Could Your Genes Be to Blame for Your Kid’s Aversion to Broccoli?

Parents and their children often share numerous traits — including a dislike for broccoli and other veggies in the same family.

Noxious enzymes from bacteria in saliva may be the reason why, a new study suggests.

Levels of these compounds are similar in parents and children, which might be why these vegetables are turnoffs for both generations, especially when the levels are high, researchers said.

Besides broccoli, this Brassica group includes cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

Brassica veggies offload a compound — called S-methyl-ʟ-cysteine sulfoxide — that produces potent, sulfurous odors that can result in bacteria in some folks’ mouths, researchers noted.

For the study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Damian Frank and his colleagues from CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, investigated differences in sulfur production in saliva from children and adults. They then analyzed how this production affected Brassica acceptance.

The researchers had 98 child-parent pairs, including children ages 6 to 8, rate the key odor compounds. Dimethyl trisulfide, which smells rotten and sulfurous, was the least liked by the children and adults.

The team mixed saliva samples with raw cauliflower powder and analyzed the volatile compounds made over time. Large differences in sulfur volatile production were found between people, but children often had similar levels as their parents.

Children whose saliva produced high amounts of sulfur volatiles hated raw Brassica vegetables the most, but this was not seen in adults, who might have learned to tolerate the flavor. These findings may explain why some people like Brassica vegetables and others don’t, the researchers said in a journal news release.

Source: HealthDay

New Study Suggests Exercise Can Boost Kids’ Vocabulary Growth

Andrea Boyle Tippett wrote . . . . . . . . .

Swimming a few laps likely won’t turn your child into the next Katie Ledecky or Michael Phelps, but it just might help them become the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King.

A recent study by University of Delaware researchers suggests exercise can boost kids’ vocabulary growth. The article, published in the Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, details one of the first studies on the effect of exercise on vocabulary learning in children.

Children ages 6 to 12 were taught new words before doing one of three things — swimming, taking part in CrossFit exercises or completing a coloring sheet. The children who swam were 13% more accurate in follow up tests of the vocabulary words.

It makes sense to the lead researcher, Maddy Pruitt, herself a former college swimmer who now regularly takes CrossFit classes. “Motor movement helps in encoding new words,” she said, explaining that exercise is known to increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein Pruitt describes as the “Miracle-Gro of the brain.”

Why then, did swimming make a difference while CrossFit did not? Pruitt attributes it to the amount of energy each exercise demands of the brain. Swimming is an activity the kids could complete without much thought or instruction. It was more automatic, while the CrossFit exercises were new to them. The children needed to learn the moves, which required mental energy.

Pruitt conducted the research as part of her Master’s Capstone Project and graduated in 2020. She now works as a speech language pathologist at an elementary school in South Carolina, where she puts her findings into practice.

“My sessions are very rarely at a table,” she said. “I’ll take my kids out to the playground or we’ll take a walk around the school.”

Pruitt’s adviser and coauthor Giovanna Morini is building on the findings in her lab. Morini, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, said most research into exercise examines it from the angle of a healthy lifestyle, not much enters the domain of language acquisition. She said she sees this as a rich line of inquiry and has another student running a similar experiment now with toddlers.

“We were so excited about this study because it applies to clinicians, caregivers and educators who can put it into practice,” Morini said. “It’s simple stuff, nothing out of the ordinary. But it could really help boost the outcomes.”

Source: University of Delaware

Could Going Vegetarian Lower Kids’ Asthma Risk?

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . . .

Compounds in meat may trigger wheezing in some children that can potentially lead to asthma or other respiratory conditions, a new study suggests.

These compounds, called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), are released as meat is cooked at high temperatures while grilling, frying or roasting. AGEs attach themselves to cells in the lungs, causing inflammation and an immune system response that can cause wheezing, the study authors explained.

“Childhood wheeze is often the first manifestation of airway disease, most notably asthma,” said lead researcher Dr. Jing Gennie Wang, a pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine doctor at Ohio State University in Columbus.

“Our study suggests that a diet high in non-seafood meat intake may potentially be detrimental to airways and lung health in children,” she added.

Still, the study can’t prove that eating meat causes wheezing and its potential consequences, only that an association appears to exist, Wang noted.

“This association is true for processed meats like sausages and salami, red meats like beef and pork, and poultry,” she added. “But not for seafood like fish and shellfish.”

However, it’s premature to make recommendations for dietary changes until further research is done, she said.

“Our study adds to a growing body of literature suggesting that more frequent consumption of meats and associated pro-inflammatory compounds might have detrimental effects on the lungs,” Wang said.

For the study, Wang’s team looked at the effect of AGEs among nearly 4,400 U.S. children (aged 2 to 17) who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 to 2006. Specifically, the researchers used the Food Frequency Questionnaire to calculate how much AGE was consumed and also looked at reports of respiratory symptoms.

Among the children, 13% had experienced wheezing over the past year.

After taking into account factors such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, household income and weight, higher consumption of AGEs was associated with an 18% increase in the odds of wheezing, the researchers found.

Higher AGE consumption was also associated with a 26% increase in odds of disturbed sleep due to wheezing, a 34% increase in wheezing during exercise and a 35% greater need for medication to treat wheezing.

The report was published online in the journal Thorax.

One expert thinks it’s possible eating meat can harm the lungs.

“It’s certainly plausible this could be involved in the development of asthma, but there’s a long way to say then that this association is causal. But there is sort of a biological plausibility signal, which I always look for,” said Dr. Jonathan Grigg, a professor of pediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University of London, in the United Kingdom.

Grigg, who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study, noted that many other factors can influence the development of asthma and other respiratory conditions.

“There are a lot of other factors in those families that may be linked to other environmental factors, so sometimes it is a signal for some other complex,” Grigg said. “As far as we can go is to say, well, this is interesting. But it’s by no means something that anyone can act on at the moment and say we have to reduce our meat consumption to prevent asthma. That absolutely is not the case.”

Despite these doubts, there are other good reasons to limit the amount of meat that adults and children eat, he said.

“There is a wider agenda, which is I think worthy of reminding us that consumption of red meats at the current level may be environmentally unsustainable,” Grigg said. “It may just remind us that we do have to reduce red meat consumption. I think, total consumption could be reduced without any detrimental effects on population health.”

Source: HealthDay

Regular Physical Activity Can Enhance Cognition in Children Who Need It Most

A common school-age stereotype is that smart kids are unathletic. However, as a recent study lead by Associate Professor Keita Kamijo at the University of Tsukuba and Assistant Professor Toru Ishihara at Kobe University shows, physical activity is linked to better cognitive ability, which is in turn related to academic performance in school. Understanding the effects of physical activity on cognition has been difficult for several reasons. “Previous studies looked at the issue too broadly,” explains Professor Kamijo, “When we broke down the data, we were able to see that physical activity helps children the most if they start out with poor executive function.”

Executive functions refer to three types of cognitive skills. The first is the ability to suppress impulses and inhibit reflex-like behaviors or habits. To assess this ability, children were asked to indicate the color in which words like “red” and “blue” were displayed on a computer screen. This is easy when the words and colors match (“red” displayed in red font), but often requires inhibition of a reflex response when they don’t (“red” displayed in blue font). The second skill is the ability to hold information in working memory and process it. This was evaluated by testing how well children could remember strings of letters that vary in length. The third cognitive skill is mental flexibility. This was measured by asking children to frequently switch the rules for categorizing colored circles and squares from shape-based to color-based.

Professor Kamijo and Professor Ishihara, and their colleagues re-analyzed the data from previous experiments in which executive function was assessed in children before and after several months of daily intervention with physical activity, such as aerobic activities, ball games, and playing tag. They looked at a factor that was missed in the initial analyses. That is, they considered whether the effectiveness of the intervention depended on the initial baseline scores.

The researchers found that cognitive skills, which have been shown to closely associate with academic performance, improved most in children whose skills were initially poor. The team also found that increased time spent doing regular physical activity did not negatively affect cognitive function in children who started out with better cognitive functions.

The finding that daily physical activity can improve executive function in children who might need it the most has some practical implications. “Because the cognitive functions evaluated in our study are related to academic performance,” says Professor Kamijo, “we can say that daily physical activity is critical for school-aged children. Our findings can help educational institutions design appropriate systems for maximizing the effects of physical activity and exercise.”

Source: University of Tsukuba

Too Much Screen Time Tied to School Problems Even in Little Kids

Lisa Rapaport wrote . . . . . . . . .

Kindergarteners who get more than two hours of screen time a day may be more likely to have behavior and attention problems in school than their classmates who spend less time in front of televisions, smartphones and tablets, a Canadian study suggests.

Doctors urge parents of young kids to limit screen time or avoid it altogether because all of those hours watching videos or gaming have been linked to slowed development of speech and language, fine and gross motor skills, and social and behavioral skills. After all, time spent in front of screens means less time for scribbling with crayons or playing games that help kids learn how to kick a ball or take turns.

In the current study, researchers surveyed parents of more than 2,400 Canadian kids to assess screen time at three and five years. The second assessment also asked about behavior problems like inattention and aggressiveness as well as issues like sleep difficulties, depression, and anxiety.

Very few five-year-olds had these problems: just 1.2 percent of kids had so-called “externalizing” behavior problems like aggression or inattention and just 2.5 percent had “internalizing” problems like depression and anxiety.

But compared to kids who got less than a half hour of screen time daily, children who had more than two hours daily had an almost six-fold greater risk of attention problems and an almost eight-fold greater risk of meeting the criteria for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

“It is never too early to talk to your child about limiting screen time,” senior study author Dr. Piush Mandhane of the University of Alberta in Canada said by email.

Canadian guidelines recommend that parents limit screen time to less than one hour a day for children two to four years old and less than two hours daily for older kids, researchers note in Plos One.

At age three, kids in the study exceeded these limits, getting an average of 1.5 hours a day of screen time. They got slightly less – 1.4 hours a day – by age five.

Overall, almost 14 percent of kids had more than two hours a day of screen time.

It’s possible that some kids in the study who already had challenges with behavior or social skills opted to spend more time in front of screens because they struggled to relate to peers.

The study also wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how screen time might cause behavior problems.

“This study does not draw any conclusion about certain types or contexts of media use being better for child development than others,” said Andrew Ribner, a psychology researcher at New York University who wasn’t involved in the research.

“However, other research has suggested screen time that has a slower pace, is relatively less fantastical, and provides some kind of contingent responsiveness — something like Sesame Street or Dora the Explorer rather than Spongebob Squarepants — is better than the alternative,” Ribner said by email.

Fast-paced digital media can precondition little ones to expect unnatural stimulation, leading to shorter attention spans because real life can seem slow and underwhelming by comparison, said Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

“We also know from decades of research that real, human interaction and play is critical to cognitive and social development,” Christakis, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “Even if it were ‘harmless,’ the time spent on digital devices displaces these interactions.”

Beyond just limiting screen time, parents should concentrate on creating screen-free times in children’s daily routines, said Dr. Jenny Radesky of the C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“The more important thing is reducing tech distractions during meals, when playing solo or together, and before bedtime – and not giving in to every moment of boredom or whining with tech use,” Radesky, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “It’s so important for children to learn how to handle big feelings, tolerate boredom, and settle themselves down at night.”

Source: Reuters


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