It may be a clichÈ, but that doesn’t make it untrue: Kids are the future, and if we don’t care properly for them, we’re not caring properly for tomorrow. With that in mind, we’ve assembled this quick look at the latest news affecting the health of toddlers, tykes, and teens. We figure it’s the least we can do for their future and our own.
• Our dispatches begin in the months before birth with some health news affecting mothers with babies waiting to make their debut. Scientists at Japan’s Nagoya University have linked exposure to the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) to miscarriages. Researchers examined 45 patients who had suffered miscarriages three or more times and 32 women with a history of successful pregnancies. On average, BPA levels were more than three times higher in those women who had miscarried repeatedly. Scientists have suspected for several years that BPA plays a role in human reproductive and developmental disruption. Indeed, previous studies have suggested that BPA exposure is connected to premature puberty, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, birth defects like Down Syndrome, breast cancer, and miscarriage in mice. The recent study affirms the connection between BPA and human miscarriage. It’s an unsurprising relationship given the behavior of this common chemical. BPA is easily able to leach out of products that contain it and enter the human body where it mimics estrogen, a key reproductive hormone, in the bloodstream.
BPA is found in dental sealants, aluminum can linings (such as those used for acidic foods and sodas) and polycarbonate plastics. To limit your exposure to BPA, avoid canned soda and acidic canned foods like tomato and citrus products. Also stay away from foods and beverages sold or served in #7 plastics, the plastic category that includes BPA-leaching polycarbonates. Better plastic options include polypropylene (#5 PP), high-density polyethylene (#2 HDPE), and low-density polyethylene (#4 LDPE). No evidence has been found to suggest that these plastics leach toxic materials. (Note that experts also advise against the repeated use of plastic water bottles made from plastic type #1 PETE as there is evidence to suggest that such bottles leach a compound known as DEHA, which is classified by the EPA as a "possible human carcinogen," as well as acetaldehyde, which has received the same designation from the International Agency for Research on Cancer.).
Interested readers can obtain a paid copy of the study at http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/20/8/2325. For general information about BPA visit http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/NewScience/oncompounds/bisphenola/bpauses.htm.
• A study conducted by the University of Southern California and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has found that dietary deficiencies of just four common nutrients can create appreciably higher incidences of behavioral disorders and aggression. Researchers followed 1,000 children of various ethnicities living on Mauritius, an island off western Africa, for 14 years and tracked their nutritional intake and cognitive and behavioral development. A nutritional assessment was conducted at age three and behavioral studies were conducted at ages 8, 11, and 17. Over time the researchers found a connection across all social groups between behavioral problems and diets low in zinc, iron, B vitamins, and protein. When compared to a control group that did not experience nutritional deficiencies, scientists discovered that the children who got fewer of these key nutrients, which are all key contributors to proper brain development, displayed a 41% increase in aggression when assessed at age eight; a 10% increase in aggression and delinquency at age 10; and a 51% increase in violent behavior at age 17. Researchers say parents can avoid the problems the study uncovered by steering children away from processed foods (many of which have had these vital nutrients stripped away) and foods with a disproportionate amount of sugar and white flour. Instead, kids should have a balanced diet of whole foods in which vegetables and fruits predominate. Vitamin supplements will help during those times when this type of diet is too difficult to engineer.
Foods high in zinc include oysters, crab, lobster, clams, salmon, turkey, chicken, brown rice, spinach, yogurt, beans, rye bread, whole wheat bread, lima beans, oatmeal, milk, and peas. Foods high in iron include bran, pumpkin seeds, blackstrap molasses, soybean nuts, spinach, red kidney beans, lima beans, prune juice, rice, raisins, and prunes. Foods high in B vitamins include spinach, navy beans, wheat germ, avocado, oranges, peanuts (folate); salmon, yogurt, shrimp, salmon, trout, liver, fortified breakfast cereals (B12); spinach, romaine lettuce, whole grain spelt, asparagus, chard, broccoli (B2); poultry, peanut butter, raw crimini mushroom, and fish (niacin); chicken, pork, peanut butter, black beans, almonds, garbanzo beans, bananas (B6); poultry, fish, whole grains, legumes (pantothenic acid). Foods high in protein include dairy products, meats, fish, and legumes.
For more information about the study, see http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/161/11/2005.
• The Toronto Star recently obtained internal Canadian government documents that express worry about the growing phenomenon of cell phone use among children. While Health Canada officially advises parents to simply consider the "possibility of an unknown risk from cell phone use" when deciding whether or not to give these phones to their kids, the documents paint a different picture with at least one clearly stating that "children are at the highest risk from (cell phone radiation) exposures." A memo dating from 1998 refers to "significant evidence" that frequencies like those emitted by cell phones may allow carcinogens and other toxins to seep into the brain. In fact, the Star reports that about 60 percent of more than 250 studies that have examined the potential effects of cell phone radiation have found some kind of negative effect occurring when cell phones are used. Currently there are an estimated 159 million cell phone users in the U.S., and the Yankee Group, a communications research and consulting firm, estimates that by the end of this year two thirds of all children between the ages of 10 and 19 will have their own cell phones. Indeed, on July 6th, the Disney Company announced a partnership with Sprint to offer cell phone service to children between the ages of 8 and 12. Major marketing muscle notwithstanding experts advise parents to seriously consider whether or not their children truly need cell phones, at least until more is known about the effects of the radiation these devices produce. For those teens that do require cell phones for some reason, prepaid calling plans and other similar programs that offer only a limited number of air time minutes each month will cut way down on unnecessary usage.
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