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Mar 18
Sports from childhood. Football (soccer) shown...
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On Monday, I told you about a number of papers that are finding a link between higher BMI and reduced cognitive ability (along with lower frontal cortex metabolism - the part of your brain that does the planning). What is even more worrisome is now researchers are finding similar trends in school age children.

Li et al., 2008 examined 2,519 children in the USA between the ages of 8 and 16. Even after controlling a large number of factors (parental/family, sports participation, physical activity, time spent watching TV, blood pressure and blood lipid profiles) cognitive function was negatively correlated with body mass index (BMI). Overweight children, and those at risk of being overweight, performed worse on visuospatial organization and general mental ability compared to normal-weighted children. However, BMI did not correlate with academic performance once parental/family factors were controlled for (it was significant before controlling for this factor).

But still the take home message is that overweight children general mental ability is less than those in the normal range (even after controlling for many other factors).

Again, we don’t know the cause effect relationship, but the results are very sobering. If you don’t want your children to be at a cognitive disadvantage you do not want your kids to be overweight.

Adding to this problem is how parents judge the body/weight of their children - which will be the subject of soon to be posted piece. Try to keep you kids active and eating a healthy diet.

You can go here to determine you or you children’s.

Jul 28

Life Expectancy at birth (years)Life expectancy:

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Another sign of the growing health problems of developed countries is the rapid increase of ‘adult pill’ use by kids as reported by NY times. Previously, I had covered the new guidelines of use of anti-cholesterol medication in kids as young as 8, and potential long term harm this could result in.

In America, there has been a 151 % increase of type II diabetes drugs prescribed for children from 2001 to 2007. What is driving this increase drug requirements of children - no surprise that it is obesity (covered here and here). There is also a 137 % increase in acid reflux use (increased in the obese situation), and a smaller increase in high blood pressure (18 %) and cholesterol lowering drugs (12 %) in children during this same time period.

There has been several articles now suggesting that for America (just one example of a developed country) that for the first time the current generation of children might not live as long as their parents (Washington Post article as just one example). Researchers are forecasting a 2-5 year drop in life expectancy for the current generation. And if you don’t think this can happen in our modern times to a developed country one just has to look at Russia.

This potential drop in predicted lifespan in the children of today mainly due to obesity is a serious problem. The next question then becomes is giving pills to our children the answer? Is this going to solve the problem, or just put a bandaid on the problem.

Jul 7
These children, playing in a public space, var...Image via Wikipedia

American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines, as reported here, that are suggesting that anti-cholesterol drugs be prescribed for kids as young as 8 year old if they have high levels of LDL (bad cholesterol, see below) and other risky conditions (e.g. obesity, high blood pressure). What do you think of this example of their new guide lines?

A bit of background.

In an earlier overview article I mentioned that cholesterol measurement as an indicator of your health. Within reason low cholesterol (less than 200 mg/dL, though other suggest lower than 150 mg/dL) is better than high cholesterol, but there are some negatives if your cholesterol is too low, though most of us do not have to worry about that situation.

The next level of measurements are looking at high density lipoprotein (HDL: good cholesterol) and low density lipoprotein (LDL: bad cholesterol) components of cholesterol (interestingly, that are further level of assessment, but I will not cover that today). For optimum health you want low LDL (less than 100 mg/dl, others suggest less than 70 mg/dL). On the other hand you want high levels of HDL. More recent research concentrate more on the ratio of total cholesterol/HDL, or LDL/HDL ratio among additional measurements (I will cover these in detail at another time).

But all that aside, does developed countries have something to be concerned about if the medical establishment are taking the dramatic steps of promoting anti-cholesterol drugs for kids?

From the article on the CNN site:

“With one-third of U.S. children overweight and about 17 percent obese, the new recommendations are important, said Dr. Jennifer Li, a Duke University children’s heart specialist.

“We need to do something to stem the tide of childhood obesity,” Li said.”

But what does doing something about the tide of childhood obesity have to do with high cholesterol and high LDL? These blood measurements are the product of the obesity - so why not treat the cause (overeating, obesity) rather than the symptoms? What about increased play (or exercise) and eating healthy food instead of taking more drugs?

What do you think? If you have kids (or imagine if you had kids) would you put them on (under the guidelines of your family doctor) anti-cholesterol drugs if they fall into this category as described in the guidelines - or would you choose lifestyle changes?