Public Health

Looking at measurements of the vertebrae - the series of small bones that make up the spinal column - in newborn children, investigators at Children's Hospital Los Angeles found that differences between the sexes are present at birth. Results of the study, now online in advance of publication in the August issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, suggest that this difference is evolutionary, allowing the female spine to adapt to the fetal load during pregnancy.

Using magnetic resonance imagining (MRI), the researchers found that vertebral cross-sectional dimensions, a key structural determinant of the vertebra's strength, were 10.6 percent smaller on average in newborn females than in males.

All those leftover pizza crusts you snatch from your kids' plates add up. Men gain weight after they become fathers for the first time whether or not they live with their children, reports a large, new study that tracked the weight of more than 10,000 men from adolescence to young adulthood. 

Barbara Hinney and her colleagues from the Institute for Parasitology at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, screened 298 faecal samples taken from cats across Austria for single-cell intestinal parasites, so called enteric protozoa. The samples came from private households, catteries and animal shelters. Of the 298 cats sampled, 56 tested positive with at least one intestinal parasite.

Multi-cat households often affected

New research based on modern techniques suggests that recommendations for protein intake in healthy populations may be incorrect. In a paper just published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, an NRC Research Press journal (a division of Canadian Science Publishing), researchers put the focus on protein as an essential component of a healthy diet.

Protein helps people stay full longer, preserve muscle mass, and when combined with adequate physical activity, has the potential to serve as a key nutrient for important health outcomes and benefits.

It's not only how much protein you eat, it's the type of protein that is important.

On the heels of a rather poorly constructed International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) analysis of organophosphate insecticides and pesticides a short while ago and a bizarre claim by the activist-funded group Moms Across America last year, the public is concerned about popular products like glyphosate. Mainstream journalism is no help, science is complex and when the $100 million Natural Resources Defense Council (famous for the Alar on apples manufactured scare) unleashes its public relations team on politically sympathetic journalists, claims are going to be repeated without much skepticism.

A new paper says that Chinese grandparents tend to indulge, overfeed and protect grandchildren in their care from physical chores, thus increasing their risk of obesity. The underlying motive for the action of grandparents may be affection for their treasured grandchild and stems from their personal experiences, misunderstanding and poor recognition of the adverse health effects of childhood obesity.

Are the first signs that someone is at risk of developing cardiovascular disease detectable in toddlers and preschoolers?

There's evidence that low vitamin D levels in adults are linked to cardiovascular disease, as well as other health issues such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes. But that link hadn't been studied in children. Researchers in Toronto examined vitamin D levels in children ages one to five and the non HDL- cholesterol level in their blood, a marker of cardiovascular health. (Non-HDL cholesterol is basically all of a person's cholesterol minus his or her HDL or good cholesterol.)

Ben Goldacre, whom I hold in high esteem, has repeatedly contended that anyone espousing diet philosophies to others is practicing quackery. Eating does not require scientific scrutiny, nor does it take any specialized knowledge to get healthier: walk a little, ride a bike, eat your veggies....who needs a doctor to tell them to do those things? In fact, on his website, which I encourage all to visit, he sells T-shirts with a picture of a large rubber ducky and underneath the caption is simply, "Nutritionist."

A lot of attention has been given to city dwellers and the health risks of sitting in front of a computer screen, but almost 50 of the world spends 75 percent of their time on their feet.

Prolonged standing is associated with short-term adverse health issues, including reports of fatigue, leg cramps, and backaches, which can affect job performance and cause significant discomfort. A new study published in Human Factors suggests that, over time, this type of sustained muscle fatigue can result in serious health consequences. 

After examining decades of data, researchers from the University of Colorado Denver have found that a lack of education may be as deadly as smoking.

The study, which included researchers from New York University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, examined population data going back to 1925 to determine how education levels affected mortality over time.

They found a direct link between education levels and death, noting that higher education is a strong predictor of longevity due to factors that include higher income, healthier behaviors and improved social and psychological well-being.