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Research In Brief

Issue 18

Issue 17

Issue 16


Research in Brief (Spring 2007)

Folic Acid May Prevent Cleft Lip and Palate

             Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) found that 0.4 milligrams a day of folic acid reduced by one third the baby’s risk of isolated cleft lip (with or without cleft palate).  The study, published online in the British Medical Journal, included a total of 1,336 babies (with cleft lip only, with cleft palate only, with cleft lip and cleft palate, and random control group) born in Norway.  Norway has one of the highest rates of facial clefts in Europe and does not allow foods to be fortified with folic acid. 


Sleep Less, Become Overweight?

            In a study published in the journal Child Development, children who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight than those who get more.  Researchers at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois studied 2,281 children, ages 3 to 12 years, starting in 1997.  Follow-up data was then collected five years later.  The researchers found that children who got less sleep were more likely to be overweight and have higher body mass index measures than those who got more sleep, even when other factors (i.e., race, ethnicity, parents’ income, parents’ educational level) were considered.  Sleep experts recommend that children ages 5 to 12 sleep 10 to 11 hours per night and that adolescents sleep 8 to 9 hours per night.


Child Care “A Mixed Blessing”

            A study published in the March/April 2007 issue of the journal Child Development indicated that while children who spend time in child care outside the home before kindergarten may have better vocabulary, they may also be at risk for more behavior problems later.  The government-funded study looked at 1,364 children tracked by researchers since birth.  However, researchers also indicated that the sample of children studied is not considered a scientifically representative sample of children nationwide.  The research is considered controversial because of the long-standing debate about working mothers vs. stay-at-home mothers and which type of mother children benefit more from.


More Cavities Seen in Baby Teeth

            Tooth decay in young children’s baby teeth is increasing, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey.  This may be an indication that preschoolers are consuming too much sugar.  Another conclusion drawn from this study, in which thousands of participants were interviewed and examined by dentists,  is that tooth decay in young children may be increasing because parents are giving their children more processed snack foods than in the past, and more bottled water or other drinks instead of fluoridated tap water.

Simple Urine Test May Detect Preeclampsia

            In the April 2007 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers found that the presence of certain kidney cells in the urine can help identify pregnant women with preeclampsia.  The researchers stated that further studies were needed to determine exactly why greater numbers of kidney cells are released into the urine of women with preeclampsia.  


No Link Between Abortion and Breast Cancer

            A Harvard study, published in the April 23, 2007 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, supported findings from a 2003 study that indicated that having an abortion does not increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. 


Number of Gay, Bisexual Men with Syphilis Increases

            In a May 4, 2007 statement released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2000, the number of gay and bisexual men infected with syphilis accounted for 7% of the total.  In 2005 (most recent data available), these men accounted for an estimated 60% of the total syphilis infections.  Doctors expressed concern that this group of men will also eventually have an increased rate of HIV infection.


A Booster Shot for the Chickenpox Vaccine?

            In the March 15, 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers confirmed the fact that children should receive booster shots for varicella (chickenpox).  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends a booster shot be given to children between the ages of four (4) and six (6).  Also, in the committee’s June 2006 report, it was recommended that children, adolescents and adults be given boosters as well. 


Face Masks and Super-Flu

            On May 3, 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines on the use of surgical face masks during a flu pandemic.  While the guidelines address the issue of using surgical masks as well individually fitted respirators, they also emphasize preventative measures such as avoiding contact with people who have respiratory infections and good hand-washing practices.  The CDC warns, however, that the mask is not a magic bullet.



Research in Brief (Summer 2007)

Testing Men for Chlamydia

            In a study published in the March 2007 issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, researchers at the Yale School of Public Health found that the re-infection rate for women with Chlamydia was substantial (57% of the women who were infected and treated got at least one other Chlamydia infection after an average period of only 5.2 months).  Health care experts are now considering whether there should be adjustments made to include screening recommendations for asymptomatic men to prevent them from infecting (or in some cases re-infecting) their partners.  An epidemiologist who serves on the American College Health Association STD committee indicated that there is a lack of information for heterosexual sexually active young men.


Improving Birth Outcomes

            Researchers at numerous universities and hospitals in the United States and Ireland studied the relationship between birth defects, low birthweight and preterm birth.  Their findings, published in the August 2007 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, indicated the following: 

¨      Compared with singleton liveborns with no birth defects, those with a birth defect were 2.7 times more likely to be delivered preterm at less than 37 weeks, 7.0 times more likely to be delivered preterm at less than 34 weeks, and 11.5 times more likely to be delivered very preterm at less than 32 weeks.

¨      Compared with singleton liveborns with no birth defects, those with a birth defect were 3.6 times more likely to be low birthweight at less than 2,500 grams and 11.3 times more likely to be very low birthweight at less than 1,500 grams. 

These findings led the authors to advocate for more emphasis on the importance of preconception care and birth defect prevention as “shared mechanisms for improving birth outcomes.”

Weekend Heart Attacks

             In a study published in the March 15, 2007 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School determined that heart attack patients have a slightly higher risk of death if they go to the hospital on the weekend.  The study determined that on weekends, many patients are more likely to miss or wait longer for crucial treatments.  The lead researcher also determined that weekend patients were at least one-third less likely to get angioplasty or bypass surgery promptly, compared with weekdays. 



Number of Women in U.S. Dying in Childbirth Has Increased

            According to statistics released in August 2007 by the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of women in the United States who die in childbirth has risen.  The U.S. maternal mortality rate rose to 13 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2004.  in comparison, the rate was 12 per 100,000 live births in 2003.  Experts have indicated that increases in maternal obesity as well as the increased number of Caesarean sections may be partly to blame.  Another significant factor, however, is a change in death certificate questions in California, Montana and Idaho.  This may have resulted in more deaths being linked to childbirth, according to a health scientist with the National Center for Health Statistics.  It should be noted that, even with these findings, a woman’s death from childbirth remains fairly rare in the U.S. 

No OTC Cold Medicines for Children Under Age 2

            The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a public health advisory that cited serious adverse effects linked to children (age 2 and under) who have received too large of a dose of over-the-counter medications for coughs and colds.  Parents should carefully follow directions for use that come with a medication.  Other recommendations in the advisory include:

¨      Do not use cough and cold products in children under 2 unless given specific directions to do so by a health care provider.

¨      Use only products marked for use in babies, infants or children (may be called “pediatric” use).  Do not use medicine made for adults.

¨      If you are unsure about what strength of cough and cold medicine to use, ask a health care provider.

¨      If other medicines, whether over-the-counter or prescription, are being given to a child, the child’s health care provider should review and approve their combined use.

¨      Read all of the information in the “Drug Facts” box on the package label to know the active ingredients and the warnings.

¨      For liquid products, parents should use the measuring device that is packaged with each medicine formulation and is marked to deliver the recommended dose.  A kitchen teaspoon or tablespoon is not an appropriate measuring device!


A New Word for the Dictionary -- McBranding

            A study done by Stanford University researchers concluded that the studied preschoolers preferred the taste of burgers and fries when they came in McDonald’s wrappers over the same food in plain wrapping, suggesting fast-food marketing reaches the very young.  The results were the same even when the children were offered products such as baby carrots or milk. 




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