Sunday, April 12, 2009

Children who eat porridge for breakfast 'get better exam results'

Seeing I had porridge for breakfast every day until I was 16, I am inclined to agree with this article -- but it wasn't REAL porridge studied below. The study is utter crap anyway. If it shows anything, it shows that correcting nutritional deficiencies is helpful -- not exactly news. Could the fact that "Children received supplements" just somehow be relevant??

Feeding children high energy breakfast foods such as porridge at a young age boosts their exams results at school, new research suggests. Children who followed such a diet before their third birthday had improved scores in reading and problem-solving tests compared to their peers, it was revealed.

In a study that provides some of the strongest links yet between nutrition and academic performance, academics said it also increased the likelihood of remaining in education for longer. It had a particular effect on girls. Research has already shown that food rich in omega 3 such as fish improves reading, writing and spelling among children.

The latest study, based on research using a kind of porridge eaten in Guatemala but made with corn rather than oats, suggests a wider link between food and brain power. John Maluccio, lead author and assistant professor of economics at Middlebury College, Vermont, said: "Before this study, only limited evidence spanning childhood to adulthood existed to support claims about the long-term effects of early childhood nutrition. "This study confirms that the first three years of life represent a window of opportunity when nutrition programs can have lifelong benefits on a child's development, particularly in education."

The study was based on children in Guatemala eating "atole". It was made with corn, rather than the traditional British oats used in porridge, although they share high protein levels. It was mixed with dry skimmed milk and sugar. Children received supplements between 1969 and 1977, the study, published in the Economic Journal, said.

In 2002 and 2004, researchers returned to Guatemala and collected information on school results. Men and women who received atole as children achieved higher scores on reading comprehension tests and on non-verbal cognitive tests, it was revealed. Women taking part in the study were more likely to remain in education for another year.

The research was conducted in Guatemala by the Institute for Nutrition in Central America and Panama, Emory University, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the University of Pennsylvania and Middlebury College.

John Hoddinott, a co-author and IFPRI senior research fellow, said: "We have long known that nutrition interventions can provide significant benefits in terms of a child's health and development. "This study in Guatemala is important because it shows that improving nutrition in early childhood can have significant educational payoffs into adulthood."

Jacqui Lowdon, a paediatric dietician from the British Dietetic Association, said the food used in the study would have a similar protien content to normal porridge, but added that poor diet among the children tested may be responsible for the dramatic results. “We already know that good nutrition is important for long-term health and especially important for brain development in the first few years of life,” she said.


New scar treatment Avotermin may change the face of surgery

People left with unsightly scars from injuries or surgery may soon be able to tone down their blemishes with a new drug, research suggests. Tests indicate that the healing drug has the potential to reduce scarring when administered before a surgical operation or on existing scars if the suture is redone.

The drug, a synthetic cell-signalling agent called avotermin, is injected under the skin at the site of the wound before and after an incision is made or surgery is carried out on an existing scar. Results from the tests, published in The Lancet, show that it improved the appearance of scars noticeably – as judged by panels of lay volunteers and experts.

The scientists who led the study said that in some cases the drug reduced redness and "lowered" the scar, making it feel more like normal skin. In others, it improved scars to the point that they could be located only with temporary tattoo markers.

Earlier research had identified transforming growth factor beta3 (TGFbeta3), a cytokine signalling molecule that sends messages between cells, as a possible anti-scarring therapy.

Three trials were conducted on groups of volunteers who were given centimetre-wide puncture wounds in their arms. The incisions were deep enough to penetrate the skin to underlying muscle. Varying doses of avotermin, an artificial form of TGFbeta3, were injected at the wound site both before and 24 hours after injury. Scarring appearance was assessed using a 100-point scale. The higher the number given, the more noticeable the scar was judged to be.

Trial participants ranged widely in age and were split into two groups, one receiving the anti-scarring therapy and the other a dummy treatment. In two trials, lower doses of the drug improved scarring appearance by up to eight points after 12 months. A third trial using higher doses resulted in improvements of as much as 64 points. About a third of the participants experienced a high level of improvement, a third had slight improvement, and in a third of cases there was no change. No side effects were reported. Avotermin affected the orientation, density and thickness of the collagen fibres that cause scarring, the studies showed.

Professor Mark Ferguson, from the University of Manchester, said that the treatment suggested that major changes to scarring treatment were possible. He said that with 42 million Europeans and 43 million Americans undergoing surgery every year, it could be of enormous benefit, adding that a trial into revision surgery – when people have an existing scar recut and sewn up – was also under way. “Some people got a really dramatic effect, where the scar was almost imperceptible. We had to tattoo temporary markers to either end of the cut because 12 months later we couldn’t see where the scar was,” he said. “If the drug continues to work and be approved it could be used in surgeries, following trauma and burns, from road traffic accidents to elective surgery and cosmetic procedures.”

Professor Ferguson and his colleagues wrote in The Lancet paper that they detected “substantial differences in collagen organisation in some participants, with avotermin-treated scars more closely resembling the basket-weave pattern of normal skin”.

The researchers added: “With low doses injected locally around the time of surgery, avotermin is a well tolerated and convenient treatment. These studies suggest that avotermin has potential to provide an accelerated and permanent improvement in scarring.”

Brendan Eley, chief executive of the Healing Foundation, said that TGFbeta3 had been one of the "holy grails" of anti-scarring therapy for some time, and described the results as encouraging. “That the impact on scar formation is both structural and aesthetic is very promising. What impact these therapies could have on patients with complicated and potentially disfiguring wounds – that’s the exciting next step of this work which the clinical community will await with eager anticipation," he said.


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