Health Risk! Kids Watching Lots of TV and Playing with the Computer?

children-and-tv

Just a few more reasons to turn off (or at least limit) the TV

Dr. Robyn Silverman

A study has been released that shows that children who watch a lot of TV, play a lot of video games, and spend a lot of time surfing the web are more likely to be in for lots of health problems and compromising behaviors. Namely, obesity, smoking, and early sexual activity.

Who studied it? Researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Yale University and the California Pacific Medical Center worked together on this large-scale study.

What did they study? Sifting through 173 studies since 1980, these researchers analyzed how exposure to different media sources impacts the physical health of children and adolescents. This was one of the largest assessments in this area done to date.

What did they look at? These (mainly U.S.) studies, typically largely on TV. However, some also looked at the impact of video games, films, music, and computer and Internet use. Of these, 75% found that increased media viewing was correlated with negative health outcomes for children.

What was the major finding? Young people who are exposed to more media are more likely to become obese, start smoking and begin earlier sexual activity than their peers who spend less time in front of a screen. They also found statistical correlations with high media exposure and low academic achievement, drug use, and alcohol use.

“The fact that it was probably more a matter of quantity than actual content is also a concern. We have a media-saturated life right now in the 21st century. And reducing the number of hours of exposure is going to be a big issue.” — Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, NIH bioethicist

What’s this about early sexual activity and media exposure? In the study, a whopping 13 of 14 studies that evaluated sexual behavior in young people found an association between media exposure and earlier initiation of sexual behavior.

You may remember the recent RAND study that showed that teens who watch more sexually themed TV are more likely to have a higher risk of teen pregnancy.

What’s this about obesity and media exposure? There have been connections between obesity and media previously—we’ve heard explanations such as children tending to mindlessly eat (and eat high calorie food) in front of the TV. We’ve heard that children who are watching a lot of TV also are not outside running around or participating in some kind of physical activity. One study cited in this report found that children who spent more than eight hours watching TV per week at age 3 were more likely to be obese at 7 than their peers who watched less than 8 hours of TV per week. Research also shows that many U.S. children, even those at toddler age, watch far more than children elsewhere and far more than is recommended.

Let’s also not forget, that a lot of the hyper-sexualized (ultra-thin) media exposure has been linked to poor body image and pressure to grow up too fast in children and teens as well.

“The average parent doesn’t understand that if you plop your kids down in front of the TV or the computer for five hours a day, it can change their brain development, it can make them fat, and it can lead them to get involved in risky sexual activity at a young age,” –Jim Steyer, the chief executive of Common Sense Media, financer of the study.

SO, what do you think? Do you agree with Mr. Steyer? Is there another problem here? Speak your mind!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

picture: Jupiter

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Debate Over the Death of a Child: What’s Fair?

brody family photo

Debate Over the Death of Washington DC Orthodox Jewish Child: What’s Fair?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

A 12 year old boy is currently lying motionless in his hospital bed in Washington DC after sadly being pronounced “brain dead” (and therefore, medically dead) on Tuesday.

The hospital staff would like to turn off the machines that are keeping his heart pumping and his blood pressure under control so that they can be made available to others in need who have a chance of long term recovery. However, the boy’s parents, devout orthodox Jews, are fighting to keep the machines intact, citing that their religious beliefs dictate that death does not happen until the heart stops beating. This, of course, is a catch 22—they won’t shut off the machines until the heart stops beating—and the heart will not likely stop beating until the machines are shut off.

We must, of course, be tolerant of religious views and practices as we would want others to be tolerant of our personal views. The hospital is going to court over this because the staff feels that treating this child is “offensive to good medical ethics” because, unlike the highly publicized cases of Terri Schiavo and Karen Ann Quinlan, the boy has no brain activity.

There is currently a debate even within the orthodox Jewish faith about when death does indeed happen—is it when the brain no longer is active or when the heart stops beating? Aside from that, should religion or science define the death of this child?

The statement that if God is the decider of life and death, how do we play a role in this process … is an important theological concept and exactly on point. Medicine has a physiological definition as to when they believe death has occurred. Jewish law believes that the definition of death is not exclusively a medical one but is also a theological one and should be decided in the theological or religious arena. The two obviously work together to some extent but the final arbiter is the religious determination. (Rabbi, Dr. Edward Reichman)

What an emotional and sad case.

There is nothing more tragic than the death of a child. Anyone must feel for these parents. However, given that we are exploring fairness this month, let’s ask, is it fair to the boy—to others awaiting treatment—to the hospital staff—to keep sustaining the boy and using hospital resources? What would you do if you were in such a situation? Should the hospital respect and tolerate the views of the parents even though their views differ from the medical view? What makes sense?

For me, I wouldn’t personally want to stay hooked up to machines in a vegetative state with no brain activity and no hope for recovery. I wouldn’t want anyone in my family to have to suffer like that either. HOWEVER- would I want someone to tell me that my view was wrong? Should we all simply be able to say when enough is (or is not) enough? Who gets to decide? What’s too much?

Please comment below.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Parents! Rise in Kiddie Kidney Stones Due to Salty Foods

Attention Parents!

A Rise in Kidney Stones in Children Due to Salty Processed Foods?

Dr. Robyn Silverman


As if we needed another reason not to feed our children processed foods.

We’ve talked about the rise in cholesterol, weight, and now…kidney stones in children.

“I thought older men get kidney stones, not kids,” Mother of 11 year-old Tessa Cesario, aspiring ballerina, who was diagnosed with kidney stones last February

Why kidney stones when you thought that it was a middle-age problem? No surprise here. The high salt content in processed and fast foods is contributing to kidney stones in children as young as 5 or 6 years old. As parents, how can we be responsible?  Are we responsible?

What’s going on? Though much of the research is on adult patients, experts believe that kidney stones in children are due to dietary factors. Kidney stones are crystallizations of several different substances in urine. When these substances become increasingly concentrated, kidney stones form.

Major factors? High salt intake and low fluid intake. These risk factors increase the amount of calcium and oxalate in the urine, the culprits in the formation of 40-65 percent of kidney stones.

Where’s all the salt coming from? Salty foods like chips and French fries as well as common lunchbox stuffers; processed sandwich meats, canned soups, pre-packed meals, and energy drinks like Gatorade.

“What we’ve really seen is an increase in the salt load in children’s diet,” –Dr. Bruce L. Slaughenhoupt, co-director of the pediatric kidney stone clinic and the pediatric urology at the University of Wisconsin

Remember our discussion from Fast Food Flops For Tots? Besides being almost always too high in calories, 45 percent of the kids’ meals at the 13 chains studied by CSPI are too high in saturated and trans fat, and 86 percent are too high in SODIUM. And what the salt in these common lunchbox stuffers?

  • Oscar Mayer Lunchables Deluxe Turkey and Ham with Swiss and Cheddar, 1 package= 1940 mg of sodium
  • Oscar Mayer Lunchables Megapak Pizza Deep Dish Extra Cheesy, 1 package= 1240 mg of sodium
  • Oscar Mayer Lunchables Megapak Deep Dish Pepperoni, 1 package= 1250 mg of sodium

*Recommended salt intake for children? Everyone needs some salt– but not a lot!

  • Less than 1g per day from 0-6 month;
  • 1g per day from 7-12 months;
  • 2g per day from 1-3 years;
  • 3g per day from 4-6 years;
  • 5g per day from 7-10 years.

* These are maximum levels– aim for less.

Why the problem with fluid intake? Children aren’t drinking enough water throughout the day—especially not in school. They only drink when thirsty and by that time it may be too little water too late.

    “They don’t want to go to the bathroom at school; they don’t have time, so they drink less,” said Dr. Alicia Neu, medical director of pediatric nephrology and the pediatric stone clinic at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.

Any other contributors? Soda. Evidence shows that sucrose, found in sodas, can also increase risk of kidney stones in children. In addition, high-protein weight-loss diets, popular with teens, can also contribute to a higher incidence of kidney stones.

Median Age for Kidney Stones in Children: 10 years old

Possible description? While some have mentioned “obesity” as a possible factor, most doctors admit that children with healthy weights can suffer from kidney stones as well.

    “Of the school-age and adolescent kids we’ve seen, most of them appear to be reasonably fit, active kids,” Dr. Nelson said. “We’re not seeing a parade of overweight Nintendo players.”

    “There’s no question in my mind that it is largely dietary and directly related to the childhood obesity epidemic,” Dr. Pope, Nashville

Family History Connection? Yes, 60% of the time. If a child has a family history of kidney stones, it’s very important to recognize their risk, curb high salt consumption, and increase hydration.

How will I know? Children with kidney stones may complain of stomach aches, severe pain in their side or stomachs, feeling sick to their stomach, or even have blood in their urine.

What can I do now? Encourage your children to drink more water both at home and in school. Stay away from processed foods, read the labels on canned soups and look for low sodium varieties or make your own and freeze them in small amounts. Switch soda for more healthful options—some of which are listed here. Get your children on board and teach them the components of a healthful lunch and how to take care of their bodies so that they stay healthy for a long, long time.

What do you think? Do you believe our children are eating too much salt? Is this just the beginning? Are our children’s diets getting worse? Do you have any tips or ideas? Changes you’ve made? Share your story below.


Is Fear Of Fat Stealing Halloween? 6 Ways to Take Control

Candy or Bust?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Ahhhhh, Halloween! Candy! Chocolate! Raisins?

My best friend, Randi, and I used to love dressing up for Halloween and sampling the goods from all the neighbors. Mrs. Garvel always had the best and biggest candy bars. Huge Nestle Crunch Bars. Colossal Butterfingers. Titanic Swirly Lollipops. Yum Yum. Of course, we always had the one “weird” neighbor who gave out raisins. Yeah- who wants raisins on Halloween?

The word is out. It turns out that many people are trying to find alternatives for Halloween Candy.

Given the rise in childhood “obesity” and “overweight” people are scrambling to make deals with their children over the amount of candy they can eat and what toys might be acceptable substitutes for the old sugary pastimes on this all-access holiday.

It wasn’t the gruesome costumes or gory masks turning up at Lisa Bruno’s front door that spooked her on Halloween. It was the pudge lurking beneath the costumes. “The kids were just so huge,” Bruno says.

The weight controversy aside, we all know it’s not really healthy for kids to sit in their room with a plastic pumpkin full of sweets—or worse yet, an overflowing pillow case like Randi and I used to use for maximum storage capabilities. It’s not great for the teeth, the belly, the skin, or the brain!

Here are some of the suggestions for dealing with the sugar overload:

(1) Don’t say “No” to all candy: When candy is the forbidden fruit, they’ll try to pluck it from any source they can find. Unless your children have extreme dietary restrictions due to health, and absolute “no” can backfire.

(2) Provide limits: Allow your children a certain amount of the treasured stash each day or allow them to pick 10 pieces of candy and give the rest away to charity, the local police, or another location. This is a great time to talk to your children about portion sizes.

(3) Use the “SwitchWitch:” The fantastical creature is also known as “The Sugar Fairy.” Ask your children to switch whatever amount of candy they want for a toy. A little candy leads to a little toy. A lot of their candy leads to a big toy. In the middle of the night, “The Switch Witch” or “The Sugar Fairy” comes, takes the candy they’ve laid out, and replaces it with a toy commensurate with the amount of candy donated. Some children will be more apt to do this than others but it’s definitely worth a good try.

(4) Buy back the candy: You can do this with actual money, books, or even time doing something special with Mom or Dad. For example, a piece of candy can be worth 5 cents, 20 pieces of candy could be worth one book, or 50 pieces of candy could be worth a special outing to dinner and the ice cream shop with Dad. Ice cream might seem counter productive—but what would you rather your child have; 50 pieces of candy or 1 ice-cream sundae?

(5) Provide yummy or cool alternatives: Those of you who really don’t want to give candy on Halloween need to be really creative here. No kid really wants cheese sticks, raisins, and juice boxes for Halloween. They get that stuff everyday! Come on. I mean, who are these people giving out dental floss and tooth brushes when the children ring their bells? However, for young children, magic wands, temporary tattoos, stuffed animals, match book cars, balloons, and cool stickers can work. Even gift certificates for a slice of pizza, a sundae, or a doughnut could be a good alternative since parents can allow the children to use once Halloween is just a memory. Some other alternatives are here, here, and here.

(6) Don’t make fat such a big fat deal: One night of eating candy does not a fat boy make. It takes much more than that to gain weight!  We don’t want to make children worry about body image simply because they’re eating candy on Halloween. We all like to indulge every once in a while and Halloween is fun and yummy! It’s not healthy or good for one’s belly to stuff themselves with too many candy bars but teaching children that they can eat a treat and enjoy it once in a while is important AND healthy.

“It’s important that we as parents help them find the balance between that very traditional fun activity and a healthy lifestyle. The government’s food pyramid allows about 10 percent of the day’s calories for most kids to come from extras, which includes candy. That’s going to allow every child to have some candy on a daily basis, and it really is OK.” (Connie Diekman, past president of the American Dietetic Association)

Remember what it was like participating in Halloween when you were little. Teach your children well but don’t suck the fun out of Halloween. And please, keep your raisins and dental floss to yourself.

You have any good ideas about candy and Halloween? Do you agree about providing alternatives or do you think kids should be able to live and let live during the weeks around Halloween? Please share your suggestions as well as your opinions. We can all learn something from each other!

Is the White House Letting Your Kids Get Sick?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

DrRobynsBlog.com

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Perhaps you’re searching your mind—wondering how the American Government is failing it’s people—and you just can’t come up with a thing….so here you go!

Are you drinking contaminated tap water? Probably.

Water with a twist of pechlorate

Water with a twist of perchlorate?

We’ve all heard that doctors take the oath, “First Do No Harm.” The government should be asked to take the same oath. That is, unless you like high levels of perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that has been linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women, newborns, and young children, in your drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been under great pressure from the White House and the Pentagon to refrain from setting a drinking-water safety standard for perchlorate. In fact, the document they originally put out by the EPA was heavily edited by government officials who oppose it.

Here’s the truth: “The document estimates that up to 16.6 million Americans are exposed to perchlorate at a level many scientists consider unsafe; independent researchers, using federal and state data, put the number at 20 million to 40 million.” —Washington Post (oh goodie, I always loved a little rocket fuel with my tea and honey—the missing ingredient in my cold remedy ?)

Here’s how it happens: Some perchlorate occurs naturally. However, perchlorate contamination in U.S. drinking water isn’t a result of that—it’s a result of poor disposal by rocket test sites, military bases and chemical plants. Unfortunately, it’s also in breast milk and veggies (Can anyone say Erin Brockovitch? We need you!)

Here’s the “problem:” No, not that lots of innocent children, babies, and pregnant women can have lifelong health issues, silly! No, no, no—the problem is that a nationwide clean-up WOULD TAKE MONEY—lots of money! It could cost millions, or BILLIONS, and it’s been rumored that several defense contractors have threatened to sue the defense department to help pay if we need such a clean-up  . (Perhaps you’ve noticed, but the U.S. is already in debt up to our eyeballs and things are getting worse—we need to bail out the thieves on Wall Street–so a little perchlorate is definitely not making the priority list.)

Here’s the REAL problem: The scientific studies suggest that even a small reduction in thyroid function is infants can result in a LOSS OF IQ and increase in BEHAVIORAL and PERCEPTION PROBLEMS. (That’s right—a great way to deal with keeping up with the Chinese– lower American IQ and decrease our ability to focus)

What the experts are saying:

“They have distorted the science to such an extent that they can justify not regulating the chemical…Infants and children will continue to be damaged, and that damage is significant.” “It’s absolutely irreversible,” he said. “Even small changes in thyroid functions early on have impacts on functioning through high school and even into people’s 20s.” –Robert Zoeller, a University of Massachusetts professor, expert in thyroid hormone and brain development. He has a copy of the EPA proposal and has read it thoroughly.

Why it’s really a problem:

The newest EPA proposal suggests that the maximum allowable contamination level is 15X what the EPA suggested in 2002 (very fishy already) was actually heavily edited by…the White House Office of Management and Budget (no doubt serious science experts who have only the health of Americans in mind). “Surprisingly,” they eliminated several KEY PASSAGES and asked the EPA to use a new computer modeling approach to calculate the chemical risks. They also erased references to studies which highlight the danger of the chemical for our children and pregnant women.

This is only the latest example of the Bush Administration EPA being accused of bowing to political and economic concerns, as opposed to taking the advice of its own scientists, when it comes to decisions about environmental — or in this case, human — health. Dan Shapley, The Daily Green

The EPA says: “Science, not the politics of fear in an election year, will drive our final decision.” –Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA’s assistant administrator for water

(However, people expect the EPA to shirk responsibility due to governmental pressure.)

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee says: “Perchlorate has been a serious, persistent and widespread problem which threatens the health of our families, especially our children. For the Bush EPA to walk away from this problem and shrug off this danger is, in my view, unforgivable and immoral.” –Barbara Boxer

My take: The health of Americans– especially our children (future leaders) needs to be made a top priority. Children’s health shouldn’t be factored into a budget like the Wall Street disaster. This is an issue of health and respect for the wellbeing of the American people. Going to the White House Office of Management and Budget for public health advice is as useful as asking a bunch of kindergartners to redecorate your kitchen. Anything that’s done simply causes a bigger mess and a higher cost to fix it.

WHAT DO YOU SAY? Disgusted? Frustrated? Horrified?  Spill it.

Fast Food Flops for Tots: Too Many Calories in Kid’s Meals, Study Says

Kids’ Meals are too high in calories, fat, and sodium, study says

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

You probably knew it wasn’t the healthiest option on the block. But when you go into a fast-food restaurant (can we really call them that?), you’re getting a lot more than you bargained for when you order a kid’s meal for little Johnny and Josephine. Way more.

Only one or 2 restaurants coming to mind as the culprits? You’d be surprised…or perhaps the word is…disgusted. In fact, a recent study by the Center for Science and Public Interest suggests that 90% of children’s “kid’s meals” at 13 major fast-food and restaurant chains are too high—way too high—in calories for our little tykes.

Here’s the scoop:

Who did the study? Center for Science and Public Interest (CSPI), a non-profit organization.

What were they looking for? The report aimed to investigate the nutritional quality in 13 major restaurant chains.

What did they find?

  • 90% of 13 restaurant chains were too high in calories for our children. The recommended number of calories per meal for children between the ages of 4 and 8 (the majority of kid’s meal eaters) is 430.
  • Half of the children’s meals exceeded the National Institute of Medicine’s recommendations for saturated and trans fat. These fats can raise cholesterol levels in the children (an issue that’s been given a lot of attention lately) and increase heart disease.
  • 86% of kid’s meals are too high in sodium. Again, this is startling because, according to CSPI and recent studies, a quarter of children between the ages of 5 and 10 show early signs of heart disease, such as high LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) or elevated blood pressure.
  • Eating out now accounts for 1/3 of children’s DAILY caloric intake—twice the amount consumed away from home only 30 years ago.

In a nut shell… Many kids’ meal combos are too high in calories, fat, and sodium: CSPI found that nearly every possible combination of children’s meals at popular stops such as Chick-fil-A, Sonic, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, and KFC are too high in calories. Most of the kids’meals (93 percent) at McDonald’s and Wendy’s are too high in calories, as are the possibilities at Burger King (92 percent), Dairy Queen (89 percent), Arby’s (69 percent), and Denny’s (60 percent—though its kids’ meals don’t include drinks).

Give me some examples, Dr. Robyn:

  • Chili’s Bar and Grill: This popular chain has 700 possible combinations of kids’ meals. Out of those 700, 658 (94%) are too high in calories for the children they aim to serve. One such meal combo, consisting of “country fried chicken crispers,” cinnamon apples and chocolate milk might look harmless but packs a whopping 1020 calories (nearly 2 ½ times the number of calories a child should eat at any one meal)! Another Chili’s combo, made up of cheese pizza, homestyle fries, and lemonade contained 1,000 calories (over 2 times the recommended amount).
  • Burger King: The “Big Kid’s Meal” (How big? An adult?), comprised of a double cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate milk came out to 910 calories. (Since CSPI’s study was completed, Burger King has introduced a calorie-friendly kid’s meal with macaroni and cheese, apple “fries,” and 1 percent milk at 420 calories).
  • Sonic: This chain’s “Wacky Pack” make up of a grilled cheese sandwich, fries, and a slushie (definitely NOT nutritious) packed almost double the recommended number of calories at 830.

Christi Woodworth, a spokeswoman for Sonic, said the chain is looking into adding a variety of healthy side items, and plans to introduce string cheese at 90 calories each in September.

Did anyone come out fairing well? Subway came out on top for it’s kid’s meal combinations. Only 1/3 of their 18 “Fresh Fit for Kids” Meals exceeded the 430 calorie recommendation. These meals consist of a mini-sub, juice box, and one side item like apple slices, raisins, or yogurt, much healthier options than “would you like fries with that?”

The Blame Game:

  • The restaurants say…“exercising parental responsibility is key to childhood nutrition.” [The report] “fails to acknowledge the essential role of nutrition education, physical activity and parental responsibility in childhood nutrition — good eating habits and healthy living must be established in the home.” — The National Restaurant Association, a business group of about 945,000 restaurants and food outlets. They voiced that the said trend in the industry is to provide “more detailed nutritional information and choice in menu options for consumers.”
  • Center for Science and Public Interest says: “Parents want to feed their children healthy meals, but America’s chain restaurants are setting parents up to fail. McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and other chains are conditioning kids to expect burgers, fried chicken, pizza, French fries, macaroni and cheese, and soda in various combination at almost every lunch and dinner. — CSPI nutrition policy director, Margo G. Wootan, said in a statement.
  • KFC says… [we’re] “proud to offer a variety of kids meals for those looking for lower calorie, lower fat options.” The statement noted that the report’s calculations include baked Cheetos and a biscuit, sides that are no longer offered.
  • Jack in the Box says…that parents do indeed have several healthy options that can select for their children including applesauce and reduced fat milk.

Interesting Fun (Frustrating?) Fact: You may have noticed that six leading restaurant chains — Applebee’s, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, TGIFriday’s, Outback Steakhouse, and IHOP (International House of Pancakes) — weren’t included in the report. Why not? They don’t disclose nutritional information about their meals, kid’s or otherwise, even when asked, according to CSPI.

CSPI recommends that restaurants…

(1) Revise their menus: How about including options that are lower in calories, trans fat, and salt? CSPI asks that they add more healthy items like fruit, veggies, and whole grains.

(2) Shake up the default: Instead of fries being the “default” items for side dishes, make fruit, veggies take their place. Instead of making “soda” the default drink, replacing it with water and low-fat milk.

(3) Nutrition info front and center: Provide nutrition information on menus and menu boards like New York and San Francisco have already done.

There’s no doubt. It’s certainly frustrating for people to call this stuff “kid’s meals” when they are fit for children. So many fast food and convenient items are just as they say they are—fast and convenient but not often healthy. For the health of our children, if they’re not going to make the change, we have to do it for them.

What are your thoughts on the issue? We’d love to hear from you.

Tots Popping Pills to Lower Cholesterol: Necessary or Poor Reflection on the Health of our Children?

Friday Reflection: Cholesterol- Lowering Drugs for Children

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman for Dr. Robyn’s Powerful Parenting Blog

Today, I am frightened. Have we hit a new low? The diet, physical activity, school lunch options and overall health maintenance plan for school-age children has been so compromised in recent years that the American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending “statins,” drugs to lower high cholesterol levels, as part of the health plan for “at-risk” children as young as 8 years old.

“Obviously all of us want kids to really take care of their health,” said Dr. Marcie Schneider, a member of the nutrition committee who is an adolescent medicine specialist in Greenwich, Conn. “We want them exercising, we want them eating well. You try the least invasive things always first, but at some point if that’s not helping enough, you need to go to the next level.”

While some youngsters have genetic predispositions towards higher cholesterol, statins will also be geared towards children as young as 8 years old with LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) at 190 milligrams per deciliter or higher, of those with an LDL of 160 and a family history of heart disease or 2 other risk factors such as being diagnosed medically with diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity.

“When you have a kid whose cholesterol looks like an overweight 65-year-old, what do you do?” said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the childhood obesity program at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “The committee had to balance the risks of treating children with powerful drugs, about which there is limited long-term data, with the risks of not treating children with unprecedented cardiovascular disease risk factors.”

The Issue: Concern that children are at risk for heart disease and heart attacks due to high cholesterol.

The New Guidelines: Issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, citing that children as young as 8 should be put on cholesterol-lowering drugs if they meet the criteria for being “at-risk.”

The Problems: Several problems with these new recommendations have been cited.

Here are a few:

  1. There are no long term studies on how these drugs will affect the children in the long run—especially if they plan to take it for the rest of their life.
  2. The side effects are unknown for children. Adult side effects have been noted; such as cognitive problems and muscle pain.
  3. There is fear that the drug companies are now going to be advertising these drugs for children. “It will open the door for pharmaceutical companies to heavily advertise and promote their use in 8-year-olds, when we don’t know yet the long-term effect on using these drugs on prepubertal kids,” said Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician in Danville, Calif., and the founder of the popular Web site DrGreene.com.
  4. As reported in the New York Times, “We’re talking about potentially treating thousands and thousands of children simply to possibly prevent one heart attack,” says Dr. Sanghavi, from the University of Massachusetts. “That kind of risk benefit calculation is entirely absent from the A.A.P.’s policy.” Dr. Sanghavi, went on to say that statin drugs may affect a child’s endocrine system, which regulates growth and development, among other things. “I, for one, feel unsafe simply saying children are little adults in this case,” he said.
  5. There is no evidence that these drugs will prevent heart attacks later in life.
  6. It’s so easy to pop pills; A “push-button” solution may encourage children to continue eating a poor diet, refrain from getting enough exercise, and embracing an overall positive health maintenance plan. This can lead to many more dangerous health problems and a perceived “lower priority need” for good health education and lunch programs in school.
  7. The drugs are expensive and require consistent blood tests to rule out any complications.
  8. Proposing these kinds of drugs for young children may unleash widespread use of drugs for children.
  9. There is concern that there are financial ties between the doctors who prescribe and the drug companies who supply.
  10. People are concerned that children are not “little adults” and should not be treated as such.

***I’d love to hear the opinions of all you Powerful Parents and educators out there on the new guidelines and if you feel that it’s a good move, a cop-out, a poor reflection on the state of children’s health today, or the best solution for our times. What do you think? Please comment below.

Have a powerful weekend!

top image: Jupiter