Family Health – August

N.C. Researcher Pens Diet Book
Floyd H. “Ski” Chilton, a biochemist and nutrition researcher at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, has written a new book aimed at helping people lose weight, increase energy, reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases and live healthier, more fulfilling lives. In the book, Chilton explains the body’s “adaptive stress response,” which may have helped to keep our hunter-gatherer ancestors alive, has been turned off and our immune-inflammatory response turned on by modern-day diets and lifestyles, to the potentially extreme detriment of our bodies and our quality of life.

“The Gene Smart Diet” emphasizes calorie restriction, addition of fiber, balancing the omega fats (such as fish oil) and increasing specific families of polyphenols, which are found in many fruits and vegetables and also in some “treat” foods, such as red wine and chocolate. The book includes grocery lists and a 35-day menu plan, and it recommends “the right types” of exercise.

The book is $25.95. For more information, visit www.genesmart.com.

Depressed Dads, Colicky Babies?
A known risk factor for excessive infant crying or colic is maternal depression during pregnancy. A study found in the July issue of Pediatrics found that paternal depression during pregnancy is also a risk factor for excessive infant crying. The study looked at 7,003 families and found that depressed fathers were nearly twice as likely to report excessive crying in their 2-month-old infant, compared to fathers who were not depressed. These rates were similar to the rates seen with mothers. The authors suggest several possible reasons for the association, including reduced sensitivity of depressed fathers to their children, the increased stress on a family from a depressed family member and genetic transmission of irritability. For more information, visit www.aap.org.

New Findings in ‘Depression Risk’ Gene
Stressful life events are strongly associated with a person’s risk for major depression, but a certain gene variation long thought to increase risk in conjunction with stressful life events actually may have no effect, according to researchers funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study, published in the June issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, challenges a widely accepted approach to studying risk factors for depression.

Most mental disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of many genetic risk factors interacting with environmental triggers. However, finding the exact combinations continues to present significant challenges to research.

Advances in scientific understanding allowed mental health researchers in 2003 to show that a gene involved in serotonin activity increased the risk of major depression in people who had a number of stressful life events over a five-year period. Coming at a time of heightened research interest in these gene-environment interactions and the relative lack of progress in the field for mental disorders, this study received wide acclaim and had a far-reaching influence. Not only have considerable resources been invested in subsequent studies that built on this finding, but also some researchers have proposed marketing the gene test to the public, claiming to be able to predict a person’s risk for depression.

However, efforts to replicate the 2003 study’s findings – a key step in scientific progress that helps show whether a particular finding was a chance event – have had inconsistent results.
For more information, visit www.nih.gov.

Obesity, Diabetes Damage Young Arteries, Could Shorten Life
Teenagers and young adults who are obese or have type 2 diabetes show signs of artery damage that may increase their risk of heart attack and stroke later in life, according to a recent study in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

“Because this damage is progressive and has started so early, this may be the first generation that has a shorter life expectancy than their parents,” said Dr. Elaine Urbina, the lead study author and director of preventive cardiology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Heart Institute. Using noninvasive ultrasound imaging, researchers found that fatty plaque build-up in the arteries leading to the head (carotid arteries) was thicker in young people with type 2 diabetes and those who were obese compared to those who were lean.

Before this study, limited information existed on whether children with risk factors for heart disease begin developing plaque build-up and hardening of the arteries. The study was unique because it found vascular damage in a large population of youth. This damage should alert healthcare practitioners to address cardiovascular risk factors early to prevent an increase in stroke and heart attack as these children age.

For more information, visit www.americanheart.org.

Myra Wright is the editor of Piedmont Parent, a sister publication of Charlotte Parent.