February 2008 News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.

Even Cupid knows not all chocolate is created equal

There may not be a bad piece of chocolate around, but as you mull over potential Valentine's Day gift selections remember that only some types of the decadent treat are heart-healthy.

Milk and white chocolates may be luscious to savor, but the more potent dark chocolate contains the most flavanol, an antioxidant that may help protect arteries from damage, maintain healthy blood flow and fend off heart disease.

Unfortunately, these benefits are noticeably reduced when ingredients such as milk, butter and sugar are added to pure chocolate to turn it into candy, says Lona Sandon, a registered dietician at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

She suggested hot cocoa as a heart-healthy alternative that's still chocolate.

"Research suggests that drinking a cup of dark hot chocolate can be equated with drinking a glass of wine in protecting the heart," Ms. Sandon says.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/patientcare/medicalservices/nutrition.html to learn more about UT Southwestern's clinical services in nutrition.

Media Contact: Kristen Holland Shear

Older children lugging bottles risk iron deficiency

Children not weaned from the bottle at an appropriate age have an increased chance of becoming iron deficient, warns a UT Southwestern Medical Center pediatrician.

"Given the detrimental long-term effects of iron deficiency, preventing it in early childhood is important," says Dr. Jane Brotanek.

Iron deficiency, a common cause of anemia, results in impaired bone marrow and muscle function. Iron-deficiency anemia in infancy and early childhood is associated with behavioral and cognitive delays, including impaired learning, decreased school achievement, and lower scores on tests of mental and motor development.

Dietary practices leading to iron deficiency include exclusive breastfeeding beyond six months not supplemented by iron-rich foods or vitamins with iron, early introduction of milk, prolonged bottle feeding, and excessive consumption of cow's milk.

Dr. Brotanek suggests parents wean children from the bottle at about 1 year of age. Parents can introduce their child to the cup around 9-10 months of age, so that he/she can get used to it and slowly learn to use a cup. Toddlers should eat plenty of iron-rich foods (spinach, eggs, iron-fortified breads and cereals, meats) and drink no more than two cups (16 oz.) cow's milk daily.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/patientcare/medicalservices/pediatrics.html to learn more about UT Southwestern's clinical services in pediatrics.

Media Contact: Erin Prather Stafford

Watch out for acetaminophen buildup

When seeking quick pain relief, people should not overindulge in acetaminophen as a cure-all, UT Southwestern Medical Center liver experts warn.

From holiday headaches to Super Bowl parties to flu-season aches, many people reach for acetaminophen in its many forms - headache relief, sleep aids, cold and flu remedies, even some prescription painkillers - not realizing how quickly the medication can add up.

"It is easy to lose track of how much combined acetaminophen you're consuming when taking combinations of medicines, particularly for different ailments such as arthritis and perhaps a cold," says Dr. William Lee, director of the Clinical Center for Liver Diseases at UT Southwestern.

Too much acetaminophen in the system at one time or over an extended period can cause serious liver damage or can lead to liver failure and even death. About 100 people die annually of accidental acetaminophen poisoning and another 15,000 end up in the emergency rooms from unknowingly taking too much.

The average adult should avoid more than 4,000 milligrams total acetaminophen per day, the equivalent of eight extra strength tablets, and no more than 2,000 mg to 3,000 mg for those with liver problems like hepatitis or those who drink regularly. Also remember, Dr. Lee says, that alcohol makes acetaminophen more toxic while depleting other substances that protect against liver damage.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/patientcare/medicalservices/digestive.html to learn more about UT Southwestern's clinical services in digestive disorders.

Media Contact: Russell Rian

Fireplaces can be risky for children

More families are using fireplaces to heat their homes during cold winter months. While indoor fireplaces are convenient and provide instant warmth, more children are burning themselves by touching the glass barrier at the fireplaces' fronts.

"Young children, especially those younger than 2, are explorers and often unsteady on their feet," says Dr. Douglas Baker, a pediatrician and emergency department physician at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "Children can burn themselves by falling toward the gas fireplace and pushing against the hot glass for balance."

Dr. Baker also warns that children might touch hot glass out of simple curiosity. It takes only seconds for a child to be seriously burned and children can still be harmed after the burner has been turned off and the glass is cooling.

Parents should never leave children unsupervised near fireplaces, and barriers can be erected to keep youngsters at a safe distance. Parents should also consider using the fireplace only after children younger than 5 years old have gone to bed.

Media Contact: Erin Prather Stafford


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