Kids Who Grew Up With Smokers Have Higher Odds for Rheumatoid Arthritis

While breathing in secondhand smoke is known to harm kids’ lungs, new research suggests that children whose parents smoked are also more prone to developing rheumatoid arthritis later in life.

“Our findings give more depth and gravity to the negative health consequences of smoking in relation to [rheumatoid arthritis], one of the most common autoimmune diseases,” said lead author Dr. Kazuki Yoshida, of the division of rheumatology, inflammation and immunity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease characterized by arthritis in multiple joints. Several genetic and environmental factors contribute to rheumatoid arthritis risk, and personal smoking is the most well-established environmental risk factor. But research into the link between secondhand smoke and rheumatoid arthritis risk has been limited.

To learn more, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 91,000 U.S. women in a long-term health study.

Those with childhood exposure to parents’ secondhand smoke had a 75% higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and the risk was even higher among those who became smokers themselves.

A mother’s smoking during pregnancy and years lived with smokers after age 18 were not significantly linked with rheumatoid arthritis risk, according to the report published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology.

“This relationship between childhood parental smoking and adult-onset [rheumatoid arthritis] may go beyond rheumatology,” Yoshida said in a hospital news release. “Future studies should investigate whether childhood exposure to inhalants may predispose individuals to general autoimmunity later in life.”

The researchers noted that their study was limited because it did not include men. They plan to continue their research with both men and women.

Source: HealthDay

Kids Who Snore Could be at Risk for Blood Pressure, Heart Problems

Obstructive sleep apnea, a type of sleep disorder characterized by disrupted breathing, may be linked to changes in blood pressure and heart structure in children and adolescents, according to a new scientific statement.

The American Heart Association report urges parents and health care providers to consider testing for children who exhibit symptoms, have obesity or have enlarged tonsils, which puts them at higher risk.

Estimates show up to 6% of all children and adolescents have obstructive sleep apnea, according to the statement published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include habitual snoring, gasps, snorting or labored breathing while sleeping, daytime sleepiness, sleeping while seated with a distended neck, a headache upon waking and signs of an upper airway obstruction. The condition often occurs in children with obesity. About 30%-60% of children who meet the criteria for obesity – having a body mass index in the 95th percentile or higher – also have sleep apnea.

“We need to increase awareness about how the rising prevalence of obesity may be impacting sleep quality in kids and recognize sleep-disordered breathing as something that could contribute to risks for hypertension and later cardiovascular disease,” statement writing group chair Dr. Carissa M. Baker-Smith said in a news release. Baker-Smith is director of pediatric preventive cardiology at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware. She also is associate professor of pediatric cardiology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with cardiovascular disease in adults but less is known about how the condition affects the immediate and long-term heart health of children and adolescents. A review of the most current research included in the statement found evidence it can impact emotional health, as well as the immune, metabolic and cardiovascular systems in children and adolescents.

Obstructive sleep apnea risk factors vary with age. In addition to obesity, they include upper and lower airway disease; allergic rhinitis, inflammation and swelling in the nose’s mucous membrane; low muscle tone; enlarged tonsils and adenoids; craniofacial malformations; and neuromuscular disorders. Sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder, also is a risk factor.

Children born prematurely, who have delayed development of respiratory control and smaller upper airways, also may be at higher risk for sleep-disordered breathing. However, this risk gets smaller as children grow.

The statement supports recommendations from the American Academy of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery that say sleep studies, or polysomnographies, are the best test for diagnosing sleep-disordered breathing. Prior to getting a tonsillectomy, children should take this test if they have conditions that raise their risk for breathing complications during surgery. These include obesity, Down syndrome, craniofacial abnormalities such as a cleft palate, and disorders such as muscular dystrophy or sickle cell disease.

Children and adolescents with obstructive sleep apnea also may have trouble regulating blood pressure. While blood pressure typically dips during sleep, children with this condition see smaller dips than those without it. Adults whose blood pressure fails to dip during sleep have a higher risk for cardiovascular events. Because of this, the statement calls for 24-hour blood pressure monitoring to check levels in children with sleep apnea.

Even mild cases of sleep apnea – defined as just two pauses in breathing per hour – are associated with a higher risk for metabolic syndrome in children. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of factors including high insulin and triglyceride levels, elevated blood pressure and low levels of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, the “good” cholesterol. Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is a treatment for sleep apnea that delivers pressurized air through a mask that can lower triglyceride and improve HDL levels.

Long-term, severe sleep apnea also may put children at higher risk for pulmonary hypertension, when pressure in the blood vessels from the heart to the lungs is too high. The statement committee recommends that future research on how sleep apnea affects children’s risk for heart problems incorporates 24-hour blood pressure monitoring and measures of metabolic syndrome factors.

Source: American Heart Association

Study: Fewer Food Allergies in Kids If Mom Drinks Milk While Breastfeeding

Denise Mann wrote . . . . . . . . .

Mothers who drink cow’s milk while breastfeeding may reduce their child’s risk of developing food allergies, a new Swedish study suggests.

“This is a compelling first step in defining a potential relationship between maternal diet and allergy risk,” said Dr. Peter Lio, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.

Lio, who was not involved in the study, called the work “well-done, thorough and provocative.”

For the study, researchers asked more than 500 Swedish mothers about their eating habits in their 34th week of pregnancy, one month after giving birth and again four months later. They verified the mothers’ reported intake of milk and milk products through biomarkers in blood and breast milk, and confirmed the children’s allergies with a doctor. Kids in the study were mainly allergic to eggs, milk or both.

“We have found that mothers of healthy 1-year-olds consumed more cow’s milk during breastfeeding than mothers of allergic 1-year-olds,” said study co-author Mia Stråvik, a doctoral student in the division of food science at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“Though the association is clear, we do not claim that drinking cow’s milk would be a general cure for food allergies,” she said in a university news release.

The findings held after the researchers took into account other factors known to increase allergy risk in children, such as genetics. The study wasn’t designed to say how drinking cow’s milk while breastfeeding lowers food allergy risk in kids, but researchers have their theories. It could be that milk in the mother’s diet contains substances that stimulate the child’s immune system to mature.

Another possibility is that a higher intake of saturated fat in milk may naturally lead to consumption of less polyunsaturated fats. According to co-author Malin Barman, “This would help, because we believe high levels of polyunsaturated fat in a mother’s diet can counteract the maturation of a child’s immune system at an early age.” Barman is assistant supervisor to Stråvik.

Mothers in the study who consumed more fruits and berries while breastfeeding had a greater chance of having children with eczema by age 1, the study showed. Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition characterized by itching and inflammation. These findings were not validated with biomarkers and still need to be confirmed.

The researchers are following-up to see how the children are faring at age 4.

Lio cautioned new moms not to think that simply adding more milk to your diet will decrease your child’s risk of developing allergies. “This type of work needs to be replicated, ideally in larger numbers and with different populations to cement these findings,” he said.

“It seems very likely that factors such as maternal diet can and should have an impact on the development of allergies (and a host of other characteristics) in the baby. And for such terrible diseases like food allergy and atopic dermatitis, we need all the help we can get to better understand, control and, ideally, prevent them,” Lio said.

Dr. Bruce Lanser, a pediatric allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver, cautioned against putting too much weight on the study’s findings. “Data regarding maternal diets during pregnancy and breastfeeding have long been mixed and conflicting because there are so many potential factors that can be protective and harmful,” he said.

“There is no evidence to support any restrictions in the maternal diet during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding, [and] avoidance of any particular food or food group is strongly discouraged,” Lanser said. He played no role in the study.

The best advice for new mothers is to eat a well-balanced diet that includes healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, calcium and vitamin D, he said. “Moms should discuss it with their doctor and/or a registered dietitian before undertaking any restricted diet or one with over-representation of any particular food source,” Lanser said.

The study was recently published online in Nutrients.

Source: HealthDay

Complications from Diabetes Linked to Worse Memory, IQ in Children

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious but common complication of type 1 diabetes, is linked to lower IQ scores and worse memory in children with type 1 diabetes, according to a study led by UC Davis Health researchers. The study published in Diabetes Care is also the first large-scale work to differentiate between DKA’s impact on children with a new diagnosis and children with a previous diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

DKA happens when diabetes goes undiagnosed or is poorly managed. With DKA, blood sugar gets very high as acidic substances called ketones build up to dangerous levels in the body. Early signs of DKA include excessive thirst, frequent urination, and nausea, abdominal pain, weakness and confusion.

“We assessed the neurocognitive effects of DKA in children with known type 1diabetes as well as in those who were just diagnosed with it,” said Simona Ghetti, professor of psychology at UC Davis and the lead author on the study. “Our study uncovered that even one severe episode of DKA in children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes is linked to cognitive problems; and among children with a previous diagnosis, repeated DKA exposure predicted lower cognitive performance after accounting for glycemic control.”

The study included 376 children with type 1 diabetes and no DKA history and 758 children with type 1 diabetes and a history of DKA. These children, ages 6-18 years, were participating in a DKA clinical trial at the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) sites led by two of the study’s co-authors, Nathan Kuppermann and Nicole Glaser.

One severe DKA episode can hurt memory and IQ

The study found that among children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, those who experienced moderate and severe DKA had lower long-term memory compared to children with diabetes and no exposure to DKA. Greater severity of DKA was also associated with lower IQ in these children.

Children with a previous diagnosis showed lower performance compared with children with new onset in measures of memory and IQ, suggesting that cognitive deficits may worsen over time.

The study’s large sample allowed the researchers to capture complex associations of DKA severity, socioeconomic status and glycemic control among previously diagnosed patients. These associations revealed that patients with repeated DKA exposure and poorly controlled type 1 diabetes are at substantial risk of cognitive deficits.

“The results from the study emphasize the importance of prevention of DKA in children with known type 1 diabetes and of timely diagnosis during new onset before the development of DKA,” said Glaser, professor of pediatrics at UC Davis Health and senior author of the study. “There is an opportunity to prevent DKA with proper management of the glucose level in the blood.”

Source: UC Davis

Music Training May Not Make Children Smarter After All

Music training does not have a positive impact on children’s cognitive skills, such as memory, and academic achievement, such as maths, reading or writing, according to a study published in Memory & Cognition.

Previous research trials, carried out to examine a potential causal link between music training and improved cognitive and academic performance, have reached inconsistent conclusions, with some suggesting that there may be a link between music training and better cognitive and academic performance and others finding little effect.

Researchers Giovanni Sala at Fujita Health University, Japan and Fernand Gobet at the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK examined existing experimental evidence regarding the impact of music training on children’s non-music cognitive skills and academic achievement.

The authors re-analyzed data from 54 previous studies conducted between 1986 and 2019, including a total of 6,984 children. They found that music training appeared to be ineffective at enhancing cognitive or academic skills, regardless of the type of skill (such as verbal, non-verbal, speed-related and so on), participants’ age, and duration of music training.

When comparing between the individual studies included in their meta-analysis, the authors found that studies with high-quality study design, such as those which used a group of active controls – children who did not learn music, but instead learned a different skill, such as dance or sports – showed no effect of music education on cognitive or academic performance. Small effects were found in studies that did not include controls or which did not randomize participants into control groups (ones that received different or no training) and intervention groups (ones that received music training).

Giovanni Sala, the lead author said: “Our study shows that the common idea that ‘music makes children smarter’ is incorrect. On the practical side, this means that teaching music with the sole intent of enhancing a child’s cognitive or academic skills may be pointless. While the brain can be trained in such a way that if you play music, you get better at music, these benefits do not generalize in such a way that if you learn music, you also get better at maths. Researchers’ optimism about the benefits of music training appears to be unjustified and may stem from misinterpretation of previous empirical data.”

Fernand Gobet, the corresponding author added: “Music training may nonetheless be beneficial for children, for example by improving social skills or self-esteem. Certain elements of music instruction, such as arithmetical music notation could be used to facilitate learning in other disciplines.”

The authors caution that too few studies have been conducted to reach a definitive conclusion about possible positive effects of music education on non-academic or cognitive characteristics. Alternative potential avenues involving music activities may be worth exploring.

Source: Springer