Postings for August 2011

Studies on overweight babiesWeighty matter
The idea that baby fat is adorable is about to become outdated. Concern about overweight kids is extending to younger and younger children, and now even babies’ weight is under scrutiny. The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine released a report in June that highlighted the fact that almost 10 percent of babies and toddlers are overweight, and recommended that parents and caregivers pay close attention to weight-related factors they can control, including children’s nutrition, activity and sedentary behaviors such as watching television. The academy recommended that children stay active, eat nutrient-dense foods, limit screen time and sleep an adequate number of hours per night.

Boy power
A new Gallup poll shows that if Americans could have just one child, they would prefer to have a boy rather than a girl — by a 48 percent to 28 percent margin. Men have a stronger preference (by a 49 percent to 22 percent margin), while women don’t show a similar preference for girls; women who were polled didn’t care either way. Younger Americans, Americans with lower education levels and Republicans also preferred a boy over a girl, although income didn’t affect attitudes at all. According to the report, “Higher-income Americans are exactly the same as the national average in their preference for a boy rather than a girl.” Gallup points out that the implications for gender preference could eventually be profound as “various techniques for prenatal sex selection have become more widely available.”Glyphosate and birth defects

In the weeds
A new study by Earth Open Source adds to concerns that the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, glyphosate, is a factor in the development of birth defects. Earth Open Source reviewed the data available about Roundup and reported that the herbicide industry has known for years that the chemical causes birth defects in lab animals. Millions of pounds of the herbicide have been used since it was introduced by Monsanto in 1976.

Stress on the brain
Teens experience stress differently than adults do, according to a new study out of the University of California, Los Angeles, and teen stress might lead to risky decision making. According to online magazine Science Nation, the study’s author, Adriana Galván, scanned the brains of teens who reported having an extremely stressful day and  found that the “reward systems” of their brains showed more activation than adults when making risky choices. She also found that stressed teens made risky choices more often than adults. The magazine notes that teens’ prefrontal cortex — the area of the brain responsible for behavioral regulation — is still not completely developed, meaning that teens don’t always fully understand the consequences of their decisions. Galván says stressed out teens should bear that in mind and learn to take a minute to think about their decisions.

—Kris Collingridge

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