ISLAMABAD - Kids who skip breakfast will be nutritionally short-changed all day, an expert says.

“Growing bodies and developing brains need regular, healthy meals,” Carole Adler, a dietitian at the US Food and Drug Administration, said in an agency news release. The morning meal doesn’t have to include traditional breakfast foods. Give children foods they like, as long as you maintain a healthy balance, she said. For example, they might like leftovers from last night’s dinner or a turkey sandwich to start their day.

If your child loves sugary cereals, she suggested mixing a bit of that with a whole-grain, nutrient-rich healthier type of cereal. “Nothing has to be off the table altogether, and sometimes just a taste of something your kids like is enough to keep them happy,” Adler said.

Try to provide a breakfast that includes protein, fat and carbohydrates to keep children feeling full and able to focus until lunch. Protein choices include an egg, some nuts, a slice of deli meat or cheese, or a container of yogurt.

Don’t let children skip breakfast, even if they have to eat it on the run, she added. For example, they can head out the door with a piece of fruit, a bag of nut-and-fruit trail mix, a whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter or almond butter, and a carton of milk.

“A fruit-filled shake with milk or yogurt takes only a couple of minutes to drink,” Adler said.

If you’re pressed for time in the morning, Adler recommended taking 10 minutes each night to prepare for breakfast the next day. You can chop up fruit to add to yogurt or cereal, cut up vegetables for an omelet, or mix muffin or whole-grain waffle batter and put it in the fridge.

Other preparations may include getting out a pan for pancakes or a blender for smoothies, and placing a bowl of nut-and-fruit trail mix on the table for your children to dip into before they walk out the door, Adler suggested.

Acupuncture reduces high blood pressure

A new study suggests that a form of acupuncture may benefit patients with high blood pressure and lower their risk of stroke and heart disease. Electro-acupuncture is a form of acupuncture that applies low-intensity electrical pulses through needles inserted at specific points on the body.

The single-blind trial, conducted at the University of California-Irvine (UCI), is the first scientific confirmation that the ancient Chinese medical technique is beneficial for patients with mild to moderate hypertension.

The team describes finding how electro-acupuncture can lower blood pressure for up to 6 weeks in patients with hypertension.

Electro-acupuncture is a form of acupuncture that applies low-intensity electrical pulses through needles inserted at specific points on the body. The researchers say their findings suggest that with regular use, electro-acupuncture could help people manage their blood pressure and reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke in the longer term.

Senior author John Longhurst, a cardiologist and UCI professor of medicine, says the clinical study comes after nearly 10 years of bench research into the effect of acupuncture on high blood pressure. He adds:

“By using Western scientific rigor to validate an ancient Eastern therapy, we feel we have integrated Chinese and Western medicine and provided a beneficial guideline for treating a disease that affects millions in the US.”

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 70 million American adults (29%) with high blood pressure - only about half of whom have the condition under control. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that has been in use for over 3,000 years. It uses thin needles to stimulate one or more out of hundreds of specific points on the body. The US regulators approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners in 1996.

High blood pressure costs the US some $46 billion a year. This figure covers health care services, medications and absence from work. For their study, Prof. Longhurst and colleagues recruited 65 patients with hypertension who were not taking any drugs to treat their condition. Each patient was randomly assigned to one of two groups. Both groups were treated with electroacupuncture, except that one group (the treatment group) had it applied to both sides of the inner wrists and slightly below each knee (acupoints thought to reduce blood pressure), and the other group had it applied to other acupoints along the forearm and lower leg (the control group).

The trial was a single-blind trial. That means the practitioners giving the treatment knew which patients were in the treatment group and which were in the control group, but the patients did not.

The results showed that 70% of the 33 patients in the treatment group experienced a noticeable drop in blood pressure. On average, the reduction was 6-8 mm/Hg for systolic blood pressure and 4 mm/Hg for diastolic blood pressure.