Health Bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 9:24am

Funk and disorderly

Children with mental health disorders are three times more likely to be bullies, according to new research, highlighting the importance of providing psychological support not only to victims but the bullies as well. The study, presented at an American Academy of Pediatrics conference, involved nearly 64,000 children in the US aged six to 17. Using data provided by the parents and guardians on the mental health and bullying of the children, 15.2 per cent of them were identified as bullies. A sub-analysis by type of mental health disorders found that children diagnosed as depressed were three times more likely to bully, while a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder was associated with a six-fold increase in the odds of being identified as a bully.

No smoke without fire

Just 20 minutes of exposure to heavy concentrations of second-hand smoke causes near immediate harm to the airways, a study by the University of Athens and the Hellenic Cancer Society in Greece and the Harvard School of Public Health has found. Fifteen healthy participants were exposed to heavily concentrated smoke particulates in an exposure chamber - simulating a bar or moving car - for 20 minutes. During this time, measurements were taken of the participants' respiratory movements. There was a significant and immediate impact on airways, including increased airway impedance and resistance. Participants showed no clinical signs or feelings of discomfort. Lead researcher Dr Panagiotis Behrakis, of the University of Athens, believes secondhand smoking is the "most widespread form of violence exerted on children and workers on a global level" and "needs to be recognised as a "human rights violation".

Minor health benefits

Are organic products better for your children? The American Academy of Pediatrics has conducted an extensive analysis of scientific evidence regarding organic produce, dairy products and meat - and has no straight answer. In a report in next month's Pediatrics, the researchers say while organic foods have the same nutrients as conventional foods, they have lower pesticide levels, which may be significant for children. Organically raised animals are also less likely to be contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria. But in the long term there is no direct evidence that following an organic diet leads to improved health or lower risk of disease. "What's most important is that children eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, whether those are conventional or organic foods. This … has proven health benefits," says Dr Janet Silverstein, one of the authors.

Milk it for all it's worth

Increasing calcium intake may reduce a woman's risk of developing a hormone condition that leads to weak bones, fractures and kidney stones, according to researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT), which is caused by overactive parathyroid glands, affects one in 800 people. It is most common in post-menopausal women between 50 and 60. In the study, more than 58,000 women aged 39 to 66 in 1986 with no history of PHPT were tracked; their calcium intake (from both dietary sources and supplements) was assessed every four years using questionnaires over a 22-year period. After adjusting for factors including age, body mass index and ethnicity, women with the highest intake of dietary calcium had a 44 per cent reduced risk of developing PHPT compared with those with the lowest intake. Even for women taking a modest 500 milligrams a day of calcium supplements, the risk of developing PHPT was 59 per cent lower than those taking no calcium supplements.