Health Updates 14 March 2012

  • Stairs at home remain a childhood hazard: “A new study in the medical journal Pediatrics found that from 1999 to 2008, an estimated 932,000 children under the age of 5 – or nearly 100,000 children each year – were taken to hospitals for injuries they sustained on a staircase, usually at home.  Averaged over a year, the numbers mean that every six minutes, a young child is treated in an emergency room for a stair-related injury.  ‘What that tells us is that we have much more that we need to do to make the home environment safer for children,’ said Dr. Gary A. Smith, lead author of the study….Part of the problem is that most household staircases aren’t designed with child safety in mind.  Two-thirds of homes can’t accommodate a wall-mounted stair gate at the top of the stairs.  About one-third can’t accommodate a pressurized gate at the bottom….Of the roughly 932,000 children under 5 who were hurt on staircases, babies 12 months or younger were at highest risk, accounting for 32 percent of the injuries.  In fact, stairs were the No. 1 cause of injury for 1-year-old children in the United States.”  It is unclear from the study how many children died as a result of these falls.  Many stair banisters are too thick to allow child to grip them firmly.  “‘We live in a world that is designed by adults largely for the convenience of adults,’  said Dr. Smith.’Child safety is very often an afterthought’.” (NY Times)
  • Sperm quality linked to dietary fat“Men who consumed large quantities of dietary fat had significantly lower sperm production and concentration than men who had lower fat intake, results of a clinical study showed.  Sperm count and concentration were about 40% lower in men whose diet derived 37% or more of calories as saturated fat, as compared with men who had less fat intake….Higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with better sperm morphology, investigators reported online in Human Reproduction….Several lifestyle factors have been associated with male infertility, including smoking, heavy marijuana use, alcohol intake, cocaine use, and exposure of the testes to heat.  Few studies have examined the impact of diet on men’s reproductive potential, the authors wrote.  Some evidence has suggested specific nutrients might affect semen quality, and studies in animals have indicated that dietary fat may influence male fertility, they continued.  Extending the animal research to humans, [the research directors] studied 99 men participating in on ongoing study of environmental factors and fertility.” (Charles Bankhead, MedPage Today)
  • Fruit, veggies can be beauty tools, too: “The key to a rosy, healthy-looking complexion may be as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables, researchers say.  ‘We found that within a six-week period, fluctuation in fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with skin-color changes,’ said lead researcher Ross Whitehead, from the School of Psychology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.  Not only did skin look healthier at the end of the period, it was judged more attractive as well, he said.  ‘Eat more fruits and veggies to improve your appearance,’ he added….For the study…Whitehead and his group looked at the fruits and vegetables 35 people ate over a six-week period.  They found that redness and yellowness in skin increased as more fruits and vegetables were consumed.  This is due to the impact of carotenoids, Whitehead said.  ‘These are red-yellow plant pigments, which are distributed to the skin surface when we eat fruits and veggies,’ he said.  The changes in skin color that were associated with eating more fruits and vegetables were linked in a second experiment with increased attractiveness.  This suggests that skin color reflects better health.” Look for fruits and vegetables with different colors, and use the whole plant or fruit, not just the juice, for best results. (MedlinePlus)
  • Genes play a role in drug abuse risk among adopted kids: study Adopted kids are at greater risk for drug abuse if their biological parents or siblings had a history of drug abuse, a new study finds.  Adopted children whose biological parents were alcoholics, had a major psychiatric illness or had criminal records were also at greater risk of drug abuse, the researchers reported.  However, biology and genetics don’t tell the whole story, according to study author Dr. Kenneth Kendler, of Virginia Commonwealth University, and his colleagues.  The children’s environment also played a role in their risk for drug abuse, Kendler’s team found.  Adopted children who had difficulties in their adoptive families because of death, divorce or other problems were at increased risk of turning to drugs, while the genetic risk wasn’t as strong among adopted kids in safe, stable, loving homes.  ‘Adopted children at high genetic risk were more sensitive to the pathogenic effects of adverse family environments than those at low genetic risk,’ the researchers concluded. ‘In other words, genetic effects on [drug abuse] were less potent in low-risk than high-risk environments’.” (HealthDay)

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