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140403eatingdissordersblog 1When I was sixteen, I started to diet. My exercise habits increased in intensity, and as the weight melted away, friends at school complimented me. I felt a surge of control over my body and in my life that became addictive. Soon, I was 45 pounds less than my regular weight. I was anorexic.

My parents knew something was very wrong, but eating disorders were not well understood by many physicians in the 1980s. The years I spent struggling with anorexia nervosa had a profound impact on my physical and emotional health as a young adult. But, gladly, I was one of the lucky patients with an eating disorder who made a full recovery. One of my many goals in becoming a pediatrician was to help youth affected by this potentially deadly set of diseases.

Eating disorders can negatively impact every organ system in the human body. Malnutrition leads to shrinking of cardiac muscle, with loss of proper contractility and electrical signaling in the heart. Brain cells affected by the acids that a starving body uses as fuel do not function well, leading to changes in cognitive ability, thought processes and behavior. Bone-density decreases can lead to easy injury and fractures. Attempts by the body to conserve critical organ function leads to turning down, or off, of less vital organs such as ovaries and the thyroid gland. Cold intolerance, blue hands and feet, hair loss and skin deterioration are common.

Emotional changes evident during eating disorders can include depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, self-harming and suicidal tendencies.

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Energy drinks and supplements containing caffeine and other stimulants are popular in the U.S., even among children. Recent studies show that as many as 1 in 3 children age 12 years and older regularly consume energy drinks. But these products are not regulated by the FDA, nor are the effects on young bodies and brains. The American Academy of Pediatrics just released its conclusion that energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit and need further research and regulation.

Thousands of people are treated every year in emergency rooms for acute caffeine overdose, and about half of all cases are children. Side effects of energy drinks and supplements include high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, mood disturbances, seizures, stroke, paralysis and death. Although caffeine and similar chemicals can improve attention, its effect can cause the brain’s reward/addiction center to become dependent on caffeine. After becoming “hooked” on caffeine, stopping it can lead to withdrawal symptoms like headaches, fatigue and irritability.

Read labels when you buy drinks for your kids. In addition to caffeine, be on the lookout for “taurine”, “guarana”, “ginseng”, “yohimbine”, and “L-carnitine.” Talk to your kids about the dangers of energy drinks and supplements, and set a good parent example by avoiding these products yourself.

Tagged in: Diet Energy Drinks FDA

Posted by on in News

The current average daily intake of sodium by American teens is 9 grams, a whopping seven times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 1.5 grams, according to a recent study, funded by the American Heart Association.

Teenagers’ high salt intake can be attributed to excess consumption of soda, cereals, breads, pastries and processed meats, among others. Research also indicates that today’s youth commonly add table salt to foods eaten at home.

If you’re able to reduce your teen’s salt intake from 9 grams to 6 grams (still far more than the RDA) it could mean important health differences by the time your child reaches age 50, according to the study.

Potential differences include:

  • 7-10% reduction in coronary artery disease (a precursor of heart attack)
  • 8-14% reduction in heart attack
  • 5-8% reduction in stroke
  • 5-9% reduction in death, by any cause

So, talk to your teen about the many reasons to cut salt, take the salt shaker off your dining table, and model good eating habits yourself by considering your own salt intake.  It might just help your entire family live longer, healthier lives.

Tagged in: Diet