TOO MUCH SUGAR
Over 31,000 people participated in a dietary study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The results were published in February 2014 and the news was not shocking but plenty disturbing for its everyday reality for parents: sugar kills. Or, excess consumption of it does. People who consume more than 21 percent of daily calories from added sugar have double the risk of death from heart disease as those who consume less than 10 percent of calories from added sugars; and people who consume seven or more servings a week of sugar-sweetened beverages are at a 29% higher risk of death from heart disease than those who have one serving or less.
Possible action items: Take added sugar seriously. And, possibly, think of sodas as killers.
September saw national drug store chain CVS discontinue the sale of cigarettes in its stores, which made sense given that CVS is a pharmacy, there to help people regain their health, not damage it. When it comes to tobacco, most parents would likely say less availability for kids is good. Unfortunately, vaping (smoking of e-cigarettes) is the new hot thing for many teens and young adults. It was reported this year that the e-cig market is expected to hit $10 billion by 2017, after only about eight years in existence. Not much is known about the health effects of tobacco delivered by vapor.
Possible action items: Talk to your kids about e-cigs so by the time they see their peers with them, they know what they are and why it’s best to stay away.
A LOT OF ICE WATER THROWN AROUND
Before 2014, only a fraction of the population knew what ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease) was. By now, you would have to be a serious hermit to not know at least something about it. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was arguably one of the most successful PR events of all time, with very real results, reportedly raising more than $100 million for the ALS Association, which is dedicating to finding a cure for the disease. With the height of the action taking place over the summer, and with its majorly fun and viral quality, the phenomenon captured the imagination of kids across the world. Interesting side note: Forbes Magazine estimates that Facebook profited to a multi-million dollar tune thanks to the Challenge, which caused a surge in time spent on the social media site during the summer.
Possible action items: Ask your kids if they know anything about ALS; if they don’t, tell them about it so they can connect the action to the cause.
A DEADLY DISEASE RAVAGES, A VACCINE OFFERS SOME HOPE
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was by far the biggest health story of 2014. While it didn’t directly impact the lives of Orange County families, all of us have felt the heartache of this health challenge that is far from over. By the end of 2014 over 18,000 cases were diagnosed, with over 7,400 deaths and yet immeasurable economic and social consequences. An Ebola vaccine has been under urgent development, with promising results early in a human trial; but by December the trial was put on hold as unexpected side effects became evident. The study is expected to resume this month.
Possible action items: Pray. Give.
THE TRILLIONS OF BUGS WITHIN US
Since 2007 the National Institutes of Health have been working on cataloging all the microbes living in and on the human body in the Human Microbiome Project. Why? Because our microbes do a lot. They help us digest our food. They help us keep pathogens in check. They keep stress in check. They may even help us stay slim. And more and more evidence points to the importance they play for the health of babies. In theory, we would be able to determine the model of a “healthy” microbiome, right? Well, in 2014 the NIH told us that an analysis of healthy microbiomes has found that each person’s microbiome is unique. “Therefore,” says the NIH, “two healthy people may have very different microbial communities but still be healthy. Strikingly, the researchers found that although unique, certain communities could be used to predict characteristics. For example, whether you were breastfed as an infant and even your level of education could be predicted based on microbial communities across varying body sites.”
Possible action items: Do good for your bugs and those of your children by feeding them healthy foods (cut down on sugar per the above) and be very careful with antibiotics. M