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Are Fit Kids Smarter?
August 2011

Another Reason for Kids to Stay in Shape

Strong_KidHow important is it that kids engage in physical activity? Very, according to a recent study published in the journal, Brair Research. Kids that are more physically active tend to have a better-developed brain, which in turn helps them perform better on memory tests.

The study involved 49 children, ages 9 and 10, who ran on a treadmill to measure their oxygen intake, a standard measure of fitness. Subsequent magnetic resonance imaging data of the children found that the more physically fit kids tended to have a larger hippocampus—about 12 percent bigger, relative to total brain size—than their out-of-shape peers and outperformed them on relational memory tests. The hippocampus is known to be important in learning and memory.

The new findings suggest that interventions to increase childhood physical activity could have an effect on brain development. “We knew that experience and environmental factors and socioeconomic status all impact brain development,” says Art Kramer, the University of Illinois psychology professor and Beckman Institute director who led the study. “It’s not easy to do something about your economic status, but here’s something that we can do something about.”


Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2010

 
Kid-Friendly Clues to Healthy Eating
August 2011

The "Nutrition Detectives" Program

NutritionAccording to a recent study conducted by the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, it takes less than two hours to turn students and their parents into “Nutrition Detectives,” able to identify better-for-you foods quickly and reliably.

Nutrition Detectives is a 90-minute program for elementary schools and families, developed by Drs. David and Catherine Katz and a team of nutrition and education experts, in response to the current childhood obesity crisis.

The study included more than 1,200 Independence, Missouri, students in grades two through four and their parents. Students in all three grades increased their food label literacy scores by 18 percent, with third grade students showing the most improvement (23 percent). The overall gain in scores among students was retained three months after their initial exposure to the program.


Download or order free program materials from NutritionDetectives.com.

 
Natural Approaches to ADHD
August 2011

babyDrugs for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are among the hottest-selling medications today, garnering 13 percent of children’s prescription dollars, with sales soaring so quickly that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently had to declare a national shortage.

That worries naturopathic doctors Matthew Baral and David Deichert. “People have gotten in the bad habit of going to medication first, without trying natural therapies,” states Baral, a pediatrics professor at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, in Tempe, Arizona.

In some cases, prescription medication is warranted, says Deichert, an ADHD specialist with Bastyr University, in Kenmore, Washington. But in most cases, he sees it as a stopgap measure as the longer-term benefits of diet and lifestyle changes slowly kick in. The two naturopaths offer these natural wellness approaches.

Minimize Food Additives After decades of parents’ suspicions that additives like food coloring and artificial flavors may fuel behavioral changes in kids, several recent studies have bolstered such claims. A 2007 study of nearly 300 kids ages 3 to 8, published in The Lancet, found that those given drinks containing artificial dye showed significantly higher hyperactivity within a few hours. The British government now requires labels warning that children’s products containing dye may impair attention.

 
Outdoor Workouts Trump the Gym
August 2011

Boost Mental and Physical Well-Being

OutdoorRunningWhen deciding whether to run on a treadmill in the gym of jog in a nearby park, opt for the park, suggests a recent study published in the research journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

The study authors—a team at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry—say exercising outdoors not only appears to promote physical health, but boosts mental well-being, as well. The team analyzed data from a number of sources, including 11 randomized and non-randomized control trials incorporating information from 833 adults.

The study found that exercising in natural environments decreased feelings of tension, confusion, anger and depression, while increasing feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement. Study participants that exercised outdoors also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction and stated that they were more likely to repeat their exercise activity.

 
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