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
Estimates indicate that approximately 11% of school-aged children in United States have attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Further, approximately 2/3 of these children are currently being medicated for this diagnosis. The most common medications are essentially stimulants like amphetamines or methylphenidates, including drugs like Adderall and Ritalin.
The areas of the brain that are potentially damaged or disrupted by these medications include the basal ganglia, brain structures that are involved in coordinated movement. The other area that is potentially involved is the cerebellum, which also plays a role in movement. 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
By Austin Perlmutter, MD
We’re always taught to set a good example for our children, but what if your decision to exercise influenced the health of your future offspring? A recently published study in the journal Diabetes looked at this very question. Continue reading
The advantages of breastfeeding, in comparison to formula feeding, are quite numerous. Breast-fed infants, for example, have remarkably lower risk for various allergic conditions, and there has certainly been some indication that risk of being obese or overweight may be reduced in infants who are breastfed versus those who receive infant formula.
In a new study just published in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers followed a fairly large group of children, some of whom were breastfed while others were given infant formula, and determined that those receiving infant formula had a dramatically increased risk for being overweight.
Watch now, to learn more about this interesting study.
As we all know, allergic diseases, particularly in childhood, are becoming more and more common. It’s not just that we are becoming more aware of allergic diseases, think of the frequent announcements on airplanes about peanut allergies, or food allergy questions by the waiter at dinner. No, the reality of the situation is that, by and large, allergies are simply far more common than they used to be.
So, why is this happening? Let’s take a step back and recognize that the intestines, oddly enough, actually play an important role in determining our immune responsiveness. Specifically, we now understand that the gut lining itself actually plays an important role in regulating immune function. Permeability, or leakiness, of the gut lining is associated with alteration in immune function as well as changes to the set point of inflammation. Continue reading
Food allergies, and a specific skin condition called eczema, are rapidly increasing in the youth population. Now, in what may be the largest study of its kind ever performed, researchers are studying a woman’s diet during pregnancy, as well as duration of breast-feeding post-birth, to assess a child’s susceptibility to allergies, as well as risk for conditions like eczema and autoimmune disorders. British investigators, evaluating over 1.5 million people, have come up with some very compelling information.
The research is what’s called a meta-analysis, meaning that it is review of previous studies (over 400 in this case) involving over 1.5 million people, and dating as far back as 1946. The researchers discovered that there was a weak, but nonetheless demonstrable, relationship between breast-feeding and reduced risk of eczema during infancy, as well as reduced risk for type I diabetes. In addition, probiotics seemed to reduce the risk of allergic reactions to cow’s milk.
The data, however, was much more supportive of the relationship between taking a probiotic supplement while 36 – 38 weeks pregnant, and during the first 3 to 6 months of breast-feeding, and risk for childhood eczema. In fact, in those women taking probiotics, risk for eczema in their child was reduced by 22%. The scientist noted that most of the probiotics contained a bacterium called Lactobacillus rhamnosus. Continue reading
With more than 6.5 million American children being diagnosed with ADHD, and close to 70% of them being medicated, it sure makes sense that we should consider how lifestyle factors, including diet, may affect a child’s ability to pay attention in school.
Certainly, DHA is important, as research has demonstrated significant improvement in focus in children with higher levels of this omega-3 fat. Continue reading