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National Institutes of Health.

Study: Traffic Air Pollution Increases Pregnant Women’s Blood Pressure

A new report from the National Toxicology Program suggests that traffic-related air pollution increases a pregnant woman’s risk for dangerous increases in blood pressure, known as hypertension.

NTP scientists evaluated published research on the link between traffic-related air pollution, or TRAP, and hypertensive disorders broken down by pollutant measurements of TRAP, such as particulate matter (PM2.5). PM is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air, and PM2.5 refers to fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers or smaller. The average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter, about 30 times larger than the largest fine particle.

“What we found when we reviewed the literature is that exposure to PM2.5 from traffic emissions was associated with development of hypertensive disorders in pregnant women,” said Brandy Beverly, Ph.D., lead scientist and researcher at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health. “When these women are exposed to PM2.5 during their entire pregnancy, the likelihood of developing preeclampsia increases by about 50%.”

Other components of TRAP that NTP evaluated included nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, black carbon, and elemental carbon, along with parameters like traffic density and mothers’ proximity to main roads.

For example, the literature suggests that women who live within a quarter of a mile of a major roadway or in high traffic density regions may be at an increased risk for developing hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.

TRAP comes from the combustion of fossil fuels by motor vehicles. These vehicle emissions are mixtures of gases and particles that are easily inhaled and have adverse health effects. TRAP is known to be a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including hypertension.

Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy complicate more than 10% of pregnancies worldwide and are a leading cause of maternal and fetal illness and death. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, mothers with hypertension during pregnancy are more likely to have a pre-term delivery. Their infants are at greater risk for low birthweight and a range of long-term health problems associated with pre-mature birth.

“Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy refer to a range of clinical conditions, all of which include high blood pressure during pregnancy,” said Beverly. “The disorders are classified into four distinct types, based on differences in the timing and onset of the symptoms.”

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Quit Feeding Your Child Pizza, ‘Kid Foods’ and Juice Pouches with this 6 Steps

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According to the National Institutes of Health, on any given day one-third of children and 41 percent of teens eat from a fast-food restaurant. They also report that the restaurant meals often served to kids contain too many calories. The typical “kid food” being offered tends to usually include chicken nuggets, fries, macaroni and cheese, burgers, and pizza. The problem is that these meals often provide empty calories and don’t provide enough nutrition. They also keep the kids wanting the same types of foods at home, with parents often providing them. One expert, Doctor Yum, says it’s time to ditch the “kid food” and start giving kids better options.

“Most food is kid-friendly. Kids just need to learn how to eat it,” says Dr. Nimali Fernando, a Fredericksburg, Virginia-based pediatrician who founded The Doctor Yum Project. “Kids who are taught healthy eating habits, which include eating a variety of healthy foods, will be far better off now and in the long run. They will be learning healthy habits that will last a lifetime.”

Here are 6 reasons to ditch the pizza and pouches and get your kids back to real food:

  • Kids can learn to eat real food. Most of us parents overestimate the amount of food children need. Therefore when a toddler takes two bites of their entree, parents may feel defeated instead of realizing they may have eaten enough. Parents then may be more likely to reach for those kid-friendly, addictive snacks (like crackers and gummy snacks) to fill their child’s belly.  It should be no surprise that grazing-style eating, where hunger does not fully develop, leads to a poor appetite at mealtime. Parents should continue to provide opportunities to practice eating healthy foods, and have realistic expectations for what their child should eat. With enough practice kids will get used to a healthy array of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Check with your pediatrician to see if your child is meeting expectations for growth to ensure his food intake is on track.
  • Restaurant kids meals are a waste of money. When eating out, say no to kid’s meals, which are usually variations on the same “kid-friendly” foods like pizza, chicken nuggets, and sweet drinks. Most of these menus have little to no vegetables or fruit. They may be belly fillers and provide calories but little added nutritional value for your dollar. Instead, order a healthy similarly priced appetizer and/or share your entree with your little one (restaurant meals are so oversized that chances are good that the serving is too big for you anyway). Alternatively, order a few entrees “family style” and ask the server to bring extra plates for whole family to sample. This encourages kids to be adventurous and get used to trying new foods.
  • Kid-friendly foods are misleading.  Recent studies of toddler foods show that many actually have more sugar and salt than what is recommended by experts. Food companies know that parents worry about nutrition, and know the buzzwords to attract those worried parents. It’s easy to make food choices based on the promise of “more protein” or “high in calcium.”  But reading the nutrition label (on the back of the box, not the front) will give you the big picture on whether a food is right for your child. Is there an abundance of additives and preservatives? Are the ingredients recognizable and safe? How much sugar is added? Think about the whole foods that might be used to get the same benefit (like a handful of nuts for protein instead of a protein bar).
  • Kids need real food to develop and thrive. While pizza and macaroni and cheese may fill a child’s belly, kids need fruits, vegetables and whole grains to provide the necessary, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (plant nutrients) for optimal growth and development.  Furthermore, an important part of a child’s development is their oral motor skills, those functions of the mouth (lips, tongue, teeth and palate) that allow for speech, safe feeding and swallowing. Many kid-friendly foods are soft and easy to eat and don’t encourage development of those skills. Relying too heavily on these foods (like soft chicken nuggets and pouches with soft purées) can allow kids to lag behind in oral motor development and may lead to picky eating.
  • You don’t have time to be a short order cook. Making two or three meals to satisfy everyone’s preferences is exhausting and can lead to cooking burnout. Teach kids to eat what you are eating to save time and money and to encourage the spirit of adventurous eating. This can be done from the earliest bites of solid food. Instead of relying on store-bought baby food exclusively, find ways to make your meals into healthy baby food. Check out the Doctor Yum Project’s kid-tested, pediatrician approved recipes on doctoryum.org. Many of them have a “baby food shortcut” which shows families how to adapt a family meal and make a meal for a baby along the way. Eating in this way from a young age can avoid that picky eater trap and lead to a path to adventurous eating for a lifetime.
  • Nutrition shouldn’t be hidden, so stop hiding the veggies.  Kids that are very hesitant eaters may be benefit from a few hidden vegetables as they gain confidence in food, but in general parents should try to help kids learn to love healthy foods without hiding them. While hidden veggies may help nutritionally, the kids may not gain an understanding that vegetables can be delicious, so they may still try to avoid them when they are visible. Get kids loving their veggies by leading by example, preparing them together, growing a garden, and visiting a farmers market where they can pick out a couple of things to try. The more variety they are exposed to and realize that they enjoy, the better the eating habits will be.

“If kids can get involved in the food process, from shopping to preparing it, and they can learn about why eating healthy is so important to them, they are more likely to do so,” adds Heidi DiEugenio, a director at the Doctor Yum Project. “This will help them avoid the obesity problems, chronic health issues, and they will have a better opportunity to live a healthier life throughout their adulthood.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy eating habits can help children maintain a healthy weight, as well as reduce their risks of such conditions as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, iron deficiency, dental cavities, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. An unhealthy diet, on the other hand, can lead to being overweight or obese, increase risks for certain types of cancer, and negatively affect overall health, cognitive development, and a child’s school performance.

 

Study: Zika Virus Lives in Vagina Long After Infection

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Just when you didn’t think it could get any worse, it gets worse.

A recent Yale University study discovered that the Zika virus may live in the vagina for days after infection. Researchers studied the vaginal tissue of pregnant lab mice several days after infection, the virus spread and infected the fetal brain and development but it also replicated itself robustly in the female reproductive tract more than at other sites of infection. The consequence of that rapid replication could be dire for reproduction.

The study was published online August 25, 2016 in Cell.

Before this report, it was not known whether the Zika virus replicated in the vagina after women were exposed through sexual intercourse. Also unknown was the potential consequences on fetuses after sexual transmission to pregnant women were also unknown.  Recent reports have confirmed sexual transmission of the Zika virus from infected men to uninfected women.

The researchers found that the Zika virus replicated in the vagina and persisted post-infection.

“We saw significant virus replication in the genital tissue, up to 4-5 days. With other routes of infection, theZika virus does not replicate unless you block type I interferons. What surprised us most was that the virus replicated in the vagina of wild-type mice with intact interferon response,” said Akiko Iwasaki, professor of immunobiology and investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “The finding may be important for women, not only pregnant women,” said Iwasaki. “The vagina is a site where the virus can replicate and possibly transmit to partners. In pregnant women, vaginal transmission of Zika virus may have a significant impact on the developing fetus.”

The study is also significant given the fact that, according to reports, Zika virus can also persist in semen up to 180 days post-infection, notes the Yale researcher. In addition, a recent report indicates that there can be a female-to-male transmission of Zika virus after vaginal intercourse. Combined, these studies paint a broader picture about the virus generally for those trying to eradicate and prevent it from spreading.

Other Yale authors include Laura Yockey, Luis Varela, Tasfia Rakib, William Khoury-Hanold, Susan L. Fink, Bernardo Stutz, Klara Szigeti-Buck, Anthony Van den Pol, Brett D. Lindenbach, and Tamas L. Horvath. The work was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the National Institutes of Health.