The development of highly accurate and widely available genome sequencing technology has put us at a crossroads. Now, more than ever, the divergent views of nature versus nurture confront consumers wishing to be advocates for their own health. As we learn about our genetics it seems quite clear that the deterministic message about our health destiny is ringing loud and clear. More and more, the idea that we are at the mercy of our inheritance seems supported by the advancing understanding and interpretation of our individual genetic profiles.
An important message we have been espousing over the past decade centers on the importance of lifestyle choices, specifically directed to offset disease risk that may well be enhanced by genetics. This ideology centers on the notion of genetic predisposition in contrast to genetic determinism. It is this contrast that opens the door to empowerment and your health destiny.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a remarkable 40% of Americans aged 20 or over are obese. If we include those who are overweight, the percentage jumps to an astounding 72%! That means that more than two thirds of Americans age 20+ are overweight or actually obese. These statistics are sobering, especially in light of the recently announced report indicating that, for the second year in a row, life expectancy for both American women and men has declined.
When should efforts begin that might be effective in reducing these astounding rates of overweight and obesity? The CDC also reveals that 21% of children (ages 12-19) are obese, with 18.5% obesity in children ages 6 to 11. Perhaps most heart-wrenching is the fact that 14% of 2-5 year olds are obese as well. These statistics would certainly support dietary education and intervention programs very early on.
But, how early should we be starting these educational efforts that can positively impact the incidence of overweight and obesity in Americans? Continue reading
Over the past 10 years, in the various books that I have written, there has been a persistent emphasis on the importance of DHA, an omega-3, in terms of brain health. DHA represents over 90% of all the omega-3, polyunsaturated fatty acids in the brain, and further, it’s 10 to 20% of all the brain’s fat. DHA is especially concentrated in the gray matter, and is also an important part of the cellular membrane of neurons. DHA also has an important role to play in the functioning and structure of mitochondria, the release of neurotransmitters, the expression of DNA, the creation of the myelin insulation around every neuron, the management of neuroinflammation, and even the growth and differentiation of brain cells.
DHA plays a particularly important role in the frontal lobes, allowing us to maintain executive function, pay attention to the various tasks in which we are engaged, and even plan for the future and solving problems. Continue reading
Asthma is the world’s most common respiratory disorder, and, studies have found, is often associated with increased rates of mortality and decreased quality of life. Thus, it’s obvious that keeping asthma at bay is in our collective best interests. Continue reading
We often talk about the importance of method of birth on a newborn’s health, not only in the short-term, but in the long-term. Research has found, again and again, that vaginal birth, and the experience of going through the birth canal, exposes a child to various microbes that form the basis for their own gut microbiome. Continue reading
Hardly a day goes by without someone telling me a story about a miraculous improvement in some form of medical condition when a person decided to eliminate gluten from his or her diet. No doubt, most would find it fairly easy to accept the notion that some people may have improvement from, for example, gastrointestinal issue by going gluten-free. To be sure, it’s pretty well accepted these days that some people with chronic headaches may improve on a gluten-free diet as well.
But the idea that a psychiatric issue might be related to gluten sensitivity seems a little bit more difficult for people to generally accept. Nonetheless, we are seeing ever more frequent citations in well-respected medical journals that clearly make this connection. Continue reading
Sleep disorders in the pediatric population are common, occurring in as much as 30-40% of children. When children don’t sleep well, it sets the stage for a variety of other problems including poor general health, fatigue, declining school performance, depression, behavioral issues and weight gain.
A new study reveals an intriguing finding that explains not only what causes some children to struggle with sleep, but more importantly, what might well provide a safe remedy for the problem.
British researchers publishing in the Journal of Sleep Research evaluated the sleep patterns of 395 children aged 7-9 years. In addition, they performed a blood analysis on these children to measure their levels of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid. Continue reading
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a diagnosis that has now been “given” to more than 6.5 million American children. And if that statistic is not compelling enough, please understand that about two thirds of these children are actually receiving mind altering medications to “treat” the disorder. But there are certainly other considerations that parents should make prior to engaging these potentially health threatening medications.
In the well-respected, peer reviewed medical Journal Pediatrics, doctors J. Gordon Millichap and Michelle M. Yee, published a report entitled “The Diet Factor in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” In this comprehensive review, the authors reviewed a variety of dietary issues including omega-3 fatty acids, dietary sugar, allergic considerations, iron, and zinc, and produced a very provocative report indicating, at the end of the day, that we are probably significantly missing the boat in terms of what is being done to American children with the mistaken notion that treating them with aggressive pharmaceuticals is going to help them perform and reach academic goals.
By: Austin Perlmutter, MD, Medical Student, Miller School of Medicine
So you’ve finally decided to eat healthier. Congratulations! This is a major step towards a longer and happier life, and likely you’re already feeling better. The question remains though: now that you’ve made this healthful change, how do you get your kids to follow suit?
As an adult, you can justify healthier foods, since they power your body with clean energy and lead to innumerable benefits to your wellbeing. However, a child’s interest is mainly in the familiar and sugary, the white starches and the salty snacks. In medical school, I’m currently seeing all pediatric patients. Parents continue to tell me that their kids simply won’t eat the healthy options. After working with my pediatrician, we’ve put together six keys to get your kids to eat as healthy as you.
- Don’t give in to your child’s cravings: First and foremost, understand that by giving junk food to your children when they refuse to eat something healthy, you’re doing them a disservice. It’s completely understandable that we’d rather our children eat something than nothing at all. However, if they outright refuse to eat healthy meals in favor of waiting for their favorite snack, they’re manipulating you, and winding up unhealthier for it. Letting your kids be a little hungry because they refused healthy foods isn’t going to hurt them. Once they understand that they can’t just get whatever food they like, they’ll start coming around to what you’d like them to eat. Continue reading