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Ease mealtime battles with pint-size portions

Scaled-back portions can help parents sidestep mealtime battles with finicky tykes."Children who are poor eaters can be overwhelmed by adult-size portions," said Dr. Karen Cullen, a behavioral nutrition researcher with the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Pint-size portions also allow for positive mealtime interaction when toddlers ask for more.

According to Cullen, a good rule-of-thumb is one tablespoon of vegetables, fruit or meat per year of life for children under six years of age.

Allowing young children to listen to their bodies' hunger clues could also help them avoid overeating and weight problems later in life.

For children who aren't routinely hungry at mealtime, Cullen suggests keeping an eye on snacks. Too much fruit juice or snacks too close to meals can ruin small appetites. Also consider limiting beverages to one-half cup at the beginning of meals, serving more once a child begins eating.

When children who refuse to eat at mealtime complain of hunger an hour later, parents are advised to hold their ground and avoid becoming short-order cooks. "Offer some fruit or vegetables with dip, but avoid preparing a meal. The child won't starve and limits need to be learned," Cullen said.

Gene therapy reverses heart disease in mice

A new gene therapy tested in mice all but eliminated fatty plaque deposits that can build up in arteries and cause heart attacks and strokes, according to a study in the February issue of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers transplanted a gene for the human version of a protein involved in transporting and clearing cholesterol from the body into mice that were bred specifically for the experiment.

The animals getting the gene had significant reductions in total cholesterol and triglycerides, an increased level of beneficial high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and complete regression of the fatty plaque blockages.

"There is a medical need for effective new therapies to treat people with high cholesterol levels," according to senior author Nicolas Duverger of a French pharmaceutical company near Seine.

Eventually scientists may devise a gene therapy to protect against heart disease that can be administered by injection every couple of years.

Good arteries called key in heart-attack recovery

The outlook is excellent for those who suffer heart attacks despite having normal coronary arteries, according to a study in a recent issue of CHEST, a journal of the American College of Chest Physicians.

Somewhere between 1 percent and 12 percent of individuals suffering myocardial infarctions are deemed to have normal coronary arteries as determined by an X-ray visualization of the internal anatomy of the heart and blood vessels after injection of a dye. Called myocardial infarction with angiographically normal coronary arteries, the cause of this disease is still unknown, although coronary or blood vessel spasms, thrombosis, platelet dysfunction, Raynaud's phenomenon, migraines and inflammatory responses due possibly to chlamydia or other bacterial or viral infections have been implicated.

Researchers in Switzerland found these patients had less chest pain before the heart attack than did those with coronary artery disease but had more febrile infections prior to the attack. They also had more migraine headaches, fewer histories of high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure. But there were no significant differences for other risk factors, such as family history, hormonal substitution and diabetes. They had higher levels of "good" cholesterol, but there were no significant differences in "bad" cholesterol measurements.