Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Health Canada Considers Sweeping Ban On Junk Food Ads Aimed At Children And Teens

Government is also revising the Canada Food Guide to include foods that should be avoided altogether

The junk food advertising ban for everyone under the age of 17 would cover most cheeses and foods that are high in fat and salt such as chips, frozen waffles, fruit juice and even granola bars.

Health Canada is considering a widespread ban on the marketing of unhealthy food to kids under the age of 17. It could cover everything from TV, online and print advertising to product labelling, in-store displays and even end some sponsorships for sports teams.

The federal government announced the first step in St. John’s this morning by launching public consultations on how foods are marketed to kids in Canada.

“Most of the foods that are marketed to kids are these ones that are high in fat, high in sugar, high in sodium, so that’s what we’re looking at,” said Hasan Hutchinson, director general at Health Canada, who is overseeing the consultations.
“That would then cut out all of the things like, of course, your regular soda, most cookies, cakes, pies, puddings, ice cream, most cheeses because they are high in fat, they’re high in salt,” he said.

Health Canada would also target foods such as sugar-sweetened yogurt, frozen waffles, fruit juice, granola bars and potato chips.

The federal government looked at the Quebec ban on advertising to children, which has been in place since 1980.

In that province, companies can’t market unhealthy food to children under 13 years old. But Health Canada wants to go further, banning marketing to any person under 17.

“We know of course that children under 13 are particularly impressionable. But we feel that evidence is showing that teens [in the] 13- to 17-year-old age group are equally a vulnerable group,” Hutchinson said.

He points to the fact that many young teens have their own income for the first time, and are not as closely supervised by their parents.

Targeting high caffeine drinks

It is an argument Senator Nancy Greene Raine supports.

The Conservative senator introduced a private member’s bill last November that would have banned junk food advertising to children under 13.

But in her first appearance before the Senate committee studying her bill earlier this month, Greene Raine told senators she will be amending her bill to raise the age once it goes for clause-by-clause consideration.

‘Red Bull. Rockstar. These highly caffeinated soft drinks are working on the adolescents…but targetting them is really unhealthy,’
– Nancy Green Raine, Senator

“Some products that are being marketed to teenagers are, in my mind, very harmful. Red Bull. Rockstar. These highly caffeinated soft drinks are working on the adolescents — they like those products. But targeting them is really unhealthy,” Greene Raine said.

And she worries bad food choices made as teenagers lead to bad food choices in adulthood.

“A predilection to choosing foods high in sugar, salt, and fat as teenagers, can result in poor food choices for the rest of their lives,” said Greene Raine. “It’s recognized as one of the precursors to becoming overweight and obese, leading to all kinds of other chronic diseases.”

Sports teams

As part of the consultations, Health Canada is asking the public if the advertising ban should extend to sponsorships of sports teams.

Hutchinson said this is one area he thinks there could be some pushback from parents, who may believe sponsorships are critical for small sports teams to operate.

“They’re advertising because it has an effect. There’s a reason why they’re putting money into those sorts of programs,” Hutchinson said.

Greene Raine said she understands the link between sponsorships and sports — the senator won gold and silver medals for skiing at the 1968 Olympics, later becoming a spokesperson for Mars bars.

Still, Raine believes there should be some kind of limit on sponsorship of sports teams by companies that sell junk food.

“When you see things like: ‘wear your team jersey and come to our fast food outlet and we’ll give you a free slushie,’ that crosses the line,” Raine said.

Revising the Canada Food Guide

Health Canada is also launching a second round of consultations on the revised Canada Food Guide.

There were nearly 20,000 submissions in the first round of consultations in the fall of 2016, including 14,000 from the public.

The guide lists the foods Canadians should use as the foundation of a good diet, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

But for the first time, Health Canada is also listing the foods that should be avoided outright.

“What we’ve done is a special case on avoidance of processed or prepared beverages that are high in sugars, because based on our evidence reviews, we think we’ve got enough evidence to be as strong as that. We’ve never said anything quite that strong,” said Hutchinson.

On the naughty list: soft drinks, fruit-flavoured drinks including water, energy drinks and flavoured milks.

Susan Lunn · CBC News   June 10, 2017
source: www.cbc.ca


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Busy Schedules are Putting Children’s Health at Risk

‘Worry and busyness and stress is robbing children of their peace of mind,’ says child therapist

According to child and family therapist Michele Kambolis, children are vulnerable to anxiety and stress preventing them from getting a good night’s sleep.

Busy schedules, too many worries and a lack of sleep could be threatening the health of your children, one expert is warning parents.

Vancouver-based child and family therapist Michele Kambolis says she often hears from children who say they are working with tutors or doing homework late into the night.

“Worry and busyness and stress is robbing children of their peace of mind,” she says.

But getting enough sleep is crucial to a child’s development, Kambolis says.

“It’s a non-negotiable part of their health. Children who are sleep-deprived are at risk for a whole host of problems including difficulties at school.”

Cultural attitudes to sleep play a big role, she notes.

“We seem to live in a culture that doesn’t value sleep in the way that it should,” she says.
“Our lifestyles are more hurried and more worried and a lot of busy, busy activity is falling into the time of day when children really need brain rest.
“We’re focusing on high productivity and we know that children match us. They match our choice and our behaviour.
“It’s really important to create a clear delineation between the busyness of the day and nighttime when children can wind down, lean into our care and talk about whatever worries have arisen throughout the day.”

(Natalie Holdway/CBC)

Some of her tips include:

  • Cut back on children’s screen time an hour and a half before bed.
  • If nighttime wetting is a problem, help keep kids dry by using absorbent bedtime pants.
  • Address dietary issues. Caffeine and sugar late in the day makes it very difficult for kids to sleep at night.
  • Practice ways to calm the mind and body in order to facilitate sleep.
  • Communicate with teachers, day care providers or other caregivers about how the child is functioning through the day to see if a lack of sleep is causing concern.

 

CBC News      Posted: May 17, 2017 
source; www.cbc.ca


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Sleep Apnea in Children Tied to Changes in Brain

In children with a common condition that causes them to periodically stop breathing during sleep, areas of the brain involved with thinking and problem-solving appear to be smaller than in children who sleep normally, a study finds.

Researchers can’t say the brain changes actually cause problems for children at home or school, but they do say the condition, known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), has been tied to behavior and cognitive problems.

“It really does seem that there is a change in the brain or that the brain is affected,” said study author Paul Macey, who is director of technology and innovation at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Nursing.

Macey and colleagues write in Scientific Reports that up to 5 percent of all children are affected by OSA. The condition causes the child’s airway to become blocked, which ultimately causes the brain to go without oxygen for short periods of time and may wake the child up.

Previous studies on lab animals and adults with OSA have shown changes in the brain due to nerve cells dying, they add.

For the new study, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to analyze the volume of children’s gray matter, which is the outermost layer of the brain that allows for higher levels of functioning like problem solving.

They compared brain scans from 16 children with OSA and 200 children without the condition. All the youngsters were between 7 and 11 years old.

Overall, children with OSA had decreases in gray matter volume in areas of the brain important for controlling cognition and mood, compared to the other children.

Macey, who is also affiliated with the UCLA Brain Research Institute, said it’s unclear how closely changes in the brain are connected to behavior, cognition and other issues.

“We know these two things are happening, but we’re not sure how much the reduced gray matter tracks with poor scores,” he told Reuters Health.

The researchers also can’t say exactly why OSA is tied to reduce gray matter volume among children. A lack of oxygen may kill off brain cells or it may stop the brain from properly developing, for example.

Macey’s team wants to see whether treating the condition helps children get back on track with their healthy peers.

“If we did that we would know better how people recover from it or not,” he said.

Dr. Eliot Katz, of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, said previous research shows treating OSA by removing tonsils and adenoids improves children’s school performance, behavior and sleep-related issues. Evidence is mixed on whether it improves cognition.

Katz, who wasn’t involved with the new study, said the previous research on problems faced by children with OSA – like behavior and cognition – is fitting nicely with the brain imaging studies.

“This is really the first large, really well controlled study that has found decrements in gray matter in children with obstructive sleep apnea,” he told Reuters Health.

He said parents should discuss symptoms of OSA with children’s healthcare providers. Those symptoms include chronic snoring and gaps in breathing while they sleep.

“Sleep complaints are often not addressed in well child care visits,” he said, or in training programs for pediatricians.

He advises parents to “take a brief phone video of the breathing pattern that’s concerning to them and show it to their pediatrician.”

Macey said daytime tiredness and mood issues can also be symptoms of OSA. Children who are overweight and obese are at higher risk for the condition.

By Andrew M. Seaman (Reuters Health) 
 
source:    bit.ly/2mY9IFX        Scientific Reports, online March 17, 2017.        www.reuters.com


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Does TV Hinder Kindergarten-Readiness?

Lower-income kids harmed more by excess screen time than affluent children, study finds

One big factor holding kids back as they enter kindergarten may sit in the family living room: the television.

New research suggests that youngsters who watch a lot of TV – or other screens – are less ready for school than those who don’t.

“Given that studies have reported that children often watch more than the recommended amount, and the current prevalence of technology such as smartphones and tablets, engaging in screen time may be more frequent now than ever before,” lead author Andrew Ribner said in a New York University news release. He’s a doctoral candidate in NYU’s department of applied psychology.

In the new study, Ribner’s team tracked the school-readiness of 800-plus kindergarten students, testing their thinking, memory, social-emotional, math and literacy skills.

kids-watching-tv

Watching TV for more than a couple of hours a day was associated with lower skills, according to the study. The finding was especially strong among low-income children.

The researchers suggest that parents limit children’s TV time to less than two hours a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than an hour a day of TV viewing for children aged 2 to 5.

Ribner’s group couldn’t say why poorer children seemed harmed more than richer kids by excess TV time. However, the researchers noted that earlier studies have found that kids in higher-income homes watch more educational programming and less entertainment. Affluent parents may also have more time to watch TV with their children, discussing and helping them understand what they’re viewing.

“Our results suggest that the circumstances that surround child screen time can influence its detrimental effects on learning outcomes,” said study co-author Caroline Fitzpatrick, of the University of Sainte-Anne in Canada.

The study was published March 1 in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

By Robert Preidt      HealthDay Reporter    WebMD News from HealthDay
WEDNESDAY, March 1, 2017 (HealthDay News)
source:     New York University, news release, March 1, 2017      www.webmd.com


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Why Kids Younger Than 12 Don’t Need OTC Cough And Cold Remedies

The common cold season is here, and if you have children, you will likely feel their suffering from these annoying upper respiratory tract viral infections. Children experience more colds, about six to 10 annually, than adults. With each cold producing symptoms of nasal congestion, runny nose, cough and mild fever lasting up to seven to 10 days, it may seem that children are nearly continuously sick.

Parents certainly want their ill children to feel better, and they, naturally, want to help. A frequent solution is over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, which are heavily advertised to treat many maladies, including colds. A stroll down your local pharmacy OTC drug aisle will highlight the numerous OTC drug products available for adults and children.

It is tempting to buy one or more of these products to help your child. However, for children younger than 12 years of age, it is best not to use commonly advertised OTC cough and cold drug products. These products lack supportive clinical study efficacy and safety data, an issue I’ve studied as a professor of pharmacy practice.

Children are not just small adults

When treating children with OTC or prescription drugs, it is important to understand that young children differ significantly from the adult population with respect to drug efficacy and adverse effects.

Over the past 30 years, we have learned much more about pediatric pharmacology and drug action and behavior, known as pharmacokinetics, and differences compared to adults. Prior to this, and even today to some extent, health care professionals assumed that drugs functioned and behaved similarly in children as in adults.

Based on this assumption, health practitioners often only reduced the amount of a drug to a child based on a proportion of the child’s body weight to an adult. For example, a provider would prescribe 50 percent of an adult drug dose for a child with 50 percent body weight of an adult. The efficacy of OTC cough and cold product active ingredient, as demonstrated in adult studies, was assumed to be similar in children.

However, we have learned, and are continuing to learn, that this strategy is not accurate and can be dangerous. Most drugs are not specifically studied and evaluated in children prior to their labeling by the FDA and availability to the public.

A safe and effective drug dose and dose schedule (how often a drug dose is given) is derived from these formal studies and evaluations. But without these formal studies, pediatric-specific drug pharmacology is not accurately evaluated and determined. In addition, a physician can legally prescribe any drug for a child, even if there aren’t data supporting its efficacy and safety in children.

OTC drugs regulated differently than Rx drugs

FDA regulation of OTC drug products differs from prescription drug regulation. Active ingredients in OTC drug products are evaluated and approved by therapeutic category, such as the cough and cold therapeutic category. In a major undertaking begun in 1972, the FDA has been reviewing OTC drug product categories for safety and efficacy, and it continues to do so.

Pediatric OTC cough and cold products have seen significant regulatory changes in recent years. In 2007, several health care experts petitioned the FDA to carefully review pediatric efficacy and safety data of OTC cough and cold products, requesting that these products be specifically labeled not for use in children younger than six years of age.

sick_kid

In 2008, the FDA recommended that OTC cough and cold products not be given to children younger than two years old. The trade group representing OTC drug product manufacturers, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, additionally announced that these products would be labeled “not for use” in children younger than four years old. The FDA agreed, and this remains the current status of pediatric age labeling for OTC cough and cold products.

In addition, reviews of the medical literature indicates that OTC drug ingredients are actually ineffective in reducing cold symptoms in children. OTC cough and cold products can be dangerous to use as well, with more than 100 deaths of infants and young children described in published reports where these products were the sole cause or important contributive causes.

Although several doses of pediatric OTC cough/cold products are unlikely to be toxic, these reports have described scenarios where the products were used inappropriately, by administration of doses too large, doses given too frequently, measurement of liquid doses inaccurately (too much) or administration of similar active ingredient drugs given from numerous OTC products resulting in accumulative large doses.

These mistakes were easily made by parents, considering the difficulty in accurately measuring out small liquid doses and a desire for the drugs to help (more is better).

A word of caution regarding codeine

Recent studies and recommendations have significantly altered our use of another drug historically used to treat cough in children – codeine. It is an opioid, and it is still available over the counter in some cough medicines in some states. It is available in all states as prescription products.

We have learned in recent years that codeine is metabolized differently from subject to subject. Codeine alone has very little useful pharmacologic activity, but the liver chemically alters it into its active form, morphine, and another chemical. Morphine is dangerous, as it suppresses breathing. It must be used cautiously even in adults.

For many years, codeine has been used for treating pain and cough in children and adults. Recent evaluations, however, have determined that its clinical efficacy for these uses is inferior to other available drugs. We have learned that the amount of morphine produced from codeine liver metabolism can vary widely from person to person, a result of genetic differences.

Some individuals may convert codeine to a lot of morphine, while others may convert codeine to much less morphine. Evidence has accumulated over the past 10 years demonstrating that codeine can produce a significant decrease in breathing in some infants and children.

More than 20 cases of fatal respiratory depression have been documented in infants and children. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a warning on the dangers of administering codeine to infants and children, recommending that its use for all purposes in children, including cough and pain, be limited or stopped.

Try these remedies instead

When your child next suffers from a cold, instead of reaching for an OTC cough and cold product, use an OTC nasal saline drop or spray product to help with nasal congestion. You can also run a cold air humidifier in his or her room at night to additionally help loosen nasal congestion. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be given as needed for fever.

If your child is coughing enough to be uncomfortable or to prevent nighttime sleep, try giving honey, so long as he or she is one or older. Honey has been recently shown by several clinical studies to be an effective cough suppressant, and is likely to be much safer than codeine and OTC cough and cold products.

These therapies have been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. When using these treatments in infants and young children, it is always wise to speak with your child’s pediatrician first, as several more serious illnesses may initially produce symptoms similar to those of a common cold.

November 23, 2016     Edward Bell       Professor of Pharmacy Practice, Drake University

 


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TV Ads May Spur Snacking in Kids as Young as Two

Mindless snacking in front of the television set may start long before children know how to work the remote control, a U.S. study suggests.

In an experiment with 60 kids aged 2 to 5 years, researchers focused on how advertising influences what’s known as eating in the absence of hunger.

They gave all the children a healthy snack to make sure they had a full belly, and then sat the kids down to watch a TV program with ads for Bugles corn chips or for a department store.

All of the kids had Bugles corn chips and one other snack in front of them while they watched the show. Children who saw ads for the corn chips ate 127 calories on average, compared to just 97 calories for kids who didn’t see Bugles on the screen, researchers report in Pediatrics.

“This is the first study to show that exposure to food ads cues immediate eating among younger children – even after they had a filling snack,” said lead study author Jennifer Emond of Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

“Young children average up to three hours of TV viewing a day,” Emond added by email. “If kids are exposed to food ads during that time, they may unconsciously over consume snacks which can lead to extra weight gain.”

More than one third of U.S. children are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against any screen time for children younger than 18 months and suggests no more than an hour a day for kids aged 2 to 5 in part to encourage language development, support healthy sleep habits and limit sedentary activity that can set preschoolers on a path toward obesity.

The type of TV program matters too. The AAP encourages educational programming like “Sesame Street” that can support language learning.

For the experiment, researchers sat kids down to watch a 14-minute segment of “Elmo’s World” that included three minutes of advertising.

kids-watching-tv

Before the show started, all of the kids could snack as much as they liked on banana, sliced cheese and crackers. They also got water to drink.

Children were randomly assigned to view ads for national department stores or to watch Bugles spots that showed kids playing and eating the corn chips.

While the shows played, kids were given bowls of Nabisco Teddy Grahams and Bugles corn snacks.

There wasn’t a meaningful association between how much kids ate during the program and their age, weight or the way their parents typically supervised mealtime at home.

In particular, researchers looked at whether parental feeding restrictions – which can include things like pressuring kids to eat or prohibiting certain foods – and didn’t find any association between these practices and the amount of snacks kids consumed in the experiment.

One limitation of the experiment is that it included mostly white, affluent rural kids, which may make the results less relevant to the broader population of U.S. children, the authors note.

Young children can also be unreliable when they tell adults whether they are full, so it’s possible some children who claimed they had enough to eat before watching TV were actually hungry, the researchers also point out.

Even so, the findings should give parents another reason to limit children’s exposure to media that comes with advertising, said Dr. Julie Lumeng, a researcher at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Many children’s programs are now instead using product placement to advertise,” Lumeng added by email. “Parents should also pay attention to how product placement occurs in the television programs or other media their young children may be watching.”

Age 2 may be too young to understand how ads can influence behavior, Lumeng noted.

“But parents can consider gradually introducing the power of advertising to young children as a strategy for helping their children resist the effects of these ads,” Lumeng said. “Ultimately limiting the child’s exposure to the ads is the key strategy.”

 By Lisa Rapaport    Reuters Health

 SOURCE: bit.ly/2fCqsMF Pediatrics, online November 21, 2016.

 source: http://www.reuters.com


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Why We Need to Teach Kids Emotional Intelligence

For years, I’ve taught a weekly psychology class to students ranging from 7 to 14 years-old. In this class, I encourage self-reflection, asking kids to identify and express what they think and feel and to consider the thoughts and feelings of others. The results are often surprising. Strong, self-aware statements come out of their mouths that I don’t always expect. “I feel bad about myself in class. I worry I’ll be slower than everyone else.” “I’m angry when my dad won’t take time to help me with my homework. It makes me not want to try anymore.” “I hate it when my friends don’t want to play with me. So, I yell, but that just makes it worse.”

Too often, we tend to think of our kids as less sophisticated and incapable of processing or understanding the emotional complexities of their world. We think we’re protecting them by not bringing up the trickier, less pleasant subjects. But I can tell you firsthand that kids absorb a tremendous amount. Pretty much as soon as they’re verbal, children can be taught to identify and communicate their feelings. In a trusted environment where emotions are talked about openly, most kids will speak freely about their feelings and are quick to have empathy for their peers.

With their brains growing at a rapid rate, all children are constantly noticing, reacting, adapting and developing ideas based on their emotional experiences. This leaves me to wonder why we give our child an education in so many subjects, teaching them to sound out words and brush their teeth, and yet we fail to equip them with an emotional education that can dramatically improve the quality of their lives.

When you teach kids emotional intelligence, how to recognize their feelings, understand where they come from and learn how to deal with them, you teach them the most essential skills for their success in life. Research has shown that emotional intelligence or EQ “predicts over 54% of the variation in success (relationships, effectiveness, health, quality of life).” Additional data concludes that “young people with high EQ earn higher grades, stay in school, and make healthier choices.”

At this year’s Wisdom 2.0, I felt inspired by a talk by Dr. Marc Brackett, the Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, who talked at length about the importance of teaching kids to know their emotions. The Center has developed the RULER program for schools. RULER is an acronym that stands for Recognizing emotions in self and others,Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions, Labeling emotions accurately, Expressing emotions appropriately and Regulating emotions effectively. The program has been shown to boost student’s emotional intelligence and social skills, productivity, academic performance, leadership skills and attention, while reducing anxiety, depression and instances of bullying between students. RULER creates an all-around positive environment for both students and teachers, with less burnout on both ends.

ruler

These five RULER principles run parallel in many ways to social intelligence pioneer and author of Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ, Daniel Goleman’s five components of emotional intelligence. You can see how each of these elements would contribute to an individual’s personal success and sense of well-being.

  • Self-awareness. Knowing our own emotions.
  • Self-regulation. Being able to regulate and control how we react to our emotions.
  • Internal motivation.  Having a sense of what’s important in life.
  • Empathy. Understanding the emotions of others.
  • Social skills. Being able to build social connections.

As parents, when we don’t have a healthy way of handling emotions ourselves, we have trouble teaching our kids to handle theirs. That is why the change starts with us. Fortunately, all five components of emotional intelligence can be taught and learned at any age. There are many tools and techniques that can help us and our children start to identify and understand the emotions of ourselves and others. This process begins with recognition, because it’s only when we notice where we’re at that we’re able to shift ourselves to where we want to be.

When we acknowledge the profound influence of emotions in our lives, we inspire a new attitude toward self-awareness and mental health. We can then start to ask broader questions, like how can we create a movement to increase the emotional intelligence of future generations?

One place to start is with mindfulness. Studies have found that a mindfulness  practice can help reduce symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety in children. It can also increase gray matter density in regions of the brain involved in emotional regulation. Another study  of adolescents found that yoga, which can increase mindfulness, helped improve student’s emotional regulation capacity.

On a systemic level, we can help raise the emotional intelligence of future generations by working together to get our schools to implement programs like RULER. On a face-to-face level, as parents, teachers, friends and caretakers, we can open up a dialogue and encourage kids to express what they’re feeling. We can teach them what co-author of Parenting from the Inside Out Dr. Daniel Siegel often refers to as “name it to tame it,” in which children learn that naming their feelings can help them get a hold on them. We can also talk more about our own feelings, being honest and direct about the times when we feel sad, angry or even afraid.

When we mess up or act out with or around our children, instead of trying to sweep it under the rug, we should acknowledge what occurred in us and repair any emotional damage we may have caused. In taking these each of these steps, we create an environment in which our children can continually make sense of their emotions and experiences. This skill set is perhaps the largest predictor of not only their success in life, but more importantly, their happiness.