Monthly Archives: June 2010

Colon cleansing supplement claims of improving overall health “have no basis in science,” expert says

The Los Angeles Times  “Healthy Skeptic” column reports that “NuAge Colon Cleanse and Oxy-Powder makers say their products rid the body of toxins and help people lose weight.”

According to the “NuAge website … the product contains ‘muciligenic fibers,’ but it doesn’t provide any other information about ingredients or directions for use,” while “Oxy-Powder, a supplement from Global Healing Center, takes a low-fiber approach to colon health.”

Indeed, the “lower digestive tract really does set a foundation for health and well-being, says Dr. John Inadomi, chairman of gastrointestinal medicine at UC San Francisco and chairman of the Clinical Practice and Quality Management Committee for the American Gastroenterological” Association.

“But claims that colon cleansing supplements can somehow detoxify the colon and improve overall health ‘have no basis in science,’ he says.”

In my best-selling book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, in the chapter on “Colonics,” co-author Donal O’Mathuna, PhD, and I conclude:

We could find no studies to prove that colonics enhance health.

No medical evidence supports the use of colonics other than for constipation and pre- or postoperative reasons.

Adverse effects appear to be relatively infrequent. Yet when there is no evidence that something is effective, any risk is too large to take.

We are also concerned that those who promote colonics do not place enough importance on having evidence to support their recommendations.

There is no scientific basis for using or recommending colonics for general health.

Homeopathic Cobra Venom for Pain? Watch out!

According to the experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, Cobroxin and Nyloxin are new homeopathic products used for chronic pain. They come as an oral spray and topical gel.

The bad news is that these products contain a “5X homeopathic dilution” of cobra venom. This means that they contain a concentration of about 0.001% cobra venom.

As I discuss in my chapter on “Homeopathy,” in my best-selling book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, although virtually all homeopathic products contain no detectable active ingredient (no even a single molecule), these two chronic pain products contain a small amount that could potentially have some effect.

Preliminary research has evaluated cobra toxin given as an injection. But there is no reliable evidence about this homeopathic dose when taken orally or applied topically.

The NMCD advises healthcare professionals, “Until more is known about safety and effectiveness, advise patients not to take these products.”

Listening to Mozart Won’t Make Your Child Smarter

First we learned that DVDs intended for babies are not only not helpful to children, but may harm them. Now comes a study showing no evidence of the so-called ‘Mozart Effect.’ The study, reviewing over 40 studies done of the topic, was performed by Austrian researchers.

HealthDay News has a report with the details: For years, research showing a link between listening to Mozart and increased brainpower spurred parents to expose their tots to the great composer.

But now, a new Austrian review finds there’s no evidence that listening to Mozart — however glorious the music — will do anything for anyone’s cognitive powers.

In particular, the findings debunked the myth of improved spatial task performance among Mozart listeners.

University of Vienna psychologists examined more than 40 studies and unpublished research that included more than 3,000 subjects. Their conclusion: nothing supports the idea that Mozart music improves what’s known as spatial ability.

“I recommend listening to Mozart to everyone, but it will not meet expectations of boosting cognitive abilities,” study author Jakob Pietschnig, a psychologist at the University of Vienna, said in a news release from the school.

The researchers report that they couldn’t confirm the beneficial effects of listening to Mozart music, as suggested in a famous 1993 study published in Nature that focused on spatial abilities. That research led to a tremendous amount of interest in exposing babies and children to classical music, and businesses rushed to sell it to schools, day-care centers and parents.

The meta-analysis from the University of Vienna exposes the “Mozart effect” as a legend, thus concurring with Emory University psychologist Scott E. Lilienfeld, who in his recent book “50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology”
already ranked the “Mozart effect” number six.
The meta-analysis from the University of Vienna exposes the “Mozart effect” as a legend, thus concurring with Emory University psychologist Scott E. Lilienfeld, who in his recent book “50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology”
already ranked the “Mozart effect” number six.

Drinking fewer sugary drinks lowers blood pressure

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported that “there may be a link between drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages and lowering blood pressure,” according to a study published in the journal Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers followed “810 men and women age 25 to 70 who were part of a lifestyle intervention study and had prehypertension or stage I hypertension.”

The researchers found that “drinking one less serving, or 12 ounces, of sugar-sweetened beverages per day was associated with 1.8 drop in systolic blood pressure, and a 1.1 drop in diastolic blood pressure over 18 months.”

Reuters quotes one of the study authors as saying, “If you reduce your consumption by two servings, you would probably lower your blood pressure even more.”

The NPR “Shots” blog pointed out that “Americans drink two 12-ounce servings of these sugary drinks a day, on average.”

So, you know what to do … now do it! Simple significantly reduce (or, better yet, cut out) those soft drinks and other sugary drinks from your diet. Nothing better than good old water … even if you use flavored water like I do!

Ten minutes of brisk exercise triggers metabolic changes lasting for at least an hour

The AP reports, “Ten minutes of brisk exercise triggers metabolic changes that last at least an hour,” with more fit exercisers reaping a greater number of benefits.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital came to that conclusion after measuring “biochemical changes in the blood of a variety of people: the healthy middle-aged, some who became short of breath with exertion, and marathon runners.”

In a study of “70 healthy people put on a treadmill, the team found more than 20 metabolites that change during exercise, naturally produced compounds involved in burning calories and fat and improving blood-sugar control.”

As the Scientific American points out, “The virtues of exercise are myriad: better cardiovascular health, decreased risk for diabetes, boosted mood, and even perhaps a leaner physique. But aside from such macro links and knowledge about the heart rates, blood–oxygen levels and hormonal responses related to exercise, scientists have a relatively cursory understanding of the chemical mechanisms at work in the body during and after physical activity.”

This study may be a beginning. But, in the meantime, it backs up my advice to patients, “Even if you can only exercise for 10 minutes at a time, that may well be very helpful to your fitness.”

Study: Working overtime increases heart risk

People who regularly put in overtime and work 10 or 11-hour days increase their heart disease risk by nearly two-thirds, research suggests. The findings come from a study of 6,000 British civil servants, published online in the European Heart Journal.

The bottom line, according to the researchers is, “… the findings highlighted the importance of work-life balance.” If you’re having trouble finding that balance, you may want to read my book 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy — which is chock full of suggestions for measuring and balancing what I call “the four wheels of health:” physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual.

Here are some of the details on the study from the BBC: After accounting for known heart risk factors such as smoking, doctors found those who worked three to four hours of overtime a day ran a 60% higher risk.

Overall, there were 369 cases where people suffered heart disease that caused death, had a heart attack or developed angina. And the number of hours spent working overtime appeared to be strongly linked in many cases.

The researchers said there could be a number of explanations for this. People who spend more time at work have less time to exercise, relax and unwind. They may also be more stressed, anxious, or have depression.

A career-minded person will also tend to be a “Type A” personality who is highly driven, aggressive or irritable, they say.

“Employees who work overtime may also be likely to work while ill — that is, be reluctant to be absent from work despite illness,” they add.

Lead researcher Mianna Virtanen, an epidemiologist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki and University College London, said: “More research is needed before we can be confident that overtime work would cause coronary heart disease.”

Cathy Ross, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the research, said: “This study raises further questions about how our working lives can influence our risk of heart disease.

“Although the researchers showed a link between working more than three hours overtime every day and heart problems, the reasons for the increased risk weren’t clear.

“Until researchers understand how our working lives can affect the risk to our heart health, there are simple ways to look after your heart health at work, like taking a brisk walk at lunch, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or by swapping that biscuit for a piece of fruit.”

Dr John Challenor, from the Society of Occupational Medicine, said: “In many ways it confirms what we as occupational health doctors already know – that work/life balance plays a vital role in well-being.

“Employers and patients need to be aware of all of the risk factors for coronary heart disease and should consider overtime as one factor that may lead to a number of medical conditions.”

How much vitamin D is too much?

Now that so many more people are taking vitamin D, some are asking how much vitamin D is too much. And, it’s important to note that vitamin D doses vary widely and toxicity is rare.

Here are some guidelines recommended to healthcare professionals from the evidence-based experts at The Prescriber’s Letter:

To prevent deficiency, recommend 1000 to 2000 IU/day of vitamin D for adults and 400 IU/day for infants and children.

Most people will need supplements. We don’t get much vitamin D from the sun these days due to sunscreens, staying indoors, etc.

Diet usually isn’t enough, either. Very few foods contain vitamin D … and milk only contains only 100 IU per cup.

Higher doses are needed to maintain adequate levels in some patients … or to treat a deficiency.

To treat deficiency in adults, prescribe 50,000 IU/week orally for 6 to 12 weeks then recheck levels. Tell patients it’s okay to consume milk and multivits while on this weekly vitamin D dose.

Optimal blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D for bone health are at least 30 ng/mL … normal levels can reach 100 ng/mL. Increasing the dose by 1000 IU/day increases blood levels about 7 to 10 ng/mL.

Toxicity, hypercalcemia, and hyperphosphatemia usually don’t occur until vitamin D levels exceed 150 ng/mL.

Toxicity can occur with excessive doses such as 40,000 IU/day for one month in infants … and 50,000 IU/day for several months in adults.

Warn parents not to use vitamin D liquids dosed as 400 IU/DROP. Giving one dropperful or 1 mL by mistake can deliver 10,000 IU/day. FDA will force companies to provide no more than 400 IU per dropperful.

Patients sometimes ask if they can take vitamin D once a week or month for maintenance. Explain that it’s okay to take 14,000 IU once a WEEK … or 50,000 IU once a MONTH … instead of 2000 IU/day.

Encourage using D3 (cholecalciferol) since it’s more potent than D2 (ergocalciferol) … but D2 is also effective and okay to use.

Adults may need up to twice the amount of vitamin D than is typically recommended

Here’s news about a new guideline that will change something I do in practice.

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported, “Older adults need up to twice the amount of vitamin D than is typically recommended, according to guidelines released Monday by the International Osteoporosis Foundation.”

The guidelines “urged adults, defined by this group as 65 and older, to aim for a 25-OHD blood level – the primary marker for vitamin D in the blood – of 75 nanomoles per liter.

In our community, physicians have been aiming for a vitamin D level of 50.

So, the new guideline will be a new practice for me.

To reach that level, one would need an intake of 20 to 25 micrograms per day (or 800 to 1,000 international units) of vitamin D,” as opposed to the amounts suggested by the current US Recommended Daily Allowance of “10 micrograms (400 IU) for people ages 51 to 70, and 15 micrograms (600 IU) for people 71 and older.”

However, in our practice, most of the docs are recommending either tablets with 50,000 IU once a month or 2000 IU per day.

Either way, you have to check a blood level to see if what you’re taking is adequate or not.

FDA warns against giving infants more than 400 IU of vitamin D

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported, “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) … warned parents about the dangers of giving infants more than 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D.”

Indeed, “supplementation is recommended for some infants, especially those being breastfed, because a deficiency can lead to bone problems, such as thinning, soft and misshapen bones.”

But, “overdoses … can cause nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, frequent urination, constipation, abdominal pain, muscle weakness, muscle and joint aches, confusion and fatigue, as well as more serious consequences such as kidney disease.”

Notably, “many of the vitamin D supplements in stores use droppers that could allow anyone to accidentally give harmful amounts of the vitamin to a baby,” according to the CNN “Paging Dr. Gupta” blog.

Therefore, those caring for infants should “make sure the vitamin D dropper is … clearly marked with units of measurement.”

The FDA also recommends “keeping in touch with your pediatrician should help avoid any problems with vitamin D overdosing.”

No link between cell phone towers and children’s cancer

The AP reports that “children whose mothers lived close to a mobile phone tower while pregnant did not appear to be at any higher risk of cancer than children whose mothers lived farther away,” according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. Using a national birth registry, they identified 5,588 similar children without cancer.”

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog wrote that “the team also gathered detailed data about all 81,781 cellphone towers that were operational in the country during that time, including each tower’s location, height, output power, and how many antennas it had.”

The researchers found that, “in virtually every permutation of their calculations, there was no correlation between the cellphone towers and the cancer cases.”

Bloomberg News says that “the study is the largest of its kind, and the findings should put any reports of cancer clusters around mobile-phone towers into context, the researchers wrote.”

The Washington Post “The Checkup” blog reported that, “in an editorial accompanying the study, John Bithell of the University of Oxford said that while the study had some shortcoming, the findings should be reassuring to people living near cell phone towers.”

Study on link between cell phone use and brain cancer inconclusive

The AP reports that “a major international study into the link between cell phone use and two types of brain cancer has proved inconclusive, according to a report due to be published” in the International Journal of Epidemiology. The data were “compiled by researchers in 13 countries including Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan, but not the US.”

Scientists interviewed 12,848 participants, of which 5,150 had either meningioma or glioma tumors.” The “10-year survey…found most cell phone use didn’t increase the risk of developing meningioma — a common and frequently benign tumor — or glioma — a rarer but deadlier form of cancer.”

The Washington Post “Post Tech” blog reported that the report “concluded there were ‘suggestions’ that heavy use could increase the risk of glioma, but ‘biases and error prevent a causal interpretation’ that would directly blame cellphone radiation for the tumor.”

The study’s “leaders … acknowledged that the study had flaws.”

Elisabeth Cardis, of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, who led the research, said, “This was a very complex study, and results were very difficult to interpret because of a number of methodological issues.”

Meanwhile, CNN reports that “the study defined regular cell phone user as ever having one phone call a week for at least six months. The results of the study were based on patients’ average talk time ranging from 120 minutes to 150 minutes a month; most users today far exceed that.”

Until more research comes out, we who use cell phones can take comfort in the results of a very large, very long study of just about everybody in Scandinavia that found no link between cell phone use and brain cancer. You can read my blog on this study here.

Of that study, USA Today reported that, according to the study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers found “no link between rising cell phone use and rates of brain cancer.”

The finding of no link between cell phones and cancer is “consistent with most other studies.”

the results of a very large, very long study of just about everybody in Scandinavia found no link.”
This is great news for all of us who use cell phones.
USA Today reported that, according to the study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers found “no link between rising cell phone use and rates of brain cancer.”
The finding is “consistent with most other studies,” but Melissa Bondy, of MD Anderson Cancer Center, noted that “even if the study had found an increase in brain tumor rates,” cell phones may not be “to blame,” because “lots of other trends” can “help explain changes in disease rates.”

Long-term harm seen with too much TV for toddlers

The more TV a toddler watches, the higher the likelihood they will do badly at school and have poor health at the age of 10, researchers warn. The study of 1,300 children by Michigan and Montreal universities found negative effects on older children rose with every hour of toddler TV. Performance at school was worse, while consumption of junk foods was higher.

Here are the details from BBC News: The study, part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development Main Exposure, asked parents how much TV their children watched at 29 months (two years and five months) and 53 months (four years and five months).

On average, the two-year-olds watched just under nine hours of TV per week, while for four-year-olds the average was just under 15 hours. But 11% of the two-year-olds and 23% of four-year-olds watched more than the recommended maximum of two hours of TV a day.

When the children were revisited at the age of 10, teachers were asked to assess the children’s academic performance, behaviour and health, while body mass index (BMI) was measured at 10 years old. Higher levels of TV viewing at two was linked to a lower level of engagement in the classroom and poor achievement in maths.

Researchers also found a decrease in general physical activity but an increase in the consumption of soft drinks and in BMI (body mass index).

‘Common sense’

Dr Linda Pagani, of the University of Montreal, who led the research which was published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, said: “Early childhood is a critical period for brain development and formation of behaviour.

“High levels of TV consumption during this period can lead to future unhealthy habits.

“Common sense would suggest that television exposure replaces time that could be spent engaging in other developmentally enriching activities and tasks that foster cognitive, behavioural and motor development.”

And she added:”Although we expected the impact of early TV viewing to disappear after seven and a half years of childhood, the fact that negative outcomes remained is quite daunting.

“Our findings make a compelling public health argument against excessive TV viewing in early childhood.”

The UK’s National Literacy Trust campaigns to raise awareness of how to police a toddler’s viewing.

It said that until research demonstrated that children under two might benefit from TV, parents should, “limit exposure and encourage other one-to-one language-enhancing activities that centre on talk at mealtime, bath time, shared reading and imaginative play”.

But it added: “Encourage exposure to some high-quality, age-appropriate educational television for children aged two to five.”

‘Radical’

British Psychological Society member Dr Aric Sigman has carried out his own research, which highlighted concerns over young children watching too much TV.

He said: “My recommendation to the government five years ago, and even as recently as three years ago, that they merely issue general guidelines on the amount of TV that children watch and the age at which they start was considered radical and controversial.

“Yet a growing body of evidence is now causing governments and health authorities elsewhere to do just that, and we need to as well.

“This is yet another study reinforcing the need for our society to finally accept that quite aside from good or bad parenting, children’s daily screen time is a major independent health issue.”

So, the bottom line, it seems to me, is the less TV time your children have, the better.

Also, I have a number of blogs on TV and kids:

For tips on how to decrease TV time for you and your children, order one of these books:

Nuts may help lower cholesterol levels

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that nuts may help lower cholesterol levels.

HealthDay reported that investigators “pooled data on 583 men and women who had participated in 25 nut consumption trials.”

“Patients in the trials ate an average of 67 grams, or about 2.4 ounces, of nuts daily,” WebMD reported. While MedPage Today reported that the researchers found that “eating an average of 67 grams of nuts a day (2.4 ounces) reduced total cholesterol by 5.9% and LDL cholesterol by 7.4%.”

The bottom line, a couple of ounces of nuts per day may be heart healthy and highly healthy.

Take Vitamin D With Largest Meal

Taking your vitamin D supplement with the largest meal of the day may boost its absorption substantially, according to a new study from researchers at the Cleveland Clinic.

Here are details from WebMD: The researchers  instructed 17 men and women, average age 64, whose blood levels of vitamin D were borderline insufficient despite taking supplements, to take their supplements with the largest meal of the day.

After two or three months, the study participants had about a 50% increase in blood levels of the vitamin, regardless of the dose they took.

Researchers Guy B. Mulligan, MD, and Angelo Licata, MD, had noticed that patients typically report taking the supplement either on an empty stomach or with a light meal.

Because the vitamin is fat-soluble, the researchers speculated that taking it with a big meal would improve absorption.

Vitamin D is crucial not only to maintain bone strength, but research now suggests it plays a role in immune system problems, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers measured blood levels of the vitamin at the start of the study and two or three months later. Participants took a range of doses, and the researchers divided them into three groups: less than 50,000 IU a week, 50,000 IU, and more than 50,000 IU. The daily doses ranged from 1,000 IU to 50,000 IU.

A dose of 400 IU is termed adequate for people 51-70, and 600 IU for people 71 and older, as set by the Institute of Medicine, but some experts believe much more is needed, especially in older adults. The current upper tolerable level is set at 2,000 IU daily. The recommendations are under review and an update is expected this month.

At the study start, the average blood level of the form of vitamin D measured, 25(OH)D, was 30.5 nanograms per milliliter. By the end, it was 47.2 ng/mL.  A level of 15 and higher is termed adequate by the Institute of Medicine for healthy people, but the study participants had a range of health problems, such as osteoporosis and thyroid problems.

Few foods contain vitamin D naturally, and some foods are fortified with it. Vitamin D synthesis is also triggered when the body is exposed to sunlight.

Is OJ as good a source of vitamin D as supplements?

A glass of orange juice may not only help the vitamin pill go down. A new study suggests that fortified varieties can also help the body’s vitamin D levels go up – just as effectively as the supplement itself. The finding could bring a welcome addition to a very short list of sources for vitamin D, which is thought to help fend off an array of health problems including brittle bones, diabetes, and cancer.

Here are details from Reuters Health: “A lot of people don’t drink milk,” which has been fortified with vitamin D since the 1930s, “but they do drink OJ in the morning,” the study’s study author, Dr. Michael Holick, of the Boston University School of Medicine, told Reuters Health.

Simply adding a vitamin to a food does not guarantee its absorption in the body. In fact, since vitamin D dissolves in fat but not water, there was concern that only fatty foods such as milk could be used.

But preliminary research several years ago by Holick and his team suggested that orange juice – not known for its fat content — might be an effective way to deliver the vitamin. This prompted Minute Maid and Tropicana to begin adding it, along with calcium, to some of their products. (A division of Coca-Cola, which owns Minute Maid, funded Holick’s study.)

Still, the question remained of whether the body could make use of as much vitamin D from orange juice as it could from a supplement. So the team recruited about 100 adults and had them drink a glass of orange juice every morning and to swallow a capsule every night for 11 weeks.

Some of the juices were fortified with 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D; others were vitamin-free placebos that looked and tasted the same. The capsules also came with or without vitamin D. Participants were randomly assigned one of each.

About 85 percent of the participants began the study with blood levels of vitamin D below the recommended healthy minimums, report the researchers in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Over the course of the 11 weeks, levels among those receiving vitamin D rose significantly. And the rise appeared to be the same regardless of whether the vitamin was consumed in juice or capsule form.

As expected, participants who had received both placebos showed no improvement in their vitamin D levels.

“The consumer now has one more option for obtaining vitamin D in the diet,” Dennis Wagner, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, told Reuters Health by email. His research group recently added to the list themselves: cheese.

Unfortunately, he said, government regulations currently allow only 100 IU of vitamin D to be added to a serving of food or drink.

While that number could go up when the U.S. government revises its dietary guidelines this summer, Holick is concerned that it will still be too low to ensure healthy levels of vitamin D through diet alone. He recommends 2,000 IU a day for adults, and 1,000 IU for children.

Natural food sources are rare – mostly just oily fish and mushrooms – and Holick thinks it would be unrealistic to expect everyone to start taking supplements.

His solution is a controversial one: short spurts of unprotected time in the sun, the major natural source of vitamin D. He does, however, advise always protecting the face.

“Mother Nature designed the system very early to guarantee that we got enough vitamin D,” said Holick. “Everyone was outside all the time, making it for free.'”

Wagner agrees, saying that humans are able to make a healthy dose of vitamin D in a relatively short amount of time before the skin starts to turn red and the risk of skin cancer begins to rise.

“However, the reliance on sunlight exposure as the primary source of vitamin D is often impractical, especially in northern latitudes during the winter,” added Wagner. “An increase in the number and variety of foods fortified with vitamin D will increase the availability of this important vitamin … and prevent the detrimental health consequences associated with vitamin D deficiency.”

Mothers with kids at home needed to fill out brief survey by Father’s Day

The headlines at MSNBC are no different that those carried by most news media this last month: “Children of lesbian parents do well.” These headlines are based on a study published in the journal Pediatrics. You can see a critique of the study here and a negative commentary on the study here.

But, you may be wondering, “What can I do to counter the latest attack of political correctness?” How can I  respond to the recent Lesbians-Make-the-Best-Parents claims?

The Ruth Institute has a great idea — a way YOU can fight back against the absurd bias of academia and the media. First, let me the Ruth Institute make a long story short:

The study that made the headlines in Fox News and MSNBC is small sample of politically interested, statistically unrepresentative, self-identified lesbian mothers reporting on the behavior of their children.

The researchers found these mothers via announcements at lesbian events, women’s bookstores and lesbian newspapers in Boston, Washington D.C. and San Francisco, hardly a scientifically representative sample.

And would you be impressed by a report that says, “My precious little darling is doing fine in school,” without ever asking the teacher, or checking the child’s grades?

That’s the basis for this survey’s claim that the children of lesbians do better in school than the children of the general population.

And did I mention the sample size? The study surveys 77 mothers of 78 children. You read that correctly: the latest spasm of political correctness was based on 78 children.

Naturally, the survey concludes that the children of lesbian mothers do better than everyone else, and that men are completely unnecessary.

Naturally, the Main Stream Media breathlessly reported this “news” without the slightest bit of critical reflection. Why am I not surprised?

Two can play at this game. The Ruth Institute wants to find their own non-random set of politically interested mothers to report on their own children. That would be YOU and YOUR friends! They have a feeling we can find more than 77 mothers with more than 78 kids on our side. Their goal is to get 7,800 mothers’ reports by Fathers’ Day, Sunday June 20th!

Everyone can help.

Mothers with kids at home, fill out our little questionnaire. And since this survey is about children, you can fill it out for as many minor children as you have at home. Please forward this survey to your friends.

If you aren’t a mom, if your kids have left home, if you’re a guy, forward this message to every mother with children in the home in your address book! We can find plenty of people who appreciate the contributions of fathers to the family!

Help us fight back against the illogic of political correctness! Just in time for Fathers’ Day!

Take the survey on the impact of fathers on children’s behavior.

Please, only mothers fill out this survey for each minor child living in your home.

Then forward the link to all the moms you know!

Lesbians are the “Best Parents Ever”? Eight reasons why the latest study doesn’t prove anything!

You’ve all seen the headlines by now: “Children of lesbian parents do well.” These headlines are based on a study published in the journal Pediatrics. Here’s a excellent critique of the study by Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute,  a project of the National Organization for Marriage:

I actually read the study, which is my custom before commenting. I also read the letters to the editor on this study.

Here are 8 reasons why this study does not prove anything about the functioning of the children of lesbians.

  1. The sample is extremely small: 78 children of lesbian mothers and 93 children in the control group.
  2. The sample of lesbian mothers is unlikely to be representative of the general population of lesbians. This is a sample of people who volunteered for the study, not a random sample. The most motivated and high-functioning people are the most likely to volunteer for a politically charged study.
  3. The “results” are intrinsically unreliable. The results are nothing but the mothers’ reports of their childrens’ behavior and functioning. There is no cross-checking with objective outcomes, such as actual school achievement or teacher’s reports of behavior problems.
  4. The results for the lesbian moms show no difference in any indicator between boys and girls. This is highly unusual, and supports the possibility that the lesbian mothers are under-reporting difficulties.
  5. The children of lesbian moms do just as well, whether or not the couple had separated. This too, is highly unusual. Most studies show that children are harmed by disruptions in the parental relationship.
  6. This study makes no attempt to control for possibly confounding factors, such as socio-economic status. According to previous reports on this sample of lesbian mothers, 67% were college educated, and the median household income was $85,000. The children’s high functioning could be due to the fact that these lesbian mothers have more resources than the average family.
  7. The study does not report on how the control group of 93 children was selected. We have no way of knowing who these 93 children are, or how representative this control group really is.
  8. The most detailed part of the study was devoted to showing that any problems the children of lesbians experienced were due to homophobia. But the causal link between the mother’s reports of homophobia and the mother’s reports of aggressiveness could run the opposite way: kids might dislike those who are aggressive, and this dislike could be interpreted as homophobia.

My friend, Glenn Stanton, has written extensively on this topic. Here’s his analysis of what the vast majority of the research on same-sex parenting says:

There is a strong sociological consensus that married mothers and fathers are essential for optimal child well-being. There are strong, well-researched statements from mainstream sociologists which clearly identify which family forms best provide for healthy child-development. These statements are based on at least 30 years of social science evidence, and the researchers have done their homework. And, unlike the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) … they are free from the influence and partisanship of the same-sex “marriage” political debate. A sampling of this work follows:

James Q. Wilson, a world-known and widely-respected social scientist, recently authored a very important article on the importance of marriage.  He says:

Almost everyone – a few retrograde scholars accepted – agrees that children in mother-only homes suffer harmful consequences: the best studies show that these youngsters are more likely than those in [mother/father] families to be suspended from school, have emotional problems, become delinquent, suffer from abuse and take drugs.

Here he is referring specifically to the unfortunate deficits found through studies of single-mother homes.

Dr. Wilson also explains repeatedly in his work the importance of the husband and father in the home and the clear, measurable child well-being benefits father’s provide.

This being the case, there is no indication that a mother’s lesbian lover can replace the essential and distinct role of a father. Wilson explains that some of the differences noted in perhaps half of the  fatherless children, are plausibly accounted for by the mere economic difference of living without a father. But significantly, he notes , “The rest of the difference is explained by a mother living without a husband.” [James Q. Wilson, “Why We Don’t Marry,” City Journal, located here]

Wilson states elsewhere,

There is no society where women alone care for each other and their children; there is none where fathers are not obligated to support their children and the mothers to whom they were born. [James Q. Wilson, The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families, (New York: Harper Collins, 2002), p. 29.]

In addition to Wilson’s statements, two leading mainstream child-advocacy organizations recently sought to understand which family form best elevated child well-being outcomes. Their conclusions found that married mothers and fathers in low-conflict marriages accomplished this important task best.

Specifically the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), found:

Most researchers now agree that…studies support the notion that, on average, children do best when raised by their two married biological parents… Research indicates that, on average, children who grow up in families with both their biological parents in a low-conflict marriage are better off in a number of ways than children who grow up in single-, step or cohabiting-parent households. [Mary Parke, “Are Married Parents Really Better for Children?” Center for Law and Social Policy Policy Brief, May 2003, p. 1, 6.]

The other organization, Child Trends concludes:

An extensive body of research tells us that children do best when they grow up with both biological parents in a low-conflict marriage… Thus, it is not simply the presence of two parents, as some have assumed, but the presence of two biological parents that seem to support child development. (emphasis in the original) [Kristin Anderson Moore, et al., “Marriage From a Child’s Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect Children, and What Can We Do about It?” Child Trends Research Brief, June 2002, p. 1-2.]

The work of a diverse team of family scholars provided a detailed list of advantages for the children with a married mother and father. Working collectively from the Universities of Texas, Virginia, Minnesota, Chicago, Maryland, Washington, UC Berkeley, and Rutgers University, they reported that children who live with their own married mother and father:

  • live longer, healthier lives, both physically and mentally,
  • do better in school,
  • are more likely to graduate and attend college.

They are

  • less likely to live in poverty,
  • be in trouble with the law,
  • drink or do drugs,
  • be violent or sexually active, or
  • be victims of sexual or physical violence.

In addition, these children are also more likely to have successful marriage when they are older. [W. Bradford Wilcox, et al., Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition: Twenty Six Conclusions from the Social Sciences, (New York: Institute for American Values, 2005).]

Finally, Sara McLanahan of Princeton University, one of the world’s leading scholars on how family form impacts child well-being, explains from her extensive investigations:

If we were asked to design a system for making sure that children’s basic needs were met, we would probably come up with something quite similar to the two-parent family ideal. Such a design, in theory, would not only ensure that children had access to the time and money of two adults, it would provide a system of checks and balances that promote quality parenting. The fact that both adults have a biological connection to the child would increase the likelihood that the parents would identify with the child and be willing to sacrifice for that child and it would reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child. [W. Bradford Wilcox, et al., Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition: Twenty Six Conclusions from the Social Sciences, (New York: Institute for American Values, 2005)]

When we look at the larger body of literature on family formation and child well-being, we find there are great and consequential differences between the various kinds of heterosexual homes.

This is a truth the AAP (and the other medical and professional organizations that followed their lead) should have considered – and communicated — in using their status to support a new and experimental family form called same-sex parenting.

Instead, they have used their enviable status to irresponsibly support a new and controversial family form with very weak data and ultimately a slippery conclusion.

Three Really Pernicious Messages behind the “Lesbians Make Better Parents” Story line

Conservative researchers and bloggers are dealing with the sampling and reporting problems associated with a recent study purporting to show that the children of lesbians are doing just fine. Here’s a commentary on the study by Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage:

The fact is, that the study claims that the children of lesbians are doing better in every dimension than the children in the general population. The underlying message of this story is NOT simply, “leave us alone to have kids the way we want.”

Herewith, are the Three Really Pernicious Messages behind the “Lesbians Make Better Parents” Story line:

  1. Women are better parents than men. Therefore, two women are better for kids than a mother and a father. Men are unnecessary and possibly dangerous.
  2. The only problems that the children of lesbians experience are really caused by straight society.
  3. The children of lesbian parents were intensely planned and deeply wanted. Therefore, manufacturing children through Donor Insemination is superior to conceiving children through an act of sexual intercourse.

Well, two can play at this game. The Ruth Institute wants to find their own non-random set of politically interested mothers to report on their own children. That would be YOU and YOUR friends! They have a feeling we can find more than 77 mothers with more than 78 kids on our side. Their goal is to get 7,800 mothers’ reports by Fathers’ Day, Sunday June 20th! And, EVERYONE CAN HELP.

Mothers with kids at home, fill out our little questionnaire. And since this survey is about children, you can fill it out for as many minor children as you have at home. Please forward this survey to your friends.
If you aren’t a mom, if your kids have left home, if you’re a guy, forward this message to every mother with children in the home in your address book! We can find plenty of people who appreciate the contributions of fathers to the family!
Help us fight back against the illogic of political correctness! Just in time for Fathers’ Day!
Take the survey on the impact of fathers on children’s behavior. Please, only mothers fill out this survey for each minor child living in your home.
Then forward the link to all the moms you know!

Single Dose of Aspirin Effective in Relieving Migraine Pain

A single 1000-mg dose of aspirin is an effective treatment of acute migraine headaches for more than half of people who take it, and the addition of 10 mg of metoclopramide (Reglan) may reduce nausea, according to the findings of a literature review published by the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Here are the details from MedScape:

“Aspirin plus metoclopramide would seem to be a good first-line therapy for acute migraine attacks in this population,” write Varo Kirthi, MD, and colleagues, with the Pain Research and the Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics at the John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxford, United Kingdom.

The researchers selected 13 studies, including 4222 participants, that were randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, or active-controlled; evaluated the use of aspirin to treat a single migraine headache episode; and included at least 10 participants per treatment group.

In addition, studies compared aspirin 900 mg or 1000 mg (alone or in combination) and metoclopramide 10 mg vs placebo or other active comparators (typically sumatriptan 50 mg or 100 mg).

Compared with placebo, aspirin reduced associated symptoms of nausea, vomiting, photophobia, and phonophobia.

A single 1000-mg dose of aspirin reduced pain from moderate or severe to no pain by 2 hours in 24% of people vs 11% taking placebo.

Severe or moderate pain was reduced to no worse than mild pain by 2 hours in 52% taking aspirin vs 32% taking placebo.

Headache relief at 2 hours was sustained for 24 hours more often with aspirin vs placebo.

In addition, metoclopramide, when combined with aspirin, significantly reduced nausea (P < .00006) and vomiting (P = .002) vs aspirin alone, although it had minimal effect on pain.

Fewer participants taking aspirin needed rescue medication vs those taking placebo.

Adverse events were reported more often with aspirin vs placebo but were mostly mild and transient.

The review also found that aspirin alone was comparable to the prescription medication sumatriptan 50 mg for 2-hour pain-free relief and headache relief, whereas sumatriptan 100 mg was superior to aspirin plus metoclopramide for 2-hour pain-free, but not headache, relief; no data comparing sumatriptan with aspirin for 24-hour headache relief were available.

“Aspirin plus metoclopramide will be a reasonable therapy for acute migraine attacks, but for many it will be insufficiently effective,” noted study author R. Andrew Moore, DSc, in a written release.

“We are presently working on reviews of other OTC [over-the-counter] medicines for migraines, to provide consumers with the best available evidence on treatments that don’t need a prescription,” he said.

Certain Ankle Braces May Protect Girl Volleyball Players

Many of you know that I served as a sports medicine physician much of my career, including a stint as a volunteer physician for the U.S. Olympic Committee. So, I was interested to hear that there’s a new study showing that ankle braces help prevent ankle injuries in female high school volleyball players.

Here are the details in a report from HealthDay News:

The study included 957 high school varsity volleyball players (59.3 percent female, 40.7 percent male) who wore five different types of ankle braces (including rigid, semi-rigid, and non-rigid) for an entire season and 42 who didn’t wear ankle braces.

During the season, inversion ankle sprains were suffered by 9.3 percent of players with ankle braces and 9.5 percent of unbraced players. However, use of the braces was associated with a significant decrease in ankle sprains among players who had not suffered a previous ankle sprain.

The study also found that females who used a non-rigid brace had a significant increase in ankle sprains compared to males who wore a non-rigid brace. The increase was even more significant among females who wore a non-rigid brace compared to females who wore a semi-rigid or rigid brace.

This increased risk “may be due to the gender difference of women having greater ligament laxity than men and thus, a more rigid external support provided more protection,” Dr. Carol Frey, a member of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, and colleagues said in a news release.

“Prophylactic ankle brace use is recommended for female volleyball players, especially those who have not had a previous sprain. Based on our data, however, we could not strongly recommend prophylactic ankle brace use for male high school volleyball players,” the researchers concluded.

Statins can reduce sex drive

I have heard from male readers that when they began taking the cholesterol reducing statin medications (such as Crestor, Lipitor, lovastatin, simvastatin, etc.), they have experienced decreased libido (sexual drive).

Now, there is some research that may confirm this.

One study, in 2009, concluded, “the present study suggests that statins may induce or worsen ED (erectile dysfunction) in accordance with other data.”

More recent research shows that statins may interfere with the production of cholesterol and that this may alter hormone synthesis, resulting in reduced testosterone levels, which may decrease the libido (sexual drive) in men on statins.

For example, Italian researchers have reported a link between statin therapy and hypogonadism (reduced testosterone).

So, if you’re taking a statin and notice a decrease in your libido, DON’T STOP THE STATIN. Rather, talk to your personal doctor about the side effect and possible options.

Larimore Monthly Prayer Letter – June 15, 2010

In this prayer letter:

PRAISES:
1)  Hazel Creek novel
2) RELEASED IN MAY: Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work
3) JUST RELEASED: TSI: The Influenza Bomb (a novel)
4) Our Trip to Italy
5) A New Venue for Ministry and Service for Barb and me
PRAYER REQUESTS:
1)  Hazel Creek novel
2) New Book Releases
EVENTS OF THE LAST TWO MONTHS
EVENTS OIn this prayer letter:
PRAISES:
1)  Hazel Creek novel
2) RELEASED IN MAY: Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work
3) JUST RELEASED: TSI: The Influenza Bomb (a novel)
4) Our Trip to Italy
5) A New Venue for Ministry and Service for Barb and me
PRAYER REQUESTS:
1)  Hazel Creek novel
2) New Book Releases
EVENTS OF THE LAST TWO MONTHS
EVENTS OF THE NEXT MONTH


PRAISES:

1) Hazel Creek novel

Thanks so very much for your prayers. Before leaving for Italy, I was laboring on the final edits on my first solo novel, tentatively titled Hazel Creek. I SO appreciate your prayers for wisdom and creativity as I edited – as well as the discipline to apply myself to the writing process.

Well, I completed the process one day early and sent the novel to the publisher (Howard Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster) the day before we left for Italy.

I’ve not heard back from the editor yet, but will let you know when I do.


2) RELEASED IN MAY: Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work

Many of you are aware of the Going Public with Your Faith book and small-group study curriculum that I wrote with my dear friend William Carr Peel, ThM.

Bill and I have been working for sometime on a revision of the resources and they are being released in May under a new name: Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work.

0310329728

Here’s a synopsis of the materials:

Workplace Grace flies in the face of almost everything you’ve ever read or heard about evangelism. It is written for all Christians who may not think they have a gift for evangelism but want their lives to have an impact on the people around them. It describes evangelism as a process and helps you understand how your skills and God-given gifts can easily be used to draw customers, clients, and coworkers to new life in Jesus Christ.

The new book, small group participant’s study guide, and small-group DVD course (and leader’s guide) should all be available here in the next week or so.

However, if you’d like to look at the materials now, here’s where you can find them:


3) JUST RELEASED: TSI: The Influenza Bomb (a novel)

Many of you are aware of my first novel, co-written with my friend, Paul McCusker, Time Scene Investigators: The Gabon Virus, which was released last summer.

Of that book, one reviewed said, “”Just finished the Gabon Virus. It was a splendid tale. We hope to get many more great novels from the men. The best new authors I have found in some time.”

Well, the reviewer’s wish for another novel has come true. On June 1st the anxiously awaited sequel to The Gabon Virus was released and is titled TSI: The Influenza Bomb.

InfluenzBombSMALL

Here’s a description of the book:

Masses of people are dying from a mysterious flu. While the TSI team searches for a cure, a notorious eco-terrorist group, Return to Earth, uses an influenza bomb to poison the water. It’s a race against time—with the outcome impacting the entire world.

By the time the team discovers that the terrorists are using the water supply to infect people, the sickness is spreading worldwide and no one has a cure. When Return to Earth makes off with a mysterious device called the influenza bomb with the intent to destroy all of mankind, Dr. Hutchinson must stop the contamination from being spread before it’s too late.

And, here are some early reviews:

  • Fast-paced and gripping, this book will make us all think, “This could happen!” —Debbie Maccomber, New York Times bestselling novelist
  • Crisp prose, never-slowing action, a frighteningly plausible plot that weaves impeccably through history and across international borders, all tempered with a tender reminder of divine forgiveness. — Jeanette Windle
  • This is an international thriller with chilling relevance today. The authors have done their homework and written a totally realistic novel that may keep you awake at night! You will never again read about H1N1 outbreaks without wondering about their origins. — Dorothy Cowling, Creator and Book Reviewer, The List
  • Engaging. Innovative. Entertaining. And downright scary. Pray this story never becomes a news headline. Larimore and McCusker have penned an unforgettable tale! — Alton Gansky, novelist
  • McCusker and Larimore have crafted a chilling tale of bioterrorism. Peppered with scientific details that bring the story to life, The Influenza Bomb is delightfully disturbing and will leave the reader with a ghastly list of ‘what ifs’ that will haunt the reader long after the last page. — Harry Kraus, MD, Bestselling Author, The Six-Liter Club and Salty Like Blood

The new book, autographed by both Paul and myself, should all be available here starting next week.


4) Our Trip to Italy

Thanks to so many of you who prayed us safely through our recent 16-day trip to Italy. If you missed our blog on the trip, you can see the itinerary below (look in the “Events of the Last Two Month” section and click on the blogs you want to read.

But, I did want to share with your one poignant moment for me during the trip. It occurred during the wedding of a friend in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City in Rome (yes, THAT St. Peter’s):

It was during the reading of (the miracle of wine at the wedding feast in John chapter 2) that something amazing happened to me:

I was listening to the words of the Gospel, and looking up at this amazing and ornate chapel, when Jesus’ mother’s words to the servants rang out to me as if she was speaking, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)

What more simple or profound advice could any of us be given to follow.

Simply, “do whatever He tells you.”

It was a special moment for me.


5) A New Venue for Ministry and Service for Barb and me

We have some exciting news to share with you.

Many of you may remember the joy that Barb and I had working together at the Mission Medical Clinic in Colorado Springs from 2008-2009. This church-sponsored free medical clinic provides health care for the medically uninsured in Colorado Springs.

In August 2008 many of you prayed for us when we sent you this request:

Dr. Walt and Barb will be meeting with ministry leaders at the Mission Medical Clinic in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, August 20, to discuss the possibility of Dr. Walt becoming their part time medical director. Will you join us in praying for God’s guidance about this opportunity?

In September 2008 I sent you this praise report:

Thanks for praying for my and Barb’s meeting with the ministry leaders at the Mission Medical Clinic in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, August 20. We discussed with them the possibility of my becoming their part time Associate Medical Director. I have accepted a part time job with them and deeply appreciated your prayers during this process.

Then, in August 2009, I sent this report:

We have some bad news and some good news. Due to a change in the administration of Mission Medical Clinic, a place Barb and I have joyfully served this last year, I will not be able to continue to minister there. It has been an honor and privilege to work with other Christian servants there and I will miss them all.

But, the Lord has provided another opportunity for me to serve. My dear friends, Gary and Beth Jewell, fellow family physicians and the owners of Oak Springs Family Medicine, have invited me to join their practice to see patients part-time when I am in town. I look forward to serving them.

Now, our exciting news.

Just before leaving for Italy, I received a call from the Executive Director of the Mission Medical Clinic letting me know that the Medical Director position had opened and inviting me to interview for the job, which I did.

Subsequently, he offered and I accepted the Medical Directorship.

Barb and I are so excited about re-beginning our ministry there. I will miss my dear friends and colleagues at Oak Springs Family Medicine (although I will be there from time to time), but am super stoked (as the kids say) to return to MMC.


PRAYER REQUESTS:

1) Possible Movie or TV project

Barb and I still are praying for the movie producer who is considering a TV series or movie based upon my three Bryson City books. We are praying the Lord will give him wisdom and guidance on the next steps. We’ll let you know when we hear from him.


2) New Book Releases

That the Lord would use both Workplace Grace and The Influenza Bomb to His glory and that both would bear much fruit for Him.


EVENTS OF THE LAST TWO MONTHS:

Apr 18: I spoke to the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians in Colorado Springs on the topic of “Natural Medicines (herbs, vitamins, and supplements): How to find evidence-based, trustworthy, up-to-date information. How to recommend safe product.” The talk was well received and I was pleased to, hopefully, be salt and light to the attendees.

Apr 28-May 2: Barb and I flew to Chicago where I participated in the AMA RUC meetings. These technical meetings are always very trying for me – but I pray that I may be used to speak life into those who were there. While I was in meetings, Barb practiced her spiritual gift of shopping.

TRIP TO ITALY

Barb and I had a wonderful opportunity to return to one of our favorite countries in the world – Italy. We first traveled there between medical school and residency in 1978. We returned for a nearly one-month sabbatical in the fall of 2004. Now we are back from the wedding of a dear friend. You can read about any part of the trip you like. Here was our schedule:

May 28 – Jun 1: Barb and I flew to Atlanta. On May 29 I spoke to the American Academy of Physician Assistants on the topic of “Natural Medicines for Osteoarthritis: Evidence-Based Recommendations.” However, most of our time was joyously spent with son, Scott, his wife, Jennifer, and their girls, Anna Kate and Sarah Elizabeth.

Jun 2 – 6: Barb and I flew to Washington, DC, where we saw some wonderful sights and I participated in an AMA CPT meeting. We had a glorious time.

Jun 13 – 15: Barb and I, as we do every year, are volunteering at Young Life’s Crooked Creek Ranch near Frazier, Colorado. Next month we’ll have a couple of wonderful stories to share with you about what the Lord did.


EVENTS OF THE NEXT MONTH:

Jun 15 – 19: Barb and I are volunteering at Young Life’s Crooked Creek Ranch near Frazier, Colorado.

Jun 20: Paul McCusker and I will participate in a book signing at the Barnes and Noble in Colorado Springs from 1-3 pm. We’ll be signing last year’s The Gabon Virus (a novel) and the just released The Influenza Bomb (a novel). We hope those of you in the Springs who can will come.

Jun 21: My first day seeing patients at the Mission Medical Clinic.

Jun 24 – 27: Barb and I will fly to Tulsa, then drive to Western Hills Resort for the In His Image Family Medicine Residency Program Retreat and Graduation.

Jul 3-4: We’ll be home and will enjoy the small-town Independence Day festivities in historic Monument and Palmer Lake, our home towns.

Jul 9-10: I’ll fly to Orlando to speak to the Florida Academy of Family Physicians on two topics: (1) Childhood Obesity: Practical tips for busy family physicians, and (2) Natural Medicines: How to find trustworthy information, how to recommend safe product.

Jul 11-17: I travel to Tulsa to be a visiting professor at for the In His Image Family Medicine Residency Program.

Jul 9 – 17: Barb will be in Baton Rouge visiting with family.


Barb and I are SO grateful for your prayer support for us and our ministries together. We could not do this without your love and the precious gift of your prayers and friendship.


Monthly Family Newsletter

If you’re interested in our family newsletter, the May 2010 issue, you can find it here, or the June 2010 issue here.

Private Umbilical Cord Blood Banking: Smart Parenting or Waste of Money?

The promise of future cures from banking their child’s cord blood allures many parents, but many experts call public banks a better option. Why? Here’s an excellent report from ABC News to explain:

The choices expectant parents make today go beyond whether to find out the gender of their unborn baby or whether he or she may potentially have a genetic disorder. Today, many parents must decide whether to store their baby’s umbilical cord blood.

Some are calling it a kind of biological insurance for your child’s future.

Cord blood provides a rich source of stem cells, primitive cells that have been used for cancer treatment for more than 20 years.

Cord blood is marketed for two uses:

  • as a treatment for diseases such as leukemia and sickle cell disease, and
  • as a potential source of cells for regenerative medicine — a cutting-edge field of medicine studying how to repair tissues damaged by everything from heart disease to cerebral palsy.

Many banking firms tout an impressive list of 70 to 80 diseases in their marketing material that are purportedly treatable by cord blood.

The list of diseases advertised as possibly treatable includes osteopetrosis — a rare condition where the body produces excess bone, which causes blindness and can be fatal if left untreated. But most diseases on such lists are genetic and can’t be treated with a child’s own cord blood.

Cord blood can be banked two ways:

  • in public banks for use by anyone in need whose blood type is a match, and
  • in private banks where it is only available to the family of the child who donated.

There are currently 17 public banks in the United States that serve not the U.S., but also send cord blood to other countries.

The public banks tend to collect from nearby hospitals to ensure high quality. Most do not hold cord blood for the individual who donated it; instead they provide the blood to anyone who matches within the donation system.

The public system is primarily designed to provide cord blood for treatment, not regenerative medicine which requires a patients’ own stem cells.

While a majority of parents will choose to do nothing and the cells will be discarded after birth as medical waste, some parents will work to decipher the debate between private cord blood firms competing to get into the lucrative industry and public banks attempting to boost donations, especially by ethnic minorities, to build a national cord blood system.

Public banks are free, but private storage of a newborn’s umbilical cord blood can range from $2,000 to $3,000 up front, plus yearly storage fees of $85 to $125.

The choice to privately bank your child’s cord blood goes beyond the financial commitment, however.

Many parents-to-be ponder what umbilical cord stem cells can be used for right now, and what is being looked at for the future. Understanding the answers is critical in making an informed decision.

Tracey Dones of Hicksville, N.Y., saw an advertisement for a cord blood banking firm in a magazine. After reading an accompanying article, she was sold on the idea and paid a private company to bank her son Anthony’s cord blood.

“God forbid if my child ever got sick — his or her own stem cells are its own perfect match — how could we not save that?” said Dones. “I thought I was getting something that would’ve saved his life, if need be.”

Four months after Anthony Dones was born, he was diagnosed with osteopetrosis.

“Finding out the diagnosis was devastating enough. And then when they mentioned the stem cells, I said, ‘I bet if you had cord blood we could use that. And immediately, they said, ‘absolutely not,'” said Dones.

Since osteopetrosis is a genetic disorder, Anthony’s cord blood stem cells carry the same disease, thus his own private cord blood banking was useless to treat Anthony. While stems cells are effective in treating genetic disorders like osteopetrosis, according to Dones, they were not told that using their baby’s own cord blood would not work if he had a genetic disease.

“I was devastated. Anthony’s father and I were both like, so why did we save this?” asked Dones.

Navigating the Public and Private Market

The advertisements for cord blood banking appear in magazines, online, in doctor’s offices, and on Facebook. Oftentimes an expression of interest by expectant parents prompts an invitation by private banking companies to a fancy informational dinner.

ABC News sent a producer with a hidden camera to one of these informational dinners to investigate what expectant parents are being told.

“Why is this so important? It’s important because with the amount of diseases that we can treat today, by the time you reach the age of 70 you’ll have approximately the chance of receiving a stem cell transplant  one in 200, one in 217,” said Dr. Albert Sassoon, obstetrician gynecologist in New York, at an informational dinner for expecting parents.

Dr. Machi Scaradavou, pediatric oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital in New York and medical director of the New York blood bank, told ABC News that the chance that anyone will benefit by their own cord blood is much lower than that.

“The chance of somebody needing their own cord blood is extremely, extremely low,” said Scaradavou.

In many cases, however, a sibling’s cord blood could be used, said Sassoon.

“The survival rate is higher when using matches from private banks because of the increased chance of finding a related match,” said Sassoon in a written statement to ABC News.

Critics claim that private cord blood banks exploit expectant parents’ worries using emotional advertising and confusing statistics to convince them to buy expensive banking they may never need or be able to use.

Because a child’s own cord blood does not work to treat many disorders, private companies emphasize regenerative treatments for diseases such as cerebral palsy or stroke, where a child may need his or her own blood. While some industry leaders predict that in a few years regenerative medicine will be able to heal damaged tissues in the body, research suggests it is too early to bank on the technique.

According to Scaradavou, one of the best reasons to opt for private banking is if there is another child in the family who has a blood disorder like leukemia or sickle cell disease that will need his or her sibling’s cord blood immediately.

“If there is somebody in the family that already has a disease, that is a good indication to do family banking to save a sibling’s cord blood for that patient,” said Scaradavou. “You don’t keep it for any reason in the future; you keep it for that existing patient that has a disease that can be cured by transplant.”

In fact, Anthony’s doctors found a match for him at the New York public cord blood bank. Unlike private banks, public banks do not charge to collect cord blood. And once it is entered in the public system, the blood is available to anyone who needs it.

Taking Research to the Bank

The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends public banking over private, favoring private banking only when there is already an affected family member or a disease in the family that would benefit from a transplant.

Many consumer cord blood banking organizations do not support one type of banking over another but recommend that parents be informed of the pros and cons of the various options.

According to Frances Verter, founder and director of the nonprofit organization, Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, the overall benefits outweigh the chance it may never be used.

And, because there are only 17 public banks in the U.S. that tend to collect units from nearby hospitals, many families may not be in an area where public bank donation is as accessible, she said. That makes it more difficult for many parents to understand their options when it comes to choosing between public and private banking.

“The only problem is that there are a limited number of places that accept donations,” said Verter. “So the downside is that lots of parents want to donate, but it requires money to process the donation. There’s a certain infrastructure involved that not a lot of centers have in place.”

According to Charis Ober, co-founder of Save the Cord Foundation, besides the limited number of public banks available for parents to choose, it is often difficult to distinguish between the various options that individual private companies offer.

“Everything looks great on the Internet, but there are great differences between all of the private banks,” said Ober. “So you really need to do your homework to make sure the bank you choose is right for you.”

Cord Blood: Choosing Between Private and Public Banks

Many states require that expectant parents be informed about both public and private banking options before deciding which, if any, they would like to choose, according to Verter.

Regardless, Verter said, many parents do find it difficult to navigate between claims made by private bankers to get parents to choose their firm over another.

“If [the marketing] gets excessive then of course it’s not healthy. You can’t blame a company for wanting to market,” said Verter.

“At the same time the private marketing helps the public banks too. When private firms pay to market banking, it benefits both types of banking.”

“I think every bank should be upfront about costs and factual about what it is and what it isn’t,” said Ober. “You need to be a cautious discerning consumer. In cord blood, you only have a small window of time to collect it. So you really need to educate yourself on the pluses and minuses.”

Both Viacord and Cord Blood Registry state that for most of the conditions listed in their marketing materials they are referring to possible future uses for cord blood and not implying these diseases are currently being treated with cord blood stem cells or that you can use your own cord blood stem cells for all of the conditions listed.

But, in a particularly vulnerable time for most families, including the Dones’, Tracey Dones said many parents like her are not fully informed on the difference.

“[Private banking] was the life boat that didn’t float,” she said.

Cord Blood Banking: Read Between the Ads

Do the promises of private cord blood banks live up to reality for parents-to-be? According to the parents I see in practice, it’s hard to ignore the ads for cord blood banks, offering a lifetime of protection for their children. And, if you’re an expectant mom, there’s information coming at you constantly from your doctor’s office, magazines, online, and perhaps even your yoga class.

Here’s an excellent report from ABC News to help you sort out the fluff from the facts:

Expectant mom Ursula Lyon, saw an ad during a yoga class.

“I’m really early in my pregnancy so I am just getting to the stage where I’m exploring and trying to understand the things I need to prepare for,” said Lyon.

Some parents-to-be are sold on the advertising that banking their child’s cord blood could potentially treat an array of diseases the child, or his siblings, could encounter in their lives. Other parents-to-be may find all the promises too good to be true.

“I certainly should know more about it, I imagine because it is everywhere,” said Kristina Ashley. “It just sounded a little science-fictiony or something to me.”

Cord blood, which is harvested from the umbilical cord right after a baby is born, is marketed as a treatment for diseases such as leukemia and sickle cell disease, and as a potential source of cells for regenerative medicine  a cutting-edge field of medicine studying how to repair tissues damaged by everything from heart disease to cerebral palsy.

Cord blood can be banked two ways:

  • in public banks for use by anyone in need whose cell type is a match, and
  • in private banks where it is only available to the family of the child who donated.

There is little doubt that scientists believe umbilical cord blood stem cells hold promise for the future.

Cord blood stem cells are already used to treat blood disorders such as aplastic anemia, and research is underway to determine if they can treat other more common conditions like type 1 diabetes.

But many experts question whether many companies’s marketing materials confuse or even mislead parents about the usefulness of private banking.

Private cord blood banking costs $2,000 to $3,000 for the initial fee, and around another $100 per year for storage. While that may seem like a hefty price tag, many expectant parents may see it as an investment in their child’s long-term health.

Tracey Dones of Hicksville, N.Y., paid to bank her son Anthony’s cord blood. But four months after he was born, Anthony was diagnosed with osteopetrosis, a rare disease that causes the body to produce excess bone, leads to blindness, and can be fatal if left untreated.

Tracey said she felt lucky since she banked Anthony’s cord blood with a private company. And osteopetrosis is one of 80 diseases listed by many cord blood companies in their marketing material as treatable with stem cells.

“When they mentioned the stem cells, I said, ‘Oh, I banked his cord blood, we could use that,'” said Dones. “And immediately they said ‘absolutely not.'”

Osteopetrosis is a genetic disease, so this means that doctors could use a sibling’s cord blood cells to treat Anthony, but they cannot use his own cells because the disease is in every cell in his body.

In fact, a majority of the diseases listed in private banking firms’ marketing material as treatable with stem cells are genetic diseases.

Marketing materials by Viacord and Cord Blood Registry, the two largest companies, do not mention that cord blood stem cells cannot be used by the child for genetic diseases, although the fine print does state that cord blood may not be effective for all of the listed conditions.

“It was the life preserver that didn’t float,” said Dones.

Some brochures advertising private cord blood banking show children with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder, who were treated with their own stem cells.

In the case of Cord Blood Registry, the company lists all stem cell transplants conducted at Duke University. In a list of individuals treated in their “stem cell therapy data” cerebral palsy is listed.

However, transplants were part of an early research study and studies of efficacy are just now underway.

“We don’t have any data yet about whether it works or not. Sometimes they improve on their own,” Kurtzberg told ABC News.

Tom Moore, CEO of Cord Blood Registry, the largest private cord blood banking firm, told ABC News conceded that there was no proof that the transplants worked, but added that there is strong anecdotal evidence.

“I think proof is a strong word right now,” said Moore. “I think there are a number of situations but they are anecdotal.”

Anthony’s doctors found a match for him through the New York Blood Center’s National Cord Blood Program, a public cord blood bank.

Unlike private banks, public banks do not charge to collect cord blood, they charge a patients insurance company when cells are used. And once it is entered in the public system, the blood is available to anyone who needs it.

Although blind, today Anthony is a healthy 7-year-old after being treated with donated cord blood stem cells. Dones said she now believes private banking was a waste of her money.

“There are so many people out there who don’t really understand and they are so misled by the advertisements out there it still makes me angry,” said Dones.

Experts Rebuke Claim that “A Fetus is Not a Person”

A philosophy professor at Saint Mary’s University (SMU) in Halifax is drawing rebuke from experts in bioethics, medicine, and philosophy for a column in which he advocates abortion based on the notion that “a fetus is not a person.”

If pro-abortion advocates can show that the unborn child is not a person, argues Dr. Mark Mercer in an op-ed for the Ottawa Citizen, then a woman’s reason for aborting him or her “cannot be outweighed by the fetus’s right to life, for, not being a person, the fetus has no such right.”

But according to bioethicist Dianne Irving, who ripped into Mercer’s column in an essay of her own, Mercer’s science is “grossly objectively erroneous” and his concept of “delayed personhood” is “deceptively achieved by means of using academically indefensible ‘philosophy’.”

Mercer admits in his article that “abortion involves the deliberate killing of a human being,” but maintains that that is “no reason for abortion to be illegal,” and that one should not be “morally troubled by it.”

It would normally be unacceptable to kill a reader of the Citizen, he says, for example, because the reader is “a creature richly aware of its environment and full of beliefs and desires, including the desire to continue living. … To kill a reader of this paper would be to destroy a self-aware locus of experience, one, moreover, that prefers not to die.”

“A human fetus, on the other hand, though human, has only a rudimentary awareness of its environment and lacks self consciousness entirely,” he continues.  “It has no interest in living, for it can have no interests at all.”

While he admits that an unborn child is “potentially a person,” he claims that this fact is only a concern “if it is better to have that particular future person walking around than it is to respect a here-and-now person’s autonomy.”

“The overall point is that abortion is not in any degree a morally fraught option,” he concludes.  “A woman considering whether to have an abortion or, instead, to raise a child is making a practical decision, not a moral one. This is what we who are pro-choice have to make more widely known.”

Irving points out that Mercer’s arguments have been used by pro-abortion bioethicists, such as Princeton’s Peter Singer, for decades, “regardless of their fatal faults.”

If Mercer is right about the unborn not being a person based on the fact that they don’t have “rational attributes,” she says, we must also accept that the following are not persons: “the comatose, the mentally retarded, the mentally ill and depressed, drug addicts, alcoholics, a lot of teenagers, etc. – even Mercer, or the Readers when they are sleeping!”

In fact, she points out that Singer does indeed say that the mentally disabled and others are not persons.

Are Mercer and the readers, just like Singer, willing “to argue seriously that all these same living adult human beings could be intentionally killed, used in destructive medical research, dismembered and then pitched into mass graves, etc.,” she asks, “since they are just human beings but not ‘persons’ who actively exercise ‘rational attributes’?”

“We should demand no less than an immediate response from Mr. Mercer. Come on, Mr. Mercer – if Peter Singer has the gall to so conclude, why not you?” she adds.

Irving argues that “in the real world, there is no real distinction between a human being and a human person.”

In fact, Professor Michael Schintgen, the chairman of philosophy at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, pointed out that Mercer “takes a definition of person out of thin air – assuming without argument that what distinguishes a person from a non-person is awareness.”

Irving, on the other hand, relies on the traditional definition of person, as introduced by the philosopher Boethius in the 6th century, that a person is “an individual substance of a rational nature.”

“A human being, simply by virtue of being a human kind of being, with a specifically human nature, is a human person precisely because he/she is an individual of a rational nature,” she writes.  “If allowed to grow, develop and flourish, these human persons hopefully will be able to eventually actively express ‘rational attributes’ and ‘sentience’ if possible.”

But even if the human being does not reach Mercer’s established attributes, Irving continues, they are still “innocent living human persons who possess a rational nature,” and who thus also possess “the same inherent rights as all other human persons – socially, ethically, legally, etc.”

Professor Schintgen noted that Mercer’s arguments are “just warmed over ideas from the Disco Era.”

“Mercer dredges up arguments used by Peter Singer, J.J. Thomson, Mary Anne Warren, and others from the 70s. The only thing missing is the bellbottoms,” he told LifeSiteNews.

Schintgen also said that Mercer assumes a false notion of autonomy.  “Even if we grant that the fetus is not a person, why should I be allowed to do what I want with it?” he asks.  “A great deal of modern talk about rights assumes this idea of autonomy without giving any reason for it.  Does wanting to do something automatically give me a right to do it? I might like to have lobster for breakfast. Does that mean I have the right to have lobster?”

“One would expect a professor of philosophy to have arguments that meet the objections raised to these arguments in the past 30 odd years, but none are in sight,” he concluded.

Mercer also got a rebuke from Dr. Paul Claman, a professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Ottawa, who wrote in a letter to the editor that Mercer’s argument “does not hold water.”

“Extrapolating Mercer’s argument would make a parent’s decision to kill a month-old baby or a dependent parent with severe Alzheimer’s disease only a practical and not an a morale one,” he said.

Despite his abortion advocacy, Mercer did take a stand on behalf of pro-life students at his university in 2009, when he told media that SMU had given in to mob rule by allowing pro-abortion activists to silence a speech by Jose Ruba of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform.

“I don’t want to defend what he said as non-hate speech because I think that’s irrelevant,” Mercer told the Chronicle Herald. “Even if he was saying ‘Black people suck,’ people who shout him down should be carried away.”

“We’re not to silence anybody on campus, not to prevent people from listening, not to prevent people from expressing themselves,” he added.

Saint Mary’s University was the first Roman Catholic university established in Canada, dating back to 1802, though it has formally separated from the Church.

Archbishop Anthony Mancini of Halifax, who sits ex officio as a ‘Visitor’ on SMU’s Board of Governors, told LifeSiteNews: “My personal position on the question of abortion is that of the Roman Catholic Church.  I hold and uphold these views, knowing that everyone neither shares nor accepts this point of view.”

“As for the ideas expressed in the article in question, I do not agree with them professionally or pastorally,” he added.  “No doubt there are professors at Saint Mary’s University who also hold views quite different than those in the article.”

Read Dianne Irving’s complete essay here.

Study Links Regular Bedtimes to Better Language, Reading, and Math Skills in Preschool Children

Children in households with bedtime rules and children who get adequate sleep score higher on a range of developmental assessments, according to a research abstract that was recently presented at at SLEEP 2010, the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. Continue reading

Lack of sleep ‘linked to early death’

#mce_temp_url#Better Sleepers Are ‘Successful Agers’

In a number of my health books (including 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, and God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Teen), I discuss the growing number of studies showing that a good night’s sleep (the right quantity and quality of sleep – not too much or too little) is associated with a wide range of good mental and physical health outcomes. Now comes a new study showing that getting less than six hours sleep a night can lead to an early grave. (You can find a list of my blogs on sleep at the bottom of this page)

The UK and Italian researchers say that people regularly having too little sleep were 12% more likely to die over a 25-year period than those who got an “ideal” six to eight hours. They also found an association between sleeping for more than nine hours and early death, although that much sleep may merely be a marker of ill health.

Nevertheless, those getting too much sleep (more than 9 hours per night) were 30% more likely to die over a 25-year period compared with those who got six to eight hours.

Sleep journal reports the findings, based on 1.5m people in 16 studies. The study looked at the relationship between sleep and mortality by reviewing earlier studies from the UK, US and European and East Asian countries. Premature death from all causes was linked to getting either too little or too much sleep outside of the “ideal” six to eight hours per night.

But while a lack of sleep may be a direct cause of ill health, ultimately leading to an earlier death, too much sleep may merely be a marker of ill health already, the UK and Italian researchers believe.

Professor Francesco Cappuccio, leader of the Sleep, Health and Society Programme at the UK’s University of Warwick, said: “Modern society has seen a gradual reduction in the average amount of sleep people take and this pattern is more common amongst full-time workers, suggesting that it may be due to societal pressures for longer working hours and more shift-work.

“On the other hand, the deterioration of our health status is often accompanied by an extension of our sleeping time.”

If the link between a lack of sleep and death is truly causal, it would equate to over 6.3 million attributable deaths in the UK in people over 16 years of age.

Prof Cappuccio said more work was needed to understand exactly why sleep seemed to be so important for good health.

Professor Jim Horne, of the Loughborough Sleep Research Centre, said other factors may be involved rather than sleep per se. “Sleep is just a litmus paper to physical and mental health. Sleep is affected by many diseases and conditions, including depression,” he said.

And getting improved sleep may not make someone better or live longer, he said. “But having less than five hours a night suggests something is probably not right. Five hours is insufficient for most people and being drowsy in the day increases your risk of having an accident if driving or operating dangerous machinery.”

You can read more about improving your sleep habits in my book 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy:

  • You can order an autographed copy of the book here.
  • Read the Table of Contents here.
  • Read the Forward to the book here.
  • Read the First Chapter here.
  • Print a free Reader’s Study Guide for the book here.

Here are some of my blogs on sleep and sleeping:

New Study Says, “Check blood pressure at home, not MD’s office!”

Think you need to go to the doctor’s office to check your blood pressure? Think again. For years I’ve had my patients monitor their blood pressure at home. I do NOT rely solely upon blood pressure readings in the office. Now comes a new study saying the best way to predict your risk of stroke or heart attack due to high blood pressure is through systematic monitoring at home rather than periodic checks in the doctor’s office.

Here are more details from Reuters Health: “With home blood pressure monitoring you get a greater number of measurements and there is no white-coat effect,” lead author Dr. Teemu Niiranen told Reuters Health, speaking of the tendency for anxiety to drive up blood pressure. “At home the patient is more relaxed and this seems to provide blood pressure values that reflect the patient’s true blood pressure better.”

Writing in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension, Niiranen and colleagues at Finland’s National Institute of Health and Welfare concluded that home-measured blood pressure is a better predictor of heart disease-related problems than office-measured blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease, and nearly one in three Americans have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2006 it contributed to the deaths of 326,000 Americans.

The researchers used data on more than 2,000 Finns, 45 to 74 years old, gathered between 2000 and 2001. Participants agreed to be interviewed, undergo medical exams and monitor their blood pressure at home on well-calibrated monitoring devices.

At follow-up nearly 7 years later, 162 participants reported at least 1 non-fatal heart disease-related event such as a heart attack, stroke, or hospitalization due to heart failure. Among the 2,081 participants, 37 heart disease-related deaths were reported.

After analyzing the data, the Niiranen group concluded that the best predictor of heart attacks, strokes, and related deaths was home blood pressure monitoring.

The home blood pressure readings, because there were more of them and they weren’t affected by the “white coat effect,” were more accurate, the authors found.

The home blood pressure monitor used in the study – Omron’s HEM-722c, comparable to the HEM-712c in the U.S. — costs about $70. Niiranen said 60 percent of Finnish patients with high blood pressure have home monitors.

While the study was done in Finland, Niiranen said there’s no reason to believe these results would not also apply to the populations in other countries.

The study could not determine whether home monitoring could save lives, however, since it was only observational, Niiranen said.

Obesity Drives GERD Symptoms in Kids

In my book SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat and on my SuperSized Kids Web site I write at some length about the many illnesses we doctors are now seeing in kids that are due to the tsunami of childhood overweight and obesity — such as high blood pressure, hypertension, heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, joint disease, skin problems, and mental health issues — all of which are increased by childhood obesity. Now we can add another: gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. In fact, the next generation of patients with GERD could come from the burgeoning epidemic of childhood obesity, according to a new study presented recently at a professional meeting of gastroenterologists. (BTW, you can learn more about my SuperSized Kids book by looking at the hyperlinks at the bottom of this blog).

Here are the details from MedPage:

Between 25% and 30% of overweight and obese children had symptoms consistent with GERD. That contrasts with previous evidence suggesting a GERD prevalence of 3% to 5% among children.

“In this interim analysis of a cohort of overweight and obese children, GERD is highly prevalent, correlating with studies reported in adults,” Marek Lukacik, MD, of the Medical College of Georgia in Albany, said in an interview during Digestive Disease Week.

“Being obese or overweight should be considered a risk factor for GERD in the pediatric population. As obesity becomes more prevalent in this young group, symptomatic GERD may have greater impact on healthcare spending. Chronic GERD may have ramifications for the long-term health of obese children.”

The findings came from an ongoing study of the effects of exercise and cognition in overweight and obese children. As part of the study, participants completed a questionnaire designed to assess the frequency of symptoms associated with reflux (such as nausea, vomiting, substernal burning or pain, and sour taste in the mouth). The questionnaire had been validated for use in children, said Lukacik.

The preliminary analysis involved 75 children, including 45 girls. The mean age of the entire group was about 10 and was similar among boys and girls. Weight averaged 50 kg in boys and 56 kg in girls, and body mass index (BMI) averaged 25 in the boys and almost 27 in the girls.

Lukacik reported that 15 of the 75 children met criteria for overweight (BMI 80th to 95th percentile), and the remaining 60 qualified as obese (≥95th percentile BMI).

The survey results showed that a substantial proportion of the children reported one or more symptoms of GERD within the past week:

  • Nausea, 15% to 20%
  • Vomiting, ~5%
  • Substernal burning, 25% to 30%
  • Upper abdominal pain, 15% to 20%
  • Sour taste in mouth, 20% to 25%

Rates were similar in boys and girls and did not differ between children who were overweight and those who were obese. None of the children reported use of acid-suppression medication.

“Overall, about 25% to 30% of the children reported having symptoms of GERD within the past week,” said Lukacik.

In the next phase of the study, investigators plan to compare the frequency of GERD symptoms in the overweight/obese cohort and a group of normal-weight children, he added.

So, what can you and your family do to help your child? Obtain a copy of SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat and review loads of tips on how to protect your family:

  • Order an autographed copy of the book here.
  • Read more about the book here.
  • See the Table of Contents of the book here.
  • Read the first chapter of the book here.

Obese kids more apt to be bullied, study confirms

In my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, I address the research showing that overweight or obese children are “50% to 100% more likely to bully or be bullied.” Being overweight or obese doesn’t just impact our kids physically, but emotionally. In fact, according to one study, “Severely obese kids have a terrible quality of life — similar to those suffering from terminal cancer.” (you can learn more about my book in the links at the bottom of this blog)

A new study has confirmed my concerns and shown that obese children in grades 3 through 6 are more apt to be bullied by their classmates than children who are trim, regardless of their gender, race, social skills, or academic achievement. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

Here are some details from Reuters Health:

This finding is “so disturbing to me,” Dr. Julie C. Lumeng from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who led the study, told Reuters Health.

She also admitted being a bit surprised. “Unlike in the 1980s,” she explained, “so many kids are obese now. In some schools, half the class may be overweight…so I really thought that maybe being obese really doesn’t result in being bullied as much anymore. I was wrong.”

The study involved 821 US boys and girls 8 to 11 years old. In third grade, 17 percent of the children were obese and 15 percent were overweight.

A quarter of the children reported being bullied, although their mothers said about 45 percent of them were bullied.

According to the investigators, the odds of being bullied were 63 percent higher for an obese child, compared to a healthy-weight peer.

The higher odds of being bullied among obese children were “equally strong” for boys and girls, white and nonwhite children, children from poor and more well-to-do families and across all types of schools in all 10 study cities, the investigators note.

Lumeng also thought she’d find protective factors — like having good social skills and doing well in school. “I thought maybe this would protect obese kids from being bullied. But no matter how we ran and re-ran the analysis, the link between being obese and being bullied remained,” Lumeng said.

“Parents of obese children rate bullying as their top health concern,” Lumeng and her colleagues note in their report, and obese children who are bullied suffer more depression, anxiety and loneliness.

The issue has received more attention since the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince in January. Prince was reportedly bullied for months by students at her high school in South Hadley, Mass.

“There is no simple solution to the problem,” Lumeng told Reuters Health. “I think it reflects the general prejudice against obese people,” and children, even at a very young age, pick up on this.

On a societal level, “it is important to fashion messages aimed at reducing the premium placed on thinness and the negative stereotypes that are associated with being obese or overweight,” the investigators write in Pediatrics.

Lumeng is also concerned about the “pervasive view” that obesity is all about a lack of self-control with food and not getting enough exercise. And while overeating and lack of exercise are part of it, “it’s so much more complex than that,” Lumeng said, “and we really need to work on changing this view of what causes obesity.”

Dr. Matthew Davis, who was not involved in the study, agrees. In an email to Reuters Health, he said he would encourage adults to “model good behavior for children, by not making negative comments about other people’s weight.

“Schools are increasingly addressing the problem of bullying, but programs don’t always — or even frequently — include kids’ weight as a focus for bullying prevention,” noted Davis, who directs the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

“With obesity affecting 1 in 5 to 1 in 6 kids in the US, parents can encourage schools to make sure that bullying related to obesity is targeted in intervention programs,” he added.

So, what can you and your family do? Obtain a copy of SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat and review loads of tips I have in the book on how to protect your family and your child:

  • Order an autographed copy of the book here.
  • Read more about the book here.
  • See the Table of Contents of the book here.
  • Read the first chapter of the book here.