Sunday, June 08, 2008

Females benefit more from mother's milk than males

An odd finding in a variety of ways but it applies to premature babies only. The journal source is not quoted so I could not check on what controls there were for birth weight, socioeconomic status etc.

BREASTFEEDING gives health advantages to all infants, but girls get a greater benefit from breast milk than boys, researchers found. The researchers tracked a group of low birthweight, pre-term infants in Argentina to gauge the protective effect of breastfeeding against respiratory infections in babies. They found breastfed girls were far less likely than breastfed boys to develop serious respiratory infections requiring a stay in hospital.

A lot of research has shown breastfed babies enjoy a range of health benefits compared to those given baby formula, beyond combating respiratory infections. The benefits include fewer ear, stomach or intestinal infections, digestive problems, skin diseases and allergies, and less risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. And some research has shown breastfed babies are smarter, too.

"There are many, many different diseases that are protected against by breastfeeding. It's a great source of nutrition. It's important for development. Everyone benefits from breastfeeding," Dr Fernando Polack, of Johns Hopkins University in the US, one of the researchers, said. "Now, in the specific case of acute respiratory diseases like bronchiolitis and viral infections of the respiratory tract, it seems that there is greater benefit in girls than in boys. And that benefit is substantial."

Bronchiolitis is an infection of the airways of the lungs seen most often in infants aged between three and six months, and the researchers studied a group of 119 high-risk infants who weighed less than 1500g at delivery, a group highly susceptible to these kinds of infections. Of the formula-fed girls, 50 per cent had to be hospitalised when they experienced their first respiratory infection, compared to about 7 per cent of the girls who were breastfed, the researchers wrote in the journal Pediatrics.

But there was no difference between the boys who were breastfed or formula-fed - with about19 per cent of both formula-fed and breastfed infants needed hospitalisation following a respiratory infection, the researchers said. The pattern repeated throughout the first year of life and in subsequent infections, the researchers said. Polack said there may be something in the breast milk that better activates a baby girl's ability to cope with such infections more so than it does for a baby boy.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women who do not have health problems exclusively breastfeed their infants for at least the first six months, with it continuing at least through the first year as other foods are introduced.


Gamers not nerds

The knowalls generally seem to overlook the fact that computer gaming can be quite social. Kids get together to play them

You might think of video game addicts as "shy nerds", but an Australian study has found that they are just as outgoing as everyone else. Dan Loton, a Psychology graduate from Victoria University, conducted an honours research project to find out if video game addiction was related to social skills and self-esteem. "From a clinical point of view, an addiction is a mental illness with very serious consequences," he said. "In this context, we need to ask whether gaming is responsible for causing people's lives to fall apart in the same way we see with gambling, alcohol or drug addiction."

Mr Loton's study found that only 1 per cent of game addicts suffered from shyness and there was no direct connection between problem game-playing and social skills or self-esteem.

The research has implications for the American Medical Association (AMA), which plans to formally recognise video game addiction as a mental disorder in 2012. Last year the AMA described players of massively multiplayer online role-playing games, known as MMORPGs, as "somewhat marginalised socially, perhaps experiencing high levels of emotional loneliness and/or difficult with real-life social interactions". MMORPGs such as World Of Warcraft are often associated with problem gaming due to their virtual economies, expansive worlds, and in-game socialisation.

"There have been some concerns in psychological literature, including the AMA report, that excessive game playing... is related to a difficulty in establishing social relationships and maintaining them," Mr Loton told "It was theorised that people who have social difficulties are turning to games, particularly games that offer social communication, to alleviate those difficulties and (are) therefore getting stuck in the game."

Mr Loton conducted a survey of gamers using two psychological scales, the Problem Video Game Playing scale (PVP) and Social Skills Inventory (SSI), to measure how addicted respondents were and how they operated socially. Of the 621 respondents, around 15 per cent were identified as problem gamers who spent over 50 hours a week playing games. Within this group, there was no clear link between problem gaming and poor social skills or low self-esteem.

However, the study showed MMORPG players were more likely to suffer problems with addiction. "We found that those who played MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft, which currently has over 10 million fee-paying monthly subscribers, were more likely to exhibit problematic game play," he said. "But, what is important to note is that even problem gamers did not exhibit significant signs of poor social skills or low self-esteem. Only one percent of those identified as problem gamers appeared to have poor social skills, specifically shyness."

The research showed there was no direct relationship between social characteristics and video game playing, and more research needed to be done before the AMA was able to make an informed decision, Mr Loton said. As for people suffering game addiction, Mr Loton suggested they try to balance their play with other activities. "If a person feels that they're at the point where they feel that they want to stop playing but they can't and it's interrupting elements of their lives, I would advise them to seek counselling," he said.


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