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Personal Health: News and Notes

Male pedestrians at risk

More than twice as many men as women die in pedestrian-vehicle accidents. Now researchers have partly determined why.

Writing online last month in the journal Injury Prevention, investigators considered the contribution of three factors: distance walked, number of accidents, and fatalities per accident.

Researchers using data from a variety of sources found that men and women walk similar distances and that men are involved in slightly more accidents per mile. Only 1 percent of the difference in death rates is attributable to distance walked, they found, and 20 percent to an increased number of accidents among men.

The rest - 79 percent of the variation - owes to the fact that when they are struck by vehicles, men die at roughly twice the rate of women. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4,280 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in 2010, and 2,946 - 69 percent - were men.

Why? No one knows, but the lead author, Motao Zhu, an assistant professor of epidemiology at West Virginia University, suggested two possibilities: "Maybe males are more likely to cross roads with speed limits higher than 50 miles per hour," he said.

"Also, males may be more likely to be impaired by alcohol and drugs. Most people know it's not safe to drive drunk, but it's not safe to walk drunk either." - New York Times News Service

Abusing baking ingredients

Some common holiday baking ingredients - such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and marshmallows - can be abused and lead to serious health problems and even death, an expert warns.

Doctors at Loyola University Health System's emergency department recently treated a group of 9-year-olds who tried something called the Cinnamon Challenge. There are hundreds of videos and postings on the Internet about this dangerous activity, which involves trying to swallow one tablespoon of ground cinnamon without water.

"The dry, loose cinnamon triggers a violent coughing effect and also a burning sensation that actually can lead to breathing and choking hazards," said Christina Hantsch, a toxicologist in the department of emergency medicine.

In 2011, U.S. poison centers received 51 calls about teen exposure to cinnamon, the university said. There were 139 such calls in the first three months of 2012. Of those, 122 were classified as intentional misuse or abuse, and 30 of the teens required medical evaluation, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Hantsch says she is concerned that this type of activity among teens is now being copied by younger children.

Another potentially dangerous fad is called Chubby Bunny. "You stuff as many marshmallows in your mouth as possible and then try to say the words 'chubby bunny,' " Hantsch said. "Two children have actually choked to death attempting this game."

Some young people snort, smoke, or eat large quantities of ground nutmeg in order to get a marijuana-like high. "Nutmeg contains myristicin, which is a hallucinogenic, like LSD," Hantsch said.

Other common household products that are abused by youngsters include hand sanitizer, aerosol whipped cream, aerosol cooking spray, ink markers, and glue. - HealthDay

Limits on milk for children

Cow's milk is the primary source of vitamin D for children, but dairy products can interfere with the absorption of iron. Pediatricians have never known how much milk a child should drink. Now researchers have established that for most children, two cups a day achieves the right balance.

Canadian scientists studied more than 1,300 healthy 2- to 5-year-olds, collecting data on diet and physical activity. They took blood samples to measure iron and vitamin D levels.

Their study, published online in the journal Pediatrics this month, found that after adjusting for other factors, two cups a day was enough to maintain sufficient vitamin D (more than 30 nanograms per milliliter of blood) without affecting iron levels.

But bottle use, season of the year, skin pigmentation, and body mass index had significant effects on the optimal amounts of milk. Children with darker skin, for example, needed three to four cups to get sufficient vitamin D in winter. Those who used only a bottle failed to maintain sufficient stores of vitamin D and iron.

The lead author, Jonathon L. Maguire, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, said that children older than 2 should not be given a bottle.

"It's easy to give children the bottle to pacify them," he said, "but in terms of these two nutrients, there's no benefit in it." - New York Times News Service