Childhood sweet tooth can trigger violence

October 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Childrens Health


I sometimes get a strong sense of déjà-vu as a story I reported on years ago resurfaces as ‘new’ in a slightly different guise. Those of you who have heard me speak on alternative health will have heard me tell of the prison experiment in the USA where they replaced the normal diet with whole foods and no sugary sweets or snacks. The result was a substantial drop in violence

Now new research shows that children who eat sweets and chocolate every day are more likely to be violent as adults, according to a study of almost 17,500 participants published in the October issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry. The study is the first to examine the long-term effects of childhood diet on adult violence and they found that 10-year-olds who ate sweets daily were significantly more likely to have been convicted for violence by the time they were 34 years of age.

Researchers from Cardiff University studied results from the 1970 British Cohort Study and they found that 69 per cent of the participants who were violent at the age of 34 had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during childhood, compared to 42% who were non-violent.

Of course sweet eating is not only the only factor in violent behaviour, but the link between eating sweets and chocolate and violence remained after other factors were taken into account.

Nor, for once, can the blame be laid solely at the door of sugar consumption although it is certainly relevant. The researchers put forward several explanations for the link, but according to lead researcher Dr Simon Moore they believe that giving children sweets and chocolate regularly may stop them learning how to wait to obtain something they want. Not being able to defer gratification may push them towards more impulsive behaviour, which is strongly associated with delinquency.

Appeasement seems to be a parental strategy I see a lot of these days – probably because I travel more by bus. The use of sweets as a pacifier is certainly not a new tactic, but the link to the child’s belief that they are entitled to what they demand immediately may well be an important factor that sets up a pattern. If a belief that they are always going to be entitled to have what they want, when they want it, is not very social behaviour but is something we are seeing a lot more of. Wonder if it will affect the sales of selection boxes this Christmas?

Babies crawl away from danger

October 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Medical Research & Studies


An interesting hypothesis has just come from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. Do infants only start to crawl once they are physically able to see danger coming or because they are more mobile, they develop the ability to sense looming danger?

This study suggests that an infants’ ability to see whether an object is approaching on a direct collision course, and when it is likely to collide, develops around the time they become more mobile. So they are not heading for the cookie jar, or mother’s milk, but are establishing the important neural networks that enable them to see objects and how dangerous they might be.

Those neural networks are in the process of being established from birth and by the age of eight to nine months are fully able to register an impending collision. Coincidentally, this is also the average age at which infants start crawling.

Scientists just can’t take anything on trust and go ‘aah’ like the rest of us can they?

Action on Eczema

October 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Skincare


Well in case you missed it, September held  National Eczema Week and I have a number of suggestions for anyone suffering from this distressing condition.

First you are definitely not alone as currently one in five children and one in twelve adults in the UK are affected. The National Eczema Society is offering a free booklet to help patients and carers cope with one of the most distressing symptoms of eczema – the itch. Normally there is a charge for this, unless you are a member, but until 31 October you can get your free copy by emailing or call the very useful National Eczema Society helpline on 0800 089 1122.

Why me?

Bottom line is that skin affected by eczema releases chemicals which stimulate the nerves and the nerves pass the itch sensation to the brain, and so you scratch and make everything worse. But the itching drives you so mad you are prepared to put up with it for the temporary relief.

Much eczema is stress and environment related and for children in particular, tiredness can make it worse. Soaps and detergents, fragrances, temperature changes, sweating, some clothing , such as wool, and irritant substances such as paint and dyes can all add to the mix so finding out what triggers your eczema would be the first step.

Keeping the skin well moisturised is the next step and your doctor may prescribe a steroid cream as these are anti-inflammatory and work well in the short term for some people. However, nothing works for everyone, and steroids do have unpleasant side effects associated with them, particularly with long term use.

Whether your eczema is persistent, or intermittent, you might want to try one of these natural remedies that have proven to be effective.

Natural help

There are several ways you can help yourself with an outbreak of eczema. Essential oils have shown they have the potential to be very effective at clearing up or relieving the symptoms of eczema.

Peppermint is especially effective at relieving the itching that accompanies this skin disorder. To get the most relief simply rub a drop of diluted peppermint oil over the affected area.

Tea Tree Oil is very popular due to its ability to clear up eczema patches, relieve the accompanying itch, and reduce the redness and swelling that results from an outbreak. This oil can be applied topically to the skin, or it can be used as a cleanser, lotion, or cream when purchased as the active ingredient in these items.

Oatmeal can help relieve the constant itching, reduce some of the redness, and help soften the dry skin of eczema. Using it in a bath is quite effective; just tie a handful of natural oatmeal into a piece of cheesecloth and let it circulate in the warm bath water. Soak awhile and DO NOT add anything else, no soap or bath oils.

Aloe vera was used on the skin of burn victims at Hiroshima and has a great reputation as a healing balm for damaged skin. You can either break off a leaf from the plant and squeeze out the gel to put on your skin, and it is a good to use on the affected areas directly after an oatmeal bath.

Ayudara Natural Skin Balm is a new product that I have been trying out on a patch of eczema that has been quite persistent on the side of my nose. It is a non-steroid all natural treatment for dry skin and contains a combination of Chlorophyll-C and marine extract of golden sea cucumber These actively helps the skin’s cell rejuvenation process and can be an effective treatment for ailments like eczema, dermatitis or dry skin.

In Malaysia people have used golden sea cucumber in natural skin remedies for centuries and it certainly cleared up my small patch of irritated skin very fast.

For specialized information on eczema, do have a look at this website at for helpful advice and the newest research.

Meningitis in babies

October 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Childrens Health


The autumn and winter are the high season for meningitis so let’s have a look at the most vulnerable group, babies under 12 months of age.

You may not know it, but this group run 38 times the risk of meningitis than children over one and adults. Every year over 1000 babies contract meningitis and one in four are left with after-effects sometimes as severe as deafness, brain damage and amputations and sadly one in ten will die. At present there is no vaccine against meningococcal B – the strain of meningitis responsible for the majority of cases of meningitis in the UK. .

I am not generally a fan of antibiotics, but meningitis can be prevented in newborn babies by giving antibiotics to at-risk mothers during labour. This recommendation has been in place several years, but many ‘at-risk’ mothers are never offered this option and it is believed that half of the current cases of Group B Strep in newborns could be prevented if guidelines were followed.

It can be very difficult to spot meningitis in babies because the symptoms are much less obvious than in older children and adults but the following list is a guide. Remember that babies can deteriorate very fast so if in any go to hospital immediately:

• Tense or bulging soft spot

• High Temperature

• Very sleepy/staring expression/too sleepy to wake up

• Vomiting/refusing to feed

• Irritable when picked up, with a high pitch or moaning cry

• Breathing fast / difficulty breathing

• Blotchy skin, getting paler or turning blue

• Extreme shivering

• A stiff body with jerky movements, or else floppy / lifeless

• ‘Pin prick’ rash / marks or purple bruises on the body

• Cold hands and feet

• Sometimes diarrhoea

• Pain/ irritability from muscle aches or severe limb/joint pain

The Meningitis Research Foundation provide very good information free on their website at or Freephone helpline 080 8800 3344

Omega-3 health benefits for babies

September 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Childrens Health


Despite the known benefits of omega-3 for a healthy heart, immune support and guarding against dementia, less than a quarter of British adults fail to reach even their basic requirement needs.

Now it seems that it is even more important for babies, but they need to have their supply from their mother while in the womb. In a detailed review of existing published scientific papers, published in Nutrition and Food Science Journal, leading dietician Dr Carrie Ruxton and Dr Emma Derbyshire, senior lecturer in Human Nutrition at Manchester Metropolitan University, examined the role and scope of omega-3 EFAs on health, as well as the likely intake needed to produce good results.

Baby asthma and eczema can be very distressing for new parents, and one discovery from their research has suggested that women who take fish oil capsules during pregnancy, and while breast feeding, may reduce the risk of asthma and eczema in their babies and aid normal brain and eye development. It also has benefit for the mother as having a good intake of Omega-3 can also reduce post-natal depression.

The benefits for the baby continue into childhood as it seems that children whose mothers had taken cod liver oil capsules (containing DHA and EPA) during later pregnancy scored considerably higher on mental processing tests than children whose mothers had taken a placebo during the research.

You may think you get enough Omega-3 from your diet, but the omega-3 content of certain foods is becoming more limited due to changes in farming practice, and if you eat fortified foods then they contain very little. Additionally, in the UK we are not meeting the Food Standards Agency’s recommended levels of fish intake by a long margin – and that’s another good source of Omega-3. Most adults would benefit from an Omega-3 supplement, and certainly anyone planning a family, or pregnant, needs to be its benefits in mind.

Adult obesity drugs given to children

September 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Childrens Health


Drugs that are licensed in the UK to be used only in adults for obesity are apparently being increasingly prescribed for children. Adolescents and children are being prescribed these drugs, and there has been a 15-fold rise since 1999. The fact they are not licensed for children is a cause for concern, but on the upside it seems that most stop using them before they could expect to see any benefit, usually after 3 months.

A recent study, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, shows under 18′s being given prescriptions for Orlistat, also known as Xenical or Alli. Orlistat has been approved for children as young as 12 in the US, but only for adults in the UK. It’s not known why they stop talking them so soon, but one theory by Russell Viner, one of the authors of the study based at the General & Adolescent Paediatrics Unit at University College London, is either they have excessive side effects or those taking them they could be expecting the drugs to deliver a miracle quick fix and stop using them when sudden, rapid, weight loss does not occur.

One form of Orlistat, Alli, is available now in the UK over the counter as a weight loss aid, but one of the potential side effects that occur is loose, oily stools if the overall fat intake is not reduced. The issue here, particularly for children, is that anti-obesity drugs are not the sole answer; they need to be used as part of a comprehensive weight-loss programme which includes both exercise and good nutrition.

Honey triumphs for children’s coughs

August 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Childrens Health


Sometimes, old-fashioned is best, particularly when it’s natural and can benefit children. According to a study published in the US Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, a teaspoon of honey was better than cough medicine for children because it coated and soothed the irritated throat. It calmed the cough, and helped them sleep better and has none of the side effects or potential dangers of some of the commercial cough syrups. I love it when grandma’s old remedies are verified by research. This particular study used 105 kids with upper respiratory infections, some were given honey, others a honey-flavored cough medicine. All the kids got better but plain-old honey consistently scored higher than the drugs at combating the symptoms.

BUT there is just one caution, because of a very small risk of a rare form of botulism honey shouldn’t be given to children until they are over the age of one year.

Eating for two can predict daughter’s future obesity

August 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Childrens Health

As a society we are increasingly overweight, and pregnant women are not immune. However, there is now evidence that the mother’s weight and the amount she gains during pregnancy can have a serious impact on her daughter’s risk of obesity decades later. Eating for two is not an option, and Alison Stuebe, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of North Carolina who carried out the study, analysed data on more than 24,000 mother-daughter pairs.

She found that the heavier a mother was before her pregnancy, then she was twice as likely to have a daughter who was obese as an adult. Daughters whose mothers gained 15 to 19 pounds during pregnancy had the lowest risk of obesity whereas daughters whose mothers gained more than 40 pounds were almost twice as likely to be obese at age 18 and later in life.

Obviously diet through childhood and eating patterns picked up in the family will have played their part, but she stressed that women should aim for a healthy weight before they get pregnant, and then gain only a moderate amount.

Pesticides last longer in kids


Summer brings bounty in the fields and the gardens and that applies to the insects that feed off it – which leads the farmers and gardeners to reach for the means to control them. Pesticide exposure poses a health risk to us all, but particularly to children. Obviously children’s systems are more vulnerable to the toxic effects, but new research by the University of California at Berkeley has revealed that their susceptibility lasts much longer than expected.

A new born baby has only one-third of paraoxonase 1 (PON1), an enzyme critical to the detoxification of organophosphate pesticides, than the baby’s mother has. It was previously thought that PON1 enzyme activity in children approached adult levels by age 2, but the horrific figure this research has thrown up is that the enzyme level remained low in some children right up to the age of seven.

This has led the researchers to recommended that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) re-evaluate the current standards for acceptable levels of pesticide exposure. For parents, it means being extra vigilant when using pesticides in the garden and making sure that children are in the house and the windows are closed until several hours after spraying. Organophosphate pesticides in products sold for use in homes, are severely restricted, mainly because of risks to children but are still available for agricultural use. If driving through, or living near, farmland where crop spraying takes place again keep windows closed to minimize exposure.

‘Flat head’ babies at risk

June 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Childrens Health


Something that has a good intent, the campaign to get parents to lay babies flat on their backs when sleeping, can also pose a risk. Plagiocephaly, or flat head syndrome, occurs when the skull can become deformed as a result of external pressure such as lying on it for long periods, or being incorrectly positioned in the womb before birth.

It is normally treated by putting a helmet on the baby to reshape the head, but a more natural and effective treatment is to use craniosacral therapy (CST). This is a very specific form of osteopathy and is incredibly gentle and effective for correcting problems with the craniosacral system, which is made up of the skull, the sacrum, and the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that protect the brain and spinal cord. If left untreated, plagiocephaly can lead to permanent deformations of the skull and facial features and can lead to speech or vision problems. Because the skull begins to harden around the age of one year it is important that CST and/or helmet therapy is started as soon as possible.

It is a relatively new therapy, being first researched and developed in the 1970’s and 1980‘s, but based on sound principles. It was discovered by John Upledger, an osteopathic physician, who realised its importance after observing rhythmic motions of cranial bones during a neck surgery he was assisting in. It works by eliminating restrictions in the craniosacral system and is effective for many conditions, including migraines, autism, and colic in babies.

The practitioner cradles the skull gently in their hands and uses a very light touch to gently mould the plates of the skull to a proper alignment. In practice, as I have experienced it, it is simply holding the skull in a very supportive and light way and allowing it to relax and settle into its natural position. with symmetric rate and rhythm.

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