Your kid’s health: A report in three acts

Today, a look at a trio of studies on kids' health, presented in three acts.

Act I: Leave it to poor cholesterol

The scene: Lunchtime at Grant Avenue Grammar School as Larry and Gilbert sit down to eat. Let’s listen.

Gilbert: Lunchables?
Larry: Yeah, why?
Gilbert: Ya knucklehead! Don’t you realize that the lifestyle choices you make today can have a profound effect on your cholesterol levels as an adult? Hey, there’s Judy! Load up a spitwad in your straw, would ya?

Hopefully Larry followed Gilbert’s sound advice (on the lifestyle choices, not the spitwad), for a study by researchers at the University of Tasmania in Australia and Finland’s University of Turku has found that smart lifestyle choices made in adolescence can affect cholesterol later in life. Researchers tested the cholesterol and triglyceride levels of 539 youngsters — aged 9, 12 or 15 — in 1985 (they also recorded their height, weight, waist circumference, skin-fold thickness and smoking behaviors). In 2005, they remeasured the now not-so-youngsters and found  that the ones who had good LDL, HDL and total cholesterol levels as kids only maintained those levels if they ate wisely and didn’t smoke; the kids who let themselves go saw their cholesterol levels go to pot. Similarly, the kids with poor readings in youth were able to improve their cholesterol levels through good living.

"Our findings are important for two reasons,”wrote the study’s authors. “First, they suggest that beneficial changes in modifiable risk factors (smoking and adiposity) in the time between youth and adulthood have the potential to shift those with high-risk blood lipid and lipoprotein levels in youth to low-risk levels in adulthood. Second, they emphasize that preventive programs aimed at those who do not have high-risk blood lipid and lipoprotein levels in youth are equally important if the proportion of adults with high-risk levels is to be reduced."

For more info, go here.

Act II: Of changing voices and devastating deltoids

The scene: It’s after school at Robert F. Kennedy Jr. High School as 7th graders Kevin and Paul decide what to do.

Kevin: We could ride our Stingrays downtown to see if any new comic books are in.
Paul: Ya, ya, we could. But I feel like getting pumped up instead.

And that, despite a persistent but erroneous belief that weight training in youth may inhibit bone growth, would be a good after-school activity for a 12-year-old. In fact, medical non-profits from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the American College of Sports Medicine agree that weight training can help prevent injuries, improve sports performance, play a key role in rehabilitating an injury and enhance long-term health no matter one’s age. Studies back up the notion (including a University of Connecticut probe that found that teenage boys who engaged in Olympic style weightlifting had bone mineral density values 20 percent to 35 percent higher than their non-lifting peers) and gyms are starting to encourage supervised lifting programs for youths.

Here’s a good first-hand account by a father of a weightlifting 12-year-old who’s also a certified strength and conditioning coach.

Act III: The ultimate energy drink?

The scene: A highchair in anyhouse USA. A 3-month-old aspiring Olympian watches annoyed as his mom plucks a bottle of formula from the fridge and warms it on the stove.

Annoyed 3-month-old (via a thought bubble): What’s she trying to do, kill my chances for gold in the high jump at the 2032 Olympics!?

It’s true, according to a study of 2,567 adolescents by the University of Granada, those who were breastfed wound up with stronger leg muscles.

The study has more far-reaching implications than simply fueling a field of extra-good high jumpers. Read more here.

Photo: Easy on the gravy, Beav.

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