI growth."

Smoking in pregnancy has been linked to a higher risk of a child being overweight, possibly due to a link between fetal tobacco exposure and infant motor co-ordination which could be a developmental pathway to BMI growth.

The study identified four patterns of weight development. The large majority of children, 83.3%, had a stable non-overweight BMI, while 13.1% had moderate increasing BMIs while 2.5% had steeply increasing BMIs. The smallest group, 0.6%, had BMIs in the obese range at the age of 3 but were similar to the stable group by the age of 7.

Girls were more likely to be in the "moderately increasing" group while Pakistani, Black Caribbean and Black African children were more likely to belong to the "high increasing" group.

The research also looked at other factors to see what influence, if any, they had on children's weight.
After taking account of background factors, breastfeeding and the early introduction of solid food were not associated with children's weight. Likewise, sugary drink consumption, fruit intake, TV viewing and sports participation were not strong predictors of unhealthy weight gain.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents


Researchers at Bournemouth University and Queen's University Belfast have discovered that music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems.

In partnership with Every Day Harmony (the brand name for Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust), the researchers found that children and young people, aged 8 -- 16 years old, who received music therapy had significantly improved self-esteem and significantly reduced depression compared with those who received treatment without music therapy.

The study, which was funded by the Big Lottery Fund, also found that young people aged 13 and over who received music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills, compared to those who received usual care options alone. Music therapy also improved social functioning over time in all age groups.

In the largest ever study of its kind, 251 children and young people were involved in the study which took place between March 2011 and May 2014. They were divided into two groups -- 128 underwent the usual care options, while 123 were assigned to music therapy in addition to usual care. All were being treated for emotional, developmental or behavioural problems.

Professor Sam Porter of the Department of Social Sciences and Social Work at Bournemouth University, who led the study, said: "This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioural problems and mental health needs. The findings contained in our report should be considered by healthcare providers and commissioners when making decisions about the sort of care for young people that they wish to support."

Dr Valerie Holmes, Centre for Public Health, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen's University Belfast and co-researcher, added: "This is the largest study ever to be carried out looking at music therapy's ability to help this very vulnerable group."

Ciara Reilly, Chief Executive of Every Day Harmony, the music therapy charity that was a partner in the research, said: "Music therapy has often been used with children and young people with particular mental health needs, but this is the first time its effectiveness has been shown by a definitive randomised controlled trail in a clinical setting. The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option. For a long time we have relied on anecdotal evidence and small-scale research findings about how well music therapy works. Now we have robust clinical evidence to show its beneficial effects. I would like to record my gratefulness to the Big Lottery Fund for its vision in providing the resources for this research to be carried out."

The research team will now look at the data to establish how cost-effective music therapy is in relation to other treatments.



Kids consume too much salt


Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, kills more than 800,000 Americans each year. We know that too much salt may contribute to high blood pressure and increased cardiovascular risk. According to a new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American children are consuming sodium at levels that far exceed the daily recommended limit. Taste preferences for high sodium foods, formed as children, follow individuals into adulthood and put them at increased risk for developing cardiovascular problems later in life.

"Sodium reduction is considered a key public health strategy to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases nationwide and this study is the latest in ongoing CDC efforts to monitor U.S. sodium intake," explained lead author Zerleen S. Quader, MPH, a data analyst with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. "We already know that nearly all Americans regardless of age, race, and gender consume more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet and the excess intake is of great concern among particular youths."

Using data from the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), CDC researchers looked at the eating habits of 2,142 children between the ages of 6 and 18 years. They found that the average sodium intake for kids was 3,256 milligrams per day, not including any salt added at the table. The recommended intake for children varies from 1,900 mg/day to 2,300 mg/day depending on age. Nearly 90% of the children surveyed exceeded the upper level of sodium recommended for their age group and previous evidence suggests that one in nine children ages 8-17 years already has blood pressure above the normal range for their age, sex, and height, which increases their risk of high blood pressure as adults.

The study also found that high levels of sodium were being consumed throughout the day and from a variety of different sources. For example, they found 39% of sodium was consumed at dinner, 31% came from lunch, 16% from snacks, and 14% at breakfast. Researchers discovered that only 10 types of food made up almost 50% of kids' sodium intake. These included pizza, Mexican mixed dishes, sandwiches (including burgers), breads, cold cuts, soups, savory snacks, cheese, plain milk, and poultry.

Looking at where sodium-laden foods were purchased, researchers found that foods from the grocery store accounted for a substantial 58% of daily sodium intake, while fast-food/pizza contributed 16%, and the school cafeteria 10%. "With the exception of plain milk, which naturally contains sodium, the top ten food categories contributing to U.S. school children's sodium intake in 2011-2012 comprised foods in which sodium is added during processing or preparation," said Quader. "Sodium is consumed throughout the day from multiple foods and locations, highlighting the importance of sodium reduction across the U.S. food supply."

While sodium intake exceeded daily recommended levels across the board, the study found that average levels were even higher for teens ages 14-18 years (3,565 mg/day vs. 3,256 mg/day for all ages) and that girls had significantly lower daily intake than boys (2,919 mg/day for girls vs. 3,584 mg/day for boys); however, no significant differences in mean sodium intake were observed by race/ethnic group, household income, or child weight status.

This new study illustrates why identifying targets for sodium intervention can be tricky, since salt is ubiquitous in children's diets. It's also hard to pinpoint problem foods, since the sodium content of dishes can vary significantly according to how they are made and prepared. "It's surprising how much sodium content for the same food type can vary by product," described Quader. "The best way to reduce sodium intake from these products is to check the Nutrition Facts panel on packages and look for no-salt-added or lower-sodium versions."

The investigators have identified some important tips for parents and caregivers looking to help cut down sodium in kids' diets:

· Feed your children a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables without added sodium or sauces.

· Read nutrition labels. When shopping at the grocery store, look for the lowest sodium options for your child's favorite foods. An easy way to assess sodium in a food is to focus on the amount of sodium per serving. Those foods with less than 140 mg per serving are considered low in sodium.

· Request nutritional information at restaurants to find healthier options. Speak with your local grocer about stocking lower-sodium versions of foods.

While more attention is being paid to fostering good food habits early, salt could prove to be a challenging opponent. Researchers hope that this study can serve as a benchmark as more measures are put into place to reduce the amount of sodium kids consume. "The results support the need to reduce sodium content across the U.S. food supply rather than in a single type of food or venue," concluded Quader. "These data provide baseline information on sources of sodium intake among U.S. school-aged children that can be used to monitor changes in the food supply over time."

For more information on the role sodium plays in heart health, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/salt. For heart-healthy, low-sodium recipes and other eating tips, visit the Million Hearts Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Resource Center at http://www.recipes.millionhearts.hhs.gov.