U.S. Children & Teens Not Drinking Enough Water

girl_drinking_waterAt the same time kids in the United States are drinking more sugary drinks than ever, they are also drinking less of something vitally important to their mental and physical health: water. In fact, more than half of American children and teens are under hydrated, say researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In a report published last month in the American Journal of Public Health, it was revealed that 54.5% of our youth are not adequately hydrated, in large part because they are not drinking enough water. For the study, researchers gathered information for more than 4,000 children and adolescents (ages 6 to 19) using data from the 2009 through 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They also discovered that boys are 76% more likely to suffer from insufficient hydration, and a quarter of U.S. kids don’t drink plain water at all.

Why Does it Matter?
Even mild dehydration can lead to health problems, say experts, since water plays an important role in countless bodily functions including digestion, circulation, metabolism, temperature regulation, and kidney function. Poor hydration may also cause fatigue, moodiness, and problems paying attention and retaining information in school, which is why drinking enough water is especially important during critical development years.

According to the National Academy of Medicine in Washington, D.C., school-age children should drink between 7.5 and 14 cups of water daily. Schools can help by replacing sugary drinks with bottled water, as well as providing access to fresh, clean drinking water throughout the day. Parents can do their part by replacing soft drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened fruit drinks with purified water.

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Can We Upgrade Our Gut Bacteria to Help Fight Disease?

bacteriaBetter, stronger, faster. Programming our gut bacteria to detect the early warning signs of disease and help keep us healthy may sound like science fiction, but researchers have already begun developing and testing the new technology—and the results look promising.

Building upon data from a previous study involving E. coli bacteria, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently created a genetically modified version of common type of bacteria found in the human gut called Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron. They then tested the modified bacteria on mice.

The upgraded B. thetaiotaomicron bacteria were equipped with microscopic circuits and sensors, as well as a “genetic memory” to help them identify DNA patterns and send a signal when they encounter abnormalities such as inflammation or bleeding. Not only did the alterations allow the bacteria to function as a possible disease detector, but they also helped protect them from being killed by antimicrobial molecules in the gut.

Using food as a control method, the research team was able to activate certain genes within the bacteria and modify their response to their environment based on what the mice were fed. Their hope is that similar modified bacteria may one day be used to help detect and possibly alter the genes involved with certain diseases and conditions (including obesity) to ultimately improve treatment and health outcomes.

Knowing that each individual has a unique microbiome and this new technology may not be a “one size fits all” solution, researchers have already planned additional research to analyze how such modified bacteria may function in different environments.

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