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Posts tagged ‘children’

Do bigger families get ill more often?

Number of children in Japan slips to new low

A girl smiles at a playground in a park in Tokyo. The number of children in Japan has fallen to a new low, while the number of people who are over 65 has reached a record high as the population ages and shrinks, the government said. (AFP/Yoshikazu Tsuno)

The number of children in Japan has fallen to a new low, while the number of people who are over 65 has reached a record high as the population ages and shrinks, the government said on Sunday.

TOKYO: The number of children in Japan has fallen to a new low, while the number of people who are over 65 has reached a record high as the population ages and shrinks, the government said on Sunday.

There were an estimated 16.33 million children aged under 15 as of April 1, down 160,000 from a year earlier, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said.

It was the 33rd straight annual decline and the lowest level since records began in 1950, according to the ministry.

Children accounted for 12.8 per cent of the population, the ministry said. In contrast, the ratio of people aged 65 or older was at a record high of 25.6 per cent.

Of major countries with a population of at least 40 million, Japan had the lowest ratio of children to the total population — compared with 19.5 per cent for the United States and 16.4 per cent for China, Jiji Press said.

Last month, the government said the number of people in the world’s third largest economy dropped by 0.17 per cent to 127,298,000 as of October 1, 2013. This figure includes long-staying foreigners.

The proportion of people aged 65 or over is forecast to reach nearly 40 per cent of Japan’s population in 2060, the government has warned.

via Number of children in Japan slips to new low – Channel NewsAsia.

Kids who drink too much energy drinks!

Stacey Cifani (left) and her brother, Cody. Stacey, a medical assistant to a cardiologist, had to undergo a heart operation for a heart condition aggravated by energy drinks. Cody has cut back on the drinks but has not given up on them entirely. — MCT


Medical experts demand energy drink makers stop marketing to children.


NOTHING, it seemed, could get Cody Cifani to cut back on his daily energy drinks. Then last month, the 15-year-old from McKinney, Texas, had two espresso shots, followed by three Monster drinks to pump himself up for his job at a car shop.

Instead of the expected rush, he felt so sick he has avoided them since.

“It was a pounding feeling in my entire head. I was extremely fatigued, and I didn’t want to move,” he said. “It felt like a really bad crash. I felt really bad the entire day and had stomach pains when I woke up.”

While energy drinks may look and taste like sodas, they are packed with significantly higher levels of caffeine.

That may sound benign, but doctors note that caffeine is a stimulant that can, in excess, lead to convulsions, an irregular heartbeat and, in extreme cases, death.

A report from the Drug Abuse Warning Network, a US public health surveillance system that monitors possible drug-related deaths and visits to hospital emergency rooms, noted that there were 20,783 visits related to energy drinks in 2011 alone.

That’s why, even as makers of the drinks say their products are safe and are not marketed to children, some health experts are warning parents to be aware.

The US Food and Drug Administration says that sodas, which are classified as beverages, cannot contain more than 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounces. (For comparison, a Coca-Cola Classic has 30 to 35 milligrams per 12 ounces, and a 16-ounce McDonald’s coffee has 100 milligrams, according to the Mayo Clinic.)

If energy drinks are labeled as dietary food supplements, as some are, the FDA doesn’t restrict the caffeine. Monster’s Worx Energy contains 200 milligrams of caffeine in two ounces, Coca-Cola’s NOS energy 260 milligrams in 16 ounces, and Rockstar energy 240 milligrams in 16 ounces.

That’s way more stimulant than Dr Marcie Beth Schneider, an adolescent paediatrician based in Greenwich, Connecticut, believes any child should have.

Dr Schneider testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on July 31 about her concerns.

“We don’t think energy drinks should ever be consumed by kids because they cause a whole host of medical side effects,” she says in a phone interview. “They raise heart rate and blood pressure, cause rhythm disturbances and anxiety, gastrointestinal upset and sleeplessness, and we don’t know what those things do to a developing neurological and cardiovascular system.”

Experts generally agree. The US National Collegiate Athletic Association prohibits the drinks for student-athletes. In June, the American Medical Association recommended banning the marketing of energy drinks for those younger than 18.

The 14 energy-drink companies that issued statements at the Senate meeting said that they do not market their product to children and teens. A statement from Janet Weiner, chief operations officer and chief financial officer of Rockstar, questioned the Drug Abuse Warning Network’s report, noting that the reported number of 20,000 ER visits was a tiny percentage of the total number of ER visits, and that “most of the ER visits did not require further treatment because they were not serious”.

She added, “Coffee and tea, rather than energy drinks, are the most significant sources of caffeine for Americans, including teens and children.”

As the drinks’ popularity has grown – they are a US$12.5bil (RM41.25bil) business, according to Forbes – there have been attention-grabbing incidents.

As of October, the Federal Drug Administration was investigating five deaths and one non-fatal heart attack by people consuming Monster. Two wrongful-death lawsuits have been filed against Monster since 2012, one from the family of Anais Fournier of Maryland, a 14-year-old who died in 2011 after consuming two 24-ounce drinks in a 24-hour period.

Another, filed in June, is from Paula Morris of California, who blames the death of her son, Alex Morris, 19, on drinking two cans of Monster’s energy drink every day for the three years before he died of cardiac arrest.

Monster Beverage Corp responded last year with a statement maintaining that its product is safe and in full compliance with all laws and regulations.

The Associated Press has reported that Monster’s lawyer, Daniel Callahan, said the company hired a team of physicians to review medical records. The team found no medical evidence for an autopsy report that said caffeine toxicity was a factor, he said, which he said suggests Anais Fournier died of natural causes brought on by her pre-existing heart conditions. Similarly, it issued a statement that there was nothing in the coroner’s report that connects Alex Morris’ death with his consumption of Monster drinks.

Schneider says energy-drink companies like to compare the caffeine in their product to that in coffee, but energy drinks have additional ingredients that magnify the effects of the stimulant, such as taurine and guarana.

She says not enough kids are aware of how much stimulant they may be consuming in a day, particularly if they also drink coffee, use medication for attention-deficit disorder or take an over-the-counter drug that helps them pull an all-nighter.

Dr Michelle Fowers, a pediatrician at Baylor Medical Center at Irving-Coppell in Texas, US, thinks education can help kids kick the energy-drink habit.

“The kids see someone they look up to with a can of Red Bull in his hands and that makes it OK,” she says. “They think it’s not alcohol, it’s not hard drugs, it’s not so bad. But caffeine is a drug. It can be harmful, and it is addictive. Once kids start taking it, they want more, and they will feel the pain of withdrawal when they stop.”

Cody’s sister, Stacey Cifani, 25, of McKinney, Texas, had been trying to get him to cut back on energy drinks months before he finally did.

Cifani blames her own daily Monster drinks for leading to her SVT, supraventricular tachycardia, a rapid heart rhythm, which brought her heart rate up to 180 this year.

Luckily, she is a medical assistant for Dr Akram Khan, a cardiologist and medical director for Cardiac Center of Texas in McKinney and director of preventive medicine at Medical City Plano. He noticed the signs and rushed her to Baylor Heart Hospital, where she received life-saving ablation surgery in March.

Khan says he’s learned to ask patients who report a rise in palpitations and chest pains about their consumption of energy drinks. He’s talked to his 13-year-old about the risks. He says he’s been flabbergasted by how ubiquitous the drinks have become, recently even showing up in his physician lounge.

“The kids drink it like water, and it’s like a time bomb. It can be fatal if you have an underlying condition, and it can also damage a healthy heart,” he says.

Cifani could have been one of the casualties, Khan says.

“I’ve told her, ‘No more energy drinks.’” – The Dallas Morning News/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

via Kids who drink too much energy drinks! – Health | The Star Online.

Go organic, one step at a time


Going organic is simply healthier for your body and good for the family.


I was mid-lather in the shower when it hit me, the realisation that I had no idea what I was putting on my body. I just knew it couldn’t be real strawberries or lush tropical rainforests. It was chemicals. And I had been putting them on my body every single day for 40-plus years. That’s when I stopped and became organic.

So, maybe your organic epiphany happened in a less lathered way. Maybe everyone you know is talking about organic and you’re afraid to let anyone accidentally see the non-organic, non-healthy lunches you pack for your kids. Maybe you’re overwhelmed on how to start or think it’s too expensive or difficult. Here are some reasons why you may want to switch, along with five easy tips on how to begin.

According to a slew of reports, going organic is simply healthier for your body. Studies have shown that organic food may have higher levels of antioxidants. The chemicals and pesticides in nonorganic foods have been shown to cause a reduction in fertility, may harm your immune system and the added hormones could be a cause for weight gain.

Genetically modified foods have yet to be fully tested, so the potential effects are still unknown. Dr Mehmet Oz notes on his site: “Eating organic protects you from potentially harmful chemicals such as pesticides.”

Joanna Runciman, who runs, offers five easy ways to get started down the organics path:

1) Eat broccoli or kale: “Try it, even if you haven’t in the past. Don’t assume you won’t like these foods. Give them a go and see! Broccoli and kale are rich in the vital nutrients our bodies use to maintain health.

Tip: Try roasting them with a little sea salt and olive oil.

2) Skip synthetic household cleaners: You live in your house and breathe the air all day and touch everything. Wouldn’t it be better if all that was cleaned naturally? Runciman adds: “Remember that what we use in our home gets washed down the drain and ends up in our water supply. We need pure water, so please don’t pollute it!”

Tip: Make your own all-purpose cleaner using white vinegar to clean while you simmer a pot of water and cinnamon sticks for homemade air refreshers.

3) Eat fresh: Pass by the brightly coloured boxes and boxed meals that have a dozen or more ingredients and focus on whole foods that are made with one or two real ingredients, like fruits, vegetables, organic meats and beans. “Nature doesn’t make labels; stick to freshly grown foods,” Runciman says.

Tip: Try eating only fresh foods for one week and see if you feel any differently. You will.

4) Try one new thing a week: Head to the closest farmers market and explore something new. Did you know that if you halve a spaghetti squash and bake it for an hour, fluff the squash using a fork and – viola! – you’ve got healthy spaghetti. Top it with organic tomatoes, stewed with olive oil, and enjoy.

Tip: For dessert, cut a whole watermelon in two, stick in two spoons and savour the natural sweetness.

5) Be prepared: Take healthy options with you wherever you go: To work, driving the kids around, running errands, etc. “Carrots, peeled and chopped,” Runciman suggests, “or some sunflower seeds, dates, an organic apple for example. That way when you feel hungry in the day you won’t be tempted to eat processed foods from the vending machine!”

Tip: Pour yoghurt into an ice cube tray. Add Popsicle sticks and in a few hours your kids will be cheering.

Going organic isn’t difficult, and it doesn’t always have to expensive. You can start slowly and simply finish what you have in the house while replacing with healthier, safer versions over time. – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

via Go organic, one step at a time – Features | The Star Online.

Healthy fasting for children

Bubur lambuk is a popular dish during Ramadan. It’s also a good dish to give your kids who have just started to fast.

Are you about to get your children started on fasting? Don’t worry, there’s a safe and healthy way to get your child to fast.

GENERALLY, children who have not yet hit puberty do not have to fast. However, as they get older, you may want to start preparing your child for this ritual. You can start encouraging your child to begin fasting at the age of seven by getting him to fast for a few hours a day and gradually introduce him/her to all-day fasting.

It is important to teach your child the correct way to fast in order to get him mentally and physically accustomed to the discipline. Since our weather tends to be hot, it is crucial that you take your child’s age into account so as to avoid illness and fatigue.

Given that your child is growing – developing bones and muscles – and needs more nutritious foods in proportion to his size, you must assess your child’s ability to fast.

Start with the basics. Before Ramadan, you can:

– Get your child to eat smaller meals throughout the day to help control the temptation to eat large meals.

– As Ramadan draws nearer, cut down your child’s number of meals a day so that his mind, body and appetite are all in tune for the coming fasting period.

– Gradually cut down your child’s consumption of salt and sugar as these increase thirst and cravings.

During Ramadan, you can:

– Gradually initiate your child into the fasting month. In the beginning, encourage him to fast until 10am.

This can be gradually extended to the noon prayer time (zuhur), and then until the time of the evening prayer (asar).

– Give your child a proper meal during sahur that will last him throughout the fasting period every day. Slow-digesting, fibre-rich foods such as wholegrain cereals, fruits and vegetables are an essential part of the meal.

– Don’t allow your child to overeat (this can cause bloating and indigestion) or eat spicy foods, which can increase gastric acidity.

The best way for your child to get all the energy and protein he needs is to include a variety of protein sources (e.g. milk, cheese and yogurt in meals and snacks). Carbohydrates like rice and potatoes are also an important source of energy.

Don’t forget to pack more colour into your child’s meals as these contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. Even white foods like garlic, onions, mushrooms and cauliflower contain allicin and quercetin – substances that may defend the body against inflammation.

To help you in your child’s meal planning during Ramadan, here are some suggestions for sahurbuka puasa, and moreh(a form of “supper” held either during the breaking of fast or after tarawih prayer and witr prayer).


Food: Breakfast cereals, e.g. oats, wholemeal breads, pancakes (lempeng), rice with mixed vegetables, chicken porridge, tuna/egg/sardine sandwiches.

Drink: Milk, malted drink, plain water, fruit juice, tea.

Fruit: Bananas, papaya, watermelon.

Buka puasa

Food: Rice with kurma or chicken curry, laksa, mi goreng,rendangpulutlemang, traditional Malay cakes, roti jalanasi kukus with fried chicken.

Drink: Plain water, fruit juice, tea.

Fruit: Mango, watermelon, papaya.


Food: Bubur lambuk, traditional Malay cakes – kuih lapis,dodolondeh-ondeh, curry puff, mi rebus.

Drink: Plain water, fruit juice, syrup juice, grass jelly drink.

Fruit: Watermelon, orange, banana.

Avoid carbonated drinks during iftar (time of breaking fast) as they can produce gas and cause discomfort.

It is good to inculcate fasting in your child from young. Just remember to ensure that your child meets his nutrition requirements at the same time.

Although it’s easier to allow your child to eat the same meals you eat during buka puasa, it is better to do some meal planning before or during Ramadan to ensure that your child will eat healthy and nutritious foods.

via Healthy fasting for children – Health | The Star Online.

Rise and Shine movement aims to raise happier, healthier children

Rise and Shine movement aims to raise happier, healthier children

SINGAPORE: A community—led initiative aimed at helping to raise healthier and happier children was launched on Sunday.

The Rise and Shine movement is the effort of a group of parents, supported by various agencies and healthcare partners.

1,341 people spent their Sunday morning at The Lawn@Marina Bay eating breakfast as a family. They set a record for the biggest breakfast picnic turnout in Singapore.

The event was part of the Rise and Shine movement to raise awareness on healthy development of children.

Minister of State for Health Dr Amy Khor stressed healthy lifestyles for children must start with the family.

Dr Khor urged parents to cultivate healthy habits in their children early.

She added activities that families do together can have a significant impact on children.

Dr Khor said: “In order to develop our children and allow them to develop to the fullest potential, we need to ensure the healthy growth and development of our children and healthy growth and development really means promoting, inculcating healthy living, healthy habits in our children from as early as possible and that of course must include good nutrition, good diet, regular exercise, as well as of course mental and emotional well—being.”

— CNA/xq –

Most singles want to get married, have two or more children: study

A newborn baby (AFP/File)

SINGAPORE: Most singles desire to get married and most wish to have two or more children, according to key findings of a Marriage and Parenthood study commissioned by the National Population and Talent Division.

The study involved more than 4,600 people, aged between 21 and 45 years old.

It aims to understand the attitudes and motivations behind Singapore residents’ marriage and parenthood trends.

83 per cent of single respondents indicated that they desired to get married, little changed from the 85 per cent in the last study done in 2007.

Respondents said they were not married because they had not met a suitable partner, they wanted to concentrate on their careers or studies, and they did not have enough money.

For those in serious relationships, they said they were not marrying yet because they wanted to save money for housing and the wedding, and that they were too young to get married.

The study found that parenthood aspirations remained strong.

80 per cent of singles who indicated a desired number of children wanted to have two or more children. This is comparable to 84 per cent in 2007.

Among married respondents, 84 per cent intend to have two or more children, unchanged from the 84 per cent in 2007.

Both male and female respondents intend to have an average of 2.2 children.

Those who are unlikely to have any more children cited practical concerns like financial cost and good child care arrangements.

The Marriage & Parenthood Package was last enhanced in 2008 to strengthen the pro-family environment and support Singaporeans’ aspirations to get married and have children.

Married respondents indicated that maternity leave and the Baby Bonus cash gift were the top two policies that would most likely persuade them to have children or to have more children.

On work-life balance, 79 per cent of singles in the study felt that they had good work-life balance but said some areas could be improved.

However, 65 per cent were exhausted when they came home from work, 42 per cent had insufficient time to date, and 50 per cent had insufficient time to meet new people.

Among married respondents, 82 per cent reported good work-life balance.

However, 62 per cent of them were exhausted when they came home from work, and 54 per cent felt their job prevented them from spending as much time with their families as they would like.

These findings suggested that while Singaporeans generally perceive themselves as having good work-life balance, they may have accepted that achieving work-life balance requires trade-offs in other aspects of their lives.

In other findings of the survey, most respondents viewed having children as taking place within the institution of marriage.

80 per cent of single and 85 per cent of married respondents agreed or strongly agreed that only legally married parents should have children.

Many felt that more could be done to improve awareness and address misconceptions regarding fertility issues.

About 70 per cent of singles and 77 per cent of married respondents assumed that couples would have little problem having children, even when they were over 35 years old.

This indicated that many were unaware that male and female fertility declines with age, and assisted reproduction technology cannot compensate for the age-related decline in fertility.

The study also found that women desired family and employment at the same time.

80 per cent of single female respondents indicated their preference to be working mothers, comparable to 81 per cent in 2007 and 79 per cent in 2004.

Respondents were quite equally split between part-time and full-time employment options, although the percentage preferring part-time employment has increased to 40 per cent in 2012, compared to 19 per cent in 2007 and 21 per cent in 2004.

This suggested that part-time opportunities and more workplace flexibility could encourage women to remain in or return to the workforce.

Sociologist Associate Professor Paulin Straughan, from the National Universtiy of Singapore (NUS), said: “The challenge then for paid work in the next five years would be to mainstream flexibility. And, flexibility does not necessarily means part time work only, though that is important. Flexibility means being able to reorganise work structures and schedules so that we allow employees to work when they can and attend to their family when they can.

“It’s about moving forward to a new paradigm to measure work output, so in many of the jobs that we have in Singapore, you don’t have to be desk bound 9 to 5.

“You can be just as effective if not more effective if you are allowed that flexibility to come in earlier, go back earlier, come in later and go back later or maybe level up on technology, and where possible, allow work from home.”

Those surveyed also voiced strong support for shared parental responsibility.

Given this feedback, the National Family Council said the government should be more aggressive in its measures like legislating paternity leave of one week for fathers or by making the fourth month of maternity leave gender-neutral.

Chairman of the National Family Council, Mr Lim Soon Hock, said: “Given the financial constraints often cited by couples, any enhancements to the Marriage & Parenthood (M&P) Package would be welcome.

“Today, both men and women in Singapore want to work to fulfil their career aspirations. It is therefore important to create an environment that supports shared parenting so that fathers can play their role in raising the family
alongside their working wives.”

Associate Professor Straughan said: “Given that in the midst of all these challenges and constraints, Singaporeans are still holding fast to the importance of getting married, growing families, then I think there is a certain sense of urgency that we step up and build an environment, a conducive environment, to help them realise these aspirations. If we don’t, then over time…they give up and look for other alternatives.”

The government is expected to unveil an enhanced Marriage and Parenthood Package soon.


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