Health : Watch Children’s Intake of Fluoride

Fluoride obtained from some tap water, toothpastes, supplements and other sources can help prevent tooth decay. But preschoolers who get too much fluoride may develop fluorosis, a condition in which permanent teeth take on an irreversible mottled or discolored appearance, says Rick Asa, spokesman for the American Dental Assn.

Here are some suggestions for calculating your child’s fluoride intake and limiting it if necessary:

--Call your local water department to determine if fluoride is added to the water supply. The ADA recommends that levels not exceed about 1 part per million for optimal dental health. If your community has fluoridated water, there’s no need for supplementation, Asa noted. A spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power says fluoride is not added to the city supply.

--Even if fluoride is not added to your city’s water supply, don’t let children under age 6 use fluoridated mouthwashes, the ADA says.


--Because young children tend to swallow toothpastes, monitor their use until age 6, advises Dr. Philip Trask, a Santa Monica pediatric dentist and president-elect of the Southern California Chapter of the American Society of Dentistry for Children. “Use just enough to flavor the bristles,” he says. (Toothpastes without fluoride are available at some markets and health food stores.)

How does fluoride work? An essential trace element, it strengthens teeth by making them less soluble in the face of decay, Trask explains.

Watch for Cough Syrups

Over-the-counter cough syrups may effectively reduce coughs but some ingredients can cause drowsiness, a dangerous side effect if you’re on the job or behind the wheel. However, safe and effective cough medications are available, experts say.


Avoid those with antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, recommends Cynthia Hespe, vice president of education for the Sacramento-based California Pharmacists Assn. Opt, instead, for products with dextromethorphan as the anti-tussive agent (some include the letters DM on the label). And look for a low alcohol content, she adds, because “alcohol will aggravate the sedative properties of antihistamines.”

Also avoid syrups with codeine, advises Arthur Kibbe, director of scientific affairs for the American Pharmaceutical Assn.

Calories in Lunch Meat

For lunch-meat lovers, the labels look too good to be true: “Only 25 calories a slice.”

The bad news? Though low in calories, lunch meats are often high in fat, nutritionists point out.

“Labels are misleading,” says registered dietitian Judy Rossner of Portland, Ore. That’s because manufacturers list the percent of fat by weight and nutritionists look instead at the percent of total calories from fat, which can be much higher. (Many nutritionists recommend that no more than 30% of total daily calories come from fat.)

“A lunch meat can be 97% fat-free by weight, but the percent of total calories that come from fat can still be high,” explains Gretchen Newmark, a Santa Monica registered dietitian. (To compute the number of calories from fat, multiply the grams of fat by 9. A lunch meat with 25 calories per slice and 1 gram of fat per serving, for instance, has 9 calories from fat, or about 30% of its total calories.)

Don’t assume chicken and turkey lunch meats are leaner, says Newmark, because they sometimes contain skin, which increases the fat content. Ham lunch meat, she notes, “is sometimes taken from the round, which is leaner.”


Salami, Rossner warns, can be 75% fat. “But that doesn’t mean all lunch meats with more than 30% fat are taboo. You’re OK if you balance out your diet with vegetables and grains.”

“Try using only one slice of lunch meat, and put in such ingredients as lettuce, mustard, sprouts and tomato, and that’s still a relatively low-fat lunch,” says Newmark.

In lieu of prepared lunch meat, recommends Rossner, make a relatively low-calorie spread by combining leftover pot roast in the food processor with lite mayonnaise and plain yogurt. Or bake extra chicken and turkey and use leftovers in place of lunch meat.