Family TV saturated with junk food ads

March 24, 2014, Medical Xpress

Researchers from the University of Liverpool have found that young people are exposed to advertisements that promote unhealthy food during primetime TV, which are normally banned from children’s programming.

An analysis of more than 750 ads found that almost one in four TV ads shown between 8-9 p.m. were for food, and it was possible for viewers to be exposed to as many as 11 ads for junk food per hour.

Within these food ads, the most frequently shown ads promoted unhealthy products from supermarkets such as Aldi and Morrisons (25 percent), followed by fast-food chains such as KFC (13 percent), with chocolate and sweet companies like Lindt and Haribo the third most common (12 percent). Continue reading

A third of school-age kids may have risky cholesterol levels

March 28, 2014, NPR [Shots Blog]

By Linda Poon

Of all the things parents worry about when it comes to their children’s health, high cholesterol probably isn’t very high on the list.

But roughly one in three primary school kids may already have borderline-high or high cholesterol, according to a large study to be presented this week at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology. And while the cholesterol may not be causing any evident problems for those children now, researchers say, it could already be starting to harden and narrow their arteries, paving the way for heart disease and stroke down the road.

In fact, previous research has suggested that a child’s total cholesterol level is the single greatest predictor of whether he or she will have extremely high cholesterol as an adult, says Thomas Seery, a pediatric cardiologist at the Texas Children’s Hospital and the study’s lead author. Continue reading

Americans don’t want soda tax, size restrictions

March 20, 2014, Medical Xpress

By Stacey Shackford

Those hoping to dilute Americans’ taste for soda, energy drinks, sweetened tea, and other sugary beverages should take their quest to school lunchrooms rather than legislative chambers, according to a recent study by media and health policy experts.

Soda taxes and beverage portion size restrictions were unpalatable to the 1,319 U.S. adults questioned in a fall 2012 survey as part of a study reported online March 10 in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Adding front-of-package nutrition labels and removing sugary beverages from school environments garnered greater support: 65 percent and 62 percent, respectively —compared with 22 percent for taxes and 26 percent for portion size restrictions. Continue reading

Apples vs. oranges: Google tool offers ultimate nutrition smackdown

March 24, 2014, NPR [The Salt Blog]

By Eliza Barclay

Leave it to the folks at Reddit to uncover the hidden treasures of the Internet. Recently, they were gabbing about Google’s nutrition comparison tool, which was quietly launched at the end of 2013 and escaped us here at The Salt.

Using this clever little tool is as simple as searching for two types of food, preceded by the word “compare.” The word “vs.” between the two foods also seems to work for some comparisons but not every single one.

So, for example, say you want to compare the calories, sugar content, and nutrients of mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes? Just type in “compare mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes,” and boom, you get photos and an elegant chart revealing that sweet potatoes have 4.2 grams of sugar per 100 grams, compared with 0.5 grams in mashed potatoes. Scroll down and you’ll see that sweet potatoes kill mashed potatoes in vitamin A, potassium, and calcium content.

As you contrast ingredients, perhaps out of sheer curiosity, perhaps to design a meal plan, you’ll learn a lot by playing around with the preparation and cooking method of the food. Tweak the mashed potatoes to “potato, mashed, with milk and butter,” and unsurprisingly, the fat content jumps up.

You can even compare apples and oranges (apples are slightly sweeter and have slightly more calories, in case you were wondering). Or analyze foods from totally different food groups — for instance, what do grapes and bacon have in common? Google says it’s getting most of its data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database, so you can compare pretty much anything in it.

According to Google spokeswoman Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi, the company created the comparison tool after the success of its original nutrition search tool, introduced in May 2013.

Gaining excess or too little weight during pregnancy tied to child obesity risk

April 14, 2014, Science World Report

According to researchers at Kaiser Permanente, gaining either excess weight or too little weight during pregnancy appears to elevate the risk of having an obese or overweight child. This study examined recommendations of the Institute of Medicine regarding pregnancy weight gain in relation to childhood obesity.

“Gaining either too little or too much weight in pregnancy may permanently affect mechanisms that manage energy balance and metabolism in the offspring, such as appetite control and energy expenditure,” study’s lead author Sneha Sridhar, MPH, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, said in a statement. “This could potentially have long-term effects on the child’s subsequent growth and weight.”

For this study, the researchers looked at the health records of over 4,145 racially diverse women who completed the health survey taken from 2007-2009 and had a baby.  Apart from this, the researchers even looked at the medical records of children of ages 2 to 5 years. Continue reading

Motivating kids to be more physically active

March 5, 2014, News Medical

Parents can help motivate kids to be more physically active, but the influence may not result in an improvement in their children’s body mass index (BMI), finds a new evidence review in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

“It was disappointing to find the overall impact of interventions on physical activity was so minimal. It was encouraging, though, to find parents’ influence matters in this area, even with older children and teens,” said the review’s lead author Jane Cerruti Dellert, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor and director of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program at the Seton Hall University College of Nursing in New Jersey.

Health promotion advocates attempting to reduce obesity in American children need to address the role of parents in their children’s health-related behaviors, she added. Continue reading

Inadequate sleep predicts risk of heart disease, diabetes in obese adolescents

March 6, 2014, Medical Xpress

Obese adolescents not getting enough sleep? A study in [the March 6 edition] the Journal of Pediatrics, shows they could be increasing their risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Lack of sleep and obesity have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases in adults and young children.

However, the association is not as clear in adolescents, an age group known for lack of adequate sleep, and with an obesity and overweight prevalence of 30 percent in the United States. Continue reading

AJPH highlights systems science applications in obesity research

Obesity is arguably the most pressing public health problem of our time. Over 3 billion children and adults worldwide are expected to be counted among the overweight and obese population in less than two decades. Substantial efforts by the public health community have focused on addressing the problem, but in order to implement effective solutions, a greater understanding of the complexities associated with obesity is needed. Through a special issue, the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH, July 2014) is showcasing cutting edge research in this area.

“This theme issue highlights some of the work that is being done in obesity research using systems science approaches,” Dr. Regina Bures said of the special edition, titled Using Systems Science in Obesity Research. Bures is program officer in the Center for Population Research at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and served as a guest editor for the AJPH theme issue. Continue reading

Keep low-calorie foods close to choose them more often

March 20, 2014, Reuters

By Shereen Jegtvig

In a new study suggesting laziness could be tapped as a tool for healthier eating, people reached for low-calorie apple slices more often than buttery popcorn when the apples were within easier reach.

“There are the little things that we can do to just make our diets healthier, and one of them is the simple idea to just put the healthy foods closer to you and you’ll find you can use your laziness to your advantage,” Gregory Privitera told Reuters Health.

Privitera, a psychology researcher at Saint Bonaventure University in Bonaventure, New York, led the study, which he says was inspired by experience with his kids. Continue reading

Lower IQ, worse heart fitness in teens linked to risk of early dementia in men

March 17, 2014, HealthDay

Having a lower IQ or poorer fitness at age 18 might increase a man’s risk of developing dementia before age 60, a new study suggests.

The analysis of data from 1.1 million Swedish men suggested that the risk of early onset dementia was 2.5 times higher in those with poorer heart fitness, four times higher in those with a lower IQ, and seven times higher in those with both risk factors.

The men were first tested as part of Sweden’s national military service conscription and followed for up to 42 years.

The increased dementia risk remained even when the University of Gothenburg researchers took into account other risk factors, such as socioeconomic status and medical and family history, according to the study, which was published online recently in the journal Brain. Continue reading