Mother Knows Best
Mom deserves a lot more credit than we give her. Here are 10 things that she
By Laurie Barclay
WebMD Feature Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD
The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world, wrote
William Ross Wallace in 1865. And still today, Mother deserves a lot more credit
than we sometimes give her.
While we're honoring Mom with cards, flowers, and Sunday brunch, let's take a
moment to reflect on all we owe her, especially where our health is concerned.
As much as we might hate to admit it, it turns out she was right all along
about lots of those down-home notions that made us groan as we were growing up.
Here's a brief sampling, organized to spell out MOTHER'S DAY:
If you contend that feeding us fruits and veggies while
holding out on the junk food was tantamount to child abuse, you haven't got a leg to stand on. The
health benefits of fresh produce and whole grains include strengthening the
immune system while protecting against heart disease and cancer. Junk food, on
the other hand, is high in salt and sugar, promoting high blood pressure,
obesity, and dental cavities.
"Parents should offer children a variety of healthy food choices -- no junk
food!" William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, tells WebMD. "The child can choose whether or
not he wants to eat."
But what if Junior gets hungry?
"That's the whole idea," says Dietz, director of the division of nutrition
and physical activity at the CDC in Atlanta. "Children need to learn the
consequences of not eating -- then they'll make healthy choices on their own."
What about Mom's advice to eat a morning bowl of cereal rather than grabbing
a donut on the run? Right on the money, according to research by M. Rene Malinow,
MD, a professor of medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland.
"Fortified cereals are a good source of vitamins," Malinow tells WebMD, and
they also may decrease levels of homocysteine, which has been linked to
increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
"Breakfast cereal fortified with folic acid is an inexpensive and harmless
way to decrease homocysteine," Malinow says. And research suggests lowering
homocysteine may help decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Mom insisting we wash up before dinner is also a great idea, especially after
caring for farm animals and exotic pets. These loveable critters have been
linked to dangerous outbreaks of E. coli, a bacterial infection causing bloody
diarrhea, fever, vomiting, kidney failure, and even death.
What about a hot bowl of chicken soup for your cold? An old wives' tale,
right? Not according to Stephen Rennard, MD, a professor of pulmonary and
critical care medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
Although Rennard has not yet tested in people the healing powers of his
wife's legendary soup recipe, the 'liquid gold penicillin' is pretty impressive
in the lab, preventing movement of white blood cells that leak into body tissues
and cause inflammation.
"This might explain why chicken soup makes us feel better when we have a
cold, because it might prevent symptoms like sore throat, runny nose, and achy
joints," Rennard tells WebMD.
"Button up your overcoat! And don't forget the galoshes/mittens/muffler!"
Don't you just cringe thinking about it?
Turns out that cold weather does stress the immune system and can lower our
resistance to infections, especially if we're not accustomed to it. So Maree
Gleeson, an exercise physiologist at the University of Birmingham in England,
suggests that athletes competing in cold climates protect themselves by limiting
exposure and wearing warm clothing.
Remember when Mom told you to spend less time glued to the TV and more time
outside playing? A study published in the April 2001 issue of the Journal of the
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry showed that exposure to TV,
video games, and other media is linked to increased violent and aggressive
behavior and more high-risk behavior, including alcohol and tobacco use and
earlier onset of sexual activity.