Saturday, October 08, 2011

Anesthesia in Infancy Linked to Later Learning Problems

The obvious overlooked again. If you're sick enough to need anesthesia as a kid, you are more likely to have other problems too. There is no evidence that anesthesia is any problem. It is most likely just a symptom of general poor health and wellbeing. IQ and health are linked

Infants who are given general anesthesia more than once are twice as likely to have learning disabilities later on than children never exposed to the drugs, a new study suggests.

The results add to mounting evidence — from experiments in animals and observational studies in humans — that anesthesia might injure young developing brains.

"There's a persistent association between multiple anesthetic exposures during the first two years of life and subsequent problems with learning," lead author Dr. Randall Flick, a professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., told Reuters Health.

Whether the anesthesia is actually causing those disabilities is not clear, and experts caution that these results should not influence doctors' and parents' decisions to treat children who need painful procedures.

"This should not get in the way of having children receive adequate surgical care," said Dr. Bob Rappaport, head of the Food and Drug Administration's Division of Anesthesia, Analgesia and Addiction Products.

General anesthesia is used to make people unconscious, and therefore unable to experience pain sensations, during invasive or painful procedures.

In young animals, exposure to anesthetic drugs causes the normal process of pruning extra brain cells to become more pronounced and widespread, and the animals end up with learning and behavior problems later in life.

Flick and his colleagues compared the learning skills of 350 children who had received one or more doses of anesthesia before the age of two to 700 children who had never been put under.

The researchers only included children who were healthy and did not have long-lasting illnesses, which meant the reasons for the anesthesia were due to short-term, minor procedures such as putting in ear tubes or repairing a hernia.

Eighty-one of the kids who had had anesthesia developed a learning disability before the age of 19, while 138 children in the other group had learning disabilities.

Those figures translated to rates of disability that were about the same among children who had undergone one procedure with anesthesia and those who had never been exposed — roughly 23 and 21 out of every 100 kids in each group, respectively.

But for children who had had two or more procedures with general anesthesia, the rate was higher: 36 out of every 100 kids had a learning disability.

Rappaport told Reuters Health the FDA is working to accelerate research on anesthesia in children. Flick is a member of an FDA advisory panel on the subject.

The current study, which was funded in part by the FDA, does not conclusively show that the drugs are to blame for the children's learning problems. And, researchers note, the study's observational nature makes it impossible to tease apart the influence of the surgery itself from that of the medication.

For now, the panel recommends no change in the way anesthesia is used in children.

"We don't want parents to become excessively concerned about this and delay unneeded surgery," Flick told Reuters Health, "because the risk of delaying surgery would be greater than the risk of anesthesia exposure."


'Healthier' McDonald's low-fat blueberry muffin is saltier than a burger

So what! Talk of harm is just ideology. See the sidebar here. Salt and fat are both important in making things taste good so it is unsurprising that something low in one will have to be high in the other

A McDonald’s muffin marketed as a healthier option contains more salt than one of its burgers. The fast-food chain’s low-fat blueberry muffin has 1.7g of salt – more than in three packets of ready-salted crisps.

The figures come from health campaigners who claim that simple coffee-break snacks are part of the reason the nation is overdosing on salt every day.

Hidden salt in processed foods is said to be fuelling high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks, leading to thousands of premature deaths.

A study of coffee-break favourites by Consensus Action on Salt and Health found that while some food chains have made real efforts to cut salt levels, others have apparently failed to act. Its research found that around 85 per cent of popular coffee-break products contain as much salt as they did this time last year.

The salt content in a McDonald’s Double Chocolate Muffin has gone up from 1.1g to 1.2g, while Starbucks and the Eat chain were also accused of doing too little to cut salt levels.

Professor Graham MacGregor, of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, said: ‘Manufacturers need to stop hiding salt in their products and stop irresponsibly introducing new ones that are high in salt immediately. ‘It is the high levels of salt in our food that puts up our blood pressure, leading to strokes and heart attacks.’ [Theory only]

CASH nutritionist Kay Dilley said it was difficult for people to know how much salt was in a coffee-shop muffin or biscuit because of a poor labelling. ‘Without clear labelling we still have no idea how much salt we are eating in our coffee break,’ she said.

A McDonald’s spokesman said: ‘We have made substantial changes in salt content across our menu in the last few years and we are committed to making more changes in the future.’


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