washingtonpost.com  > Nation > Science


Tuesday, April 12, 2005; Page A08

Low-Fat Diets May Lack Nutrients for Children

Low-fat diets might be fine for adults, but at least one small study suggests grown-ups using that approach for their families could be depriving young children of vitamins.

Judy Driskell, a nutrition scientist at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, said her recent study of 22 preschoolers found two-thirds lacking the recommended levels of Vitamin E and one-third short on Vitamin C -- a finding attributed mainly to parents sharing their eating habits with their children.

"Parents are eating a lot of low-fat and nonfat products, and we're finding they also give their children such things as skim milk," she said. "The low-fat diet is probably associated with their being low in Vitamin E."

Driskell and colleagues from the university's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources tested major antioxidant vitamin levels, which include vitamins E and C, in 22 children ages 2 to 5 at four Lincoln day-care centers. Many had borderline deficiencies, Driskell said.

Nutritionists recommend young children regularly have whole milk, nuts and seeds, regular salad dressings, and whole-grain cereals fortified with vitamins to get Vitamin E. They also recommend regular consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and small amounts -- 3 to 6 ounces -- of citrus juice.

Bacteria on Keyboards May Be Hospital Threat

Harmful bacteria can survive as long as 24 hours on computer keyboards, highlighting what could be a growing threat as hospitals increase investment in technology, researchers said.

The study carried out at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago found that keyboards can contaminate the fingers, bare or gloved, of a nurse or doctor, who could then transfer bacteria to patients.

"The emerging trend in hospitals is to have electronic health records. . . . Some hospitals are putting computers in every patient room," said Gary Noskin, medical director of health-care epidemiology at the hospital.

His team contaminated keyboards with three types of bacteria commonly found in hospitals: vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Both of the drug-resistant bacteria strains were able to survive on a keyboard 24 hours after contamination, while the Pseudomonas aeruginosa lasted up to an hour, according to the study.

The study, presented at a meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, also found that touching a keyboard was enough to transmit the bacteria.

The best defense is frequent hand washing, Noskin said.

Human Expansion Tied To Elephant Extinction

Human expansion out of Africa, rather than climate change, caused the extinction of prehistoric elephants such as the woolly mammoth and the mastodon around the world, according to a study published in Anthropology.

Evidence for interaction between early humans and elephants is found at hunting and scavenging sites mostly at the periphery of human expansion, according to researchers led by Todd Surovell of the University of Wyoming Anthropology Department. This suggests that as humans entered elephant habitats, the animals were hunted to extinction.

There is no evidence of overlap between elephant and human populations in Europe, northern Asia and the Americas once human populations were established there, which is contrary to what would be expected if climate change, rather than overkill, drove the animals to extinction, according to the study.

"Elephants might be particularly susceptible to overhunting because their size translates into fewer offspring and greater needs for roaming land," Surovell said in an e-mail statement. "The elephant populations that have managed to survive live in areas where humans have never settled in large numbers."

The researchers looked at 41 sites, dating back as far as 1.8 million years ago, in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas that show evidence of humans exploiting elephants. The earliest sites are in Africa and coincide with the emergence of Homo erectus. As humans moved north, evidence of elephant hunting appeared in the Middle East and Europe.

-- From News Services

© 2005 The Washington Post Company