Tuesday, August 10, 2010

IS IT GETTING HARDER TO RAISE CHILDREN? According to a government estimate, it will cost approximately $222,360 for middle-income, 2-parent families to raise babies born in 2009. Housing represents 31% of the cost; childcare and education, 17%; and food, 16%. As children get older, the annual cost increases from less than $12,000 for babies to more than $13,000 for teenagers. Where children are raised also affects the cost. Rural areas are the cheapest and the Northeast is the most expensive. However, the cost per child for a 2-child family is 25% less than the cost for a 1-child family if parents "compair". Irregardless of family size, children eat too many sugary snacks. According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, they're influenced by cartoon characters on the packaging. Of the 40 children ages 4-6, most chose gummy fruit, graham crackers and carrots labeled with cartoon stickers. They also said the snacks with cartoon characters tasted better - except the carrots. Labeling foods with toys, characters and celebrities grew 78% from 2006 to 2008, but only 18% of the foods met children's nutritional standards. Considering about two-thirds of the promotions came from manufacturers who'd pledged to limit marketing to children, using cartoon characters is "funny business". Children watch too much television. A study of approximately 7,000 families also published in the journal Pediatrics found that 25% of children spend more than 2 hours a day watching television or playing video games, that television time increases with age and that boys watch more television than girls. The recommended television limit for children is less than 2 hours a day and no television for children under 2. However, less than 50% of parents of children 9-15 regularly limited television. In fact, 25% of parents thought the limit was 3 hours or more. Most children would think it was even more than that. Finally, children play too many video games. Another study published in the journal Pediatrics followed more than 1,300 children in grades 3-5 for over a year. Parents and their children were asked to estimate how many hours the children spent weekly on video games and television. Then the children's attention spans were assessed by their teachers. According to the study, elementary school children who played video games more than 2 hours daily were 67% likelier to have attention problems in school. It seems turning off both television and video games is the way to turn on education.
IS OUR ATTITUDE ABOUT HEALTH UNHEALTHY? People who have the riskiest-for-their-health behavior are likelier to blame their genetic makeup than to attribute illnesses - primarily hypertension and various cancers - to their behavior. In fact, a study which was published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that the more behavioral risk factors people had - like smoking, not exercising and eating a high-fat diet - the less likely they were to be interested in information about how to live healthier. By blaming their genes they didn't have to take responsibility for their actions - or lack of actions. Because of lack of action Americans are still getting fatter. In 1991 no state had an obesity rate over 20%. In 2010 more than two-thirds of the states did. A recent study showed obesity rates increased in 28 states in 2009. For the 6th year running Mississippi was the fattest state. In 2009 Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia had obesity rates over 30%. In 2010 Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arkansas joined those states. The District of Columbia was the only area with a decrease in its adult obesity rate - in spite of all the "fat cats" in Washington. Because of parental denial American children are still getting fatter. According to a University of Michigan study, 43% of parents with obese children ages 6-11 said their children were "about the right weight"; 37%, "slightly overweight"; and 13%, "very overweight". However, parents with obese children ages 12-17 were more aware of the problem. Eleven percent said "about the right weight"; 56%, "slightly overweight"; and 31%, "very overweight". Some parents in both age groups said "slightly underweight". It seems parents think that their children will outgrow obesity, but in this case taking a "weight-and-see" attitude is unhealthy. Both adults and children should know that it's the brain that makes people crave sugary, fatty foods. There's a system of interconnected neurons called the reward pathway. It evolved millions of years ago to encourage prehistoric man to do things necessary to survive - like eat. Because high calorie foods were scarce, the brain learned to release feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin in response to tastes, smells and places associated with rich food. This system worked well until rich foods became easily available. It's the stomach that signals real hunger by releasing ghrelin, the hunger hormone. If you want to avoid gaining weight, you can't have a "brain trust".

Knight Pierce Hirst

I may be the only writer who has moved to Los Angeles for the weather.

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