Jun
21
2011

Milk: Doctors Say How Much, How Often

It Doesn't Just do the Body Good

Milk: Doctors Say How Much, How Often

How much milk should my child drink?

This is one of the most common questions pediatricians get asked. And according to Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician and researcher at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, the honest answer is: doctors don't really know, but they are trying to find out.

The milk question is one of many that physicians and researchers are investigating as a part of an ongoing study called Target Kids!. Lead author, Maguire is presenting his research Thursday at the Canadian Pediatric Society's annual meeting in Quebec City.

St. Michael's Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children are collaborating to study factors which affect kids' health from the day they are born. The study currently has 3,800 children enrolled. Researchers are keen to determine how much milk kids aged one to five need in order to provide "enough vitamin D through fortification without compromising iron levels in a child's blood". (Studies have shown that too much cow's milk can lead to decreased iron stores.)

In a bid to combat childhood obesity, Los Angeles is the latest school district to stop serving flavoured milk as of July 1.

The schools were swayed to stop serving strawberry and chocolate-flavoured milks after popular British TV chef Jamie Oliver claimed the flavoured versions contain the "sugar equivalent of a candy bar".

However, many health advocates, including the American Heart Association, claim the nutritional benefits of flavoured milk outweigh the harm of added sugar. There is a fear that milk consumption will radically drop if flavoured versions are unavailable.

Vitamin D is a crucial component in the development of strong bones and teeth, yet too little iron in the bloodstream can "cause anemia, affect brain development and in cases of severe deficiency elevate the risk of stroke".

So in the end it's all about balancing the pros and cons of milk consumption. The magic number pediatricians have come up with is around "470 millilitres" which is roughly two cups.

In their study of almost 1,600 preschoolers, which included blood tests to determine each child's vitamin D and iron concentrations, the group found that age and body weight bore no correlation to the recommended amount of milk. But the type of cow's milk does.

"Partly skimmed milk (one percent and two percent) is not routinely recommended in the first two years," advises the Canadian Pediatric Society, and "skim milk is inappropriate in the first two years."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, however, for children aged 12 to 24 months who are predisposed to obesity, or have abnormal blood-fat levels or cardiovascular disease, a reduced-fat milk would be appropriate.

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Jun
21
2011

Math Skills Start at Home

Easy as 1, 2, 3…

Math Skills Start at Home

According to a study reported in the journal Developmental Science, preschool children don’t truly “get” counting until they learn to count up to the number four and higher.

Apparently children who are exposed to "number words" from four through 10, along with the number words from one through three, acquire an understanding of the cardinal principle before children who have little exposure to these higher number words—and will do better in math classes.

“Seeing that there are three objects doesn’t have to involve counting,” says Elizabeth Gunderson, a graduate student working with Susan Levine, professor of psychology and comparative human development at the University of Chicago. “It’s only when children go beyond three that counting is necessary to determine how many objects there are.”

As part of the study, researchers visited and videotaped interactions between 44 youngsters and their parents. The 90-minute sessions were held over four-month intervals, when the children were between 14 to 30 months' old. When the children were nearly four years old, they were assessed on their understanding of the cardinal principle. The results were then compared to the records of their conversations about numbers with their parents.

Children whose parents talked about sets of four to 10 objects that the child could see were more likely to understand the cardinal principle. Using smaller numbers in conversations and referring to objects the children couldn’t see (such as “I’ll be there in two minutes.”) did not have the same results.

The study proves the vital role parents play in laying the groundwork for their children’s understanding of mathematics. Too many parents leave the math lessons for the teacher, when the basis of mathematical skill clearly starts at home.

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Jun
21
2011

Sony Transforms Town for Smurfs Premiere

Paint the Town Blue

Sony Transforms Town for Smurfs Premiere

The Costa del Sol in the Andalusia region of Southern Spain may be famous for its Moorish architecture, sherry, flamenco and world-famous beaches, but now it can add another box to its list of tourist attractions.

On Thursday morning, Júzcar, a small town near Málaga, was transformed. Thanks to Sony, in promotion of its latest 3D film, Juzcar was chosen as the world's first Smurf Village and the site for the film's premiere.

Over a dozen painters reportedly used more than 1,000 gallons (4,000 liters) of blue paint to transform the historic white buildings into a Smurf village. The Smurfs is yet another example of a cartoon being revisited for the next generation.

If you're feeling particularly nostalgic for Papa Smurf and Gargamel, and feel like sharing this blast from the past with your kids, you have until September to visit the Smurf Village. After that, Sony will repaint the buildings back to the original white -- that is, unless the people of Júzcar decide to keep it that way!

The Spanish town has apparently is in the midst of Smurf fever. A bar named Gargamel is said to be opening soon, and the "Virgen de Moclon" will be wearing blue at the local fiesta later this year.

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