Friday, February 22, 2008

Consume Fish Oil, Curb Violence and Aggression

If you want to test the affects of diet on violence and aggression, what better place than a prison? New research from within prison walls suggests that vitamins and fish oil can curb violent and aggresive behavior.

Related research shows that those outside prison walls also benefit from a better diet.

In a study of prison inmates, a physiologist at Oxford University investigated the effects of nutritional supplements on behavior. Half of the 230 British inmates received multivitamin, mineral and fatty-acid supplements while the other half received placebo. Here's what the study found;

  • Minor prison rule infractions dropped by 26 percent in the group taking supplements. The placebo group's behavior did not change.

  • Violent incedences dropped by 37 percent in the group taking supplements. The placebo group's behavior did not change.

Researchers in the Netherlands conducted a similar study and found similar results. Of the 221 inmates who participated in the Dutch study, 116 were given multivitamin, mineral and fatty-acid supplements and the remaining 105 inmates received placebos.

Reports of violence and aggression dropped by 34 percent in the group taking supplements. Reports of violence and aggression actually increased 13 percent in the placebo group.

Researchers are quick to emphasize that poor nutrition is not the only cause of antisocial behavior. Researchers are just as quick to emphasize that there is no down side to an improved diet. And for the prison population, better nutrition is a cost-effective way to address violence and aggression among inmates.

If supplements benefit the prison population, supplements should also work in the population are large as well. Right? (The answer is "yes")

Another Oxford University physiologist took this diet and behavior test to 12 primary schools in northeastern England. This study examined 117 underachieving children between the ages of 5 and 12. Half of the children in this study received an omega-3 supplement for three months. The other half received a placebo made of olive oil.

Researchers found that the group that received omega-3 supplements did substantially better at school than those in the control group. The omega-3 group performed twice as well as expected in spelling. The placebo group, instead of improving, continued to fall behind.

Again, researchers were quick to emphasize that poor nutrition is not the only cause of underachieving school behavior and were just as quick to emphasize that an improved diet can only help.

Based on this and other research, the World Health Organization last year reported: "Certain dietary choices, including fish consumption, balanced intake of micronutrients and a good nutritional status overall, also have been associated with reduced rates of violent behaviour."

The Daytrana Patch - A Sticky Situation

Daytrana, the first and only transdermal medication approved to treat the symptoms of ADHD, seemed like a great idea. Smack a sticky medicated patch on the body and let your skin soak in the drug.

It seems though that this patch worked just a little too well.
Shire, the pharmaceutical company that holds the global license for Daytrana, pulled their product off the market in response to "mechanical problems" with the patch.

Up to five percent of patients reported trouble removing the release liner from the sticky part of patches. Enhancements are underway to improve the release liner. The FDA last year approved Daytrana for children aged six to twelve years with Attention Deficit Disorder.

Food Additives Increase Hyperactivity

Is your youngster bouncing off the walls? Take the Red out. And the Yellow. Remove Sodium benzonate too.

A recent study found that artificial food coloring and preservatives commonly found in kid-favorite foods can increase hyperactivity and disruptive behavior. Conversely, avoiding food additives can lower the risk of hyperactivity and disruptive behaviors in children.

This UK study incorporated 298 children who consume one of three fruit drinks:
  • Mix A contained artificial food coloring.

  • Mix B contained artificial food coloring and the preservative sodium benzoate.

  • Mix C was a placebo drink with no artificial coloring or preservatives.

The food colorings used were: tartrazine (a synthetic lemon yellow dye), sunset yellow, carmoisine (a synthetic red dye), and ponceau (a synthetic red dye). Researchers measured behavior based on parent and teacher ratings along with computerized tests that measured attention spans.

The results ...

  • Children who consumed Mix A had significantly increased hyperactivity compared to the placebo group (Mix C).

  • Children who consumed Mix B had significantly increased hyperactivity compared to the placebo group (Mix C).

Researchers also noted that increased hyperactivity also increased educational difficulties, especially in relation to reading. Study authors wrote, "This study provides evidence of deleterious effects of (artificial food colours and additives) on children's behaviour."

This study found that food additives and preservatives negatively affected all children who experience trouble with inattention, impulsivity, and overactivity and not just those diagnosed as ADHD.

Distractions for the Distracted?

You would think a quiet room with few distractions is the best environment to help ADHD children concentrate. New research from Stockholm University in Sweden shows otherwise.

A new study, published in the Psychological Review, found that concentration and memory improved for ADHD children when they listened to background noise while learning. Previous research indicated that ADHD children were easily disturbed in distracting environments. So what gives?

Researchers explained the surprising results by stating that background noise stimulates the brain just enough for it to function better. For children without ADHD, on the other hand, noise can serve as a distraction and can lower their ability to concentrate and remember things.

Will a little noise help your child? The only way you will know is if you give it a try. Throw a little background noise into the after-school homework routine and see what happens. If the noise seems to distract, turn it off. If it seems to help, by all means keep it on!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Depression: A Moldy Issue?

New research reveals that people living in damp moldy houses have a higher risk of developing depression. This groundbreaking public health study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, is the largest study to associate mold and mood.

While a handful of European studies published over the past decade linked mold to depression, these researchers originally set out to debunk that link. Needless to say, the skeptical US researchers were quite surprised when their study actually substantiated the European studies.

Researchers analized data from a large-scale European survey of housing and health that included almost 6,000 adults in almost 3,000 households. This analysis found a "solid association" between depression and the condition of the home.

Molds are toxins that can affect the nervous and immune system, as well as the part of the brain linked to social function. Researchers of the US study are still not entirely convinced that mold itself directly causes depression. Mold-related health problems such as illness, wheezing and fatigue could elevate the risk for depression. Also, a perceived lack of control over the household environment could also increase the risk of depression.

What the study does make clear is that an unhealthy home is unhealthy for the mental state of the people who live in it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Are You Stressed? Join the Crowd

Are you stressed and anxious? Join the crowd. According to a recent Stress and Anxiety Disorders Survey, 7 out of 10 adults say they experience stress or anxiety on a daily basis.

The Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey is a report that examines the effects of anxiety disorders and everyday stress and anxiety on sleep. This year's installment clearly shows that we are STRESSED.

In addition to the 70% of the daily stressed, 70% also stated that they have trouble sleeping. While most everyone surveyed stated that stress interferes, at least moderately, with their lives, about one-third report that they have had an anxiety attack or panic attack or that they have persistent stress or excessive anxiety daily.

Anxiety disorders (identified as generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias) are the most common psychiatric illnesses in the U.S. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults and and are on the increase.

Adults who are most likely to report daily stress or anxiety are;
  • Under age 55
  • Particularly those between the ages of 18 and 24 (91 percent)
  • Have children (81 percent)
  • Are employed (73 percent).

Women are much more likely to experience daily stress or anxiety than men (56 percent vs. 39 percent).