Greener Partners Teaches Philly to Farm

Swiss chard at Greener Partners' Hillside Farm in Media

When was the last time someone told you they wanted to be a farmer when they grow up? Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a farmer-to-be, someone totally in touch with how food goes from seed to table. That’s probably because less than one percent of Americans claim farming as an occupation, according to the EPA. And quite frankly, that’s a problem.

But Greener Partners, a farm-based non-profit, is helping to fix this. Four years ago, a group of innovative entrepreneurs got together and decided they would get Philadelphians back in touch with the land around them by opening accessible, educational and, most important, functional farms.

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More Proof: Antibacterial Soap Linked to Allergies

Still think you’re protecting your offspring by keeping that pump-bottle of antibacterial soap on the kitchen counter? A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center says you may be setting them up for more allergies instead. The researchers checked the urine of almost 900 kids ages 6 to 18 for antibacterials and preservatives found in everyday personal-care products like soap, toothpaste and mouthwash, as well as for the presence of certain antibodies that are elevated in those with allergies. “We saw a link between level of exposure, measured by the amount of antimicrobial agents in the urine, and allergy risk, indicated by circulating antibodies to specific allergens,” reports lead investigator Jessica Savage.

The findings fit squarely with the “hygiene hypothesis,” which claims that without exposure to common germs in childhood, we don’t have the opportunity to develop healthy immune systems. When that happens, those systems misfire and overreact to foods, pollens, and other harmless substances.

The researchers found that kids with the highest urine levels of the antibacterial agent triclosan also had the highest levels of food IgE antibodies—and thus the greatest risk of food allergies. Those with the highest levels of another antibacterial agent, propyl paraben, were twice as likely to have environmental allergies.

The message here: Don’t freak out if you find your kid licking the kitchen floor or sucking on the dog’s paws. The more germs, the better when it comes to building up immunity for the long haul.

The Checkup: Healthy Families Eat Together, Study Says

• Today’s shocking statistic comes from a research team at Rutgers University, which found that American families spend 40 percent of their budgets on eating out, typically not together. It’s an alarming trend when you consider the host of evidence that links dining out regularly with obesity and nutrition deficiencies. Earlier this week, TIME reported on the study, which culled data from 68 other studies on the issue. Researchers found that eating family meals at home correlates to better physical and mental health, particularly for kids: They get more fruits, veggies, fiber, calcium, and vitamins in their diets; eat less junk food; have lower BMIs; show fewer signs of depression; and feel more connected to and supported by their families. TIME has more, including how TV-watching as a family doesn’t count as quality time and eating fast food—even if consumed at home—won’t help improve a family’s dietary bottom line.

• The illusive ‘G-spot’! Someone confirmed that it actually exists! (Or, well, maybe not.)

• Hey Broad Streeters, when you pick up your race packets at the expo on May 4th and 5th, you can enroll in a cancer study, too. The Philadelphia Business Journal has details.

Should CHOP Refuse Transplants for Mentally Retarded Kids?

UPDATE, 4:50 p.m.: CHOP’s press office just responded to my request for comment with the following:

“The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia does not disqualify potential transplant candidates on the basis of intellectual abilities. We have transplanted many children with a wide range of disabilities, including physical and intellectual disabilities. We at CHOP are deeply committed to providing the best possible medical care to all children, including those with any form of disability.”

According to CBS Philly, Chrissy Rivera says CHOP has contacted her about discussing her daughter’s case further.

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Last Thursday, Chrissy Rivera vented to the Internet. She recounted the story of what happened to her at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on January 10th, when a doctor in the nephrology department sat down with Rivera and her husband, Joe, to go over the logistics for an upcoming kidney transplant their daughter, Amelia, was due to undergo.

Amelia was born with a condition called Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome (WHS), a diagnosis in which a person is missing part of a chromosome and suffers a variety of birth defects, including developmental retardation. The lifespan for people with WHS is unknown, as some die in infancy and some live into adulthood. The condition occurs in an estimated 1 in 50,000 births; some 35 percent die within the first two years of life.

The Riveras received Amelia’s WHS diagnosis three days after she was born and found out soon after that she’d need a kidney transplant down the road. That was nearly four years ago. Just before Christmas, they learned the inevitable had arrived: It was time to get the transplant on the books.  Read more »

Cheerio-gate: Parents Angered Over New Peanut Butter Cheerios

Image from cheerios.com

Here’s how you know kids’ allergies are out of control: when parents flip out at General Mills for debuting peanut butter flavored Cheerios. The Washington Post reports that parents across the country are terrified that the new cereal variety will cross-contaminate the other non-peanut flavors, and put their kids with peanut allergies at extreme risk. Their beef: that the new Cheerios flavor looks just like the other kinds, so kids with the potentially life-threatening allergies (and their parents, too) won’t be able to tell the difference once it’s out of the box. Parents are threatening a boycott of all Cheerios varieties if the issues isn’t remedied.

A General Mills spokesperson issued a statement reassuring parents that there would be no cross contamination and that the boxes of the new cereal would be clearly marked with an allergen listing. But parents say that’s not enough: what happens when two-year-old Suzie, who’s not allergic to peanuts, is walking around with a plastic baggie full of the peanut-flavored cereal, and Johnny, who’s extremely allergic, reaches in and helps himself to one?

It’s far from an absurd scenario. The Post references an incident just last week in which a Virginia first-grader died after eating a peanut offered to her by a friend on the playground. My own nephew, Luke, was rushed to the hospital last fall after his cousin gave him a Reese’s Pieces—one little piece.

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Cook: Gluten-free, Dairy-free Holiday Recipes

Food allergies can make the simple task of preparing dinner a stressful chore, especially in the midst of holiday get-togethers. On December 9th, tune into this free webinar on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness website for gluten-free, dairy-free holiday recipes. Directed toward parents and educators, the interactive session is also meant to get kids involved in the cooking process. Host Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer of Kitchen Classroom 4 Kids will lead the seminar and answer questions. The event open to all, but still requires online registration.

Free, December 9th, 11:30 a.m.

Study: 14 Percent of Philly Teens Are Obese

Researchers at Temple University released the findings of a study this week which found that 14 percent of Philadelphia teenagers are obese. Three out of four report wanting to lose weight, but their actions—drinking soda, smoking, playing video games for hours a day—suggest just the opposite.

The Temple team, led by public health doctoral candidate Clare Lenhart, culled data from the nearly 44,000 local adolescents who participated in the Philadelphia Youth Risk Behavioral Survey. Girls, they discovered, were more likely to get 60 minutes of exercise a day; but the same group also reported drinking full-sugar soda (not diet) at least once a day. Boys who said they wanted to lose weight were more likely to report no daily physical activity, and they admitted to spending lots of time planted in front of video games.

“From a health education standpoint, finding out that three-quarters of students who are obese want to lose weight is exactly what we want,” said Lenhart in a statement. “But the behavior they’re engaging in is puzzling; it’s counterproductive to what they’re trying to do.”

The statement goes on to say that Lenhart “is encouraged that so many teens appear to be motivated to lose weight” and that “a more intensive line of questioning from health care providers could help.”

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The Checkup: Drinking Alcohol Raises Cancer Risk

• It’s hard to get a read on alcohol when it comes to health. Sometimes experts tell you it’s good for you, and sometimes they tell you it’s not. Today’s news falls in the latter category: The Wall Street Journal would like to remind us that as few as two drinks a day raises the risk for certain cancers, everything from breast to lung to liver to colon cancer. Men who drink at least three drinks a day up their odds of death by cancer by 41 percent; for women, two drinks a day raises it by 20 percent. Get more details over here.

• And now for some good news: A new study found that women with family members who carry the gene mutation BCRA, which increases the risk of breast cancer, aren’t at an increased risk for the disease, so long as they don’t carry the mutation themselves. Previous studies led people to believe just the opposite: that even if you don’t carry the mutation, you should be treated as high risk for breast cancer and be screened as such. Read more over at TIME.

• The New York Times reports on a new trend in the hotel industry: doing away with rinky-dink fitness rooms and partnering up with brand name gyms to offer guests top-of-the-line facilities during their stay. Makes me wonder: Does a hotel’s gym facility (or lack thereof) factor into your decision of where you’ll lay your head while you’re on vacation?  Me, I’m happy with a treadmill and TV. Call me old school.

• And in today’s weight-loss news, chug some ice water if you want to shed a few pounds. While you’re at it, encourage your kids to do the same.

The Checkup: Soda Companies Target More Ads at Kids

• As if Halloween candy isn’t enough sugar for kids to deal with, there’s this—news of a report which found that kids’ and teens’ exposure to soda ads doubled between 2008 and 2010. What’s more, hispanic and black kids were disproportionately targeted by the advertising than other groups. Read more at NPR.

• Did you know we’re in a prescription drug shortage? President Barack Obama suspects foul play (i.e. stockpiling to drive up prices) on the part of pharmaceutical companies, so yesterday he signed an executive order to help reduce shortages and protect consumers from the whims of Big Pharma. In a statement about the order, the White House said: “At the extreme, a drug used to treat high blood pressure that was normally priced at $25.90 was being sold at $1,200 due to a drug shortage.” Egads. Get more at CNN.com.

• You probably won’t be surprised by this, but new research found that happy people live longer—35 percent longer, to be exact. Something to smile about, perhaps?

Study: We Drink Way Too Much Soda

America, I think we have a drinking problem.

One in 20 Americans consume 567 calories from sugary drinks on a given day in the US, according to a new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s the equivalent of guzzling more than four cans of soda every day.

I’m going to pause for a minute and let that sink in.

Four cans. Of soda. A day.

Does that seem excessive to anyone else? The American Heart Association recommends that we get just 450 calories a week from sugary drinks—that’s a little more than two cans of soda every seven days.

It gets worse: Half of us drink sugary drinks every day. Boys between the ages of 12 and 19 consume the most calories a day from sugary drinks of all age groups—273. Girls in the same age bracket consume 171 calories. The lowest is women aged 60 and over, who consume 42.

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