First study shows overweight and obese youth can lose weight from active videogames, or exergames

April 23, 2013, The Wall Street Journal

While most parents have to compete with the videogame console to ensure their kids get enough exercise, new, groundbreaking research published in the scientific journal, Obesity, makes an argument for a certain kind of video game: active videogames, also known as exergames. These games are a form of exercise and rely on technology to track the body’s movement and reaction.

“Faced with a pediatric obesity crisis, our nation urgently needs sustainable physical activities that promote healthy weight in youth,” said study author Amanda Staiano, Ph.D., of Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. “In the past, light-to-moderate energy expenditure has been documented during exergame play; however, this is the first study to demonstrate weight loss among teenagers as a result.” Continue reading

McDonald’s fined in Brazil for pushing Happy Meals to children

April 22, 2013, Reuters

By Brad Haynes

A consumer protection agency in Brazil has taken aim at the Happy Meal, fining McDonald’s Corp on April 22 for targeting children with its advertising and toys.

The Procon agency in the state of Sao Paulo fined the fast-food company 3.2 million reais ($1.6 million), adding fuel to a global debate about fast food and public health.

As with the case in Brazil, Latin America’s biggest economy, much of the debate centers on how McDonald’s and other fast-food companies market to children and other young consumers.

While the initial fine may have little impact on the world’s largest restaurant chain, the agency said additional citations for similar advertising could arise, more than doubling the cost to McDonald’s. Consumer agencies in other jurisdictions could also soon follow the precedent in Brazil’s most populous state. Continue reading

New NCCOR project translates research into applications for the Healthy Eating Index

In April, NCCOR launched a series of new communication tools and technologies that translate and disseminate research applications of the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) for researchers, practitioners, and decision makers and ultimately highlight changes needed to enable healthier food choices for all Americans.

The HEI is a tool designed to measure diet quality—that is, how closely an eating pattern or combination of foods matches the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations. It was developed by scientists at two of NCCOR’s funding partners: the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion; and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Applied Research Program, part of the National Institutes of Health. Continue reading

A comprehensive menu labeling standard is needed to support healthy choices

April 4, 2013, The Huffington Post

This article was co-authored by former Secretaries Dan Glickman and Ann M. Veneman.

In an effort to help Americans make more informed food choices, the Affordable Care Act created a national menu labeling standard for food establishments with 20 or more locations. Recently, several types of establishments that serve food — for example, movie theaters and supermarkets — have sought exemption from calorie labeling requirements. Such exemptions would create a patchwork system that will prevent Americans from knowing the caloric content of far too much of the food they purchase and consume.

As a nation facing rising rates of obesity and related chronic diseases that cost our health care system hundreds of billions each year, we know we need to make prevention a primary focus. Healthy eating and active living, as recommended by the federal 2010 Dietary Guidelines and the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, are critical health behaviors that can prevent many chronic diseases. But changing individual behavior is only possible when supported by an environment that helps make the healthy choice the easy choice. Continue reading

Pushing kids to eat may cause obesity later

April 22, 2013, CNN Health [The Chart Blog]

While growing up, many children may have heard “clean your plate” or been denied candy. But how do parental attitudes toward food affect a child’s weight?

Denying certain foods to children or pressuring them to eat every bit of a meal are common practices among many parents. But researchers at the University of Minnesota found parents who restricted foods were more likely to have overweight or obese children. And while those who pressured children to eat all of their meals mostly had children of normal weight, it adversely affected the way those children ate as they grew older, according to the study published April 22 in the journal Pediatrics. Continue reading

New report highlights effects of USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in schools

A March 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service’s Office of Research and Analysis explores new evaluation results of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP).

FFVP aims to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among students in the most economically challenged U.S. elementary schools by providing fresh fruits and vegetable to students outside of regular school meals. Continue reading

Ten-year follow-up of physical activity among adolescents

April 15, 2013, Medical Xpress

In 2000, about 1,000 children aged 6-14 from southeast Sweden participated in an international study on physical activity, body constitution, and physical self-perception.

The new study is a follow-up study on a sample of the 12-year-olds in the original study. The researchers followed and reassessed the group at ages 15, 17, and 22. As in the first study, they measured physical activity using a pedometer.

The results indicate a reduction in total daily physical activity from the early teenage years to early adulthood. The boys show a dramatic drop between the ages of 12 and 15. Girls are on average more active than boys at both ages 17 and 22. Continue reading

Sleep less, weigh more

April 10, 2013, The New York Times

By Nicholas Bakalar

A new study suggests that adolescent obesity could be decreased if teenagers got more sleep, and the heaviest would benefit most.

For a study published last week in Pediatrics, researchers surveyed 1,429 ninth-graders, gathering data on height and weight. The children reported their sleep habits on weekdays and weekends to the nearest 15 minutes. The researchers followed the students with interviews every six months over the next four years, updating their data. Continue reading

Fruit, not fries: Lunchroom makeovers nudge kids toward better choices

April 2, 2013, NPR [The Salt Blog]

By Kevin Charles Redmond

Gone are the days of serving up tater tots and French toast sticks to students. Here are the days of carrot sticks and quinoa.

New nutritional guidelines announced in 2012 require public school lunchrooms to offer more whole grains, low-fat milk, and fewer starchy sides like french fries. But short of stationing grandmothers in every cafeteria, how do you ensure that students actually eat the fruits and veggies they’re being offered?

A minor lunchroom makeover could make a big difference, says Andrew Hanks, a behavioral economist at Cornell University. Continue reading

Strict school lunch standards tied to healthy weight

April 8, 2013, Reuters

By Andrew M. Seaman

Strict school lunch standards that are similar to new regulations from the U.S. government may be tied to healthier body weights among students, according to a new study.

“I think it’s evidence that healthier school lunches have a positive effect but it’s preliminary evidence. It’s far from definitive,” said Anne Barnhill, who studies food policy at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia but was not involved with the new research.

The new findings, published in JAMA Pediatrics on April 8, bode well for the standards introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in January 2012 that — among other moves — set maximums for calories offered during lunch and mandate that only skim or reduced-fat milk are offered to students. Continue reading