Science snapshots

Obese teens and risky behavior

The heaviest kids in high school — those considered “extremely obese” (Body Mass Index greater than the 99th percentile) — are just as likely to engage in most high-risk behaviors (such as using alcohol, tobacco or drugs or engaging in sexual or suicidal behaviors) as their classmates of healthy weight, says a new study conducted by Cincinnati Children’s and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Researchers say the findings were surprising because of the assumption that teens at the most extreme levels of obesity might be less involved in risky behaviors because of social isolation and stigma. Of greater concern, however, were findings suggesting engagement in some specific high-risk behaviors in “more dangerous ways.” Extremely obese boys were more likely to smoke and have tried cigarettes at a younger age. Extremely obese girls were less likely to have had sexual intercourse, but if they had, it was more likely to have occurred under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The study paints a picture of vulnerability for adolescents at the most extreme range of obesity already known to be at medical and psychosocial risk.

Too much TV at day care centers

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that in day care settings, children under age 2 not watch any TV, and that TV be limited to once-weekly, half-hour viewing sessions in older children. But most licensed day care centers surveyed in a Cincinnati Children’s study don’t follow recommended limits, according to findings presented by Cincinnati Children’s at the 2011 annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies. Excessive viewing is problematic, researchers say, not only because of the potential for leading to obesity but also because excessive viewing is associated with learning problems and delays, vocabulary and attention problems.

Safety devices worth it

If you’ve ever wondered exactly how much safer your home would be for small children by using safety devices such as stair gates and cabinet locks, researchers for the first time have a precise number for you: 70 percent. About 2,800 children nationwide die each year from preventable injuries in the home, and millions more are treated in emergency departments. A study conducted by researchers from Cincinnati Children’s and recently released in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that injuries to children dropped dramatically when homes had safety measures in place such as stairway gates, cabinet locks, and smoke alarms. gates, cabinet locks, and smoke alarms.