Health & Fitness

You Docs: Good news about apple juice standards

Apples have been causing problems since, well, that first bite. More recently, apple juice has been the trigger for a debate about arsenic in your food supply – and how safe it is for kids to drink apple juice that may contain this carcinogen.

The debate started when Dr. Oz announced on his show in the fall of 2011 that results of lab tests on commercially available apple juices found higher levels of total arsenic than allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency in drinking water.

At first, the push-back was strong. But after Consumer Reports came out with similar findings, Dr. Oz and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began a dialogue. The result? New standards have been established for inorganic arsenic in apple juice – 10 parts per billion, the same level the EPA sets for drinking water. (Inorganic arsenic may come from pesticides used on foods grown outside North America. Organic arsenic is found naturally in soil and plants. The debate about organic arsenic’s safety is ongoing.)

So, now you can feel secure about drinking or serving apple juice, but here’s how to feel even more secure.

1. Limit all naturally sweet juices to one serving a day. The sugar in them interferes with your child’s appetite for nutritious foods. Never serve a juice with added sugar or sugar syrup in it.

2. If possible, buy organic juices and juices made from fruit grown in the U.S. or Canada. That way you’ll know for sure that inorganic, arsenic-laced pesticides were not used on those crops.

The ABCs of hepatitis vaccines

If there were a vaccine against goofs, we (and our staff) would be the first ones in line. But, alas, there’s no Edit Error Vaccine. So when an attentive reader pointed out that there’s no hepatitis C vaccine either (in a feature last month on common infections, we said there was, even though we know perfectly well vaccines are available only for hep A and B), we wanted to take this opportunity to say thanks for catching the error and to pass along exciting news about the potential for a real hep C vaccine.

The University of Alberta researcher who discovered the hepatitis C virus in 1989 says his team has developed a vaccine that’s effective against all strains of hep C – if clinical trials confirm initial results. In the U.S., researchers at the Scripps Research Institute also have identified antibodies to hep C, and there are even more potential breakthroughs brewing.

In the meantime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges everyone born between 1945 and 1965 to get a hep C test – 67 percent of the 3million people with hep C in the U.S. are baby boomers, but three-quarters of them don’t know they have it. Other folks who should be tested include: anyone who is HIV positive, on dialysis or an IV drug user; and any recipient of clotting factor before 1987 or an organ transplant or transfusion before 1992.

Don’t ever burn

The sun is a source of health (reduces blood pressure; helps the body make vitamin D) and happiness (it elevates your mood), but you gotta shut it out, over and over, especially when it comes to babies and toddlers. Early exposure to sun can set up an infant for skin cancer woes later in life.

Rule No. 1: Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of the sun, by avoiding midday rays and using protective clothing, hats and umbrellas. It’s not a good idea to use sunscreens on babies’ easily permeable skin; the safety is unknown.

Rule No. 1B: Since you’re avoiding the sun, ask your pediatrician about vitamin D-3 supplements for your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 400 IU vitamin D a day until babies can drink 32 ounces of D-fortified formula daily.

Rule No. 2: Start using sunscreen (remember ears, lips, toes, fingers) when your child becomes mobile. Test for sensitivity before doing an all-over rub; reapply every 30 minutes. And provide wraparound sunglasses that filter out UVA and UVB rays.

Rule No. 3: If your toddler starts to look “a little pink,” it’s past time to get out of the sun. It can take 12 hours for a burn to show up, and by then it’s too late to avoid the damage.

Breastfeeding good for mom, baby

Women are frequently harassed for breastfeeding in public. It reached a fever pitch in 2006, when a woman was kicked off a flight for breastfeeding while the plane was still at the gate. Clearly, the crew didn’t know what was best for baby, mom or them.

Breastfeeding benefits everyone, not just infants, who gain immune strength and protection from everything from diarrhea to type 2 diabetes and asthma. If all new moms breastfed for the first year, it could help women avoid 5,000 cases of breast cancer, 54,000 cases of hypertension and 14,000 heart attacks annually. And health care savings? A whopping $860million a year, according to a study in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

So, our recommendations are:

1. When possible, extend breastfeeding from six to 12 months (or more). Nursing in the morning and before bedtime may help accommodate introduction of solid food and your work schedule.

2. Acknowledge that some people find viewing your bare breast embarrassing; it shouldn’t be a hardship for you to cover up a bit.

3. To make breastfeeding as healthful as possible for you and your child, eat five to nine servings of vegetables and fruit daily, only 100 percent whole grains and skinless poultry and fish (we love salmon and ocean trout). Skip red meat, added sugars and syrups, and all trans fats. Plus, take an omega-3 DHA algal oil supplement – 900 mg a day.

Helping your teen lose weight

When Carole King wrote the song “Happy Being Fat,” she nailed the attitude that many overweight teens have about being prodded to slim down: “Don’t tell me to go on a diet. Don’t give me no pills. Just leave me alone with my ice-cream cone, and let me eat my fill.”

And studies show that when weight-loss pressure comes from parents, the majority of adolescents ignore the message or fixate on destructive (and ineffective) weight-control behaviors such as bingeing. But a small shift in how you talk to your teen about eating habits can bolster his or her brain power, self-image and chances for a brighter future.

• Talk about healthful eating, not weight loss. Teens are sensitive to parental criticism; changing your conversation from weight loss to healthful habits makes sure they don’t overreact or get defensive.

• Share nutritional info. Let them know that people who eat five to nine servings of veggies a day and avoid stripped-down carbs and saturated fats are happier and have healthier hearts and less cancer,

• Make better nutrition a family project. Do meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking together. Dads, studies show that if you bring the healthful eating message (we suggest the Mediterranean diet) to the table, it has special powers to transform your teen’s eating habits and weight.