Xmas camels, tobacco and kids

Camel_7362C     Copyright: W.Norris

My daughter decided to make this camel for the annual school Xmas tree competition. To her, at age 11, camels are “cuddly” and linked to the Three Wise Men, part of the Christmas Story. To me, whilst overseeing her sewing efforts, I’d made the link to the 2 empty packets sitting on my desk waiting for me to write a global health blog.

       You can see them either side here…   Fags_7366 Fags_7367

They are cigarette packets but actually only one has ever contained tobacco…can you tell which? Of course you can: it's the one which says Smoking Kills. But that's a UK packet, you don't see that message dominating on packets sold elsewhere…And you have to be able to read.

And that’s the point.

 

 Candy (sweets) that mimic tobacco products

This is marketing at its best… the package shape and silver foil construction, the  same azure blue sky (it really is), the association of Camel or Sphinx with the romance of Egypt and the  yellow desert: these link the two packets to each other & therefore their contents. But the packet with the Sphinx contained chocolate sticks covered in rice paper, accurate copies of adult cigarettes, and was purchased by my daughter from her favourite sweet shop. She loved them; I objected.

And I had to explain why, because she didn’t know. She had not made the connection.

But I had. When I was a child, pink-tipped white candy sticks were my favourite and I knew that they were a kids' version of adult cigarettes.  Kids love to pretend to be adults. The reason I knew of course was that THEN many adults including my father smoked. I even used to buy him mini-cigars for Xmas, despite the fact that I loathed the smell (it made me feel sick). The white candy sticks are still on sale but they are poor imitations of cigarettes so the link to smoking is now so remote that I’ve not be too worried.

Sphinx candy sticks are a different matter. They operate on a much subtler level.

We are still trying to stop children and adolescents from taking up tobacco smoking, even though overall adult smoking is in decline and is reinforced by the ban on smoking in public places in many European countries (Although Belgium has just relaxed that!).

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Please can I have some more?

Pets may be able to negotiate with their owners over what, when and how much they are fed. This is the view of Jon Day of the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, based in part on evidence of how human babies “ask” for food before they can talk. Analysing these interactions may help avoid obesity in pets. The paper by Day and his colleagues appears in CABI’s broad-ranging reviews journal, CAB Reviews.

 

Both pets and babies use begging and finicky eating habits to control what they are given, in a push-pull relationship. Day and his colleagues say that behaviour before, during and after eating all influence the feeder. Cats can self-regulate their diet in the laboratory at a healthy level, suggesting that obesity in the home may be the result of the pet manipulating the feeder, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

 

Hungry 

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Evidence suggests that men are less able to judge levels of hunger in infants than women. There is also wide variation in the ability of pet owners to interpret the behaviour of pets in terms of appetite and “fullness”.

 

Food refusal is common in infants and is thought to make the caregiver more dependent on the infant, and gaining them more attention. Cats sometimes refuse a food that they have previously eaten without problems, and they too may use feed refusal as a strategy to influence what they are fed, but also more generally to dominate their relationship with their owners.  

 

While begging behaviour is influenced by an animal’s hunger, there may also be elements of conditioned routine and social interaction with the owner that affect how much an animal begs. For example, the extent which a dog will beg depends on whether it can see its owner’s face or eyes.  

While there is still more research to be done, it’s probable that at least eight out of ten owners know that their cats are manipulating them over what food they give them, and a better understanding of this may help keep their pets healthier.

 

The paper, “Do pets influence the quantity and choice of food offered to them by their owners: lessons from other animals and the pre-verbal human infant?” by Jon E.L. Day, Sophie Kergoat and Kurt Kotrschal appears in CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources 2009 4, No. 042.

http://www.cababstractsplus.org/CABReviews/Reviews.asp?action=display&openMenu=relatedItems&ReviewID=106612&Year=2009

Omega-3 fatty acids – what have we learned?

It’s well known that omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to the development of the brain. Animal studies have suggested that a specific fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), plays a role in the development of cognitive abilities. So will taking extra DHA as a child make you cleverer? A paper in CAB Reviews by Carol Cheatham at the University of Kansas Medical Center looks at the evidence from both animal and human studies.

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Animal studies have shown clearly that DHA deficiency affects memory and learning, and that providing extra DHA can restore these abilities to some extent. However, in humans, fewer than half the randomised clinical trials report effects on cognition from DHA.

Babies born early miss out on the final weeks of DHA they would receive from their mothers via the placenta. Studies show that providing preterm babies with DHA does improve memory and attention relative to controls. However, for babies born at term, providing extra DHA has not given the same clear outcome, with different trials giving different results.

Cheatham looks at three possible reasons. One is that the doses of DHA may not have been high enough to work. Also, the trials used a wide variety of measures of learning and memory. Looking at more specific measures of cognition could give less mixed results. Few studies have looked at the long- term impacts, and so studying children some years after taking DHA supplements in more sophisticated tests may reveal differences.

The paper,Omega-3 fatty acids and the development of cognitive abilities: a review of DHA supplementation studies, by Carol L. Cheatham appears in CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, 2008, 3, No. 001.

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