Milk & diabetes prevention

Obese children who consume two glasses of any type of cow’s milk daily have lower fasting insulin, indicating better blood sugar control and low risk for diabetes and metabolic syndrome, says a study released in May by the University of Texas Health Science Centre, USA. Children who drank less than a cup of milk each day had higher levels of fasting insulin than those who drank at least two cups a day. 

“The findings indicate that obese children who consume at least the daily recommended amount of milk may have more favourable sugar control, which could help guard against metabolic syndrome — defined as the presence of at least three of five conditions that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high levels of blood sugar or triglycerides, excess belly fat, and low “good” cholesterol levels,” says Michael Yafi, one of the lead researchers and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Centre. 

For the study, the research team analysed 353 obese kids and adolescents aged three to 18 years and recorded information on daily milk intake, milk types, fasting blood glucose, and insulin sensitivity. 


Sleep better, parent better

Mothers who don’t get enough sleep or who take a longer time to fall asleep have a greater tendency to engage in permissive parenting — marked by lax or inconsistent discipline, according to a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research (March). This can encourage risky behaviour in adolescents. 

“We found that when mothers were not receiving enough sleep, or experiencing poor quality sleep, it had an effect on their levels of permissiveness with their adolescents. It may be that they’re more irritable, experiencing impaired attention, or so over-tired that they are less consistent in their parenting. Mothers who get adequate sleep are less likely to be permissive with their adolescents,” says Kelly Tu, a human development and family studies researcher at the University of Illinois, USA which conducted the study. 

The research study surveyed 234 mothers, who were asked to wear actigraphs at bedtime (a wrist watch like device which detects sleep disruptions). Adolescents, averaging 15 years of age, then completed questionnaires about how they perceived their mothers’ parenting. 


Curiosity spurs academic success

A curious child is likely to perform better in school, regardless of economic background, indicates a study published in Paediatric Research (April). Researchers at the University of Michigan, USA analysed data of 6,200 kindergartners they had been following since birth in 2001. They measured curiosity in preschoolers based on behavioural questionnaires from parents, reading and math assessments, and found that children from lower socio-economic backgrounds generally achieve less than their peers. Yet ‘curious’ children performed on a par with children from higher income families. 

“Our results suggest that while higher curiosity is associated with higher academic achievement in all children, the association of curiosity with academic achievement is greater in children with low socioeconomic status. Promoting curiosity in children, especially from environments of economic disadvantage may be an important, under-recognised way to address the achievement gap,” says lead researcher Prachi Shah, a developmental and behavioural pediatrician at University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.


Quit smoking with Facebook

A recent study published in the journal Addiction (May) reveals that young adults are able to quit smoking more effectively through Facebook-based interventions than other online quit-smoking programmes. This is the first study to test the effectiveness of a smoking intervention delivered entirely on the social media app Facebook and also to use biochemically-verified abstinence from smoking. 

“We found that we could reach a hard-to-reach population — young adult smokers, have short-term abstinence, and also have excellent engagement. It suggests that the social media environment can be an engaging tobacco treatment tool, even for those not ready to quit,” says Danielle Ramo, an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, USA, which conducted the study. 

Researchers created a Tobacco Status Project, a 90-day motivational programme in which 500 participants were assigned to private Facebook groups. The intervention used several methods including daily posts, weekly live question-and-answer sessions, and live cognitive behavioural counselling sessions.

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