Have fun trick-or-treating!
Monthly Archives: October 2007
Even if you’re not a parent, you know that sugar makes kids hyper. Right? Well, maybe not. According to this article in the LA Times, it’s a matter of debate among nutrition researchers.
Experts disagree about whether the sugar high and sugar crash truly exist. Many say the evidence contradicts such stories. “There is no scientific basis to the idea that sugar and/or candy has any major effect on children’s behavior, particularly if they eat OK,” says Dian Dooley, professor of human nutrition, food and animal sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Others think sugar has plenty of skeletons in its closet. “The bottom line is that the ingestion of too much high-glycemic carbohydrate causes a rapid rise and then fall of blood sugar,” says Dr. David Ludwig, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital Boston. “This triggers a series of metabolic and hormonal changes that can affect appetite and behavior for hours to come.”
No one doubts that sugar, which turns into glucose in the body, is one of our two main sources of energy (along with fat). So it seems to make sense that if your child eats 30 pieces of candy on Halloween night, he’s going to be bouncing off the walls. (And right on into the bathroom.)
But sugar in the body isn’t exactly like gasoline in a car, the more you give it the faster it goes. The body has a system to regulate glucose such that blood sugar levels remain stable. This all works through the pancreas, which releases insulin when sugar levels are high and the hormone glucagon when sugar levels dip too low. It’s a finely tuned system that doesn’t always work right. Diabetics don’t produce enough insulin, for example. And even in a healthy person, it can take a little time to restore the system to balance once it’s gotten off kilter, the article says.
In the meantime, does excess sugar produce excess energy? There’s a bunch of studies described in the article, all of which seem to contradict each other. One showed there was no difference in behavior among preschooler and elementary kids who ate sugar or aspartame (an artificial sweetner) and another showed that sugar had no effect on the behavior of normal children or children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. But then another study of 5,000 Norwegian teenagers found a link between hyperactivity and drinking sugary soda. Another small study of the effects of sugar on adults found that it had a hypoactive effect, that is it made people tired and sluggish.
Researchers from Harvard may be the ones to shed some light on this controversy. According to the article, Harvard’s Ludwig says that many studies testing for a sugar-behavior link didn’t find one because they compared sugar with other refined starches whose effects on the body are the same because they are broken down into sugar very quickly.”Your glucose level can rise as much after a bowl of plain Rice Krispies as after a bowl of sugar,” he says.
With co-workers, he corrected for this problem in a 1999 study of 12 obese, but otherwise healthy, teenage boys that was published in the journal Pediatrics. The boys were evaluated on three occasions: when their breakfast and lunch had a low, medium or high glycemic index — a ranking of carbohydrates according to how quickly they cause blood glucose levels to rise. All the meals for each subject had the same number of calories.
The high-index meal led to lower levels of glucagon and higher levels of insulin and epinephrine — a stress hormone that, among other things, increases heart rate and blood pressure. “The results show that sugar and other refined starches can trigger counter-regulatory stress hormones that can affect hunger, mental functioning and behavior,” Ludwig says.
This makes sense to me and kind of makes me think that if you give your kid enough healthy food, a reasonable amount of sugar and unrefined starches won’t have a huge effect on their behavior. What do you think? Can you tell if your child has eaten sugar? Are you dreading the highs and lows of tomorrow night?
Pediatricians should screen all children for autism twice by age 2, according to two new reports issued today by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Up until now, the group recommended screening between 18 and 24 months of age, according to this AP story. Experts say one in 150 U.S. children have the troubling developmental disorder, the article says.
Symptoms such as babies who do not babble at 9 months, do not turn when their name is called, and do not show an interest in objects pointed to by parents, are all warning signs, the group says, and should be taken seriously.
“Red Flags” that are absolute indications for immediate evaluation include: no babbling or pointing or other gesture by 12 months; no single words by 16 months; no two-word spontaneous phrases by 24 months; and loss of language or social skills at any age, according to a statement from the group.
Early intervention is crucial for effective treatment, the statement says. The report strongly advises intervention as soon as an ASD diagnosis is seriously considered rather than deferring until a definitive diagnosis is made. The child should be actively engaged in intensive intervention at least 25 hours per week, 12 months per year with a low student-to-teacher ratio allowing for sufficient one-on-one time. Parents should also be included.
The authors caution that not all children who display a few of these symptoms are autistic and they said parents shouldn’t overreact to quirky behavior, the AP story says. Just because a child likes to line up toy cars or has temper tantrums “doesn’t mean you need to have concern, if they’re also interacting socially and also pretending with toys and communicating well,” said co-author Dr. Scott Myers, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician in Danville, Pa.
Another educational tool, a Web site called Autism Speaks that debuted in mid-October, offers dozens of video clips of autistic kids contrasted with unaffected children’s behavior, says the AP article. It aims to promote early diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.
For very young children, therapy typically involves fun activities, such as bouncing balls back and forth or sharing toys to develop social skills; there is repeated praise for eye contact and other behavior autistic children often avoid.
That doesn’t sound so bad. From the sound of it parents, we need to be on the lookout for the warning signs and then express any concerns to our kids’ doctors. Don’t wait and hope it will go away, the experts say. Early intervention is the way to go.
Happy Halloween! And congratulations Red Sox for winning the World Series Sunday night! Fitting for this time of year, I have kind of a spooky story to tell. When I agreed to marry my husband, I also agreed that our future children would grow up loving the baseball team he had cheered for (and cried over) all his life. I didn’t realize it then, but at the time the Sox were deep into the curse of the Bambino. Wikipedia explains:
The Curse of the Bambino (1918-2004) was a superstition cited, often jokingly, as a reason for the failure of the Boston Red Sox baseball team to win the World Series in the 86 year period from 1918 until 2004. Prior to the curse, the Boston Red Sox was one of the most successful professional baseball franchises, winning the first ever World Series in 1903, and amassing five World Series titles by 1918. The curse was said to have begun after the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth, sometimes called The Bambino, to the New York Yankees at the end of 1919. The flip side of the curse was New York’s success—after the sale, the once-lackluster Yankees became one of the most successful franchises in North American professional sports.
Then in December 2003, our baby Sage was born. He was all belly and smiles, kind of like the Bambino pictured above. Except he was our bambino, not the Bambino. Or was he? Against all odds, ten months later the curse was lifted. The Red Sox won the championship and the people of Boston were happy. They hugged each other and even felt a little less hatred for the New York Yankees. Maybe just a smidge? Okay, forget that.
Just a coincidence you say. But then how do you explain this? Come December 2006, and we have another bambino. Whaddya know? Kablammo! The Sox win it again!
Now you may be thinking, umm, get over yourself. This has nothing to do with you. And if it was anyone else I’d totally agree. But since it’s my family and my kids, I say, See that Red Sox Nation! Our bambinos saved you from the curse of the Bambino. Twice!
(For future reference, you’re on your own from here. No more bambinos in this house.)
Anything spooky going on in your neck of the woods?
Although it was news to parents, pediatricians have known for years that cough and cold medicines for kids were a waste of time and money. According to this article in the Washington Post, some doctors even learned about it in medical school.
“When I was trained as a pediatrician, it was just accepted that these products had no role. This was known in the profession,” [Baltimore Health Commissioner Joshua] Sharfstein said. “It’s a fair question why there wasn’t a strong regulatory challenge by the profession. They could have justified one.”
Sharfstein has led the campaign to end the use of over-the-counter cold medicines in children under the age of six. Last week an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration agreed. The meeting followed mounting reports of possible dangers of the drugs, the article says. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in January, for example, that more than 1,500 children, including three who died, had suffered adverse reactions to the medications in 2004 and 2005.
The case has also raised many questions: How could the products remain on the market for so long without proof they work? Why didn’t the FDA act sooner? Why didn’t the medical establishment warn parents? Are there other medications in a similar situation?
About two-thirds of drugs prescribed to children have not been tested in kids, the article says. Until recently, the FDA did not require drug makers to test drugs in children, and in fact, it was considered unethical to do so. Now doctors know that drugs work differently in children’s bodies and that data from studies involving kids is crucial to safety.
The article describes the history of pediatric drug regulation, which if you’re interested is worth reading. But what I want to focus on is, how come we didn’t know about all this business with the cold meds?
Research has been published on the ineffectiveness of cold medicines going back as far as 1993, the article says. That year, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an analysis that concluded there was no good evidence that the medications worked. Then in 2004, The Cochrane Collaboration, an independent international project that regularly evaluates medical therapies, reached a similar conclusion.
Although many pediatricians were aware of the mounting doubts and began urging their patients not to use the products, some doctors continued to counsel their patients that they could, and the products remained a mainstay.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics has had a policy since 1997 stating that cough products are ineffective, and the American College of Chest Physicians produced a similar statement in 2006. The article says that other groups, such as the American College of Family Physicians, never issued any formal guidance to doctors, and no major medical groups ever officially questioned the class of products or campaigned against their use.
Peter Lurie, from the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen’s Health Research Group says, “there was a vacuum in leadership on this issue by the professional societies.” Others defend the medical groups, the article says, saying policy statements from doctors’ groups can do only so much, especially against the aggressive marketing by large pharmaceutical companies, which spend more than $50 million a year to sell the products. AAP’s Wayne R. Snodgrass, who chairs the group’s committee on drugs says the companies and the FDA share the blame.
So while everyone’s busy pointing their fingers, no one seems to be thinking about the parents who for all these years have been trudging out to the drug store in the middle of the night seeking relief for their coughing, sneezing, stuffy-headed children and finding a plethora of grape and cherry-flavored potions that promised to help and in the end, could only hurt. We’re the last stop for safety for our children and we needed to know the facts. Shame on all of you.
About one million foam baby seats made by Bumbo International of South Africa are being recalled due to reports of young children falling out the sides. According to this AP story, the Consumer Product Safety Commission received 28 reports of young children falling out of the seats, including three who suffered skull fractures because the seats had been placed atop tables. Good God.
If the seat is placed on a table, countertop, chair, or other elevated surface, young children can arch their backs, flip out of the Bumbo seat, and fall onto the floor, posing a risk of serious head injuries, according to the CPSC.
The round Bumbo Baby Sitter Seats are 15 inches in diameter and made of molded polyurethane foam that wraps around a child, the article says. The seats were sold at many major U.S. retails outlets, including Sears, Target, Kmart, and Toys-R-Us.
Consumers should contact Bumbo to obtain new warning label stickers and instructions for the recalled baby seats and should never use the infant seat on a table, countertop, chair or other elevated surface, the agency said.
Bumbo has temporarily stopped selling the baby seat until it can update the safety packaging. The baby seat is designed for infants who are six weeks old or able to support their own heads, up to an age of about 12 to 14 months or about 22 pounds, Bumbo said.
We learned about the Bumbo seat when Sascha was about three months old. We got him one right away. It was great! He went from sitting in the bouncy seat and staring at the ceiling to sitting up straight and enjoying the commotion of our household. The best part was when we took it out of the box and sat him in it, our three-year old looked at him and said, “Now he doesn’t have to wear diapers!” We explained that it wasn’t actually a potty seat, although we agreed it does look like one.
Nearly 13 percent of parents in the U.S. practiced co-sleeping with their children in 2000 up from 5.5. percent in 1993, according to a series of studies on co-sleeping published in the August issue of the journal Infant and Child Development. And according to this article in the NY Times, the current number may actually be much higher.
Ask parents if they sleep with their kids, and most will say no. But there is evidence that the prevalence of bed sharing is far greater than reported. Many parents are “closet co-sleepers,” fearful of disapproval if anyone finds out, notes James J. McKenna, professor of anthropology and director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame.
“They’re tired of being censured or criticized,” Dr. McKenna said. “It’s not just that their babies are being judged negatively for not being a good baby compared to the baby who sleeps by himself, but they’re being judged badly for having these babies and being needy.”
Pediatricians generally frown on co-sleeping. The American Academy of Pediatrics has said babies should sleep close to their parents but not in the same bed, the article says. The concern is that a sleeping parent could trap a baby in bed covers or in the space between the bed and the wall.
Although some studies suggest bed sharing puts children at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome, the data are not conclusive. And some researchers say the risk is higher only if parents smoke, drink too much alcohol and fail to take proper precautions to make sure the bed is safe.
Others raise concerns that children will not develop healthy sleep habits or that marriages will suffer if children sleep between parents. In one study, for example, 139 parents were asked about the sleep habits of their young children. Parents who slept with their children reported a much higher frequency of nighttime wakings than parents who did not. But experts say that kids who sleep solo may have night wakings, it’s just that parents don’t know about it. The crux is whether the co-sleeping parents consider night wakings a problem.
As for the toll it takes on marriages, co-sleeping causes trouble if the couple is not in agreement about the arrangement, the article says. Otherwise, couples report equal levels of happiness in their relationship as couples who do not co-sleep.
There are intentional co-sleepers — those who sleep with their children because they want to breast-feed for a long stretch and believe bed sharing is good for a child’s well-being and emotional development. Another group is reactive co-sleepers, those parents who don’t really want to sleep with their kids, but do so because they can’t get their children to sleep any other way or because financial hardship requires them to share a room with a child.
And then there is a third group that she tentatively calls circumstantial co-sleepers — parents who sleep with their children occasionally because of circumstances like sharing a bed on a family vacation, during a thunderstorm or because the child is sick.
Problems occur most often among reactive co-sleepers, the article says, because the situation feels coerced.
My family falls into that third group, the circumstantial co-sleepers. For the most part I like sleeping with my kids. It’s cozy and sweet. But I think if we did it all the time, we’d need to get a bigger bed. The writer of the article says sleeping with kids is like sleeping inside a washing machine and she has a point. All that twisting and kicking. Oy.
By the way, I’m all for people coming out of the closet. If anyone wants to do so here on Fussbucket, feel free.