Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

The Effects of Discrimination Could Last a Lifetime

 

From the 27 August 2012 article at Science News Daily

Increased levels of depression as a result of discrimination could contribute to low birth weight babies.

Given the well-documented relationship between low birth weight and the increased risk of health problems throughout one’s lifespan, it is vital to reduce any potential contributors to low birth weight.  A new study by Valerie Earnshaw and her colleagues from Yale University sheds light on one possible causal factor.  Their findings, published online in Springer’s journal, theAnnals of Behavioral Medicine, suggest that chronic, everyday instances of discrimination against pregnant, urban women of color may play a significant role in contributing to low birth weight babies.

Twice as many black women give birth to low birth weight babies than white or Latina women in the U.S.  Reasons for this disparity are, as yet, unclear. But initial evidence suggests a link may exist between discrimination experienced while pregnant and the incidence of low birth weight.  In addition, experiences of discrimination have also been linked to depression, which causes physiological changes that can have a negative effect on a pregnancy…

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Levels of everyday discrimination reported were generally low.  However, the impact of discrimination was the same in all the participants regardless of age, ethnicity or type of discrimination reported.  Women reporting greater levels of discrimination were more prone to depressive symptoms, and ultimately went on to have babies with lower birth weights than those reporting lower levels of discrimination.  This has implications for healthcare providers who work with pregnant teens and young women during the pre-natal period, while they have the opportunity to try and reduce the potential impacts discrimination on the pregnancy.

The authors conclude that “Given the associations between birth weight and health across the life span, it is critical to reduce discrimination directed at urban youth of color so that all children are able to begin life with greater promise for health.  In doing so, we have the possibility to eliminate disparities not only in birth weight, but in health outcomes across the lifespan.”

 

August 31, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

People Merge Supernatural and Scientific Beliefs When Reasoning With the Unknown, Study Shows

 

From the 30 August 2012 article at Science News Daily

Reliance on supernatural explanations for major life events, such as death and illness, often increases rather than declines with age, according to a new psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin.

The study, published in the June issue of Child Development, offers new insight into developmental learning.

“As children assimilate cultural concepts into their intuitive belief systems — from God to atoms to evolution — they engage in coexistence thinking,” said Cristine Legare, assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “When they merge supernatural and scientific explanations, they integrate them in a variety of predictable and universal ways.”..

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According to the findings, participants of all age groups agreed with biological explanations for at least one event. Yet supernatural explanations such as witchcraft were also frequently supported among children (ages 5 and up) and universally among adults.

Among the adult participants, only 26 percent believed the illness could be caused by either biology or witchcraft. And 38 percent split biological and scientific explanations into one theory. For example: “Witchcraft, which is mixed with evil spirits, and unprotected sex caused AIDS.” However, 57 percent combined both witchcraft and biological explanations. For example: “A witch can put an HIV-infected person in your path.”

Legare said the findings contradict the common assumption that supernatural beliefs dissipate with age and knowledge.

“The findings show supernatural explanations for topics of core concern to humans are pervasive across cultures,” Legare said. “If anything, in both industrialized and developing countries, supernatural explanations are frequently endorsed more often among adults than younger children.”

The results provide evidence that reasoning about supernatural phenomena is a fundamental and enduring aspect of human thinking, Legare said.

“The standard assumption that scientific and religious explanations compete should be re-evaluated in light of substantial psychological evidence,” Legare said. “The data, which spans diverse cultural contexts across the lifespan, shows supernatural reasoning is not necessarily replaced with scientific explanations following gains in knowledge, education or technology.”

 

 

August 31, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

Chemical Exposure in the Womb from Household Items May Contribute to Obesity

 

From the 30 August 2012 article at Science News Daily

Pregnant women who are highly exposed to common environmental chemicals — polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFCs) — have babies that are smaller at birth and larger at 20 months of age, according to a study from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health published online in the August 30 edition ofEnvironmental Health Perspectives.

PFCs are used in the production of fluoropolymers and are found widely in protective coatings of packaging products, clothes, furniture and non-stick cookware. They are persistent compounds found abundantly in the environment and human exposure is common. PFCs have been detected in human sera, breast milk and cord blood…

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The researchers found that even though girls with higher exposure were smaller than average (43rd percentile) at birth, they were heavier than average (58th percentile) by 20 months of age. The authors say this path may lead to obesity at older ages.

“Previous animal and human research suggests prenatal exposures to PFCs may have harmful effects on fetal and postnatal growth,” says lead researcher Michele Marcus, MPH, PhD, a professor of epidemiology in Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and the assistant program director at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research.

“Our findings are consistent with these studies and emerging evidence that chemicals in our environment are contributing to obesity and diabetes and demonstrate that this trajectory is set very early in life for those exposed.”

According to Marcus, a recent study in Denmark found that women exposed to PFCs in the womb were more likely to be overweight at age 20. And experimental studies with mice have shown that exposure in the womb led to higher levels of insulin and heavier body weight in adulthood….

 

 

August 31, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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