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Reducing kids' TV time: What works?

Published: Monday, November 05, 2012 @ 1:53 PM
Updated: Monday, November 05, 2012 @ 1:53 PM

Counseling parents on the health risks of too much TV time for their toddlers doesn't seem to help break the TV habit.

Researchers thought that educating parents about the dangers of excess screen time, with suggestions on how to reduce it, would work.

But in a new study, it didn't, although the counseling did lead to another important behavior change.

"We did find we could reduce the number of meals eaten in front of the screen," says researcher Catherine S. Birken, MD. Birken is  a pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto.

"That's important, because some research is showing the relationship between screen time and obesity is strongly mediated by what you eat while watching TV," she says.

The study results ''may be depressing but it's not surprising," says Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, director of the Center of Child Health, Behavior, and Development at Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute. He reviewed the study findings for WebMD.

"The majority of American parents already feel bad or guilty about the amount of TV their kids are watching, but they aren't doing anything about it," he says.

The study is published in Pediatrics.

Too Much Screen Time: What's the Problem?

The researchers define screen time as time spent watching TV, videos, and DVDs, and also playing video or computer games. Too much screen time is linked with obesity, delayed language development, aggressive behavior, and other problems, the researchers note.

Screen times have risen in recent years. The average preschooler now gets about four hours a day, according to a recent study by Christakis.

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages television viewing for children ages 2 or younger. For older children, it advises no more than one to two hours a day of educational, nonviolent programs.

Reducing Screen Time: Study Details

Birken's team decided to test whether counseling parents of 3-year-olds who came to a pediatric practice in Toronto could help them reduce their kids' screen time.

They randomly assigned 160 children and their parents to a counseling group or a comparison group.

In the counseling group, parents got a 10-minute session on how to reduce screen time. "We talked briefly about the health impacts of screen time," Birken says.

"We made suggestions about removing the TV from the child's bedroom, turning TV off during meals, and gave ideas about how to budget screen time," she says.

The comparison group got information about safe media use and television rating systems.

A year later, Birken asked the parents to report on their children's screen time. In all, 132 children finished the one-year study.

No screen time differences were found between groups. At the start of the study, the average of both groups was under the suggested two-hour-a-day maximum. But some watched much more.

At the start, the counseled group watched about 94 minutes a day. The comparison group watched 104 on weekdays. At the end, the counseled group was watching 85 minutes and the comparison group 89 -- not a substantial difference.

On average, children in both groups ate 1.9 meals a day in front of the television at the start of the study.

A year later, there was no change in the comparison group. The counseled group ate 1.6 meals a day in front of the screen.

Children's Screen Time Study: Perspective

The intervention may have been too brief to work, Christakis says.

In his studies, he has found that more intensive interventions do reduce screen time, but just slightly.

However, the finding that the kids in the counseled group ate slightly fewer meals in front of the television is worth noting, Christakis says.

TV viewing promotes obesity, he says, ''not because of being [inactive], but because it promotes unhealthy eating."

Triggered by commercials for food and by habit, TV viewers are likely to grab a bag of chips or other high-fat foods, he says.

Parents who want to reduce screen time for their children should first develop a strategic plan, he says.

Decide what you want your child to get out of TV and other viewing. Then select shows and games that meet that goal, he says.

Parents often tell Christakis they depend on television or other screen time activity to take a break and get tasks done, such as making dinner.

He suggests figuring out exactly how much time you need, then picking a high-quality program for the kids to watch.

"If you need 30 minutes to make dinner, find a high-quality 30-minute program," he says."Don't put in the 90-minute feature-length movie your kids have seen many times."

Parents who want their kids to watch less TV should watch less themselves, Birken says.

In a previous study, she found that children's screen time reflects parents' screen time.

SOURCES: Catherine S. Birken, MD, Hospital for Sick Children; assistant professor of pediatrics, University of Toronto.Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, George Adkins Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington; director, Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development, Seattle Children's  Research Institute.Birken, C. Pediatrics, Nov. 5, 2012.American Academy of Pediatrics: "Where We Stand: TV Viewing Time."Tandon, P. Journal of Pediatrics, February 2011.

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Scientists engineer proteins that caused obese animals to lose weight and lower cholesterol

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 3:03 PM

Oftentimes healthy eating and exercise are the first to go as life gets more and more hectic Nutrition is 80-90% of successful weight loss in your 30s You should eat 3 regular meals and 2 snacks per day Log your food intake and exercise to motivate you to move more and reassess the food you're eating Find time to make healthy eating and exercise work for you If you're trying to get back in the habit of training, don't overthink it. It's more important to get started Don't go and join a gym until you real

As the U.S. obesity rate has galloped toward 40 percent, doctors, drug designers and dispirited dieters have all wondered the same thing: What if a pill could deliver the benefits of weight-loss surgery, but without the knife?

New research brings that hope a notch closer.

Scientists from the biotechnology company Amgen Inc. report they have identified and improved upon a naturally occurring protein that brought about significant changes in obese mice and monkeys, including weight loss and rapid improvements on measures of metabolic and heart health.

The results, published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, approximate some of the mysteriously powerful effects of bariatric surgery, in which a surgeon reshapes the stomach and intestinal tract to reduce their capacity. Even before surgery patients lose a lot of weight, most see marked improvements in obesity-related conditions like insulin resistance, high circulating blood sugar and worrisome cholesterol levels.

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In mice who got a bioengineered version of the GDF15 protein, the researchers observed even more remarkable changes. These obese mice turned their noses up at extra-rich condensed milk — a treat that normally prompts mice to gorge themselves. Given the choice, the treated mice tended to opt for standard mouse chow instead, or at least lowered their intake of the fattening condensed milk.

After 35 days, obese mice treated with the bioengineered GDF15 proteins lost roughly 20 percent of their body weight, while mice getting a placebo gained about 6 percent over their starting weight, according to the study. When mice were offered the rich condensed milk, triglyceride levels remained at baseline or rose by about 20 percent in those who got the engineered proteins, while levels more than doubled in the untreated mice. Insulin levels and total cholesterol readings were also significantly better in treated animals than in their untreated counterparts.

The results suggest that the GDF15 engineered by researchers had the power to turn off the kind of reward-driven eating (think doughnuts, milkshakes or bacon cheeseburgers) that drives many of us to become obese, or to regain lost weight.

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Some of the weight-loss medications approved in recent years by the Food and Drug Administration — including Belviq, Contrave, Qsymia and Saxenda — appear to nudge the food preferences of obese patients in more healthful directions. But bariatric surgery has a pronounced effect in shifting patients’ preferences away from high-fat foods. Scientists just don’t know why.

The natural version of the GDF15 protein breaks down quickly in the blood. To be an effective weight-loss aid, it would need more staying power.

The Amgen researchers accomplished this by fusing the protein with other agents that would not break down so quickly. The two engineered versions of GDF15 remain biologically active in the blood for longer.

In the brains of the lab animals that received the treatment, the study authors detected activation in a population of brain-stem cells that transmits complex signals between the brain and gut.

In obese people, those signals — which urge us to eat when we’re hungry and to stop once we’ve eaten — become faulty, causing us to overeat and gain weight. Bariatric surgery appears to correct those signals.

So the suggestion that GDF15 might do the same is an exciting indication that a piece of bariatric surgery’s magic might be bottled up in a pill.

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“This is a new system” involved in the regulation of appetite, said Dr. Ken Fujioka, a weight-loss specialist at Scripps Clinic Del Mar. “It’s not one we’ve seen before, and that’s a big deal.”

At the same time, the system manipulated by GDF15 is only one of the chemical signaling systems that goes awry in obesity, said Fujioka, an expert on brain-gut signaling who was not involved in the new research. If a drug is to help a wide range of patients with obesity — and to aid in the twin challenges of losing weight and keeping it off — it will need to activate many different systems at once.

While bariatric surgery has been shown to be effective in spurring weight loss and a broad range of other health improvements, it is invasive, costly and irreversible. And although about 196,000 Americans had the surgery in 2015, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, that’s only a tiny fraction of the roughly 100 million adults who are now considered obese.

On Wednesday, Amgen called the new research “early,” but said its focus on obesity fits with its interest in drugs to treat cardiovascular disease.

New findings like these help put effective treatment in reach for a growing number of the obese, Fujioka said. Obesity is a diabolically complex disease with many contributing factors, “but someday I personally think we really will be there,” he added.

Boy sleeps for 11 straight days, baffling doctors

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 2:55 AM

Boy Falls Asleep for 11 Straight Days, Doctors Don’t Know Why

When a 7-year-old boy fell asleep following a late-night wedding party, his mother expected him to be tired, but she could never fathom what would unfold.

>> Watch the news report here

WDRB 41 Louisville News

The boy, Wyatt Shaw, was admitted to Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, during the first week of October after his mother tried and tried and tried to wake up him following the exciting Sunday night wedding festivities.

“Monday I tried to wake him up, and he fell back to sleep,” the boy’s mother, Amy Shaw, told WDRB. “[I’d say], ‘Wyatt, Wyatt, Wyatt!’ And he fell back to sleep again.”

Wyatt slept for 11 consecutive daysAccording to WTVR, medication usually used to treat seizures finally woke the boy up, but doctors are mystified by what happened. Every test performed on Wyatt came back clear.

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“[The doctors] said, ‘We’ll probably never know, but we’re just going to treat him now with rehab to get him better,’” Amy Shaw said.

>> On Rare.us: Anthony Rizzo breaks down in tears at Chicago hospital

Wyatt is having some trouble talking and walking, but he’s improving and is well aware of his story, WDRB reported. The only thing he doesn’t understand is the same thing the doctors don’t — what happened to him.

>> Read more trending news 

His mom hopes he’s back to showing off the energy he’s always exhibited, especially that night cutting up the dance floor at the wedding.

A benefit concert is being held for Wyatt and his family from 6 to 10 p.m. Oct. 26 at Northside Hall in Radcliff, Kentucky.

The blessing inside my sister's Alzheimer's disease

Published: Sunday, March 05, 2017 @ 12:56 PM

Jennifer Palmieri's sister Dana Drago, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. MUST CREDIT: Courtesy of Jennifer Palmieri.
Handout
Jennifer Palmieri's sister Dana Drago, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. MUST CREDIT: Courtesy of Jennifer Palmieri.(Handout)

Last month my sister passed away from early-onset Alzheimer's. She was 58 and probably had the disease for well over a decade. 

Awful. Anyone I share this news with has a visible physical reaction to it. They shudder. Take a deep breath. It's the disease everyone fears. Alzheimer's doesn't just kill you, they are thinking, it robs you of the person you are long before it has the mercy to kill you. 

Every day, more Americans receive the devastating news that someone in their family has this affliction. For now, there is not a lot of hope for recovery. It can make you envious of cancer patients; their families get to have hope. Having come through this experience with my sister, I am afraid that I can't offer these new Alzheimer's families hope for a recovery. But I do hope that by relaying the story of my sister's journey, I can offer them some peace. 

My sister Dana was brilliant, beautiful, full of positive energy, a force of nature. She was not an easy person. She was driven and successful, and, as the disease progressed unbeknown to all of us, it became harder to connect with her. Ironically, that began to change once she got the diagnosis. 

When she called each of us with the news, she already had it all figured out. We were all to understand that, really, she saw the diagnosis as a blessing. It was going to allow her to retire early. It would motivate our family to spend time together we would not have otherwise done. It would shorten her life, but she would make sure the days she had left were of the highest quality.  

For my part, I had a hard time reconciling her optimistic attitude with the knowledge there was no hope for recovery. I envied those cancer patients. But I eventually learned one of the gifts that came with this illness: It strips away your notions of how life is supposed to be and forces you to reassess what it means for a moment, a day, a life to have value. 

Equipped with a more realistic set of expectations, I saw that families fighting cancer faced their own torment. Debilitating treatments, anxiety over whether you are pursuing the right treatment, unrealistic hopes and crushing disappointments. It could ruin whatever time the person has left. My family was spared that particular kind of torment. Dana was true to her word about how she was going to spend her time. In the end, she had far fewer days than we expected, but she brought our family together in ways we never would have enjoyed had she not been ill, and in ways we could not have enjoyed if she was in endless treatments. That was a blessing. 

Patti Eilbacher has Alzheimer's. AJC reporter Zachary Hansen demonstrates a simple test that can indicate a cognitive disease. (BOB ANDRES/AJC)

I should be clear that my sister did not give up her own hope of recovering from Alzheimer's. Early on, she spoke of changes she had to make in her life until "they" found a cure for "this disease." I admired her resolute refusal to see the disease as part of herself. She would not let it define her. 

For years she vigilantly fought her decline and sought to protect her independence. Eventually she ended up in hospice. But she needn't have worried that leaving her home meant losing herself. It was in that hospice room that I saw her refined - not reduced but refined - to her most essential self, a person full of grace and love. Of all the moments in my life I had with my big sister, the ones with the most value, the most intimacy, the most joy, were the ones I spent simply holding her hand in her hospice room. No distractions, no expectations or pressures, a time to simply be present, to simply be sisters. My other two sisters, Dana's best friend and I would sit with Dana and repeat her own mantra back to her - all is well. And it was.  

Even after she largely lost the ability to speak, I could look into her eyes and see she was still there. She was still Dana. I would tell her so. "I see you. I see you in there." She would nod in response. Once or twice, I would even get a smile. Those were days of true value. 

I wish no other family ever had to lose someone to "this disease." But for all those on this path, please know that it does not mean you must be robbed of your loved ones before they leave this earth. They are still there, and the time you spend with them can be a gift of grace you might otherwise never have known. My hope for you is that you get to share the heavenly peace and love our family was able to share with our sister while she was with us. It is a blessing.  

- - -  

Palmieri served as White House communications director from 2013 to 2015 and was communications director for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

Grandmother adopts healthy habits and loses more than 100 pounds

Published: Thursday, July 13, 2017 @ 1:59 PM

Time Inc.
Time
Time Inc.(Time)

Laura Hyman is proof that it’s never too late to make a change.

After losing both her mother and mother-in-law in short period of time, the 54-year-old grandmother decided it was finally time to lose weight.

“My mother was only 70 years old [when she died] and I was 50 years old. I got scared and I did not want to miss out on my kids and my grandkids,” said Hyman, who was used to “taking care of everyone else but myself.” At her heaviest, she weighed 264 lbs.

RELATED: 12 weight-loss secrets from Atlantans who shed 100-plus pounds

A self-described “emotional eater,” Hyman started the Isagenix weight loss program with her husband Myron in September 2015. Swapping fried foods and carb-heavy meals in favor of organic foods like chicken, quinoa and vegetables and enjoying the program’s shakes helped the retired Indio, California-based couple lose 100 pounds each in less than a year.

“[Isagenix] gave us a time schedule for our meals and snacks,” says Hyman, who now weighs 161 lbs. and eats five times a day: two shakes, two snacks and one full meal. “This system taught us that not only the food we are eating counts but the timing of when we are eating is so important.” Now after dinner, Hyman says, “the kitchen is closed.”

RELATED VIDEO: 5 small diet changes that can help cut calories

5 small diet changes that can cut calories | Rare Life

The couple also started the IsaBody Challenge, a 16-week body transformation program, at the beginning of their weight loss journeys.

“It became a great support system through the Isabody Facebook page,” says Hyman. “I could go on there daily and get workout ideas and meal ideas, and when I put my first before-and-after pictures in there, I could not believe how much love and support I got. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced.”

RELATED: Here's one weight loss tip for every day of the week, according to Atlanta dietitians

Since October, Hyman has also amped up her workouts, hiring a trainer and going to the gym 3 to 4 times a week. “I’ve gained 8 lbs. of lean muscle, which is different because I’m used to the scale going down,” she says. “But now it’s going up and I’m seeing where it is, in muscle. I’m still able to get rid of the visceral fat with the system and it’s amazing.”

Now on her sixth IsaBody Challenge, Hyman was just picked as a finalist out of more than 30,000 applicants Myron received an honorable mention, and she feels better than ever.

RELATED: 9 things no one tells you about weight-loss surgery

“I fuel my body and don’t eat for emotional reasons,” she says. “I feel better than I did in my 20s.”

And being able to do it with her husband has made it even more rewarding.

“We’ve both invested in each other, cheered each other on and never let the other feel like a failure,” says Hyman. “Accomplishing this weight loss together has made our relationship so much stronger.”

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