Study: Organic Food May Not Be Better For You Than Non-Organic
Organic produce is no more nutritious than non-organic produce, according to a study by Stanford University researchers released Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. With organic diets becoming more popular, researchers examined the nutrient content in many foods, including organic and non-organic fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, eggs, and milk. They also dug through more than 200 studies that compared organic and non-organic foods. The conclusion: Organic foods are no healthier, in terms of the amount of nutrients and vitamins they pack. "There are many reasons why someone might choose organic foods over conventional foods," Dena Bravata, a Stanford senior research affiliate, told the Associated Press, citing environmental concerns and taste preferences. But in terms of individual health, she said, "there isn't much difference." Monday's report did show one advantage of organic foods: they're less likely to contain pesticides. The pesticide levels in both organic and conventional foods, however, are very low, Bravata told the AP.
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An All-Out Assault on Autism
At 18 months, Colton Rose was shy and a little late in walking but seemed to be progressing fine—laughing, smiling, talking. Several months later, however, his mother Angela started to worry. He was talking less and less, didn't engage with others as much, and hadn't yet started using a spoon or taking off his own shoes. "He kind of started slipping more and more into his own world," says Rose, a former marketing and communications manager. Sure enough, shortly after turning 2, Colton was diagnosed with autism. Yet a mere 15 months later, says Rose, "he's an entirely different child."
Soon after Colton's diagnosis, the toddler began intensive treatment through Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, near home. Each week, he receives 35 hours of behavioral therapy, sometimes at home and sometimes at preschool. It breaks tasks like asking for food into steps (point to ice cream, say "ice cream," request some politely), encourages him to imitate the steps, and reinforces the behaviors with rewards and encouragement. His mother, now a "full-time autism mom," practices with him for several hours a day herself and has weekly planning sessions with a Nationwide case supervisor and Colton's team of five aides. The family also meets periodically with a psychologist to track Colton's developmental progress. And it's good. In many ways, he's now "in a total normal category," says Rose. He's made impressive gains in social skills and is testing at or above average for speech.
Nationwide's approach to treatment demonstrates perhaps the best hope for children with an autism spectrum disorder: starting early—even as young as 12 months—and deploying a team of experts, from neurologists and physical therapists to psychologists and gastroenterologists, to tackle any aggravating issues. The latest research, which has taken on heightened urgency as estimates of prevalence have risen (in March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put the rate at 1 in 88 children, up from 1 in 110 two years earlier), indicates that early intervention can make a big difference in cognitive and communication skills, language development, and anxiety and aggressiveness. Many such programs, including Colton's, are based around 25 to 40 hours a week of Applied Behavior Analysis, which lasers in on teaching specific behaviors using repetition and rewards. [Read more: An All-Out Assault on Autism]
Pregnant? Get Your Choline!
There are rock-star nutrients in the pregnancy world that tend to receive all the attention. Folic acid, iron, and calcium are covered extensively in pregnancy magazines, and they're easily part of the mom-to-be vernacular. Choline—a water-soluble nutrient in the B vitamin family—on the other hand, remains largely unknown for many pregnant moms. But based on recent research, it deserves to be elevated to rock-star nutrient status, writes U.S. News blogger Melinda Johnson.
One reason choline is difficult to study is that it's related to brain development, and linking low choline in pregnancy to a lower IQ or a higher rate of depression later in life is tough to measure. How do you measure IQ potential? How do you know if depression could have been avoided, had the child received more of a particular nutrient during early brain development?
One recent study found that babies whose moms had low choline in their blood during pregnancy scored lower on cognitive tests at 18 months, indicating that their brain development had been compromised. Rodent studies have also demonstrated that choline during pregnancy increases intelligence into adulthood, and also seems to be protective against memory loss later in life. Finally, a recent study found an interesting effect of high choline intake during pregnancy: The nutrient appears to help decrease the baby's levels of cortisol, which is widely known as the "stress hormone." The researchers speculate that this may help reduce the impact of a pregnant mother's stress on the baby's developing brain, nervous system, and metabolism. [Read more: Pregnant? Get Your Choline!]