Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Pregnancy v autism.

A trio of researchers has discovered that if there is a short interval between first and second babies, the second one has an increased risk of autism.

The researchers looked at 660,000 pairs of siblings born in California between 1992 and 2002, where the first-born did not have autism. Then they compared the rates of autism in the second sibling, using the interval between when the mother first gave birth and when she became pregnant again.

Compared to an interval of 3+ years, an interval of 2-3 years resulted in an increase in the risk of autism by 27%, while 1-2 years increased the risk by 87% and under 1 year increased the risk by 139%.

The researchers checked their work using pairs of siblings where the 1st born had autism, and again found the second was at even greater risk if the interval was less than 3 years.

Experts in autism are cautioning that although the study appears sound, it is normal to wait for results to be replicated in a different group of people.

However, other studies have shown an increased risk of schizophrenia in the second born where there is a short interval between pregnancies. While other problems such as being severely pre-term are also linked to increased risk of autism.

Collectively, these suggest that a short interval increases the chance that the second child’s neural development is impacted.

The researchers speculated that the reason might be a depleted level of nutrients such as folate or iron, or elevated stress levels.

Until a mechanism is established, this would suggest mothers falling pregnant within 3 years of last giving birth should make sure their nutrients follow medical recommendations closely, and put practices in place to cut stress.

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January 10, 2011 Posted by | Autism, Brain, Child Health, Diet, Minerals, Pregnancy, Stress, Success, Vitamins | Leave a comment

Udiet: the battlefield.

2010 was stuffed with debate over the reasons why people in developed countries are getting heavier.

 The most simplistic explanations focussed on overeating, or inactivity, or both. HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) also came in for a beating. The problem with this is that Europe imports very little HFCS, but countries in Europe are reporting more and more problems associated with obesity.

 www.obesitymyths.com comes up with a much larger range of interesting possibilities. But in 2005, the New York Times linked this site to sponsorship from fast food producers such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, in this article.

Two reputable groups of scientists published work where they found that the mantra of ‘eat less and exercise more’ doesn’t cover all of the potential reasons.

 A government group in the UK called Foresight was asked to predict what will happen there over time, based on best evidence, and building in realistic assumptions. In order to do so, they had to scour published research to identify the drivers of obesity and build a very detailed model of which drivers are most important. Written in simple English, this is probably the best explanation there is of the obesity epidemic.

The full report is available as a free PDF download here. However, at over 160 pages, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

The second group of scientists published a summary of obesity drivers in November 2009. Again, this is available free using this link.

Their findings outline the battlefield for the Udiet.

1. Overeating, particularly re heavily marketed energy dense foods.

2. Underactivity, again with an organisation driver behind it.

3. Infection caused by bacteria and viruses.

4. Epigenetics, whereby prenatal and early postnatal exposure to the environment alters how genes are expressed without changing the genes. For example, babies born very underweight at birth who are incubated and fed rich diets to catch up weight have a higher risk of obesity and associated issues later in life.

5. Increasing maternal age. Animal studies have shown that babies born to older mothers are fatter than those born to younger mothers.

6. BMI breeding effect. Studies have found that those with a body mass index somewhat above average are producing slightly more children, on average, than the rest of the population, causing the population BMI to increase over time.

7. Assortitative mating is taking place. This hypothesis is that those with higher BMI prefer partners of similar kind, and due to the genetic effect, this leads to even heavier children. A wide range of population studies support this idea.

8. Sleep debt is happening, and leads to increased eating, increased fat deposition and lowered activity. Research shows metabolic changes occur to support this, and also leads to higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. For example, one study shows that getting one and a half hours less sleep than ideal over a two week period results in a diabetic-like profile for glucose and insulin.

9. Endocrine disruptors interfere with estrogen and androgen signalling, and have been building up in the human environment for some time.  These have been found to be involved in obesity in animals and in humans.

10. Commonly used medicines are known to contribute to weight gain. These include medicines for diabetes, high blood pressure, steroids, contraceptives, and anti-histamines.

11. Artificial ambient temperature. The hotter your environment, the less energy you burn keeping warm. The UK home went from 13 centigrade in 1970 to 18 centigrade by 2000. US homes went from 18 centigrade in 1923 to nearly 25 centigrade in 1986.

12. Mothers input. The state of the mother’s glucose and insulin handling systems directly affect the number of fat cells and the fat cell content of the baby.

13. Reduction in smoking rate. The scientists considered this so well documented they excluded it from their list.

14. Altered US demographics. A 2006 article along the same lines had found that alterations in the US population were increasing the races which tend toward higher BMI, therefore  increasing the average BMI of the nation.

The aim of the scientists’ report was not to remove the first two reasons from focus, but to show that the battlefield is considerably more complex than simply food and exercise.

These 14 points are not comprehensive. For example, other researchers have found that altering the circadian rhythm, by staying up late in artificial light and not synchronising your body clock to early morning light, is also a risk factor for weight gain. Also, breastfeeding v formula milk wasn’t mentioned, although formula milk is associated with higher risk of obesity.

January 9, 2011 Posted by | Activity, BMI - body mass index, Breastfeeding, Child Health, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Environment, Epigenetics, Exercise, HFCS - high-fructose corn syrup, High blood pressure, Obesity, Pregnancy, Pregnancy, Success, Thermogenesis, UK, United States, Weight management | Leave a comment

Preventing newborn flu.

Advice on both sides of the Atlantic is that pregnant mothers are an at-risk group that should get the flu vaccine. Now a second study has confirmed that mums-to-be who get the jab pass on the benefits to a second key group. where neither the US or the UK recommends vaccination. New-borns under 6 months have 90% less chance of catching flu if mum had the jab when pregnant.

Dr Marietta Vazquez looked at hospital admissions for flu in babies under 12 months old, from the period 200 to 2009, in Yale-New Haven hospital in north east US. These were each matched carefully with two controls who did not catch influenza.

On this comparison, where mother got inoculated against influenza while pregnant, baby had a 92% less risk of being admitted to hospital with flu. This protection only showed up in those under 6 months.

This finding is in line with an earlier study on the subject. Then, testing babies’ blood for antibodies showed better levels for those whose mother was vaccinated, at birth and at 3 months, while at 6 months the levels were similar to babies of non-inoculated mothers.

The US recommends inoculation of babies from the age of 6 months on. The UK does not.

December 21, 2010 Posted by | Influenza, Pregnancy, Success, UK, United States, Vaccine | Leave a comment

Breastfeeding v diabetes.

Mothers who did not breast-feed their baies were found to be at nearly double the risk of type 2 diabetes than those who breast-fed exclusively for a month and women who were never pregnant.

Dr Eleanor Bimla Schwarz looked at 1,800 mothers in a group of 2,200 women aged 40 to 78 in California.

Recent studies have shown that lactation is associated with improvements in maternal glucose metabolism, and that longer duration of breastfeeding may reduce the risk of diabetes.

Breast-feeding may also decrease visceral adiposity (which women gain in pregnancy).

August 29, 2010 Posted by | Diabetes, Health, Pregnancy, Success | Leave a comment

Diet soft drinks in pregnancy.

This came out in late June but seems to be doing the rounds again as the research is now published in print.

Dr Thorhallur I Halldorsson followed 60,000 Danish women in pregnancy and found the greater the intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks the greater the rate of pre-term delivery (before 37 weeks).

The team checked on naturally sweetened soft drinks and found no increased risk. This suggests something in the artificial sweetener is the reason.

The team also ruled out other reasons linked to pre-term birth, including smoking and body mass index.

Women who drank one or more diet sodas per day were 38% more likely to deliver before 37 weeks. At 4 or more per day, thr risk went up to 78%.

Drinking artificially sweetened diet soft drinks was more likely to increase risk of early preterm (before 32 weeks) and moderately preterm delivery than late-preterm delivery.

August 21, 2010 Posted by | Child Health, Diet, Health, Pregnancy, Soft drinks, Success, Thorhallur I Halldorsson | Leave a comment