Nutrition News: Sparkling Water Safety, Parsing Probiotics, Eating and Reading


Eating and reading

You want your kids to eat healthy for all sorts of reasons. Here’s a new one: It may make them better readers. A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyvaskyla found that students’ reading skills showed greater improvement between first and third grade if they ate a diet composed primarily of vegetables and fruits (especially berries), along with fish, whole grains and unsaturated fats, and ate very few sugary treats and red meats, HealthDay News reports. “The associations of diet quality with reading skills were … independent of many confounding factors, such as socioeconomic status, physical activity, body adiposity [fat] and physical fitness,” study author Eero Haapala said in a study news release. But don’t worry too much if your kid is a picky eater — the study showed only a correlation, not cause and effect.


It … sparkles!

Sparkling water — the blanket term for all fizzy H2O, whether it’s seltzer, club soda or sparkling mineral water — is refreshing and delicious. But are there drawbacks to drinking it? The New York Times’ Well blog recently looked into it and concluded, “Studies have not shown ill health effects from drinking seltzer or other plain sparkling waters.” It’s certainly way healthier than drinking colas and other flavored sodas, juices and sports beverages. As long as there are no additives, sweeteners or sodium in your sparkling water, you should be good. The acidity and carbonation won’t erode your teeth enamel, research indicates, though you may want to avoid seltzers flavored with citric acid, which may. And you’ll want to keep an eye on the sodium content of club soda. One expert told the Times the biggest issue to drinking sparkling water may be missing out on the fluoride you get from tap water, but if you make your own seltzer using tap water and a device like a SodaStream, that ceases to be an issue. So go forth and make bubbles!


Probiotic inequity

Your friend or family member swears by probiotics, claiming myriad benefits. So you try them and … nada. What gives? The Washington Post notes that not all probiotics are equal and that different people respond to them differently. “We cannot predict who is going to respond to a particular probiotic strain,” Johns Hopkins Hospital gastroenterologist Linda Lee told the paper. For instance, a research group led by University of Copenhagen medical professor Oluf Pedersen found that probiotics that seemed to work for people coping with irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and travelers’ diarrhea, which may have knocked their gut bacteria out of whack, did not work for healthy people.

Pedersen says more evidence is needed to prove the efficacy of probiotics. The good news is that the FDA now employs new methods of regulating probiotics to ensure safety. So if you do decide to try them, “they probably won’t hurt you,” University of Maryland law professor Diane Hoffmann, who has studied the regulation of probiotics, told the Post. “Some people claim they do [make a difference]. But before you buy them, you really don’t know. It’s a buyer-beware situation.”

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer.