Heart Disease Prevention Should Start During Childhood



A new study shows a heart-healthy lifestyle during childhood may prevent heart disease later in life.


 

 

HEART DISEASE PREVENTION SHOULD START DURING CHILDHOOD

Heart disease remains the most common cause of death in the United States, and throughout much of the world.

While most of us associate the development of cardiovascular disease with the bad diet and lifestyle habits that we adopt during adulthood, there is plenty of evidence showing that the underlying cause of coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis (also known as “hardening of the arteries”) may actually begin during childhood. Now, a newly published prospective clinical research study of adolescents in Finland reveals that a heart-healthy lifestyle, if adopted during childhood, can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis much earlier in life than was previously thought possible.  This study is published in the current issue of the journal Circulation.

Beginning in 1990, more than 1,000 infants were enrolled in this long-term prospective clinical study. These young research volunteers, who were 7 months of age when they entered into this research study, were randomly divided into two groups. The “intervention” group’s parents were intensively educated about heart-healthy diet and lifestyle factors, while the parents of the control group children received only the standard health information typically provided by pediatricians. These two groups of children were then closely followed through childhood, and into adolescence. A total of 7 cardiovascular health lifestyle factors were monitored throughout this research study. At ages 15, 17 and 19, the teenagers participating in this public health study underwent ultrasound measurements of the aorta (the largest artery in the body) to assess for thickening of the wall of this artery, which is a sign of early atherosclerosis. Ultrasound was also used to assess the elasticity of the aorta, which is reduced even at the earliest stages of atherosclerosis.

The lifestyle factors that were closely monitored during this prospective study included food choices, cholesterol levels in the blood, obesity levels, smoking, and exercise levels.

The results of this study confirmed the findings of earlier research studies that atherosclerosis, which leads to coronary artery (heart) disease does, indeed, begin early in life. The teenagers who followed only a few (or none) of the heart-healthy lifestyle recommendations throughout childhood were 78 percent more likely to have evidence, by ultrasound, of early atherosclerosis of the aorta when compared to the teens who had followed most of the recommended heart-healthy lifestyle strategies!

The findings of this long-term prospective randomized clinical research study are enormously important, as they show that failing to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle during childhood leads to a huge increase in the incidence of early atherosclerosis which, in turn, would be expected to progress to symptoms of cardiovascular disease in adulthood. As with prior clinical research studies, this study confirms that physical activity levels, diet, body weight, exposure to tobacco smoke, and other modifiable lifestyle factors play an important role in the development of atherosclerosis, even during childhood. Therefore, based upon this important study’s findings, it appears that it really is never too soon to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle!Parents who wish to minimize the future risk of cardiovascular disease in their children should, therefore, take note of the findings of this innovative research study, even during the earliest years of their children’s lives.

 

As I discuss in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle not only reduces your risk of dying from cancer, but also reduces your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease at the same time.

 

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!


Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.com Top 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.


 

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Additional Links for Robert A. Wascher, MD, FACS

Profile of Dr. Wascher by Oncology Times

Bio of Dr. Wascher at Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Dr. Wascher Discusses Predictions of Decreased Cancer Risk on azfamily.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Environmental Risk Factors for Breast Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Answers Questions About Cancer on talkabouthealth.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Cancer Prevention Strategies on LIVESTRONG

Dr. Wascher Discusses Cancer Prevention on Newsmax

Dr. Wascher Answers Questions About Cancer Risk & Cancer Prevention on The Doctors Radio Show

Dr. Wascher Discusses Lymphedema After Breast Surgery on cancerlynx.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Hormone Replacement Therapy & Breast Cancer Risk on cancerlynx.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Chronic Pain After Mastectomy for Breast Cancer on cancerlynx.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy for Cancer on cancersupportivecare.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Role of Exercise in Cancer Prevention on Open Salon

Dr. Wascher Discusses Aspirin as a Potential Preventive Agent for Pancreatic Cancer on eHealth Forum

Dr. Wascher Discusses Obesity & Cancer Risk on eHealth Forum

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Role of Radiation Therapy in the Treatment of Breast Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Treatment of Stomach Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Management of Metastatic Cancer of the Liver on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses Obesity & Cancer Risk on hopenavigators.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Hormone Replacement Therapy & Breast Cancer Risk on interactmd.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Thyroid Cancer on health2fit.com

 

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Study Confirms that Men Really Do Have Trouble Reading the Thoughts of Women

Deadly new Bird Flu Strain Cases Continue to Rise

Abdominal Fat Increases Kidney Disease Risk

Increasing Dietary Potassium & Decreasing Salt Intake Reduces Stroke Risk

A New Explanation for the Link Between Red Meat & Cardiovascular Disease

Deadly New Bird Flu Identified in China

Infection Risk: Keeping an Eye on Your Dentist

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Tiny Implant Tells Your Smart Phone When You Are Having A Heart Attack

Transplanted Kidney Causes Death Due to Rabies

Eating While Distracted Increases Calorie Intake

Resistant Bacteria are on the Rise

High Levels of Stress Linked to an Increase in Heart Disease Risk

Small Snacks Cut Hunger as Well as Big Snacks

Poor Sleep May Increase the Risk of Heart Failure

Ancient Mummies Found to Have Heart Disease by CT Scan

Physically Fit Kids Do Better on Math & Reading Tests

How Melanoma Skin Cancer Evades the Immune System

Possible Link Between BPA and Asthma

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The Biology of Love in the Brain

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Even Modest Alcohol Intake Raises Cancer Risk

Why Do Boys Receive Lower Grades than Girls?

Negative Emotions and Feelings Can Damage Your Health

Canker Sore Drug Cures Obesity (At Least in Mice…)

How Technology is Changing the Practice of Medicine

New Salt Intake Guidelines for Children

High Levels of Distress in Childhood May Increase Risk of Heart Disease in Adulthood

Quitting Tobacco by Age 40 Restores a Normal Lifespan in Smokers

Cancer Death Rates Continue to Fall

Self-Help Books Improve Depression

Marines Try Mindfulness and Meditation to Reduce PTSD

Dying Nurse Volunteers Herself to Teach Nursing Students about the Dying

Regular Walks Cut Stroke Risk

Falling Asleep While Driving More Common than Previously Thought

Celebrity Health Fads Debunked

Obesity Among Young Children May Be Declining

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Satisfaction with Life May Actually Increase with Age

Brain Changes in the Elderly May Increase Susceptibility to Being Scammed



Dr. Wascher’s Home Page



Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, more than 3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 


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American Surgeons in Crisis: Implications for Healthcare






 

A new study finds that more than half of surgeons are experiencing work-home conflicts that threaten their personal and professional wellbeing.


 

AMERICAN SURGEONS IN CRISIS:  IMPLICATIONS FOR HEALTHCARE

As I have discussed in previous columns (The Silent Epidemic of Surgeon Burnout and DepressionEpidemic of Alcohol Abuse Among Surgeons), there are quiet and evolving, and disturbing, developments within the community of American surgeons, and these developments may portend of significant potential future problems for surgeons, and for patients who require surgical care.  Now, a newly published research study, which appears in the current issue of the Archives of Surgery, further suggests that the epidemic of surgeon burnout and depression is indeed real, and has serious potential implications for both surgeons and their patients.

In this study, 7,197 active surgeons were surveyed, electronically, by the American College of Surgeons, using questions from validated surveys that assess for career burnout, depression, quality of life, alcohol use, and other measures of satisfaction with both personal and professional life attributes.

When asked if they had experienced any significant conflicts between their “work lives” and their “home lives” within the previous three weeks, an astounding 53 percent of the queried surgeons replied, “Yes.”  Thus, more than half of all surgeons who participated in this confidential survey reported substantial and distressing conflicts between their professional lives and their home lives within the preceding three weeks.

When the study’s authors analyzed the personal and professional factors that were most closely associated with “work-home conflicts,” and with both personal and professional dissatisfaction, a clearer picture emerged.  For example, the number of hours worked per week, having children, the surgeon’s gender, and the type of surgical practice were all closely linked with work-home conflicts, and with lower levels of personal and professional satisfaction.  For example, surgeons who practiced at Veterans Administration hospitals were 91 percent more likely to report work-home conflicts when compared to surgeons in private practice, while surgeons who practiced at an academic medical center were 19 percent more likely to report such conflicts when compared to private practice surgeons.  Not surprisingly, having children at home was associated with a 65 percent greater likelihood of work-home conflict when compared to surgeons without children at home.  Working more hours per week and being younger were also factors associated with a higher likelihood of work-home conflict, as was being a female surgeon (i.e., when compared to male surgeons).  Surgeon specialty was also significantly linked to work-home conflicts and overall lower satisfaction levels, with broadly practicing general surgeons being twice as likely to report work-home conflicts as surgeons in other specialties (e.g., breast surgeons, heart surgeons, neurosurgeons, and other subspecialist surgeons).

The high level of work-home conflicts identified among surgeons is an issue of great concern to all of us, as such conflicts were significantly associated with career burnout, exhaustion, decreased quality of life, depression, relationship difficulties, alcohol abuse, and overall career dissatisfaction by scientifically validated surveys.  Surgeons reporting recent work-home conflicts were also substantially less likely to recommend surgery as a career option to their children.

In addition to higher levels of burnout, depression, alcohol abuse, relationship difficulties, and career dissatisfaction, surgeons who reported recent work-home conflicts were also 77 percent more likely to be planning to reduce their clinical work hours, and71 percent more likely to be planning to leave their surgical practices for reasons other than planned retirement.

At a time when the demand for some types of surgical care is already outstripping the supply of experienced, competent surgeons in many areas of the country, the findings of this study are cause for considerable concern.  For example, looking into the near future, our population is aging, and many acute and chronic diseases that require surgical treatment are more common in elderly patients.  Therefore, there is real concern that an increasingly burned-out surgeon workforce, and a declining interest in the more challenging surgical specialties (like general surgery) by today’s medical students, will someday soon leave the United States with an inadequate number of experienced surgeons to meet our nation’s healthcare needs.

All of the above noted adverse factors within the American surgeon community, once again, raise the concern that adequate levels of surgical care may not be available in the not too distant future if significant changes in surgical training and surgical practice are not considered and implemented, particularly in the workhorse specialty of general surgery.  The surgical community has been, admittedly, slow to appreciate or embrace generational changes in perceptions about work-life balance, and has only grudgingly (and recently) acquiesced to external pressures to treat its surgeons-in-training in a more considerate and supportive manner, compared to the conditions that surgery interns and residents toiled under during my era of training, as well as previous generations of surgical trainees.  (When I was a surgical intern, in the late 1980s, there were no limitations on the number of hours that interns and residents were expected to work in the hospital, including the number of nights spent on call for emergencies within the hospital, and it was not uncommon for us to spend 100 to 120 hours inside the hospital each and every week.)  Regardless of how more senior surgeons feel about it, it must be acknowledged that the current generation of medical students and young surgeons, both male and female, are much more concerned about work-life balance, and overall quality of life issues, than was typical for my generation of surgeons.

On a brighter note, the American College of Surgeons’ sponsorship of this research study, and others like it, suggests that the older generation of surgeons who currently serve as senior leaders and mentors for young surgeons and surgical trainees may, finally, be coming to grips with the rather dramatic shift in attitudes and priorities among their young charges. Hopefully, it is not too late to make meaningful structural changes in surgical training and surgical practice conditions before there are widespread adverse public health consequences to the ongoing crisis among the community of surgeons in the United States….

 

A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race is now available in both printed and digital formats from all major bookstores.  Get your copy now, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle!


Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 





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Viewing Photos of Kittens and Puppies Improves Attentiveness and Focus





 

A new study suggests that viewing pictures of cute baby animals improves our ability to perform focused tasks.


 

 

 

VIEWING PHOTOS OF KITTENS AND PUPPIES IMPROVES ATTENTIVENESS AND FOCUS

Most of the columns that I write for this blog deal with very serious health-related research studies.  This week, however, I will be discussing a somewhat more whimsical research study, compared to most of my prior columns.  This study from Japan appears in the current issue of the journal Public Library of Science (PLOS) One.

We all know that a young child, a kitten, or a puppy can evoke feelings of adoration and happiness.  Now, a newly published research study from Hiroshima, Japan, suggests that the positive feelings that arise when we see baby animals, or some other “cute thing,” may have a potentially greater impact on our behavior than has previously been appreciated.

In this innovative prospective study, several separate experiments were conducted using photos of cute little baby animals (kittens and puppies) and less cute adult animals (cats and dogs), as well as photos of “neutral” objects not associated with being “cute.”

In the first experiment, university student volunteers were asked to perform a task requiring significant manual dexterity after viewing photos of, variously, cute baby animals and (not so cute) adult animals.  In this experiment, viewing photos of cute baby animals increased the successful performance of the assigned task by 44 percent, as compared to only a 12 percent improvement in performance among the students who performed the same task after viewing photos of adult animals.

In the second experiment, the participating college students were asked to perform a visual search task after looking at the cute and not so cute animal photos.  Once again, task-related performance significantly improved after looking at the pictures of kittens and puppies (16 percent), compared to the degree of improvement that was noted after viewing photos of adult cats and dogs (1 percent).

When the researchers analyzed the data from this study, they determined that looking at photos of cute little kittens and puppies significantly improved attentiveness to focused tasks such as those performed in this study.  Based upon the findings of this study and previous similar research studies, the authors of this study propose that a “cuteness-triggered positive emotion” is associated with increased motivation to complete assigned tasks, as well as improved processing of information associated with performing manual and visual tasks (as was demonstrated in this new research study).  They further suggest that intentional exposure to “cute objects” might be helpful in stimulating positive behaviors in both the workplace and at home, particularly when tasks requiring careful attention are being performed.

kitten-puppy-photo

 

A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race is now available in both printed and digital formats from all major bookstores.  Get your copy now, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle now!

 

Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1



At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 






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Obese Fathers (Not Obese Mothers) Increase Their Children’s Risk of Obesity






A new study finds that paternal obesity significantly increases the risk of obesity in children, but not maternal obesity.


 

 

OBESE FATHERS (NOT OBESE MOTHERS) INCREASE THEIR CHILDREN’S RISK OF OBESITY

The incidence of obesity has skyrocketed over the past 10 years, and at this time, nearly two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese.  Moreover, fat- and sugar-packed foods, combined with sedentary lifestyles, have resulted not only in an epidemic of obesity among adults, but even our children and teens are heavier than ever before.

A newly published prospective public health study, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, has reported a rather interesting finding regarding obesity patterns in Australian families.  This study, which appears in the current issue of theInternational Journal of Obesity, followed more than 3,000 men, women and children in two-parent families between 2004 and 2008.  Height and weight data was collected on all family members during this 4-year study.

Not surprisingly, obesity was more common, in general, among the children of obese parents.  However, a very interesting phenomenon was observed in that childhood obesity was significantly associated with having an overweight or obese father and a mother of normal weight, but not with having a normal weight father and an overweight or obese mother.  In this study, children with an overweight or obese father (but a normal weight mother) were nearly 15 times more likely to be obese than children without obese parents.  (Once again, however, having an overweight or obese mother, and a normal weight father, was not associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity when compared to children with normal weight parents.)

While this study was not designed to explain why paternal obesity appeared to increase the risk of childhood obesity, while maternal obesity apparently did not, this unexpected finding suggests that either behavioral or genetic factors (or both) linked to obesity in fathers have a particularly strong impact on their children’s risk of also becoming overweight or obese.  The results of this study also suggest that interventions to prevent childhood obesity may be especially important in families with overweight or obese fathers.

As I discuss in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, the incidence of obesity has skyrocketed over the past 10 years, and obesity is known to significantly increase the risk of multiple types of cancer, including cancers of the breast, esophagus, pancreas, kidney, uterus, colon, rectum, and other organs.  In fact, even conservative estimates suggest that at least 10 percent of all cancer cases are directly linked to obesity.  If you are overweight or obese, please consult with your doctor about safe, evidence-based approaches to weight loss.



For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


For a lighthearted perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link:

Texas Blues Jam


I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 






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Kids, Vegetables, Diet, and Rewards

Welcome to Weekly Health Update



KIDS, VEGETABLES, DIET, AND REWARDS

My now 10 year-old daughter used to eat almost everything that we put in front of her when she was a toddler.  Lately, however, she has decided that all she wants to eat is macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes.  My now 7 year-old son, on the other hand, spent the years between age 3 and age 5 subsisting largely on “chicken nuggets” and multi-vitamins, and little else….  (The first time that I was able to persuade him to eat some broccoli, at age 5, after suggesting that he dip this much-maligned vegetable in ranch sauce and grated parmesan cheese, I was moved nearly to tears!)

Most kids are fussy eaters, and getting your child to eat a healthy, balanced diet can be a serious challenge, if not a perpetual struggle between parent and child.  As with most aspects of child-rearing, there are a number of recommended strategies to get Junior to eat his or her vegetables, and other healthy foods.  However, many of these strategies turn out to be utterly ineffective in practice.  Certainly, one of the most commonly recommended strategies is to offer reluctant young eaters various types of rewards for healthy eating (and which is, in my view, tantamount to bribery, but which has probably been resorted to by most of us parents during times of diet-related desperation, and with varying results).  (As I discuss in my bestselling evidence-based book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, fresh vegetables, whole grains, and reduced meat intake have all been associated with a reduced risk of developing both cancer and cardiovascular disease.)

Given the never-ending mealtime struggles in our own home, I came across an interesting new research study related to this very topic, and which appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  In this innovative little prospective, randomized, controlled clinical study, 173 children, ages 3 to 4 years, were divided into three groups.  All of these children were exposed to vegetables, 12 times per day, that they were known to dislike after these vegetables were first introduced.  The first group of children received a tangible reward (a sticker) each time after being served a vegetable that they had initially disliked.  The second group of children received praise as a reward upon being served vegetables that they too had disliked upon initial presentation.  Finally, a third group (the “control group”) was served vegetables that they had also initially disliked, but this group of children did not receive any rewards (i.e., no stickers and no praise).

The findings of this study, while not terribly surprising, offer parents a potential strategy to improve the diets of their (our) vegetable-hating kids.  Of course, the children who were repeatedly served disliked vegetables, and who received no stickers or praise, continued to refuse repeated servings of these vegetables.  However, the toddlers who were bribed with stickers (a material reward) significantly improved their intake of the offending vegetables over time, and this improvement in vegetable consumption persisted when the children were reevaluated 3 months later.  Importantly, the children in this “material reward” group were also significantly more likely to develop a liking for these same vegetables over time!   The third group of children, who received praise (a “social” reward) along with each serving of undesired vegetables, sadly, and somewhat unexpectedly, were no more likely to increase their consumption of these vegetables over time, or to develop a liking for these vegetables, than the kids who were in the “no reward” control group!

In this clinical study of toddlers, offering children a material reward (stickers, in the case of this clinical study) in conjunction with repeated introductions of initially disliked vegetables resulted in a significant improvement, over time, in the willing consumption of these vegetables, as well as in increased “liking” of these same vegetables.  Positive reinforcement through praise was, however, completely ineffective in getting these little tykes to eat (and like) their veggies.

In the case of my son, “the vegetable-hater,” the Broccoli Breakthrough occurred on an evening when I took him and his sister out for dinner.  In exchange for the privilege of the three of us playing a family card game during our meal, and as a result of my inspired suggestion that he combine two foods that he loved (grated parmesan cheese and ranch dipping sauce) with a food that he hated (the aforementioned broccoli), the miracle of witnessing my little guy downing several florets of broccoli coated in ranch sauce and parmesan cheese finally came to pass.  I was so overcome by that moment, two years ago, as was my daughter, that I remember it like it happened yesterday.  Moreover, knowing that my wife would almost certainly doubt my incredible claim that this event had actually occurred, I documented this miraculous development with my cell phone camera on the spot, and emailed it to her from the restaurant that night.  Nearly two years later, I am happy to report that while both of our kids still challenge us in our ongoing efforts to get them to eat a healthy, balanced diet, our son (and daughter) will still regularly eat that most despised vegetable among children, broccoli!

 


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my new book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-Million,Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books! On Christmas Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list!


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link:

Texas Blues Jam


I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people, from around the world, who visit this premier global health information website every month. (More than 1.2 million health-conscious people visited Weekly Health Update in 2010!) As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 



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