Single dads at risk

Single fathers face more than double the risk of early death than single mothers and partnered parents, says a new study published in The Lancet Public Health (February). The study, conducted by the University of Toronto, highlights that single fathers tend to be older, with higher incidence of cancer, and prone to heart diseases. Poor lifestyle choices and stress are additional contributory factors. 

“Our research highlights that single fathers have higher mortality, and demonstrates the need for public health policies to help identify and support these men. We did find that single fathers tended to have unhealthier lifestyles, which could include poor diet, lack of exercise, or excessive drinking,” says lead author Maria Chiu of the University of Toronto. 

The research team tracked 40,500 people across Canada over 11 years. The subjects ­— including 4,590 single moms, 871 single dads and 18,688 partnered mothers — were, on average, in their early 40s when the study began. Nearly 700 died by the end of the monitoring period. The study found that single dads are more likely to be separated, divorced or widowed. Of the world’s 2.3 billion children, 14 percent, or 320 million, live in single-parent households.


Genes influence snack choices

Children develop poor snacking habits not merely because they are exposed to junk food or aerated drinks; their choices could be determined by their genes, reveals a new study published in the journal Nutrients (February). The study conducted by the University of Guelph, Canada, tracked the day-to-day diets of 50 preschoolers and found that one-third of their diets was made up of snacks. The saliva of the participants was also tested to determine their genetic taste profile. 

The study found that almost 80 percent of preschoolers surveyed possessed at least one of three potential genotypes which predisposed them to develop poor snacking habits. For instance children with the gene related to sweet taste preference, ate sugar-laden snacks and children with the genetic variant related to fat taste sensitivity consumed fatty, carb-heavy snacks. 

“Kids are eating a lot more snacks now than they used to, and we think looking at how genetics can be related to snacking behaviour is important to understanding increased obesity among kids. This new research could help parents understand how their kids taste, and tailor their diet for better nutritional choices,” says Elie Chamoun, a Ph D student at Guelph University who led the research study.


Students learn science better online

Web-based learning can help deepen science knowledge among middle school students, and ease the science literacy gap for underachieving students, according to a study published in the International Journal of Science Education (February). The study conducted by Fatima Terrazas Arellanes of the University of Oregon, USA, introduced four interactive online science lessons over computers/tablets to 2,300 students and 71 teachers in the US. While all participants improved their science knowledge, the improvements were dramatic in those who struggled with the subject. Students with learning disabilities improved 18 percentage points on assessments of science knowledge from pre-test to post-test. In contrast, pupils taught the same content with traditional methods, such as textbooks, showed only five-point gains.

“These significant findings demonstrate that the online curriculum was effective in improving science knowledge for students who struggle with science. Well-designed instructional technology really works to lessen the science literacy gap among diverse groups of learners,” says Dr. Arellanes.


Asthma medication and fertility

Asthma medication, especially those providing quick relief, can affect women’s ability to conceive, highlights a recent study by researchers of the University of Adelaide, Australia. Researchers surveyed more than 5,600 women and found that asthma patients who use short-acting asthma relievers take longer time to get pregnant than other women while those using long-acting asthma preventers conceive as quickly as other women.

Continued use of long-acting asthma preventers seems to protect fertility and reduce the time it takes women with asthma to become pregnant. This could lead to a reduction in the need for fertility treatments,” says lead researcher Luke Grzeskowiak from the University of Adelaide. 

The study examined first-time mothers-to-be from Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Ireland in the early stages of pregnancy. The researchers found no difference in fertility between women using long-acting asthma treatments and women without asthma.

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