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Health Capsules: Feb. 20

Does drinking a lot of coffee lead to a lot longer life?

A growing amount of research connects drinking more than three cups of coffee per day with living longer.

Consuming three to five cups of coffee a day could be a “sweet spot” when it comes to living longer, according to a new report from the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee [ISIC]. The report examines the most recent research into coffee and life expectancy, including a Harvard University-led study of almost 20,000 participants which showed that drinking between three and six cups of java per day was associated with a 22 percent lower risk of dying from any cause over a 10-year period. Several other studies also have found links between coffee and longevity with consumption of as little as one cup per day, with increasing benefits for people whose daily java fix includes multiple refills. 

At a roundtable meeting held late last year, ISIC members suggested that coffee’s caffeine content alone is unlikely to explain its positive effect on mortality. They said chemicals called polyphenols found in coffee may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that contribute to living longer. They also discussed coffee’s role in a healthy diet and lifestyle, especially considering past studies that show coffee is also related to a reduced risk of conditions like Type 2 diabetes. 

More research links screen time with negative outcomes for kids

An increasing amount of research now points to the negative effects of screen time on the brains of kids of all ages. These effects can include both learning delays in young children and a greater risk of serious mental health issues and potential suicidal behavior in teens, according to two recent studies which focused on those groups.

Digital media and screens are now ever-present in the lives of children, even at the earliest ages. On average, children under 8 years of age spend more than two hours a day looking at screens. By the time they enter school, one in four children shows deficits or delays in developmental areas such as language, communication and motor skills 

A recent Canadian study compared young children’s weekly screen time at ages 2 and 3 with their developmental progress at ages 3 and 5, when children typically begin to enter school. It found that higher amounts of screen time were significantly related to poorer performance on developmental screening tests. 

While screen time may interfere with opportunities for learning and growth, it is also possible that children with delays receive more screen time to help parents deal with their challenging behaviors. In either case, many children are beginning school inadequately prepared for learning and academic success, the researchers said.

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A second study of teens, led by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge, may be even more alarming. That study, which examined anonymous questionnaires from more than 500,000 U.S. teens, found a large increase in depression and suicidal thoughts among young people between 2010 and 2015, especially girls. 

The number of teen girls reporting symptoms of severe depression increased by 58 percent over the five-year period, which also coincides with a similar increase in the suicide rate for girls between the ages of 13 and 18. 

When researchers looked into the relationship between screen time and these serious issues, they found that 48 percent of teens who spent five or more hours per day on electronic devices reported at least one mental health-related outcome, compared to only 28 percent of those who reported an hour or less of screen time. 

The findings agree with previous studies that have linked time spent on social media to more unhappiness among teens, Twenge said. “Between 2010 and 2015, teens increasingly spent more time with screens and less time with other activities. That was by far the largest change in their lives during this five-year period, and it’s not a good formula for mental health,” she added.

On the calendar

St. Luke’s Hospital and Dierbergs Markets co-sponsor Learn to Shop for a Healthier You on Tuesday, Feb. 26 from 10-11:30 a.m. at Dierbergs West Oak, 11481 Olive Blvd. in Creve Coeur. Join a St. Luke’s dietitian for a store tour that will focus on how to make better choices, read labels and plan meals. Tour will meet at the store’s School of Cooking. The cost is $5, but all participants will receive a $5 Dierbergs gift card. To register, visit Dierbergs.com or call (314) 238-0440.

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Conversations for Women, a series of health talks for women sponsored by St. Luke’s Hospital, begins on Thursday, Feb. 28 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at The Lodge, 1050 Des Peres Road in Des Peres. The first topic, Living Mindfully for Better Health, addresses day-to-day aggravations and major life upheavals which can take a toll on your health. The class is free, but registration is required by visiting stlukes-stl.com.

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BJC St. Louis Children’s Hospital sponsors a Family and Friends CPR course on Saturday, March 2 from 9-11:30 a.m. at the Children’s Specialty Care Center, 13001 N. Outer 40 Road in Town & Country. Participants are not certified but will receive a certificate. Register online at https://classes-events.bjc.org.

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Mercy Fertility Care Services hosts informational events for preteen and teenage children and their parents in March. All programs will be held from 1-3:30 p.m. in the Von Gontard Conference Center at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, 621 S. New Ballas Road in Creve Coeur. Topics covered include body changes during puberty, age-appropriate reproductive information and the sacredness of human life. The cost, which includes light refreshments, is $50 per family, per program. Online reservations are required by visiting mercy.net/fertilitycare. For more information or questions, call (314) 991-0327 or email susan.odaniel@mercy.net. Events for boys and girls will be held as follows:

A program for boys ages 11 and 12 and their fathers is on Sunday, March 3.

A program for girls ages 10 to 12 and their mothers is on Sunday, March 10.

A program for girls ages 13 to 17 and their mothers is on Sunday, March 24.

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