A sweet cold remedy for kids that's cheap, natural, available

With new warnings that most over-the-counter cough medicines for children don't work, what's a parent to do?

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine have come up with a sweet answer: honey.

In a study of 105 children aged 2 to 18 with infections of the upper respiratory tract, the sticky stuff was significantly better than no treatment at all. On a 7-point scale, parents reported a 2.5-point improvement in their children's ability to sleep after they took a teaspoon or two of honey. Honey also seemed to reduce cough severity and frequency, though it is not considered safe for children under 12 months.

The World Health Organization has cited honey as a potential cough remedy, but the study, in this month's Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, was apparently the first formal look at the issue, says lead author Ian M. Paul.

"It's easily available, and pretty cheap," Paul says. "And it's pretty appealing for most people because it's a natural remedy."

- Tom Avril

Males with twin sisters are at increased risk for anorexia

A male with a twin sister appears more likely than other males to develop the eating disorder anorexia, according to a study published last week in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The study is important in that it shows that sex hormones may influence development of the nervous system.

The two scientists who conducted the study - Marco Procopio, of the University of Sussex, Brighton, England, and Paul Marriott, of the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada - suspect that exposure to substances in the womb, probably hormones, may increase the likelihood a male twin will develop the disorder, which is marked by a refusal to maintain minimum body weight and a distorted body-image.

Their sample came from the Swedish Twin Registry, which tracks 31,406 individuals born between 1935 and 1958.

In general, female twins are more likely to develop anorexia. The risk is just as high for males with a twin sister.

- John Sullivan

Oh, mothers, look to thyself if your kids won't eat veggies

Ever wonder why your child hates the taste of fruits and vegetables? The answer could be

you

.

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that breast-feeding brings about early acceptance of foods - but only if a mother eats those foods regularly.

Researchers from Philadelphia's independent research institute, Monell Chemical Senses Center, looked at 45 infants, 20 of which were breast-fed. They studied total food intake, facial expressions, and the moms' ratings of the infants' enjoyment of each food, among other factors.

Over a period of eight days, half were fed pureed green beans and half were fed green beans followed by peaches. Acceptance of both foods was tested prior to the eight-day home study and again after.

During this weaning stage, the infants ate more green beans as time went on. Over time, these infants may learn to enjoy this food's flavor.

Babies are born disliking bitter tastes like green vegetables, so the authors of the study suggest looking at a child's willingness to feed rather than facial expressions as a food preference indicator.

"If we can get babies to learn to like these tastes, we can get them off to an early start of healthy eating," explained Julie A. Mennella, coauthor of the study.

- Colleen Dunn

For longevity, being thin isn't as important as being fit

Senior citizens who don't exercise because they're skinny should think again.

A new study published in the Dec. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that fitness is a stronger predictor of long life than body fat. This data only relates to individuals 60 years and older.

Researchers explored the links between cardiorespiratory fitness, body fat, and death rates for 2,600 adults averaging 64 years of age.

After a treadmill fitness assessment and the calculation of body mass index, waist circumference, and the percent of body fat, individuals were examined for an average time frame of 12 years.

Of the 450 deaths that occurred, most were older folks with lower fitness levels and more cardiovascular risk factors like diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol. Body fat was not a factor for longevity.

For the most part, death rates for individuals with higher fitness levels were less than half the rates for participants who were labeled unfit.

- C.D.