A third of babies are fat

And not just in that cute, chubby sort of way.

Almost one-third of 9-month-olds are obese or overweight, as are 34 percent of 2-year-olds, according to the research, which looked at a nationally representative sample of children born in 2001. The study is one of the first to measure weight in the same group of very young children over time, said lead researcher Brian Moss, a sociologist at Wayne State University in Detroit. The results showed that starting out heavy puts kids on a trajectory to stay that way.

“If you were overweight at nine months old, it really kind of sets the stage for you to remain overweight at two years,” Moss told LiveScience.

Michelle Obama’s child nutrition act looks better and better every single day. But maybe we should be listening to the conservatives, no? Perhaps for the WIC program, we could allow mother’s to buy their kids soda and candy. It’s all about liberty! after all, right?

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Spank ’em till they’re stupid

Spanking and intelligence

Spanking can get kids to behave in a hurry, but new research suggests it can do more harm than good to their noggins. The study, involving hundreds of U.S. children, showed the more a child was spanked the lower his or her IQ compared with others.

“All parents want smart children,” said study researcher Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire. “This research shows that avoiding spanking and correcting misbehavior in other ways can help that happen.”

One might ask, however, whether children who are spanked tend to come from backgrounds in which education opportunities are less or inherited intelligence lower.

But while the results only show an association between spanking and intelligence, Straus says his methodology and the fact that he took into account other factors that could be at play (such as parents’ socioeconomic status) make a good case for a causal link.

“You can’t say it proves it, but I think it rules out so many other alternatives; I am convinced that spanking does cause a slowdown in a child’s development of mental abilities,” Straus told LiveScience.

Intelligence quotients

Straus and his colleague Mallie Paschall of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland studied nationally representative samples of two age groups: 806 children ages 2 to 4, and 704 ages 5 to 9. The researchers tested the kids’ IQs initially and then four years later.

Both groups of kids got smarter after four years. But the 2- to 4-year-olds who were spanked scored 5 points lower on the IQ test than those not spanked. For children ages 5 to 9, the spanked ones scored on average 2.8 points lower than their unspanked counterparts.

The results, he said, were statistically significant. And they held even after accounting for parental education, income, cognitive stimulation by parents and other factors that could affect children’s mental abilities.

Straus will present the study results, along with research on the relationship between average national IQ and prevalence of spanking around the world, Friday at the 14th International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, in San Diego, Calif.

Spanking science

Whether or not spanking equates with dumber kids is not known, and may never be known. That’s because the only way to truly show cause and effect would be to follow over time two groups of kids, one randomly assigned to get spanked and another who would not get spanked. Barring that method, which is unfeasible, Straus considers his study the next best thing, as he looked back at a nationally representative set of kids who were followed over time.

Jennifer Lansford of Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy and Social Science Research Institute called the study “interesting,” and agrees the method is a strong one. Lansford, who was not involved with the study, said following kids over time as this study did rules out the possibility that children with lower IQs somehow elicit more physical discipline.

However, unlike research showing the link between spanking and a kid’s aggressive behavior, in which kids model parents’ actions, this link is less clear to her. She added that a question still left unanswered is “what are some of the other mechanisms that could be responsible for this link between physical discipline and lower IQ?”

How spanking harms

If spanking does send IQ scores down, Straus and others offer some explanations for what might be going on.

“Contrary to what everyone believes, being hit by parents is a traumatic experience,” Straus said. “We know from lots of research that traumatic stresses affect the brain adversely.” Also, the trauma could cause kids to have more stressful responses in difficult situations, and so may not perform as well cognitively.

By using hitting rather than words or other means of discipline, parents could be depriving kids of learning opportunities. “With spanking, a parent is delivering a punishment to get the child’s attention and to get them to behave in a certain way,” said Elizabeth Gershoff who studies childhood development at the University of Texas, Austin. “It’s not fostering children’s independent thinking.”

So when a child gets in a bind, he or she might do the right thing to keep from a spanking rather than figuring out the best decision independently, added Gershoff, who was not involved in Straus’s current study.

And then there are genes, as some kids are just born smarter than others.

Even though spanking has been shown to cause negative consequences, Gershoff said many parents still fall back on the behavior-shaping tool. As for why, she says it’s a quick fix, though its seeming success is short-lived and the negative consequences often outweigh the positives. Parents also might have been spanked themselves and so continue the tradition.

Spank 'em till they're stupid

Spanking and intelligence

Spanking can get kids to behave in a hurry, but new research suggests it can do more harm than good to their noggins. The study, involving hundreds of U.S. children, showed the more a child was spanked the lower his or her IQ compared with others.

“All parents want smart children,” said study researcher Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire. “This research shows that avoiding spanking and correcting misbehavior in other ways can help that happen.”

One might ask, however, whether children who are spanked tend to come from backgrounds in which education opportunities are less or inherited intelligence lower.

But while the results only show an association between spanking and intelligence, Straus says his methodology and the fact that he took into account other factors that could be at play (such as parents’ socioeconomic status) make a good case for a causal link.

“You can’t say it proves it, but I think it rules out so many other alternatives; I am convinced that spanking does cause a slowdown in a child’s development of mental abilities,” Straus told LiveScience.

Intelligence quotients

Straus and his colleague Mallie Paschall of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland studied nationally representative samples of two age groups: 806 children ages 2 to 4, and 704 ages 5 to 9. The researchers tested the kids’ IQs initially and then four years later.

Both groups of kids got smarter after four years. But the 2- to 4-year-olds who were spanked scored 5 points lower on the IQ test than those not spanked. For children ages 5 to 9, the spanked ones scored on average 2.8 points lower than their unspanked counterparts.

The results, he said, were statistically significant. And they held even after accounting for parental education, income, cognitive stimulation by parents and other factors that could affect children’s mental abilities.

Straus will present the study results, along with research on the relationship between average national IQ and prevalence of spanking around the world, Friday at the 14th International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, in San Diego, Calif.

Spanking science

Whether or not spanking equates with dumber kids is not known, and may never be known. That’s because the only way to truly show cause and effect would be to follow over time two groups of kids, one randomly assigned to get spanked and another who would not get spanked. Barring that method, which is unfeasible, Straus considers his study the next best thing, as he looked back at a nationally representative set of kids who were followed over time.

Jennifer Lansford of Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy and Social Science Research Institute called the study “interesting,” and agrees the method is a strong one. Lansford, who was not involved with the study, said following kids over time as this study did rules out the possibility that children with lower IQs somehow elicit more physical discipline.

However, unlike research showing the link between spanking and a kid’s aggressive behavior, in which kids model parents’ actions, this link is less clear to her. She added that a question still left unanswered is “what are some of the other mechanisms that could be responsible for this link between physical discipline and lower IQ?”

How spanking harms

If spanking does send IQ scores down, Straus and others offer some explanations for what might be going on.

“Contrary to what everyone believes, being hit by parents is a traumatic experience,” Straus said. “We know from lots of research that traumatic stresses affect the brain adversely.” Also, the trauma could cause kids to have more stressful responses in difficult situations, and so may not perform as well cognitively.

By using hitting rather than words or other means of discipline, parents could be depriving kids of learning opportunities. “With spanking, a parent is delivering a punishment to get the child’s attention and to get them to behave in a certain way,” said Elizabeth Gershoff who studies childhood development at the University of Texas, Austin. “It’s not fostering children’s independent thinking.”

So when a child gets in a bind, he or she might do the right thing to keep from a spanking rather than figuring out the best decision independently, added Gershoff, who was not involved in Straus’s current study.

And then there are genes, as some kids are just born smarter than others.

Even though spanking has been shown to cause negative consequences, Gershoff said many parents still fall back on the behavior-shaping tool. As for why, she says it’s a quick fix, though its seeming success is short-lived and the negative consequences often outweigh the positives. Parents also might have been spanked themselves and so continue the tradition.

Karl W. Giberson

Every once in awhile, a scientist will come out and say science and religion can co-exist. There will be some press coverage because of the obvious tensions between evidence-based thought and willy-nilly faith. So it comes as no surprise that physicist Karl Giberson is receiving some attention for his recent claim and book that says evolution and God can co-exist. (I presume the man has a longer history in the creationism-evolution issue than what LiveScience seems to suggest, but he evidently has yet to make a big splash.)

Obviously, he thinks one can be a Christian and accept evolution, but these two sets of knowledge “don’t make as much contact with each other as people think,” he said. Many fundamentalists “elevate Genesis beyond what is appropriate.”

Fundamentalists’ spin on the creation story in Genesis “robs it of everything that is interesting,” he said. Instead, readers should recall that the Bible repeats the refrain that God found what he made “good” and looks at the world as good.

It is true that bastardizing such a great piece of literature to literally mean something which is utterly absurd is a crying shame, but that doesn’t suddenly make evolution and religion, especially Christianity, compatible in any meaningful way. At best, perhaps the particular Christian god fully guided the process of evolution, making it mimic precisely what would be expected without any sort of foolish guidance, but that’s a rather superfluous compatibility. What’s more, that can comply to most any concept of a god that humans have had in the past 10,000 or more years. It’s a very non-cromulent way of thinking.

“It makes the world so much more interesting,” Giberson said. “The mystery of God’s existence is a more satisfying mystery than the mystery of how can all this arise out of a particle.”

Despite being a rather subjective claim, it seems difficult to fathom how anyone can honestly believe such a thing. First of all, it’s unclear how a mystery can be “satisfying”. It can be interesting and exciting and all that. Most of the good ones are. But satisfying? It’s when we solve the mystery or at least a piece of it that satisfaction becomes present. And, of course, the only way we can do that for most of the big questions is through the best way of knowing – science.

But what is your evidence, Shermer said, for belief in God?

“I was raised believing in God, so for me, the onus would be on someone to stop me from believing,” Giberson said, adding that “there is a certain momentum that is already there.”

This reminds me quite a bit of the silliness of George Smith. Apparently, an objective look at two sides is out of the question. It is the job of the non-believer to dismantle the long-term indoctrination of the believer. I almost don’t want to explicate on why this is so damn wrong. But I will.

Blind, stupid faith offers nothing of worth to a discussion. Once that argument is presented, any debate falls to shreds because faith is specifically belief without – or even despite the lack of – evidence. Perhaps an argument as to why faith is a bad way of knowing (indeed, it seeks to avoid a knowledge of anything) can be presented, but then one is simply dealing with a stubborn child. Perhaps it is that the onus is to lower one’s self to explaining why faith informs us of nothing.

The Stink in Your Fart

Apparently, the stink in farts control blood pressure.

A smelly rotten-egg gas in farts controls blood pressure in mice, a new study finds.

The unpleasant aroma of the gas, called hydrogen sulfide (H2S), can be a little too familiar, as it is expelled by bacteria living in the human colon and eventually makes its way, well, out.

The new research found that cells lining mice’s blood vessels naturally make the gas and this action can help keep the rodents’ blood pressure low by relaxing the blood vessels to prevent hypertension (high blood pressure). This gas is “no doubt” produced in cells lining human blood vessels too, the researchers said.

The article goes on to explain that researchers subjected mice to conditions comparable to hypertension in humans. The mice which were missing a gene responsible for the production of were unable to relax their blood vessels as much as the mice which did have the gene.

This doesn’t mean that if you fart often that you’ll have low blood pressure since hydrogen sulfide only accounts for the stink of your ass gas, not the whole shebang of gases and pressure, but it does mean that science editors are getting better at writing attention-grabbing headlines.