Roundup: U.S. Children Score Poorly on Heart Health; Just One Less Sugary Drink Per Day Can Improve Your Health

When it comes to having healthy hearts, American children do not fare well, according to a new scientific paper from the American Heart Association (AHA).

The statement says 91 percent of children in the U.S. have a poor diet, fueled by consuming too much salt, sugar, solid fats and reined and not enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy or dietary fiber.

AHA-defined metrics that define “ideal” heart health in children include total cholesterol lower than 170 mg/dL, blood pressure at the 90th percentile or higher, and a glucose level less than 100 mg/dL. In addition, children the AHA consider to be in ideal cardiovascular health do not use tobacco products, have a body mass index (BMI) lower than the 85th percentile, engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity a day, and adhere to a healthy diet.

Obesity is highlighted as one of the main contributors to poor heart health in children. In the U.S., 17 percent of 2- to 19-year-olds are obese and an additional 15 percent are overweight, according to the most recent data. Youth who are obese are found to have higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure and increased insulin amounts than non-obese children. Childhood obesity is also linked to increased risk of having cardiovascular disease as an adult.

The children and adolescents scored most favorably in blood pressure, with about 90 percent of boys and girls having ideal levels.

While research on cardiovascular health and disease prevention has long existed for adults, research about children’s cardiovascular health is limited. The AHA statement notes the need for more studies in the future.

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— Tanya Racoobian Walton

Just One Less Sugary Drink Per Day Can Improve Your Health

Much has been reported of the risks posed by sweetened drinks when it comes to the health of American adults and children, and the impact of these beverages on the growing obesity epidemic.

A new study helps shed light on the positive effect that reducing these drinks can have on the American diet. In an article in the journal Nutrients, researchers at Virginia Tech University found that substituting one sugary beverage with water each day can significantly lower the body’s intake of calories — and reduce its risk for obesity and other health issues.

The study also found that switching from sugar-filled beverages to water can lower the prevalence of obesity among Americans by as much as 35 percent.

The extra calories usually found in sugary beverages, such as sodas, juices, energy drinks and sweetened coffee, have been linked to excessive weight gain and the serious chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

In the new study, researchers examined health data on 19,718 individuals collected under the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007 to 2012. Participants in the study who replaced one 8-ounce serving of a sweetened beverage with water every day were able to lower their intake of calories from these beverages from 17 percent down to 11 percent.

Among adults there was a 9 percent to 21 percent improvement in their Healthy Beverage Index (HBI) score when one serving of water replaced one serving of a sweetened beverage. HBI is a system of measurement that Virginia Tech researchers developed to determine how specific drinks impact a person’s health.

The higher the HBI score, the greater likelihood of lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of diabetes.

“Maintaining adequate hydration, specifically through water consumption, is associated with a number of beneficial health outcomes including maintaining peak physical and cognitive performance, weight management and weight gain prevention, and improving metabolic rate,” say the study’s authors.

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— John Fernandez


Use of Common Pain-Reliever During Pregnancy Questioned</h5>

Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is one of the most common pain-relieving medications and is considered generally safe for use during all stages of pregnancy, but a new study raises some concerns for expectant women.

Women who take acetaminophen during pregnancy are more at risk of having a hyperactive child, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Acetaminophen is found in hundreds of over-the-counter and prescription medicines to alleviate pain and fever. It is estimated that more than half of all pregnant women in the United States use acetaminophen in some form.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deems acetaminophen safe for pregnant women, although they agency says that women should consult with their doctor if there are any questions about which pain-reliever is best.

The FDA says on its website that it has “evaluated research studies published in the medical literature and determined they are too limited to make any recommendations based on these studies at this time.”

However, because of this uncertainty, the use of pain medicines during pregnancy “should be carefully considered.” The FDA said it urges pregnant women to “always discuss all medicines with their health care professionals before using them.”

Nonetheless, the new research used data from a previous ongoing study from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom that has followed the health of 14,500 families. While only 5 percent of children displayed any behavioral problems by age 7, researchers investigated prenatal factors that might contribute to attention issues in the children.

The study found that a mother using acetaminophen at 18 weeks of pregnancy had a greater chance of her becoming hyperactive or developing behavioral problems. At 32 weeks of pregnancy, a mother’s use of acetaminophen was associated with higher odds of her child having emotional or hyperactivity symptoms.

“Although these results could have implications for public health advice, further studies are required to replicate the findings and to understand mechanisms,” researchers said.

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— John Fernandez

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