Pack healthier lunches to send with kids

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics sent pediatricians some information about school lunches.

While shopping in any grocery store you will notice many neatly compartmentalized prepackaged foods designed to make packing a child’s lunch fast and easy.

With the threat of childhood obesity, these convenience products might help contribute to obesity.

It is important to make sure your children are getting nutritious lunches instead of refined and processed foods like chips, cookies and roll ups.

Processed foods keep well, but the process of making them stable strips the nutrients away and all that remains are sugars and artificial flavors.

The academy recommends that children consume a good balance of foods from the five major groups — vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and dairy. Continue reading

King Richard III rises again via modern DNA

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

William Shakespeare portrayed one of the literary world’s most despicable villains, Richard III, as a clever, ruthless murderer obsessed with ascending to the throne of England.

Historical accounts of this last king of the Plantagenet dynasty are more kind and describe a complex figure who, during his brief reign, instituted reforms beneficial to the common man.

For example, he started the Court of Requests where common people’s petitions could be heard, instituted the practice of bail for citizens and banned restrictions on printing and selling books.

While these historical accounts provide some good information about Richard III, new forensic science reports can give us an even more extensive view of this historical figure.

When King Edward IV died in 1483, his 12-year-old son Edward V inherited the throne, while Edward’s brother Richard was named Lord Protector. Continue reading

Take care of the earth and it will take care of you

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The gardening angels visited me again recently. They come as if by magic: one part sweat, two parts dirt, some under the fingernails, a pinch of earthworm.

As I pulled out my drying, dying tomato plants, I thanked each one for the wonderful harvest and delicious salads all summer. Then, the hard work of weeding began.

Because of heat, mosquitoes, and I admit some laziness, my lovely vegetable garden had become overgrown with a variety of weeds: dollar plants, mimosa weeds, Johnson and rye grass, and some I can’t name. A herbalist once said that “a weed is a plant whose virtue has not been discovered yet.”

So as I laboriously pulled weeds overgrowing my little patch of earth, I started communing with the gardening angels. As I peeled away the mantle of weeds, lo and behold my Greek and Italian oregano was thriving underneath, as was thyme, volunteer basil, and sage. The kitchen sweet fragrance of the herbs as they kissed my nostrils made weeding an aromatherapy experience. Continue reading

Does Grey Matter?

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

What do brain scientists and fans of author E.L. James have in common? They are both passionate about shades of grey. Results from a recent study in the scientific journal Molecular Psychiatry indicate that grey matter really does, well, matter. This study shows that the thickness of grey matter in the brain may be linked to intelligence and may also explain why some people have learning difficulties.

Grey matter is the outermost region of the brain, a layer of tissue two to four millimeters thick covering the brain on both sides with a wrinkled surface. Underneath the grey matter, also called the cerebral cortex, is the white matter of the brain, the cerebrum.

Grey matter is responsible for some major human functions including awareness, attention, consciousness, language, thought and memory. Previous studies have shown that animals with bigger brains generally have thicker cortexes, but there has not been a strict link between intelligence and the thickness of the grey matter until now. Continue reading

Prepare child for going back to school with safety tips

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

A new school year is about to begin. As you prepare your child for his or her time in the classroom, remember there is more to getting ready for school than just buying supplies.

If your child will be walking or riding a bicycle to school:

Teach your child to obey all traffic signals and signs and to look left, right and left again for moving vehicles before he or she crosses the street, to cross at an intersection and to never dart into the street from behind objects such as bushes or parked cars.

Make sure your child knows to look out for cars because even though adults in cars should be sure to look out for children while driving through school zones, this does not always happen. Don’t allow your child to wear headphones or play hand-held video games while walking to school. Continue reading

Enjoy quinoa – a gluten-free superfood

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Quinoa, pronounced “keen-WA,” is a food grown in the high Andes, primarily Bolivia and Peru.

It is not technically a grain nor a cereal, but botanically something in between. It has been a staple in those Andean countries for centuries, though with the worldwide increase in demand, they are finding it harder to afford since most of their production is exported. It does not grow well in the United States.

Why the recent interest in quinoa? We are in an era when rightly or wrongly people are avoiding gluten like the plague. Gluten is a protein common in wheat, barley, rye and oats, among other foods. With the trend to avoid gluten, quinoa fills a gap with a healthful grain-like product that fits well with many recipes.

For example, one of my favorite Mediterranean dishes is called taboulleh. In Galveston, check out the Mediterranean Chef on The Strand for an excellent preparation of this traditional salad.

The catch for gluten-phobes is that taboulleh is usually made with bulgur wheat and despite its wonderful taste and nourishing qualities, it has that old gluten fiend lurking around the parsley, onions and tomatoes. Continue reading

Insect bites, stings cause problems for children

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Summer is here and with it comes warm weather, more daylight and bugs.

Many insects have bites or stings that can cause problems, but what is the difference between a bite and a sting?

Venomous insects inject painful, toxic venom through their stingers. The stings are painful, red and can swell up to 12 inches from the site of the sting.

This is called a local reaction. A person who is allergic to the venom of the insect might have a systemic or whole-body reaction.

Redness, hives and swelling might occur, and this type of reaction can affect airways, as well as circulation and might become life-threatening if not treated in time.

Nonvenomous insects bite in order to feed on your blood. Allergic reactions do occur from nonvenomous insect bites, but severe allergic reactions are rare. Continue reading

IRX3 Made Me This Way

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Obesity, which was once a purely clinical term, has become a household word, uttered in doctors’ offices, in media coverage, and in private conversations as it has become a growing concern for America. But what makes one person accumulate body fat more than another?

For years, scientists believed that the answer to that lay in human genes and their products, but until now, no one knew why or how. At first, they thought mutation of a gene called FTO was responsible. Yet, when they engineered mice with too little or too much FTO, it affected their whole body mass and composition, not just their body fat as is the case with obesity. But since then scientists have discovered that parts of the FTO gene interact with a distant gene called IRX3.

While the parts of FTO that send signals to create products like proteins were doing their job, another part of FTO was sending signals to a different gene far, far away. When this gene, IRX3, received signals from FTO, its production was enhanced. As such, the products it encoded were amplified. It is this gene that appears to be the functional obesity gene, the one primarily responsible for instructing the body to hoard fat. This was found to be true in brain samples of 153 people of European ancestry, as well as in mice. Continue reading

You have to go through all 10 stages of grief

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

(Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series.)

Why is the book by Granger Westberg called “Good Grief?”

The first four stages — shock, emotional pain, depression and loneliness, and physical distress — certainly don’t seem “good” in any clear sense.

They are all a rough and tumble struggle to adjust ourselves to a major loss of some kind in our lives.

How the author explained the concept of “Good Grief,” to me, is as follows.

When we experience a grief-producing event, it is like sliding slowly down into a deep, unknown and often dark valley.

As we work through the later stages of grief, it is an uphill climb but, eventually, we come out of the valley.

Looking back, we discover we are at a higher vantage point than where we started.

We can view the sunshine and the world at large from a mountaintop we have climbed and generally with more vision, awareness, compassion, wisdom and maturity. So what are the other six stages of the grief process? Continue reading

TV, media has impact on children, adolescents’ health

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

By the time an average child finishes high school, he or she will have spent thousands of hours in front of the television set.

Today, many pediatricians believe excessive television viewing by youngsters reinforces such destructive behaviors as alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking.

According to a study published in “Pediatrics,” the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, television and other media represent one of the most important and underrecognized influences on child and adolescent health.

“American media contribute more to adverse health outcomes than to positive or prosocial ones,” according to authors from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Young people average 16 to 17 hours of television viewing weekly, beginning as early as age 2, the article states. When video game and videocassette usage are added, some teenagers may spend as many as 35 to 55 hours in front of the TV.

Citing more than 150 references, the authors note the following: Continue reading