Health & Fitness

Drs. Oz and Roizen: Fats in diet raise chances of childhood disabilities

The age-old question: Which came first? The fried chicken or the ... ADHD? It’s not easy to answer.

We know that obese moms are more likely to give birth to kids with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder); people with ADHD (kids or adults) are more likely to be overweight (impulse-control issues?); and refined grains, sweet sodas, red meats and whole dairy increase a child’s risk for ADHD.

Now it seems that kids who eat diets high in saturated and trans fats (fried foods and red or processed meats) have a greater chance of developing several childhood disabilities, including impulsivity disorders, depression, anxiety and ADHD.

Five to eight times as many kids are depressed today as there were 50 years ago (less play, more pressure, more obesity), and anxiety is increasingly diagnosed.

ADHD affects millions of U.S. children, some as young as 2 years old. Diagnosis is up 66 percent, especially among boys. And these issues often lead to problems as teens and major depression in adulthood.

So for your kids — and you, too — adopt an eating plan packed with fruit, vegetables, 100 percent whole grains, healthy fats (olive oil, omega-3 rich salmon and ocean trout, and ALA in walnuts, avocados, and canola and walnut oils).

Go for portion control: Keep servings of animal protein about the size of your palm; fill two-thirds of your plate with veggies and whole grains. And get moving. That means 30 minutes of aerobics (minimum) daily for you and your kids and strength training with weights or stretch bands for you two to three times a week.

Backs to the future

News flash! There’s an astounding discovery in the works about lower back pain and how to cure it. It could be as revolutionary as the realization that H. pylori bacteria are responsible for most ulcers.

Turns out between 40 percent and 80 percent of long-term back pain in people with a herniated or slipped disc is associated with a bacterial infection.

The main culprit is the same one that causes acne — Propionibacterium acnes — and it can trigger bone swelling and tissue damage in the spine. Whether it migrates there, following the path of inflammation and tissue damage, or it’s the original troublemaker that causes those problems isn’t clear. But when people with slipped discs were given 100 days of amoxicillin with clavulanic acid (a beta-lactamase inhibitor that increases the effectiveness of the antibiotic), 80 percent saw significant relief of pain and disability up to a year later.

This is big news, because 80 percent of people have back pain at some time in their lives; up to 20 percent never find relief, and another 10 percent have back surgery. So if you have persistent lower back troubles, ask for a blood test to check for bacterial infection and discuss the possibility of antibiotic treatment before surgery or in conjunction with physical therapy.

Some docs are saying this is a discovery worthy of a Nobel prize (the big reward may be to the millions of folks who will feel better if this discovery becomes an accepted treatment option), but confirmation is still a few randomized, clinical trials away.

Lowering stress

As a member of Children of Rageaholic Parents Anonymous, Stuart Smalley’s daily affirmations began: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.”

Now, we’ll admit there’s some benefit in giving yourself a group hug (although it’s not that easy), but for a really uplifting self-affirmation, it’s more effective to focus on what matters to you in your life: family, friends, health and satisfaction from whatever you do day to day.

We’ve long said self-reflection and focus on life’s essentials can reduce your reaction to inevitable, everyday stresses and help you connect to loved ones, make better choices and tackle problems more effectively. Recent research echoes that: When people were given a test with a very tight time deadline, those who did self-affirmation exercises first (listing what mattered to them most) solved 50 percent more problems than those who didn’t.

So get out your No. 2 pencil and write down a list of the things that matter to you, such as family, work, friends, money, health, music, cooking, sleep — anything goes. Then prioritize them from most to least important. It will help you scale back your response to stress by letting you discard worries about things you don’t really care about. Once you’ve done that, you will find it easier to concentrate on what you do care about — and that just makes those things even more rewarding. You’ll be clearer about how you feel and more decisive about what to do when inevitable problems at home, the office or with pals come along.

Violent games hurt teens

Call of Duty: Black Ops (dismembered limbs, obscene language, torture) and Hitman Absolution (can you really absolve a hit man?) — $13.6 billion is spent annually in North America so that more than 210 million folks can play video games like these. Many of those players are younger than 18, and that’s, you know, way bad for kids and teens.

We don’t want to get all fuddy-duddy. We’re fans of video games that get kids and adults moving, like Dance, Dance Revolution, and interactive sports, and of those that keep seniors’ cognitive skills, memory and muscles strong. Groove to Guitar Hero, Gramps! But violent games harm young, developing brains by fueling aggressive behavior, dulling empathy and causing sleep problems.

And if you think you know what’s going on with your kids, think again. Most parents say they’re pretty sure of what their kids are doing online, but 50 percent of kids report having inappropriate- age-rated games (“M” for “mature” and “AO” for “adults only”) among their often-played favorites.

A few guidelines:

• Limit game and TV time combined to two hours a day (and not every day). The American Academy of Pediatrics says more time doubles the risk for attention problems.

• Play the video games to make sure you agree with the Entertainment Software Rating Board ratings: EC (early childhood); E (everyone); E10 (those 10 and up); T (teens); M (mature, 17 and up); and AO (adults only).

• Spend time together doing physical activities, which reduces stress and improves impulse control, and volunteering for projects that help (not annihilate) people who are different from you and your kids.

Tick Tick Tick

“Tick, Tick ... Boom” is composer Jonathan Larson’s musical about his short but successful Broadway career (his “Rent” garnered a Best Musical Tony award), but it could be about the explosion in tick-borne illnesses that are affecting people and their pets.

Turns out 337,000 dogs have gotten Lyme disease in the past six years. Cats don’t get it as often, which is good, since it’s potentially lethal for them. And about 150,000 people had confirmed cases during the same period; another 30,000 or so were suspected.

Lyme is caused by a bacterial infection from the bite of the black-legged or deer tick. The deer tick transmits additional infections (anaplasmosis and babesiosis) that, like Lyme disease, trigger swollen joints, fever, anorexia and internal bleeding in people and dogs. Other ticks cause trouble, too, so if you’re out in tick infested areas, it’s time to tick-proof your life. The clock is ticking.

People: Treat clothing and boots (never skin) with permethrin or DEET. Use repellant with 10 percent to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin. Shower within two hours of tick exposure.

Do a full body search in front of a mirror to check for hangers-on! Examine gear, wash clothing, then tumble dry for one hour.

Dogs: Repel ticks using permethrin; you can kill ticks on a dog with acaricides. Inspect and wash pets outdoors. And there’s a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs (none for cats or people — yet).