Healthy Foods, No Smoking, Less Computer Time

Watch the Well Water
Drinking water for roughly one-sixth of U.S. households comes from private wells, of which there is little regulation. With proper care, well water is extremely safe. However, wells can become contaminated by chemicals or pathogenic organisms. Because children drink relatively more water than adults, they are more susceptible to the waterborne illnesses that can result from contaminated wells. Well water can be used safely by families, but annual testing is advised. Bottled water may be a better choice in some cases, such as during travel or when an infant needs water and the source of the tap water is unknown. Many local health departments will test your well water, for a fee.

Links Between Grilled Meat and Cancer?
Throw a slice of pineapple on the grill instead of a chicken leg? A portobello mushroom instead of a burger? Meat lovers may call foul, but as grilling season heats up, Duke University Medical Center researchers say that’s the best way to lower your cancer risk.

“It’s a concern,” says Denise Snyder, a nutrition researcher at the Duke School of Nursing.

A recent study presented at a cancer meeting by Minnesota researchers found people who ate meat cooked at well-done temperatures were 60 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

“When you apply high temperature to any grilled meat, it breaks down the muscle proteins and creates a cancer-causing substance, which can damage our DNA and genetic material,” says Snyder. “That can jump-start the cancer development process.”

Here’s how to lower your cancer risk during grilling season:
• If you love the grilled flavor, throw more fruits and vegetables – such as peaches, zucchini and bell peppers – on the grill, since these are your safest choices.
• Shorten grill time by using a thermometer, microwaving your food first and choosing thinner, leaner cuts of meat. Or make kabobs, which require less cooking.
• Flip food frequently.
• Line your grill with foil poked with holes to allow the fat to drip down. That, and avoiding smoke flare-ups, which also contain cancer-causing substances that coat the meat, will lessen your exposure.
• Marinating meats first has been shown to reduce the formation of cancer-causing substances.
• Finally, avoid processed meats, such as hot dogs and sausages, because grilled or not, those foods have been shown to increase cancer risk.

AAP Art Contest for Children
“Protecting children from tobacco smoke” is the theme of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2009 art contest for children. Students in third grade through high school are invited to submit original pieces of art for a chance to win cash prizes and a trip to the 2009 AAP National Conference & Exhibition in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 17. First-place winners will receive a $500 prize, with an additional $500 for the child’s school and a trip to Washington, D.C., for the child and a guardian. The second-place winners will receive $250, with another $250 for the child’s school. Winning art will be featured on AAP’s Web site and in other promotional materials. Entries should be mailed to:
American Academy of Pediatrics
Art Contest
141 Northwest Point Blvd.
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
All entries must be postmarked by Friday, July 31. Entry form, rules and guidelines are available at www.aap.org/artcontest.

Cut Coffee and Computers for More Sleep
According to a study appearing in the June issue of Pediatrics, adolescents may have sleep needs that exceed the recommended eight to nine hours each night, but many are getting much less. In the study, middle- and high-school students, ages 12-18 years, completed a questionnaire to measure nighttime intake of caffeinated drinks, use of media-related technology and sleep patterns.

The study authors found that only 20.6 percent received the recommended eight or more hours of sleep each school night. The adolescents used multiple forms of electronic media late into the night and consumed a variety of caffeinated beverages, including many popular energy drinks marketed to their age group.

A multitasking index was developed to track digital media use after 9 p.m. Results indicate that 33 percent of teens reported falling asleep during school an average of twice a day, and caffeine consumption tended to be 76 percent higher by those who fell asleep. Falling asleep during school and difficulties falling asleep on weeknights were significantly related to the multitasking index. Future research is needed to determine how these risk factors for shortened sleep can be effectively modified.

Childhood Obesity and Allergies
A new study indicates there may be yet another reason to reduce childhood obesity: It may help prevent allergies. The study published in the May issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed that obese children and adolescents are at increased risk of having some kind of allergy, especially to a food. The study was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), both parts of the National Institutes of Health.

“We found a positive association between obesity and allergies,” says Dr. Darryl Zeldin, the acting clinical director at NIEHS and senior author on the study. The researchers analyzed data on children and young adults, ages 2-19, from a new national data set designed to obtain information about allergies and asthma. “While the results from this study are interesting, they do not prove that obesity causes allergies. More research is needed to further investigate this potential link,” says Zeldin.

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