children

  1. Study links BPA to obesity in kids

    Is this common chemical making your kids fat?

    When does incompetence cross the line into negligence?

    You don't need to look any further than the FDA's handling of the bisphenol (BPA) crisis for the answer to that question. They hurtled across that line at top speed years ago.

    Make no mistake...BPA, a synthetic chemical found in consumer products ranging from aluminum cans to cash register receipts, is a threat to your health. This is a fact with a stack of research backing it up. Yet, the FDA refuses to acknowledge the danger.

    Sure, after years of pressure they finally caved this year and banned the chemical from children's sippy cups and baby bottles. Too bad it was an empty gesture.

    The truth is parents had wised up long ago, and were buying BPA-free products for their babies long before the ban. Since there wasn't a market for the BPA-tainted baby bottles and sippy cups anymore, most manufacturers had already stopped making them anyway.

    And besides, despite its own ban the FDA still refuses to acknowledge that BPA actually poses a threat to health. In fact, they're so confident that it isn't a threat that they decided not to ban the creepy chemical in aluminum cans and other food packaging. Talk about a muddled message.

    The devil is in the details

    The problem with BPA is that it's a low-grade estrogen...or estrogen-mimic. Your body simply can't tell the difference between it and the "real stuff." And since you're being exposed to bits of BPA all the time, all those little bits can add up to a big problem.

    Studies have shown it can wreak havoc with your metabolism and endocrine system.
    In fact, research has already revealed an association between BPA and infertility, sexual dysfunction, cancer, heart disease, adult obesity, and neurological disorders. And studies linking the chemical to certain markers of sexual maturity have raised concerns about it playing a role in girls reaching puberty so much earlier these days.

    (Not a threat?! Come on, are you even paying attention here FDA?!?)

    Now a frightening new study has found a link between BPA and obesity in children and teens. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, used a sample of nearly 3,000 kids and teens between the ages of 6 and 19.

    After reviewing the children's BPA levels the researchers found that the kids with the highest levels of urinary BPA were 2.6 times more likely to be obese than those with the lowest levels. Caucasian kids had it worst, being five times more likely to be obese when they had high BPA levels. But African-American kids still had an elevated risk, and were 1.25 times more likely to be obese when their BPA levels were elevated.

    And with kids being exposed to BPA since before they're even born these days, it's easy to see why these findings are so concerning.

    BPA is bad news

    Now no one is suggesting that BPA is the sole cause of obesity. As I've explained before, obesity is a complex problem with no single cause. Diet (poor ones) and exercise (lack of it) of course, both, have starring roles to play in the epidemic.

    But, despite huge efforts to get people moving more and eating less, our weight... and our children's weight... continues to balloon. And frankly, with all the evidence that's stacked up we'd be foolish to ignore the role that environmental factors like BPA are playing in the problem.

    When you look at the long and growing list of health concerns associated with this chemical two things are clear. The first is that B-P-A spells B-A-D news for your health, and the health of your family. And the second is that the FDA has been asleep on the job when it comes to protecting us from it.

    The FDA maintains that "the very low levels of human exposure to BPA through the diet" are safe. But the reality is that the average person's exposure levels are nowhere near "very low," and they certainly aren't limited to diet.

    Heck, one study last year found that eating a serving of canned soup for just five days in a row can send your BPA levels skyrocketing by 1000%! And BPA is found in all kinds of other non-food related products including flooring, pipes, nail polish, compact discs, electrical appliances, and more.

    The truth is, unless you move to a remote island somewhere avoiding BPA altogether is nearly impossible. But you can reduce your family's exposure by making a commitment to buying fresh foods more often. And when you must use something processed be sure to look for a BPA-free stamp on the can or package before buying it.

  2. Smaller main dishes gets kids to eat more vegetables

    Get 'em to eat their veggies!

    Do you feel like you've tried EVERYTHING to get your child or grandchild to eat more vegetables and failed miserably? You're not alone. But now researchers at Penn State University have come up with a surprisingly simple solution. And when you hear it your going to wonder why you didn't think of it yourself.

    Simply shrink down the size of the main dish!

    I know it may sound hard to believe, but it works. The researchers varied the size of a group of kid's lunches over six days. The kids were told they could have as much of the green bean and applesauce side dishes as they wanted. When the kids got the smallest entrée portions they ate 67 percent more applesauce, and an astounding 275 percent more green beans!

  3. Stimulants that can kill?

    Last week I got an e-mail blast from the FDA. Yet another FDA-approved drug is causing problems. And this time, it's a class of drugs prescribed to millions of kids and adults across the country. But they might not be as safe as we've been led to believe. In fact, a new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that these drugs may actually increase a child's risk of dying suddenly by 500 percent! But the FDA is already backpedaling, due in no small part to enormous pressure from the drug lobbyists I'm sure. You see, these drugs are Big Pharma's bread and butter. Kids get started taking them as young as six or seven years of age. They take them throughout their school years. And guess what? Many continue to take them well into adulthood. So we're talking about 20, 30, even 40 years of potential pill popping by every patient! So when you consider that 30 million prescriptions are written for these drugs each year, it's no wonder Big Pharma's circling the wagons. Scary statistics So what drugs am I talking about? Of course, I'm talking about Ritalin (methylphenidate) and other stimulant medications used to treat Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. These drugs already carry the FDA's strongest "black box" warning, but this new study makes me think that's just not enough. In my opinion, parents should avoid giving these drugs to their children at all costs. Here's why... Researchers examined the medical histories of 1,128 children. Half of the children had died suddenly and half of them died in car accidents. Turns out that 10 of the 564 children who died suddenly had been taking stimulant drugs, like Ritalin. But only 2 of the 564 who died in car accidents had been taking stimulants. This lead study authors to conclude that there may be a six- to seven-fold increased risk of sudden death among healthy kids taking stimulants. But as I said earlier, the FDA is already backpedaling. Just three days after the first e-mail from the FDA, I got a second e-mail, this time from MedScape (the unofficial PR "mouthpiece" of the FDA in my book). This second e-mail told me that I should use "caution in interpreting the results of a new case-control study that shows that stimulant medications, specifically methylphenidate, are associated with a six- to seven-times increased risk for sudden death in children and adolescents." Evidently, the FDA is now pointing out holes in the study to soften the blow. At a press conference, the FDA trotted out a happy mouthpiece to make the case. Robert Temple, M.D., director of medical policy for the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said, "I don't think it makes the case that there is real risk here." Nah. A six- to seven-fold increased risk of sudden death... that's hardly a "real risk" at all! "Real" worries about sudden death Here's the thing... worries about sudden death in kids using stimulants have been around for a while. That's mostly because we know that stimulants can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rates, and arrhythmias... in children as well as adults! The NY Times ran a story back in 2006 questioning the safety of stimulants such as Ritalin, stating "F.D.A. should study them more closely and warn patients and doctors about the potential risks to the heart." Well, here we have an actual FDA-funded study (yes, the new study was funded by the FDA) saying that stimulant meds cause a six- to seven-fold increased risk of sudden death, but it's disregarded. In that same NY Times article, the reporter quoted Dr. Thomas R. Fleming, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Washington. Dr. Fleming made the case against stimulants pretty clearly. He said that stimulants like Ritalin might even be more dangerous to the heart than drugs like Vioxx or Bextra. You may remember these drugs were yanked off the market because they caused heart damage in many users. Due to this very real concern, some doctors now require an ECG (electrocardiogram) to rule out pre-existing heart problems in kids before they start taking stimulants like Ritalin. In fact, that's what the authors of the AJP study recommend. But don't worry. The FDA says it's sponsoring "a large epidemiological study that will provide further information about the potential risks associated with stimulant medication use in children." Translation? They're drumming up more data to make us all forget about this scary little study showing that stimulants put kids at risk. Evidently, they're moving swiftly too. The study will be ready later in 2009. The real cause of ADHD Here's the bottom line, folks: Parents of kids with ADHD don't have to resort to drugs like Ritalin to control symptoms. Hyperactivity in children is very often a direct response to an unknown food allergy. Even kids who are labeled as "slow learners" or "day dreamers" or "high strung" may have an underlying food sensitivity. First, you'll want to remove all refined sugars as well as artificial flavors, colors, preservatives (except vitamin C), and enhancers (MSG) for at least a week from the child's diet. If the child's behavior gets worse for the first three to four days after eliminating these foods, you're absolutely on the right track. If that doesn't do the trick, I'd suspect an allergy to cow's milk. This can include yogurt, cheese, cream cheese, butter and even packaged products. (Read all packaged food labels carefully to see if they contain milk.) Unfortunately, it's tough to eliminate milk from a child's system. The effects of drinking milk linger longer than other foods. So you have to stay off the stuff for longer than a week. I'd recommend cutting out all cow's milk products for at least two to three weeks and see how the child does. Look for improved sleeping patterns and eating habits, as well as improvements in attention span and behavior. After milk, the top five offending foods are wheat, corn, eggs, citrus, and sugar. Try eliminating these foods one at a time to zero-in on the problem. There are lots of websites out there geared to helping parents through elimination diets. Also, for further reading about food allergies (adults have them too!), look at books by noted authors such as Lendon Smith, M.D., Ben Feingold, M.D., or William Crook, M.D. It may take a little work to get a handle on a child's food allergy, but it's well worth the extra effort... and much safer than taking a drug like Ritalin for the next 20 years!
  4. 75 Percent of Juvenile Diabetics Not Getting Enough Vitamin D

    A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics caught my attention this week. It said more than 75 percent of children with type-1 diabetes aren’t getting enough vitamin D. While I’m glad those darn pediatricians (the doctors most likely to put their head in the sand and keep it there) are paying attention to how much vitamin D their patients get, their solution to the problem is mind-boggling! Lead author of the study, Britta Svoren, M.D., wrote ‘We need to make sure all youths in general are getting enough vitamin D in their diets.’ In their diets? Are you kidding me! Do you know how many glasses of milk a kid have to drink to get the equivalent of just 30 minutes spent in the sun? Way too much! As you’ll recall in my Guide to Good Health (10-23-08) from just a few months ago entitled ‘Pour Yourself a Tall Glass of Sunshine,’ I reminded everyone that the best source of vitamin D is sunshine. Just a half hour of sunshine daily without sunscreen will give you up to 20,000 IUs of vitamin D. This limited amount of time is also safe for children. So, if your child’s got type-I juvenile diabetes, make sure the little tyke gets some daily rays every day. Forget the milk. It’s full of hormones, hard to digest, and the cause of lots of allergies.

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