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Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(2):238

Preschoolers need to hit the playground running, according to a study that recently appeared in Pediatrics. The study found that most three- to five-year-olds are not getting even half of the minimum two hours of physical activity per day that are recommended to keep them healthy. Boys are more likely to participate in moderate to vigorous activity, and three-year-olds are more active than four- and five-year-olds, according to the study. Physical activity helps children learn about their environment and how to play with others, and helps prevent obesity. The study results prompted the researchers to encourage physicians to stress to parents and administrators the importance of strong physical activity programs in preschools.

Could palate preference hold the key to thinner waistlines? A Rutgers University study, reported in USA Today, found that among middle-aged women, “super tasters” (those with high sensitivity to bitter tastes) were 20 percent thinner than “nontasters” (those less sensitive to bitter tastes). Researchers have noted similar results in at least four other studies, although the strongest link between palate preference and weight has been in middle-aged women. Nontasters tend to enjoy foods that are high in fat, sweeter, and more bitter than super tasters, who tend to eat less food overall. Super tasters have an average body mass index (BMI) of 23.5, medium tasters an average BMI of 26.6, and nontasters an average BMI of nearly 30.

What’s your cup of tea? In a study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the blood pressures of 600 habitual tea drinkers in Taiwan were compared with those of 907 non-habitual tea drinkers. Researchers found that in those who drank 120 to 599 mL of green or oolong tea every day for a year, the risk of developing hypertension was reduced by 46 percent, and in those drinking 600 mL per day or more, the risk was reduced by 65 percent. Results were adjusted for lifestyle, dietary, and demographic factors. The conclusion is clear—the price of health just may be all the tea in China.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)—a side effect of strep? Some researchers believe that a strep infection causes OCD in patients with Pandas (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcus), one of several conditions resulting from strep antibodies that mistakenly attack the brain stem. Although there is some disagreement among physicians about whether the condition actually exists, most agree that researchers should further explore the possibility of a link. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is conducting two studies to test the Pandas theory, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. One NIMH study is focusing on whether the use of penicillin prevents the recurrence or persistence of obsessive-compulsive behaviors in children with Pandas when they have a repeat strep infection. The other study is comparing OCD traits in children with and without Pandas. Both studies are still accepting new patients.

Mental health may be a risk factor for becoming dependent on nicotine, according to a National Institutes of Health study recently published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The study, which explored the relationship between psychiatric disorders and nicotine addiction, found that although persons with nicotine dependency and a coexisting psychiatric disorder make up only 7 percent of the U.S. population, they smoke about 34 percent of all cigarettes. Nicotine dependency was found to be most prevalent in persons with drug and alcohol disorders. However, mood, anxiety, and personality disorders also increased the chance of nicotine dependency. Persons with psychiatric disorders, whether nicotine dependent or not, consumed 46.3 percent of all cigarettes in 2001–2002.

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