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girl_drinkingMost parents today know that sugary soft drinks and diet sodas are unhealthy for kids and should be avoided, but results of a new study from the University of Connecticut tell us moms and dads may be offering up an equally unhealthy alternative: fruit juices, sports drinks, and flavored waters that are still loaded with harmful sugar.

“The labeling and marketing for these products imply that they are nutritious, and these misperceptions may explain why so many parents buy them,” study author Jennifer Harris told USA Today. She may be right on the money, especially since parents are inundated with labels that claim products are “low in calories” or contain “real fruit juice” and “essential nutrients,” suggesting they are a healthy option for kids.

According to the results of the study, 96% of parents surveyed said they had given their children—some as young as two years old—sugary drinks in the past month. The most popular beverages were regular soft drinks and fruit drinks, but sports drinks, sweetened ice tea, and flavored water were not far behind. What’s more, nearly 50% of parents involved in the study said they believed flavored waters were “healthy,” and more than 25% believed the same about fruit drinks and sports drinks.

Study author Marlene Schwartz believes it all comes down to product packaging—and that we need to be stricter about ingredient claims so parents are accurately informed about what their children are really putting in their bodies. At the end of the day, the healthiest choice for kids (and adults!) is fresh, purified water.

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woman_kissing_dogThe question is one researchers from the University of Arizona hope to answer after an upcoming study, in which human participants will be paired with canine companions to determine the effects of the relationship on the bacterial population in the digestive tract.

Previous studies have linked dog ownership with better heart health and reduced stress, but anthropology doctoral student and study author Kim Kelly wants to delve more deeply into the story. The three-month study, a joint effort between the university and the Humane Society of Southern California, will examine whether or not living with a dog encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the human gut and whether it is enough to provide substantial physical and mental health benefits.

Researchers are currently recruiting adults 50 or over who are in good health. They will provide each adult with a dog and measure the gut bacteria levels of both at the beginning and the end of the study (as well as at the one- and two-month marks) in order to determine whether or not the relationship has had a positive impact on the gut microflora of either party.

Interestingly, earlier studies have shown that the longer they live together, dog owners and their companions tend to share a lot of the same gut bacteria—in large part because of all those wet, slobbery kisses. Kelly and her team hope to understand more about the relationship and its potential benefits, such as improved digestion and immune function.

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