Thursday, October 01, 2009

Children whose mothers work are 'less healthy'

What a colossal heap of steaming crap the report below is. They did NOT show that the kids are less healthy. All they showed is that the kids ate less fruit and veg -- and the benefit of fruit and veg is little more than an urban myth. Traditional Eskimos eat practically none but have LOW rates of cardiovascular disease etc. And THAT has been known for around a century!

But even forgetting Eskimos, the authors have certainly not demonstrated any harm from the pattern of food intake that they observed. What evidence is there to set a particular level of fruit and veg intake as being "enough"? Official propaganda about "5 serves" has no foundation in double blind studies that I have ever been able to find -- even though such studies should be relatively easy to do. We now know that official recommendations about how much alcohol one should drink were just guesswork, so I have got $100 for anyone who shows me that the "5 serves" recommendation is any different. Further, I don't like to kick a dead horse but the findings are based on self-reports -- which are notoriously unreliable.

The journal article is here. Its title is "Examining the relationship between maternal employment and health behaviours in 5-year-old British children". The leading author is Summer Sherburne Hawkins

The children of working mothers are less healthy than those who stay at home, according to an authoritative study by British researchers.

Almost two out of three mothers with children under five work in Britain with numbers expected to rise, but new research has shown this can affect children's health.

In a study which will cause renewed debate over who have to divide their time between caring for their offspring and going out to work, the researchers found children whose mothers worked were more likely to be driven to school, to watch more than two hours of TV a day, and have sweetened drinks between meals. Children of mothers who worked full time also ate less fruit and vegetables, the study suggests. [How awful!] Middle class families suffer the same problems as the findings remained similar even when household income was taken into account, the paper said.

Encouraging mothers to return to work has been a key Labour policy and Patricia Hewitt said in 2004 when she was Trade and Industry Secretary that mothers who do not return to work were 'a real problem'.

The research, on more than 12,000 British children aged five, was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The research, from a team at the Institute of Child Health in London, found although children whose mothers worked full time ate less fruit and vegetables, the link disappeared when looking at mothers who worked part-time, the research showed. However, there was no difference between working mothers and non-working mothers on the level of exercise a child took or whether they mainly snacked on crisps and sweets between meals.

Research author, Professor Catherine Law, paediatric epidemiologist at the Institute of Child Health, said: "Our results do not imply that mothers should not work. "Rather, they highlight the need for policies and programmes to help support parents to create a healthy environment for their children."

The researchers noted that around 60 per cent of women with a child aged five or younger in the UK or USA are employed, adding in the study: "Time constraints may limit parents’ capacity to provide their children with healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. "Although we found that flexible work arrangements were not detrimental, they are unlikely to be important in helping parents support the development of positive health behaviours in their children."

They recommended nurseries and childminders should help bridge the gap, by helping ensure children got their recommended levels of fruit, vegetables and exercise: "Policies and regulations can create an environment that promotes healthy eating and physical activity. "Providing structured guidance could support parents by ensuring that the foods and physical activity offered at childcare would help their children to achieve dietary and physical activity recommendations."

A total of 30 per cent (4,030) of the mothers had not worked since the birth of their child but the rest were employed. They typically worked 21 hours per week and for 45 months. The mothers were questioned about the hours they worked and their children's diet, exercise and activity levels when the youngsters were five.

The findings showed that after factors such as mother's education, socioeconomic circumstances and ethnic origin were taken into account, children were 55 per cent more likely to be driven to school if their mother worked 21 hours or more a week. [That's bad?? Sounds safer to me] They were 33 per cent more likely to watch more than two hours of TV a day, than children whose mothers did not work at all.

Lucy Lloyd, director of communications for the Family and Parenting Institute, said the study does not say where the children are being cared for while the mothers are working, whether they are in formal childcare or being looked after by a relative. She added: "We should not use this study to blame working mothers, we do not want a stick to beat them with. It is difficult to draw any firm conclusions from this paper."

Jill Kirby, director for the Centre for Policy Studies said: "The overall picture seems to confirm earlier studies where mothers are more rushed and trying to deal with the demands of working life they are less likely to be able or motivated to ensure their children have a healthy diet and lifestyle. "The answer is not more government regulation but more choice for families to enable them to choose parental care over childcare where they want to and to relieve some of the pressure mothers are put under to place their children into formal care instead of looking after them at home themselves, especially in the early years."

Sue Palmer, an education consultant and writer, said she was not surprised about the new research. She said: "The simple common sense explanation is that the parent knows the child so they know the best way to persuade it to behave and teach good habits. If you don't know your little one that's not so easy. "If parents are close to those children in those first three years, they can set up default habits of eating, activity, play, bedtime routines, mealtime rituals which can help to counter the effects of consumer messages that children are often getting, very often more towards junk food. "If you can set up default habits when the child is very small through the close relationship, it seems there is a good chance those habits can continue. If they aren't set up early, it is more difficult to set up these habits."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "Our Change4Life movement is already helping over 370,000 families eat well, move more and live longer by helping them to understand the harm that fat and added sugar can cause to children’s health, and offering them simple yet effective ways to make changes to their diet and increase their activity levels. “This is part of the Government's £372 million pound strategy to reduce childhood obesity."


Can loneliness heighten the risk of breast cancer?

It can if you are a mouse. Comparing human social life with mice put into a highly unnatural situation must be some pinnacle of absurdity

Lonely women could be at greater risk of breast cancer, researchers claim. Scientists have shown the stress and anxiety caused by ‘social isolation’ can speed up the growth of potentially deadly tumours. Although the findings are based on a study of mice, experts say they have implications for human health and could even pave the way for new types of cancer drugs.

Researchers at Chicago University made the discovery after carrying out experiments on animals that were genetically predisposed to develop breast cancer. The stress caused by living alone altered the behaviour of genes in their breast tissue and sped up the growth of tumours.

The idea that women who have stressful lives might be at higher risk of breast cancer dates back 100 years. However, there has been conflicting evidence from studies about whether stress triggers the disease.

Dr Suzanne Conzen, who led the latest study, said: ‘I doubted there would be a difference in the growth of the tumours in such a strong model of genetically inherited cancer simply based on chronic stress in their environments, so I was surprised to see a clear, measurable difference both in mammary gland tumour growth and interestingly in accompanying behaviour and stress hormone levels.’

Her team took two groups of identical mice and raised them in two environments. One lived in social groups, the others were kept in solitary confinement. Despite having exactly the same food and access to exercise, the isolated mice grew larger tumours.

The lonely mice were also more ‘nervy’, releasing more stress hormones when they were agitated. Stress did not just increase the activity of genes in the brains, but in tissue around their bodies.

The findings, published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, could explain how their environment makes people more susceptible to other potentially dangerous diseases such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.

The study also revealed key genetic changes involved in cancer growth, raising the prospect of new drugs to slow down tumours. ‘Given the increased knowledge of the human genome, we can begin to identify and analyse the specific alterations that take place in cancer-prone tissues of individuals living in at-risk environments,’ Dr Conzen said. ‘That will help us to better understand and implement cancer prevention strategies.’

Past studies have shown that social support and friendship can boost a woman’s chances of recovering from breast cancer, and that the lonely and depressed are more vulnerable to a host of serious diseases.


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