Personal care products are possible sources of potentially harmful parabens for babies

Contact: Michael Bernstein 202-872-6042 American Chemical Society

Through lotions, shampoos and other personal care products (PCPs), infants and toddlers are likely becoming exposed to potentially harmful substances, called parabens, at an even higher level than adult women in the U.S., researchers have reported. They published their findings on parabens, which have been linked to reproductive and other health issues, in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology. Continue reading “Personal care products are possible sources of potentially harmful parabens for babies”

Formula-feeding linked to metabolic stress and increased risk of later disease

Contact: Michael Bernstein 202-872-6042 American Chemical Society

New evidence from research suggests that infants fed formula, rather than breast milk, experience metabolic stress that could play a part in the long-recognized link between formula-feeding and an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other conditions in adult life. The study appears in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research.

Carolyn Slupsky and colleagues explain that past research showed a link between formula-feeding and a higher risk for chronic diseases later in life. Gaps exist, however, in the scientific understanding of the basis for that link.

The scientists turned to rhesus monkeys, stand-ins for human infants in such research, that were formula-fed or breast-fed for data to fill those gaps.

Their analysis of the monkeys’ urine, blood and stool samples identified key differences between formula-fed and breast-fed individuals. It also produced hints that reducing the protein content of infant formula might be beneficial in reducing the metabolic stress in formula-fed infants. “Our findings support the contention that infant feeding practice profoundly influences metabolism in developing infants and may be the link between early feeding and the development of metabolic disease later in life,” the study states.


The authors acknowledge funding from the Fonterra Research and Development Centre.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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UCSB researchers successfully treat autism in infants

Contact: Andrea Estrada 805-893-4620 University of California – Santa Barbara

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– Most infants respond to a game of peek-a-boo with smiles at the very least, and, for those who find the activity particularly entertaining, gales of laughter. For infants with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), however, the game can be distressing rather than pleasant, and they’ll do their best to tune out all aspects of it –– and that includes the people playing with them.

That disengagement is a hallmark of ASD, and one of the characteristics that amplifies the disorder as infants develop into children and then adults.

A study conducted by researchers at the Koegel Autism Center at UC Santa Barbara has found that replacing such games in favor of those the infant prefers can actually lessen the severity of the infants’ ASD symptoms, and, perhaps, alleviate the condition altogether. Their work is highlighted the current issue of the Journal of Positive Behavioral Interventions.

Lynn Koegel, clinical director of the center and the study’s lead author, described the game-playing protocol as a modified Pivotal Response Treatment (PVT). Developed at UCSB, PRT is based on principles of positive motivation. The researchers identified the activities that seemed to be more enjoyable to the infants and taught the respective parents to focus on those rather than on the typical games they might otherwise choose. “We had them play with their infants for short periods, and then give them some kind of social reward,” Koegel said. “Over time, we conditioned the infants to enjoy all the activities that were presented by pairing the less desired activities with the highly desired ones.” The social reward is preferable to, say, a toy, Koegel noted, because it maintains the ever-crucial personal interaction.

“The idea is to get them more interested in people,” she continued, “to focus on their socialization. If they’re avoiding people and avoiding interacting, that creates a whole host of other issues. They don’t form friendships, and then they don’t get the social feedback that comes from interacting with friends.”

According to Koegel, by the end of the relatively short one- to three-month intervention period, which included teaching the parents how to implement the procedures, all the infants in the study had normal reactions to stimuli. “Two of the three have no disabilities at all, and the third is very social,” she said. “The third does have a language delay, but that’s more manageable than some of the other issues.”

On a large scale, Koegel hopes to establish some benchmark for identifying social deficits in infants so parents and health care providers can intervene sooner rather than later. “We have a grant from the Autism Science Foundation to look at lots of babies and try to really figure out which signs are red flags, and which aren’t,” she said. “A number of the infants who show signs of autism will turn out to be perfectly fine; but we’re saying, let’s not take the risk if we can put an intervention in play that really works. Then we don’t have to worry about whether or not these kids would develop the full-blown symptoms of autism.”

Historically, ASD is diagnosed in children 18 months or older, and treatment generally begins around 4 years. “You can pretty reliably diagnose kids at 18 months, especially the more severe cases,” said Koegel. “The mild cases might be a little harder, especially if the child has some verbal communication. There are a few measures –– like the ones we used in our study –– that can diagnose kids pre-language, even as young as six months. But ours was the first that worked with children under 12 months and found an effective intervention.”

Given the increasing number of children being diagnosed with ASD, Koegel’s findings could be life altering –– literally. “When you consider that the recommended intervention for preschoolers with autism is 30 to 40 hours per week of one-on-one therapy, this is a fairly easy fix,” she said. “We did a single one-hour session per week for four to 12 weeks until the symptoms improved, and some of these infants were only a few months old. We saw a lot of positive change.”

Friend or foe: Babies choose sides early

Contact: Basil Waugh 604-822-2048 University of British Columbia

Babies have a dark side under their cute exteriors, according to University of British Columbia-led study that finds infants as young as nine months embrace those who pick on individuals who are different from them.

While previous research has shown that babies generally prefer kind actors, the new study – published by the Association for Psychological Science – is the first to suggest that infants condone antisocial behavior when it is directed at individuals who are dissimilar.

“Our research shows that by nine months, babies are busy assessing their surroundings, trying to determine who is friend or foe,” says Prof. Kiley Hamlin of UBC’s Dept. of Psychology, lead author of the study. “One important way they make these distinctions, our study finds, is based on perceived differences and similarities.”

To explore this, researchers had babies choose which food they preferred: graham crackers or green beans. The infants then watched a puppet show in which one puppet demonstrated the same food preference as the infant, while another exhibited the opposite preference.

In the experiments, other puppets harmed, helped or acted neutrally towards the puppets with different or similar food preferences. Prompted to pick their favorite puppet, infants demonstrated a strong preference for the puppets who harmed the “dissimilar” puppet and helped the “similar” one – one infant even planted a kiss on the puppet she liked.

“These findings suggest that babies either feel something like schaudenfreude – pleasure when an individual they dislike or consider threatening experiences harm,” says Hamlin. “Or babies have some early understanding of social alliances, recognizing that the ‘enemy of their enemy’ is their friend.”

Hamlin describes the behaviour as an early form of the powerful, persistent social biases that exist in most adults, who favour individuals who share their origins, languages, appearances – even birthdays and sports affiliations – over people with whom they have fewer things in common.


The findings suggest that when infants aged 9-14 months make social evaluations, they assess not only what people do (e.g., act nice or mean) but also to whom they do it (e.g., a person who is liked or disliked), says Hamlin, who performed the research as a graduate student of Prof. Karen Wynn of Yale University.

While studies show that humans tend to gravitate toward people who have things in common, these preferences can have a dark side, Hamlin says: disliking people who are different may lead us to mistreat them, and excuse – or even applaud – others who mistreat people who are different than us.

This does not mean that more extreme outcomes, like xenophobia and intergroup conflict, are inevitable, Hamlin says. “Rather, this research points to the importance of socialization practices that recognize just how basic these social biases might be and confront them head-on,” she concludes.


Neha Mahajan (Temple University), Zoe Liberman (University of Chicago) and Karen Wynn (Yale University) co-authored the study, which is titled, Not Like Me = Bad: Infants Prefer Those Who Harm Dissimilar Others.

Note: Multimedia available upon request.

Between 8:30 -11:45 a.m. EDT, direct media requests to:

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Vanderbilt study finds maternal diet important predictor of severity for infant RSV: carbohydrate-rich diets

Contact: Craig Boerner     615-322-4747 Vanderbilt University Medical Center

An important predictor of the severity of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants may be what their mothers ate during pregnancy, according to a Vanderbilt study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

RSV is the most common cause of severe lower respiratory tract disease among infants and young children worldwide. Currently there is no effective vaccine against RSV. Outbreaks occur in communities each year, usually lasting 4-5 months during the fall, winter and/or spring months.

Lead author Fernando Polack, M.D., Cesar Milstein Professor of Pediatrics, said his study found that the most serious cases of RSV correlate with mothers who ate a diet high in carbohydrates during pregnancy.

“These cases were not just severe, but the sickest of sick,” Polack said. “What we found was the presumptive impact of a carbohydrate-rich diet was clearly dose dependent.”

More than 1,200 infants younger than 2 years old were hospitalized in 12 institutions in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during the 2011 RSV season.

Of those patients, nearly 800 were found to have RSV infection, and 106 of those babies were considered to have a life-threatening form of the disease, with oxygen saturation rates below 87 percent: Twenty-two infants died in the hospital, and an additional 26 infants died at home with evidence suggesting they died from RSV.

Polack and his collaborators had the mothers fill out a nutrition survey during their final trimester of pregnancy in order to examine the impact of maternal diets heavy in fruits and vegetables versus protein, fats or carbohydrate-rich diets.

Overall, the frequency of life-threatening or fatal RSV in infants was about 12.7 percent among participants, but that rate jumped to 55.6 percent for babies whose mothers ate the greatest proportion of carbohydrates.

“Our study suggests that, where RSV and other respiratory viruses are concerned, the more sugars a mother eats the worse the situation may get for the baby in the first part of life,” said Polack, adding that the next step will be to confirm the association in future studies.


Polack’s work is part of a large study conducted on RSV in developing countries, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

First signs of heart disease seen in newborns of overweight/obese mums

Contact: Stephanie Burns 44-020-738-36920 BMJ-British Medical Journal

Artery wall thickening already present at birth

The walls of the body’s major artery – the aorta – are already thickened in babies born to mums who are overweight or obese, finds a small study published online in the Fetal and Neonatal Edition of Archives of Disease of Childhood.

Importantly, this arterial thickening, which is a sign of heart disease, is independent of the child’s weight at birth – a known risk factor for later heart disease and stroke.

And it may explain how overweight/obese mums could boost their children’s subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease, suggest the authors, who point out that more than half of women of childbearing age in developed countries are overweight or obese.

Twenty three women, whose average age was 35, were included in the study when they were 16 weeks pregnant.

A body mass index (BMI) of more than 25 kg/m2 was defined as overweight or obese, and this ranged from 17 to 42 kg/m2 among the women.

Ten of the babies born were boys, and birthweights ranged from 1850g to 4310g.

The abdominal aorta, which is the section of the artery extending down to the belly, was scanned in each newborn within seven days of birth to find out the thickness of the two innermost walls – the intima and media.

Intima-media thickness ranged from 0.65mm to 0.97mm, and was associated with the mother’s weight. The higher a mum’s weight, the greater was the baby’s intima-media thickness, irrespective of how much the baby weighed at birth.

The difference in intima-media thickness between babies of overweight and normal weight mums was 0.06mm.

“The earliest physical signs of atherosclerosis are present in the abdominal aorta, and aortic intima-media thickness is considered the best non-invasive measure of structural health of the vasculature in children,” write the authors.

And this may explain how a mum being overweight might affect her child’s subsequent risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, they conclude.


[Maternal adiposity and newborn vascular health Online First doi 10.1136/archdischild-2012-303566]

Fired for Reporting ICU Risks, Kaiser Nurse Says




OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – A nurse claims that Kaiser Permanente managers fired her after she complained about sub-standard conditions in the neonatal intensive care unit of a newly-opened facility.

Dawn Smith sued the Permanente Medical Group, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and two managers at Kaiser’s Modesto, Calif. facility. Besides the safety code violations, Smith also brings defamation and wrongful termination actions in the suit filed in Alameda County court.

Smith claims that after Kaiser opened its Modesto facility and hired her in 2008, she complained about “patient, hospital and staffing safety” in its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). According to her complaint, Smith says she brought the issues to the attention of hospital management at monthly staffing meetings.

According to the complaint, most of Smith’s concerns centered on the lack of admission criteria and lack of staffing in the NICU. She also voiced concerns that premature newborns were sent to post-partum too quickly, and that babies were sent home despite being jaundiced with high bilirubin levels.

Smith says Kaiser staff started harassing her after she complained that a doctor did not properly “bag” a baby after delivery, while another failed to order blood work, an IV or monitoring equipment for a baby who showed signs of distress. In 2011, hospital managers Judy Moore and Gail Willingham – both defendants in the complaint – placed Smith on 30-day administrative leave “to look into some concerns we have.”

According to Smith, Moore and Willingham falsely accused her of failing to follow “neonatal resuscitation guidelines on three separate instances. The nurse says that in each of the three instances, she was either not at fault or the managers failed to interview all the parties involved in the deliveries – but Kaiser management handed her a second 30-day suspension without pay, the complaint states.

After several other incidents at the end of 2011 – including the near-death of a term infant – Smith says she complained again to Moore and Willingham. They responded by firing her, according to the complaint.

“Plaintiff’s termination letter was authored by Willingham and Moore and alleges ‘… a witness saw you vigorously handling the newborn, without taping the central [IV] lines securely in place. Your actions resulted in the central lines dislodging, which required replacement at a time when delay in care could be detrimental to the child. … Following a thorough investigation, it has been concluded that this incident was inappropriate; you have failed to follow the following policy: Policy on Obligations Regarding Umbilical Vessel Catheter Management – “Once placement has been verified, tape securely in place using the goal post method” [and] “Ensure the umbilical catheter is securely anchored to the skin.” [Due to] your continued failure to adhere to our policies and work rules, your employment with Kaiser Foundation Hospitals is being terminated effectively immediately,” Smith says in her complaint. (Ellipses in original.)

Smith says that in reality, the delivery doctor failed to secure the catheters in the newborn’s umbilical cord during the incident that cost her her job. She says she actually held the catheters in place until the doctor returned and reinserted the IV.

In addition to Kaiser’s refusal to address her safety concerns, Smith says the blame Willingham and Moore placed on her shoulders for troubles in the NICU damaged her occupation and reputation. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages for both the defamation and her wrongful termination.

Smith is represented by Lawrance Bohm of Sacramento

Breast Milk Reduces Risk of Sepsis and Intensive Care Costs in Very-Low-Birth-Weight Infants

(CHICAGO) — Feeding human breast milk to very-low-birth-weight infants greatly reduces risk for sepsis and significantly lowers associated neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) costs, according to a study by Rush University Medical Center researchers.

The study, published Jan. 31 in the advance online version of the Journal of Perinatology, showed that every 10 milliliters of human milk per kilogram that a very low birth weight infant received during the first 28 days of life decreased the odds of sepsis by almost 20 percent.

A daily dose of 25 to 49.99 milliliters of human milk per kilogram cut NICU costs by more than $20,000, while 50 milliliters per kilogram per day lowered NICU costs by nearly $32,000.

The research, which was led by Dr. Aloka L. Patel, is the first report of an economic impact of an average daily dose of human milk for days 1 to 28 of life on risk of infection and related hospital care costs. Dr. Patel is an associate professor in pediatrics at Rush University Medical Center. She specializes in neonatal and perinatal medicine.

Of 175 very-low-birth-weight infants, 23 (13 percent) developed sepsis from gram-positive bacteria such as staphylococci, Streptococcus and Enterococcus species, and gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), as well as species of Klebsiella, Enterobacter, Pseudomonas and Serratia.

Late-onset sepsis commonly occurs in about 22 percent of very-low-birth-weight babies the United States. In addition to predisposing these infants to other diseases and later neurodevelopmental disabilities, sepsis significantly raises NICU costs due to increased use of ventilation and longer lengths of stay. It also translates into higher societal and educational costs for neurologically affected survivors.

“The substantial NICU hospital cost savings associated with increased dosages of human milk are likely to offset the maternal and institutional costs of providing and feeding human milk, such as breast pump rental, lactation care providers and milk storage,” Patel stated.

She and her co-researchers are further investigating this premise.

Collaborating with Patel on the current study were Tricia J. Johnson; Janet L. Engstrom; Louis F. Fogg; Briana J. Jegier; Harold R. Bigger; and Paula P. Meier at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago. Dr. Engstrom is also affiliated with Frontier Nursing University, Hyden, Ky. The research was funded by NIH grant NR010009.

800,000 Fisher-Price rocking sleeper seats could be infected with mold which can lead to respiratory problems and hives for babies

By  Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 12:11 EST, 8  January 2013 |  UPDATED: 13:23 EST, 8 January 2013

The government is warning concerned parents  to inspect Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘N Play Sleepers due to a risk of exposure  to mold for infants who use them.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said  Tuesday that its warning applies to 800,000 infant recliner seats, called  sleepers, that were sold at stores nationwide and online since September 2009,  with prices ranging between $50 and $85.

The seats, designed for babies up to 25  pounds, feature a soft plastic seat held in a tubular metal rocking frame. The  product has a removable fabric cover.


The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a warning to parents about the hidden dangers of mold growing on Fisher-Price Newborn Rock 'N Play Sleepers The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a  warning to parents about the hidden dangers of mold growing on Fisher-Price  Newborn Rock ‘N Play Sleepers

Fisher-Price Newborn Rock `N Play SleepersFisher-Price Newborn Rock `N Play Sleepers

Mold can develop between the removable seat cushion and  the hard plastic frame if the sleeper remains wet or is infrequently  cleaned

Mold can develop between the removable seat  cushion and the hard plastic frame if the sleeper remains wet or is infrequently  cleaned, the agency warns.

Mold is associated with respiratory illnesses  and other infections, the warning said.

Fisher-Price has received 600 reports of mold  and 16 infants have been treated for respiratory issues, coughs and hives after  they were in the Fisher-Price sleepers.

The agency said consumers should check for  dark brown, gray or black spots that can indicate the presence of mold under the  removable seat cushion.

If mold is found, they are advised to  immediately stop using the product and to contact Fisher-Price for cleaning  instructions or further assistance.

Units currently in retail stores are not  affected by the warning, but mold growth can occur after use of the infant  sleepers.

The warning applies to 800,000 infant recliner seats, called sleepers, sold at stores nationwide and online since September 2009The warning applies to 800,000 infant recliner seats,  called sleepers, sold at stores nationwide and online since September  2009

Crying Baby
Fisher-Price Newborn Rock `N Play Sleepers

Sick babies: 16 infants have been treated for  respiratory issues, leading the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a  product warning about the Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘N Play Sleeper

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UK doctor testifies that under socialized medicine, sick babies are sent home to die

Posted By Jessica Stanton On 3:22 AM  11/30/2012 @ 3:22 AM In DC Exclusives – Blurb,World | No Comments

A British physician’s disturbing testimony is shedding light on the increasingly common practice of National Health Service (NHS) hospitals sending sick or severely disabled newborn babies home or to hospices to die of starvation or dehydration.

Newborn babies are being being placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway for end-of-life care, a system originally allotted and designed for elderly or terminally ill adults. That end-of-life care involves the removal of food and fluid tubes, a method which can take an average of ten days to result in death.

The Daily Mail reports an investigation is being launched to determine “whether cash payments to hospitals to hit death pathway targets have influenced  doctors’ decisions.”

The physician, who wishes to remain anonymous, recounted his experience in a submission to the British Medical Journal, titled “How it feels to withdraw feeding from newborn babies.”

Parents must give doctors to permission to put their child on the pathway to death.

“I know, as they cannot, the unique horror of witnessing a child become smaller and shrunken, as the only route out of a life that has become excruciating to the patient or to the parents who love their baby,” the doctor writes. “I reflect on how sanitised this experience seems within the literature about making this decision.”

The doctor dispelled the notion that the children die without suffering.

“Survival is often much longer than most physicians think. …Parents and care teams are unprepared for the sometimes severe changes that they will witness in the child’s physical appearance as severe dehydration ensues.”

The testimony addresses the “emotional burden” the care team experiences throughout the end-of-life process, describing monitoring the baby as “an indescribable mixture of compassion, revulsion and pain.”

“Some say withdrawing medically provided hydration and nutrition is akin to withdrawing any other form of life support. Maybe, but that is not how it feels. The one thing that helps me a little is the realisation that this process is necessarily difficult. It needs to be.”

Article printed from The Daily Caller:

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This Video is 96.2% Guaranteed to Stop Your Baby From Crying

posted at request:

What mother wouldn’t be overjoyed with a video that has a 96.2% success rate of stopping an otherwise well-cared for baby from crying?

Lotte, a major sweets producing company in Japan has created just this by coming up with a  promotion for Cafuca, their “extremely delicious milk candy”.  Since September 19th Lotte has been running this ingenious marketing strategy targeted towards mothers in their thirties.In the video, cute little animated “cafuca” creatures eat cafuca after cafuca to a tune which is guaranteed to stop a baby from cafuca, er, crying.

Why is it that this video can stop a baby from crying?  According to Ms. Matsumi Suzuki, Director of The Japan Acoustic Laboratory, there is scientific reasoning behind what’s going on in this video. Ms Suzuki, who supervised production of the video, explains that children show continuous interest in their surroundings.  A phenomenon called orienting reflexes allows them to process sudden changes in their environment.  If you give babies constant stimulus through songs and images they will forget their crying in order to take in these sudden changes.

A common misconception is that lullabies work best for calming a baby.  However, what will ultimately succeed is music with a beat, using a variety of different instruments and including different sounds. This means that heavy metal is more likely to stop a baby from crying than a lullaby because it has more of what it takes to kick in those orienting reflexes.

This video also uses a sound range of 6000 to 7000 hertz, which is ideal for babies’ ears.  The song uses useful sound effects to get the orienting reflexes going including pops, and vibration sounds in its lyrics.  A variety of sounds makes for an effective song.

The heroes of this video are the many little ‘cafuca kids’ who continuously pop cafucas into their big oversized mouths.  The little fellow embodies the fluffy, chewiness of cafuca candy.  He starts out alone on a hammock from where he wakes up for a ride in a sail boat.  As he pops cafucas into his mouth he multiplies and he is joined with more and more little fellows just like himself.  It starts to rain and they all scamper under one big umbrella.  The rain lets up and a rainbow appears across the sky.  By now the number of little cafucas have increased to the maximum.  With a “That was fun!” the original little one returns to his hammock for another sleep.  Along with the music you can understand how this strange little performance could hold little ones captivated, forgetting to cry.

An experiment demonstrating this video’s effectiveness was carried out with 52 babies, aged 0 to 3, the prime age for fretful crying.  Of the 52 babies who were shown the video when they were crying, 50 of them stoppedThat is 96.2% more quiet babies.  Those are astounding results!  Ms. Suzuki says that it would make her happy if the video could be useful to mothers who are troubled by fretful crying.

Some prestigious people gathered for the making of this video.  The music producer was Mr. Yosuke Fukui,  who produces music for well-known commercials and children’s programs on TV.  The Director was a Ms Fukunaga Mai who is a known movie producer.

Mr. Fukui comments that in producing this music he consciously gathered all the sounds that would do best in stimulating the orienting reflexes of a small child like percussion and xylophone.

Ms Fukunaga commented that when the cafuca character was explained to her she got an impression of a lethargic being so she livened him up for the video.

Inevitably, adults will also be drawn to this video and may not be able to take their eyes off of its strange, magical pull.

※ Note:  If a baby is crying from illness, hunger, or a dirty diaper, this video will not work.  If there is no apparent reason for the child to cry or he is crying for the want of  something he can’t have then try showing him the video.

American birth rate drops to lowest point ever… and 40 per cent of newborns are to unwed mothers

  • Per cent of  babies born to unmarried women was highest among teens
  • There were  3,953,593 births in the U.S. in 2011, one per cent less than 2010
  • More older  women having newborns as women delay families

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:15:03 EST, 2  November 2012| UPDATED:15:03 EST, 2 November 2012


The birth rate in the United States dropped  to an all-time low in 2011 with one percent fewer births than in the year  before, according to a report released this month by the Centers for Disease  Control and Prevention.

And of all the babies born last year, more  than 40 per cent were born to unmarried women.

The per cent of babies born to unmarried  women was highest among teens but the per cent delivered by unmarried women of  older ages increased from 2010 to 2011.

Dropped: The U.S. birth rate dropped one per cent from 2010 to 2011, the lowest ever recorded 

Dropped: The U.S. birth rate dropped one per cent from  2010 to 2011, the lowest ever recorded

Findings are based on approximately 100 per  cent of registered vital records occurring in calendar year 2011, which were  received and processed by the National Center for Health Statistics, the report  said.

The 2011 preliminary number of U.S. births  was 3,953,593 – one per cent less than 2010.

Rates varied depending on the woman’s  background.

There was a steep drop in births for women  15-19 years old where the rate declined from 34. 2 per cent to 31.3 per cent,  while in 20 to 24 year  old the decline was from 90.0 to 85.3 per  cent.

Where's daddy: Single mothers gave birth to more than 40 per cent of newborns last year 

Where’s daddy: Single mothers gave birth to more than 40  per cent of newborns last year

Older groups held steady with only a small  decline from 108.3 to 107.2 per cent for ages 25 to 29 and a steady 96.5 per  cent from year to year for those age 30-34.

Researcher said the data shows women are  choosing to have family later in life, and rates among older women actually  increased.

Births declined fro most race and Hispanic  origin groups and the birth rate declined for Hispanic, non-Hispanic, black and  American Indian and Alaskan native women.

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Prebiotic may help patients with intestinal failure grow new and better gut

Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

URBANA – Adding the right prebiotic to the diets of pediatric patients with intestinal failure could replace intravenous feeding, says a new University of Illinois study.

“When we fed the carbohydrate fructooligosacharide (FOS) as a prebiotic, the gut grew and increased in function,” said Kelly A. Tappenden, a U of I professor of nutrition and gastrointestinal physiology. “The study showed that using the correct pre- and probiotic in combination could enhance these results even more.”

When FOS enters the intestines, bacteria convert it into butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that increases the size of the gut and its ability to digest and absorb nutrients, she said.

But today’s IV solutions don’t contain butyrate and adding it would entail drug development trials and regulatory red tape. She wanted to see if adding this carbohydrate to the diet while continuing to provide most nutrients intravenously would cause the gut to start producing butyrate on its own. It worked.

According to Tappenden, at least 10,000 U.S. patients are totally reliant on intravenous feeding because their intestines have been surgically shortened.

Many of these patients are premature infants who develop necrotizing enterocolitis, a kind of gangrene of the intestine. In the U.S., one in eight infants is a preemie, and removing necrotized, or dead, intestine is the most common surgical emergency in these babies.

“Surgery saves their lives, but with so much intestine removed, they’re unable to digest or absorb nutrients. These babies are also at risk for long-term complications, such as bone demineralization and liver failure. Our goal is to take kids who’ve had this resection and cause their gut to grow and adapt,” she said.

She tested her hypothesis about butyrate using newborn piglets, an excellent model for the human infant in metabolism and physiology. Piglets with intestinal failure were assigned to one of four groups: a control group; a group whose diet contained FOS, a carbohydrate given as a prebiotic to stimulate the production of butyrate by beneficial bacteria; a probiotic, or actual live bacteria; and a combination of pre- and probiotics.

“We believed that bacteria in the gut would use the prebiotic to make butyrate and support intestinal growth. But we thought that might only happen in the group that received both pre- and probiotics because we didn’t know if the newborn gut would have enough bacteria to make this important short-chain fatty acid.”

Actually, the neonatal piglets did have enough bacteria in their guts, and the prebiotic alone was effective in increasing intestinal function and structure, she said.

“In fact, the probiotic that we used in one of the groups eliminated the beneficial effect of the prebiotic. That shows us that we need to be exceptionally careful in selecting the probiotic we use, matching it to the specific disease,” she noted. Many consumers believe all probiotics are equal, but the effect of specific bacterial strains is different, she said.

“At this point, we can only recommend consumption of the FOS prebiotic alone,” she added.

The article appears in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition and is available online at Jennifer L. Barnes of the U of I and Bolette Hartmann and Jens J. Holst of the University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark, are co-authors of the study, which was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.



New infant formula safety advice could prevent infant suffering

2009 release posted for filing
Contact: Lucy Collister

Published in Letters in Applied Microbiology

Wheat-based infant follow-on formulas are better reconstituted with fruit juice and should be stored in the fridge at 4°C to prevent growth of meningitis bacteria, according to recent research.

The results of a study, published today in the Society for Applied Microbiology journal, Letters in Applied Microbiology, have shown that Cronobacter species do not grow in wheat-based infant formula stored at 4°C.

Cronobacter is a recently defined genus of bacteria and was previously known as Enterobacter sakazakii. Cronobacter species have been frequently isolated from the environment and various food products including infant formula. These bacteria have been associated with infant meningitis, enteritis and septicaemia, so prevention of infant’s consumption is vital in maintaining their safety.

These bugs will grow at 25°C or 37°C, but less so when the formula is made up using apple or grape juice than when made up using water or milk.

“This is valuable information for parents, infant formula producers and regulators and should be used when preparing and storing the reconstituted wheat based infant formula. It is also important that formula is prepared hygienically” said researcher Tareq Osaili.

First evidence that a common pollutant may reduce iodine levels in breast milk: perchlorate

2008 study posted for filing


Environmental Science & Technology


Researchers in Texas are reporting the first evidence from human studies that perchlorate, a common pollutant increasingly found in food and water, may interfere with an infant’s availability of iodine in breast milk. Iodine deficiency in infants can cause mental retardation and other health problems, the scientists note. The study also provides further evidence that iodine intake in U.S. mothers is low and that perchlorate may play a key role.


In a study scheduled for the November 1 issue of ACS’ semi-monthly Environmental Science & Technology, Purnendu Dasgupta and colleagues note that perchlorate occurs naturally in the soil and is also manufactured as a rocket fuel and explosive ingredient. Past studies showed that perchlorate can inhibit iodine uptake. However, scientists did not know its effects on iodine levels in the milk of nursing mothers.


To find out, the researchers collected breast milk samples from 13 breastfeeding mothers and measured their content of iodine, perchlorate, and thiocyanate, another iodine inhibitor found in certain foods. The study showed that if these breast milk samples were fed to infants, 12 of 13 infants would not have an adequate intake of iodine. It also showed that nine of the infants would have ingested perchlorate at a level exceeding those considered safe by the National Academy of Sciences. “Even though the number of subjects was not large, in terms of the number of total samples analyzed, this is the most extensive study on the topic,” the researchers say, adding that the low iodine levels are “disconcerting.” — MTS

Nutrient in Eggs and Meat May Influence Gene Expression from Infancy to Adulthood: Choline



Implications for Wide Range of Disorders – Hypertension to Mental Health Problems


September 20, 2012


Just as women are advised to get plenty of folic acid around the time of conception and throughout early pregnancy, new research suggests another very similar nutrient may one day deserve a spot on the obstetrician’s list of recommendations.


Consuming greater amounts of choline – a nutrient found in eggs and meat – during pregnancy may lower an infant’s vulnerability to stress-related illnesses, such as mental health disturbances, and chronic conditions, like hypertension, later in life.


In an early study in The FASEB Journal, nutrition scientists and obstetricians at Cornell University and the University of Rochester Medical Center found that higher-than-normal amounts of choline in the diet during pregnancy changed epigenetic markers – modifications on our DNA that tell our genes to switch on or off, to go gangbusters or keep a low profile – in the fetus. While epigenetic markers don’t change our genes, they make a permanent imprint by dictating their fate: If a gene is not expressed – turned on – it’s as if it didn’t exist.


The finding became particularly exciting when researchers discovered that the affected markers were those that regulated the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal or HPA axis, which controls virtually all hormone activity in the body, including the production of the hormone cortisol that reflects our response to stress and regulates our metabolism, among other things.


More choline in the mother’s diet led to a more stable HPA axis and consequently less cortisol in the fetus. As with many aspects of our health, stability is a very good thing: Past research has shown that early exposure to high levels of cortisol, often a result of a mother’s anxiety or depression, can increase a baby’s lifelong risk of stress-related and metabolic disorders.


“The study is important because it shows that a relatively simple nutrient can have significant effects in prenatal life, and that these effects likely continue to have a long-lasting influence on adult life,” said Eva K. Pressman, M.D., study author and director of the high-risk pregnancy program at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “While our results won’t change practice at this point, the idea that maternal choline intake could essentially change fetal genetic expression into adulthood is quite novel.”


Pressman, who advises pregnant women every day, says choline isn’t something people think a lot about because it is already present in many things we eat and there is usually no concern of choline deficiency. Though much more research has focused on folate – functionally very similar to choline and used to decrease the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida – a few very compelling studies sparked her interest, including animal studies on the role of choline in mitigating fetal alcohol syndrome and changing outcomes in Down syndrome.


A long-time collaborator with researchers at Cornell, Pressman joined a team led by Marie Caudill, Ph.D., R.D., professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell, in studying 26 pregnant women in their third trimester who were assigned to take 480 mg of choline per day, an amount slightly above the standard recommendation of 450 mg per day, or about double that amount, 930 mg per day. The choline was derived from the diet and from supplements and was consumed up until delivery.


The team found that higher maternal choline intake led to a greater amount of DNA methylation, a process in which methyl groups – one carbon atom linked to three hydrogen atoms – are added to our DNA. Choline is one of a handful of nutrients that provides methyl groups for this process. The addition of a single methyl group is all it takes to change an individual’s epigenome.


Measurements of cord blood and samples from the placenta showed that increased choline, via the addition of methyl groups, altered epigenetic markers that govern cortisol-regulating genes. Higher choline lessened the expression of these genes, leading to 33 percent lower cortisol in the blood of babies whose mom’s consumed 930 mg per day.


Study authors say the findings raise the exciting possibility that choline may be used therapeutically in cases where excess maternal stress from anxiety, depression or other prenatal conditions might make the fetal HPA axis more reactive and more likely to release greater-than-expected amounts of cortisol.


While more research is needed, Caudill says that her message to pregnant women would be to consume a diet that includes choline rich foods such as eggs, lean meat, beans and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. For women who limit their consumption of animal products, which are richer sources of choline than plant foods, she adds that supplemental choline may be warranted as choline is generally absent in prenatal vitamin supplements.


“One day we might prescribe choline in the same way we prescribe folate to all pregnant women,” notes Pressman, the James R. Woods Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “It is cheap and has virtually no side effects at the doses provided in this study. In the future, we could use choline to do even more good than we are doing right now.”


In addition to Pressman and Caudill, several scientists and clinicians from the Division of Nutritional Science and the Statistical Consulting Unit at Cornell and the Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, N. Y., participated in the research. The study was funded by the Egg Nutrition Center, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Nebraska Beef Council, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the President’s Council of Cornell Women. The funding sources had no role in the study design, interpretation of the data, or publication of the results.




For Media Inquiries:

Emily Boynton

(585) 273-1757

Email Emily Boynton


Pacifiers may have emotional consequences for boys

Contact: Paula Niedenthal 608-890-4379 University of Wisconsin-Madison

MADISON — Pacifiers may stunt the emotional development of baby boys by robbing them of the opportunity to try on facial expressions during infancy.

Three experiments by a team of researchers led by psychologists from the University of Wisconsin–Madison tie heavy pacifier use as a young child to poor results on various measures of emotional maturity.

The study, published today by the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology, is the first to associate pacifiers with psychological consequences. The World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics already call for limiting pacifier use to promote breast-feeding and because of connections to ear infections or dental abnormalities.

Humans of all ages often mimic — unwittingly or otherwise — the expressions and body language of the people around them.

“By reflecting what another person is doing, you create some part of the feeling yourself,” says Paula Niedenthal, UW–Madison psychology professor and lead author of the study. “That’s one of the ways we understand what someone is feeling — especially if they seem angry, but they’re saying they’re not; or they’re smiling, but the context isn’t right for happiness.”

Mimicry can be an important learning tool for babies.

“We can talk to infants, but at least initially they aren’t going to understand what the words mean,” Niedenthal says. “So the way we communicate with infants at first is by using the tone of our voice and our facial expressions.”

With a pacifier in their mouth, a baby is less able to mirror those expressions and the emotions they represent.

The effect is similar to that seen in studies of patients receiving injections of Botox to paralyze facial muscles and reduce wrinkles. Botox users experience a narrower range of emotions and often have trouble identifying the emotions behind expressions on other faces.

“That work got us thinking about critical periods of emotional development, like infancy,” says Niedenthal, whose work is supported by the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche. “What if you always had something in your mouth that prevented you from mimicking and resonating with the facial expression of somebody?”

The researchers found six- and seven-year-old boys who spent more time with pacifiers in their mouths as young children were less likely to mimic the emotional expressions of faces peering out from a video.

College-aged men who reported (by their own recollections or their parents’) more pacifier use as kids scored lower than their peers on common tests of perspective-taking, a component of empathy.

A group of college students took a standard test of emotional intelligence measuring the way they make decisions based on assessing the moods of other people. Among the men in the group, heavier pacifier use went hand-in-hand with lower scores.

“What’s impressive about this is the incredible consistency across those three studies in the pattern of data,” Niedenthal says. “There’s no effect of pacifier use on these outcomes for girls, and there’s a detriment for boys with length of pacifier use even outside of any anxiety or attachment issues that may affect emotional development.”

Girls develop earlier in many ways, according to Niedenthal, and it is possible that they make sufficient progress in emotional development before or despite pacifier use. It may be that boys are simply more vulnerable than girls, and disrupting their use of facial mimicry is just more detrimental for them.

“It could be that parents are inadvertently compensating for girls using the pacifier, because they want their girls to be emotionally sophisticated. Because that’s a girly thing,” Niedenthal says. “Since girls are not expected to be unemotional, they’re stimulated in other ways. But because boys are desired to be unemotional, when you plug them up with a pacifier, you don’t do anything to compensate and help them learn about emotions.”

Suggesting such a simple and common act has lasting and serious consequences is far from popular.

“Parents hate to have this discussion,” Niedenthal says. “They take the results very personally. Now, these are suggestive results, and they should be taken seriously. But more work needs to be done.”

Sussing out just why girls seem to be immune (or how they may compensate) is an important next step, as is an investigation of what Niedenthal calls “dose response.”

“Probably not all pacifier use is bad at all times, so how much is bad and when?” she asks. “We already know from this work that nighttime pacifier use doesn’t make a difference, presumably because that isn’t a time when babies are observing and mimicking our facial expressions anyway. It’s not learning time.”

But even with more research planned to further explain the new results, Niedenthal is comfortable telling parents to consider occasionally pocketing the pacifier.

“I’d just be aware of inhibiting any of the body’s emotional representational systems,” Niedenthal says. “Since a baby is not yet verbal — and so much is regulated by facial expression — at least you want parents to be aware of that using something like a pacifier limits their baby’s ability to understand and explore emotions. And boys appear to suffer from that limitation.”



— Chris Barncard, 608-890-0465,

High levels of DDT in breast milk

The highest levels ever of DDT in breast milk have been measured in mothers living in malaria-stricken villages in South Africa. The values lie well over the limits set by the World Health Organization. DDT has been used for many years in South Africa, sprayed indoors to fight malaria. It works, but it exposes the inhabitants to other risks not yet fully known.

Henrik Kylin

“To our ears, spraying DDT inside people’s homes sounds absurd. But it is one of the most effective agents against malaria. And by only spraying adult mosquitoes in the vicinity of people, the risk of developing resistance in mosquitoes decreases, ” says Henrik Kylin, environmental chemist and professor at Water and Environmental Studies, Linköping. Together with South African researchers and doctors, he is collaborating on a project to map the effects of DDT on the population.

“We know a lot about how DDT affects nature and animals, but the effects on people’s health are not as well studied, especially concerning long-term exposure.”

“Based on the argument that “malaria is worse than DDT”, people accept this spray treatment programme. The purpose of our project is to study the side effects, thereby creating a better basis for decisions.”

In a newly published article, the researchers report on a study of DDT levels in breast milk from nursing mothers in four villages, of which three are afflicted by malaria. DDT has been used continuously in these three villages for more than 60 years. The spray treatment takes place a couple of times a year and is carried out by specially trained and equipped staff.

The levels proved to be unacceptably high in the villages sprayed. They were well over (100 times greater) the highest daily dosage recommended by WHO. In once case they measured the highest known level of DDT in breast milk ever, more than 300 times higher than the level allowed in cow’s milk.

DDT has been associated with diagnoses such as breast cancer, diabetes, impaired sperm quality, spontaneous abortions, and neurological disorders in children. In the region where the measurements were carried out, malformed genitalia among boys was significantly more common in areas treated with DDT compared with untreated areas.

“DDT contains oestrogen-like substances; we know that the breakdown products from DDT counteract male sexual development,” Kylin says. Based on breast milk samples, it was estimated that boys ingest somewhat more DDT than girls, with the exception of first-born children. This could depend on the fact that the fat content of breast milk is higher if a boy is nursing. First-born children, however, get the highest levels, depending – as Kylin explains – on the mother’s higher stored levels of DDT at her first birth.

What surprised the researchers more was the large differences between the treated villages. Despite apparently similar conditions, the measured DDT levels were twice as high in one treated village compared with one of the others. A whole range of factors may come into play here, such as procedures in connection with treatment, the condition of the walls, ventilation, people’s behaviour and cleaning habits. Identifying these factors, the researchers write, could contribute to decreasing exposure, thereby also the risk for both mothers and children.

“Unfortunately the smallest children are exposed to the highest DDT levels; they are also extra sensitive to chemical influence,” Kylin says.

He also emphasizes the staff operating the spray treatments as an overlooked risk group requiring further study.

As things stand today, there is no real alternative to DDT in these malaria-stricken areas. “Mosquito-proof netting has successfully been tested in a few places, but doesn’t work everywhere,” Kylin says.

He is convinced that research could have come farther in finding alternatives for DDT if malaria were a widespread illness in rich countries