February 18th, 2013
03:56 PM ET
For years, pediatricians have recommended that young children watch no TV, or as little as possible, because it can lead to problems in school and behavior issues. Now a new study concedes children are sitting in front of the TV a lot longer. However, controlling what they watch can improve how they behave.
When preschoolers watch educational programs instead of violent TV shows, they tend to be more compassionate and less aggressive, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
About 600 families were recruited and assigned to one of two groups. Parents in the first group were encouraged to substitute violent shows with educational and pro-social ones - shows that stressed compassion and cooperation.
Families were given monthly TV guides listing educational programming for their area: shows such as "Dora the Explorer," "Super WHY," "Sesame Street" and "It's a Big, Big World." Parents were also encouraged to watch TV with their kids.
The children went from watching a half-hour of violent programming a day to 23 minutes. Parents then increased educational viewing from about 30 to 43 minutes a day.
Families in the second group did not change their viewing habits.
"This is the first study to try to modify the viewing habits of preschool kids," says Dr. Vic Strasburger, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "That's one of the significances of this study."
After a year, researchers found that children watching less violent and more child-appropriate shows scored better on tests that measured cooperation, a willingness to share or compromise. They also had fewer incidents of aggressive behavior such as yelling and hitting.
"Although television is frequently implicated as a cause of many problems in children, our research indicates that it may also be part of the solution," the study notes.
The scientists saw the greatest improvements in boys raised in disadvantaged homes where children tends to watch more TV.
Experts know that children mimic what they see, whether it's in real life or what's on the screen. And this is of particular concern when children watch TV or movies riddled with violence.
"Children learn their attitudes about violence at a very young age, before age 8 and once they learn those attitudes it's very difficult to unlearn them," says Strasburger.
"It doesn't mean that children who watch violence are going to become murderers, but it does mean that they are desensitized to violence in the real world and they are more likely to be aggressive themselves," says study author Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute.
Better shows, better kids
But on the flip side, when children watch shows with positive social messages, it helps them get along better with others and gives them the tools to become better communicators, the study suggests.
"They will imitate the good things too," says Christakis. "We should take more advantage of the fact that you can demonstrate good behaviors on-screen and that children will emulate them in real life."
Right now, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that preschoolers and older children get only one to two hours of TV or screen time a day. But in reality, they're really watching much more. According to this study, preschoolers see an average of about four and a half hours daily at home and in daycare settings. Parents struggle with guilt, researchers say, because they allow so much TV time.
"Parents need to get this message that it's not just about how much TV your children watch, it's about what they watch," says Christakis. "It's not just about turning off the set; it's about changing the channel."
February 5th, 2013
04:04 PM ET
Saving calories at the bar may not be a good thing.
Researchers gave college students vodka drinks with regular soda and with diet soda, and the diet soda group got more intoxicated, faster - about 20% more intoxicated than those who mixed regular soda with liquor, according to research published Tuesday in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Sugar in your mixed drink actually slows down the effects of alcohol, researchers say. FULL POST
January 15th, 2013
05:12 PM ET
Clinicians are missing alcohol problems in almost three out of four patients because they don't screen for the behavior and instead go with their gut feelings to catch the problem, according to a study published this week in the Annals of Family Medicine. Experts say asking patients a few questions about their drinking habits can lead to interventions that may help patients cut back on their risky behavior.
Researchers wanted to find out how well doctors identified drinking problems in their patients. Almost 1,700 adults from 40 different primary care practices completed questionnaires at the end of an office visit. They were asked a variety of lifestyle questions and several addressed drinking habits, such as how often they drank alcohol, how many drinks they had on a typical day, and if their drinking ever put them in danger of getting hurt or causing an accident.
January 3rd, 2013
02:26 PM ET
It's a heated question: should women take antidepressants during pregnancy? Some experts argue for it and some against, but a new study may ease the minds of women facing the decision.
Researchers say taking a common type of antidepressant does not increase the risk of having a stillborn child or losing an infant early in life. The study was published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
"It does strengthen the view that these meds are safer than we once thought," explains Dr. Jennifer Payne, director of the Women's Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. FULL POST
December 17th, 2012
12:33 PM ET
If you want to burn fat and lose weight, aerobic exercise may be your best workout option, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
It was more effective than a weight-lifting routine, and about as beneficial as workouts combining cardio and strength training, researchers found.
"If a person is going to give me three hours of exercise a week,the most effective way to lose fat is to spend that time doing aerobic training," says lead study author Leslie Willis, an exercise physiologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.
If you lift weights, this doesn't mean you should stop, but if your time is limited and your main goal from exercise is to lose weight, cardio may be better than weight training, according to Willis. FULL POST
October 31st, 2012
11:53 AM ET
For years, pregnant women who suffer from depression have been told it's safer for them and their unborn child to continue taking antidepressants during pregnancy.
Now a new study is challenging that advice, suggesting the opposite is true and advocating against most women taking these drugs. If the depression is severe, however, the benefits might outweigh the risks, so it's best to check with your psychiatrist or physician.
Experts say about 13% of women take an antidepressant at some point during their pregnancy. Many drugs are called SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
Taking these medicines while pregnant, however, may raise safety concerns, according to a review of existing research published Wednesday in the journal Human Reproduction. FULL POST
October 17th, 2012
10:53 AM ET
Taking a multivitamin may help prevent cancer in healthy middle-aged men, according to a new study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School recruited nearly 15,000 male physicians, 50 years or older, and followed them for more than a decade. Half took the daily multivitamin Centrum Silver; the others took a placebo.
Men in the vitamin group had a modest 8% reduction in cancer cases compared to the others.
"This study suggests, at least for men, that there might be benefits to taking multivitamins in terms of cancer,” study author Dr. John Michael Gaziano said in a press release. He is the chief of the Division of Aging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
October 15th, 2012
12:02 AM ET
Sleepy school children make crabby classmates, while students who get plenty of sleep are better behaved, according to a new study published this week in the journal Pediatrics.
"Extending sleep opens the door to an effective, feasible way to improve children's health and performance," says study author Reut Gruber, director of the Attention Behavior and Sleep Lab at the Douglas Research Center in Quebec, Canada.
Gruber and his colleagues wanted to find out if the behavior of elementary school children was affected by how much sleep they got. The researchers, with the permission of parents, enrolled 34 students ages 7 to 11 in the study. These were healthy kids who didn't have sleep problems or behavior or academic issues.
October 8th, 2012
04:01 PM ET
Eating tomatoes in your daily salad or regularly enjoying a healthy red sauce on your spaghetti could help reduce your risk of stroke, according to research published this week in the journal Neurology.
Tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant that is good for brain health, the researchers say, and cooked tomatoes seem to offer more protection than raw.
"This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke," says study author Jouni Karppi, of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio. "A diet containing tomatoes... a few times a week would be good for our health. However, daily intake of tomatoes may give better protection."
September 17th, 2012
12:05 AM ET
Children are eating as much salt as adults, according to a new report, and experts are concerned.
Most adults consume too much sodium and that can have serious health implications. Too much salt in a person's diet can raise your blood pressure; high blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.
In this new study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that if a child is overweight and eats as much salt as an adult, the risk for high blood pressure goes up dramatically.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.