Dr Mark O'Donnell B.D.S
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Parents heed advice to cut down on kids' fizzy drinks
Parents are increasingly making healthier choices for their children, giving them water at mealtimes, smaller portions and fewer fizzy drinks.
Research by Safefood found that last year the consumption of water at mealtimes went up by 7% to 38%. In 2013, around 45% of children drank a fizzy drink once a day or more, but last year this dropped to 40%. Last year 16% of parents said they served "age appropriate" portion sizes compared with 12% in 2013.
The findings also showed that 65% of children are getting at least one hour's exercise each day, compared with 59% in 2013.
Some 33% of parents were giving their child a treat food at least once a day in 2013, but this fell to 24% last year.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said: "It's really heartening to see that families are paying closer attention to their children's diet and physical activity. It looks like families are increasingly conscious of how even small changes can make a big difference."
Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of human health and nutrition at Safefood, added: "While it's really encouraging and heartening to see that parents report making these practical changes, it's much too early to say that we've won the battle against childhood obesity. It's not easy to cut down on sugary foods when children have become used to over-indulging, but parents are making really important changes."
No proof that xylitol prevents tooth decay
Xylitol is a natural sweetener that can be found in everyday products including sugar-free chewing gum, toothpaste, gels, lozenges and sweets. Xylitol is already known to cause less damage to teeth than sugar. It has also been suggested that the addition of xylitol to products may help to prevent tooth decay by stopping the growth of decay-producing bacteria. However, according to new evidence published in the Cochrane Library, there is little high quality evidence that it is beneficial in the fight against tooth decay.
The authors gathered data from 5,903 participants in ten different studies. In most cases, the studies used such different methods that researchers could not combine the results. Based on information from 4,216 school children who took part in two Costa Rican studies, they found low-quality evidence that levels of decay were 13% lower in those who used a fluoride toothpaste containing xylitol for three years, compared to those who used a fluoride-only toothpaste. For other xylitol-containing products, such as syrup, lozenges and tablets, there was little or no evidence of any benefit.
The researchers stated that the evidence did not allow them to make any robust conclusions about the effects of xylitol, and they were unable to prove any benefit for preventing tooth decay. They were particularly surprised to see such a lack of evidence on xylitol-containing chewing gums.
Several of the studies included in the review did not report sufficient information on the side effects of xylitol, which can include bloating, diarrhoea and laxative effects. The researcher said that sugar-free gums, sweets, mints and other products are well known for their gastrointestinal effects and these should be clearly reported in future studies.
Secondhand smoke increases risk for cleft lip, palate
Secondhand smoke puts pregnant women at increased risk for having a baby with a cleft lip, says a review of published research that appears in the journal PLoS One.
Authors from Canada, Egypt and the United Kingdom reviewed 14 studies on the topic. After adjusting for other factors that could affect risk, the authors found that women exposed to secondhand smoke had a 50% greater risk of having a baby with cleft lip, or cleft lip and palate, compared with women who were not exposed to secondhand smoke.
Past research has shown an increased risk for cleft lip and palate in the babies of pregnant women who smoked. The risk found in those studies is about the same as the risk this study found for secondhand smoke.
A previous research review found that women exposed to secondhand smoke had a 23% greater risk of stillbirth and a 13% greater risk of having a baby with a physical malformation.