Rudd Center webinar explores how to use strategic science to influence public policy

The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity recently held a webinar demonstrating how to use strategic science to affect policy outcomes that promote healthy behaviors. The webinar, “Case studies in strategic science to inform public policy,” outlines the steps to effectively conduct research and disseminate findings to enact change. The webinar also showcases three case studies that demonstrate these steps: (1) Reducing marketing of sugary cereals to children; (2) advocating for and evaluating a state competitive foods law; (3) advocating for sugar-sweetened beverage taxes. Continue reading

Sesame Street may help kids make healthy choices

Nov. 18, 2013, daily Rx

Parents might try to feed their kids healthy food at home, but those children often will eventually be responsible for making their own healthy choices.

Researchers behind a new study wanted to explore the effectiveness of educating children about health at a very young age.

The study looked at a group of preschool children and found that three years after an educational program using Sesame Street characters, their knowledge of and attitudes toward a healthy lifestyle had improved.

The researchers behind this new study, led by Valentin Fuster, M.D., Ph.D., director of Mount Sinai Heart at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, wanted to explore how educational programs for preschoolers might promote good dietary behavior, physical activity, and healthy weight in the long-term. Continue reading

Obese people can’t taste sweetness as well as those at a healthy weight, due to fewer taste cells

Nov. 21, 2013, Medical Daily

By John Ericson

Obesity may make sweets less sweet, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Buffalo have discovered that in severely overweight mice, the tongue’s reaction to sweet stimuli is significantly less pronounced. The findings may help us understand how the current obesity epidemic transforms the way we interact with food.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study sought to quantify an obese individual’s physical reaction to a food category that tends to figure prominently during the development of the disease: sweets. Although previous inquiries have assessed the influence of obesity on nerves and peripheral taste systems, the current study is the first to focus on the tongue’s actual taste cells. “Studies have shown that obesity can lead to alterations in the brain, as well as the nerves that control the peripheral taste system, but no one had ever looked at the cells on the tongue that make contact with food,” lead author Kathryn Medler said in a press release. “What we see is that even at this level – at the first step in the taste pathway – the taste receptor cells themselves are affected by obesity.” Continue reading

Communication key to adolescent health outcomes

Nov. 27, 2013, Medical Xpress

Improved communication between pediatric providers and the parents and guardians of adolescents could lead to better health outcomes, a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (UPSOM) study reports. The findings are available online in this month’s Patient Education and Counseling.

Between June and November of 2009, Aletha Akers, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UPSOM and the study’s lead author, and her research team administered an anonymous, self-reported questionnaire to a sample of 358 parents accompanying their adolescent children on visits to general outpatient pediatric clinics at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to assess the main health issues concerning their adolescents. Continue reading

Big Bird, Elmo to encourage kids to eat produce

Nov. 27, 2013, DCA Press

A trip down the grocery store produce aisle could soon feel like a stroll down “Sesame Street.”

Michelle Obama announced that the nonprofit organization behind the popular children’s educational TV program will let the produce industry use Elmo, Big Bird, and Sesame Street’s other furry characters free of charge to market fruits and veggies to kids.

The goal is to get children who often turn up their noses at the sight of produce to eat more of it.

Under the arrangement, Sesame Workshop is waiving the licensing fee for its Muppet characters for two years.

As soon as next spring, shoppers and children accompanying them can expect to see their favorite Sesame Street characters on stand-alone signs and on stickers and labels on all types of produce regardless of whether it comes in a bag, a carton, or just its skin. Continue reading

Kids worldwide are less fit than their parents were, study shows

Nov. 19, 2013, Fox News

Today’s kids can’t keep up with their parents. An analysis of studies on millions of children around the world finds they don’t run as fast or as far as their parents did when they were young.

On average, it takes children 90 seconds longer to run a mile than their counterparts did 30 years ago. Heart-related fitness has declined 5 percent per decade since 1975 for children ages 9 to 17.

The American Heart Association (AHA) conference, which featured the research, says it’s the first to show that children’s fitness has declined worldwide over the last three decades.

“It makes sense. We have kids that are less active than before,” said Dr. Stephen Daniels, a University of Colorado pediatrician and spokesman for the AHA. Continue reading

Study shows nutrition education leads to healthier choices by SNAP recipients

Dec. 8, 2013, Tri-State Neighbor

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released a study providing clear evidence that well-designed nutrition education programs can lead to healthier food choices by participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The study, SNAP Education and Evaluation Study (Wave II), evaluated the impact of several nutrition education programs on fruit and vegetable consumption among low-income elementary school children and seniors. The study found that children participating in certain nutrition education programs increased their daily fruit and vegetable consumption at home by a quarter- to a third-cup, and were more likely to choose low-fat or fat-free milk. Participating seniors consumed about a half-cup more fruits and vegetables daily.

“The results of this study reiterate the critical role of nutrition education and promotion in improving the healthfulness of SNAP purchases,” said Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. “USDA and our partners continue to explore a wide-ranging set of strategies that support families as they purchase, prepare and eat more healthy foods.” Continue reading

Heart-healthy lifestyles can spread through social networks

Nov. 19, 2013, Medical Xpress

Heart-healthy lifestyles can be contagious to your family and friends.

In a late-breaking clinical trial presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2013, people in social networks who received an intervention to tackle their weight problems together lost an average 6½ pounds more and trimmed an extra 1¼ inches from their waists compared with those who received standard individual care. In addition to weight and waistline benefits, the social network intervention also saw 4-5 mmHg drops in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Benefits lasted beyond the 10 month program up to even six months after.

Researchers with the Randomized Trial of Social Network Lifestyle Intervention for Obesity assigned groups of 2-8 friends and family members per group into ‘microclinic’ social network clusters to attend weekly social and health activity sessions focused on physical activity, nutrition, and health education for 10 months in rural Kentucky, where medical care is limited and rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are high. Continue reading

Childhood trauma may contribute to teen weight problems

Nov. 13, 2013, Reuters

By Shereen Jegtv

Children who have gone through trying times are more likely to be overweight by age 15, a new study suggests.

Stress in childhood has been associated with a greater risk of becoming overweight, although the link isn’t always consistent from study to study, researchers said.

“I felt like I was seeing a lot of children who had experienced stress early in their lives later gain weight pretty rapidly” Dr. Julie Lumeng at the University of Michigan Medical School told Reuters Health.

“There has been quite a bit of research looking at stress in the lives of adults leading to weight gain, but it has not been studied as much in children,” said Lumeng, who led the new study.

“We did this particular study because it looked at simply ‘events’ that had occurred in children’s lives and then asked mothers to rate the events in terms of how much of an impact they had,” Lumeng said. Continue reading

Many people ignore, miss calorie counts on fast food menus

Nov. 15, 2013, U.S. News & World Report

By Kathleen Doheny

Posting the calorie content of menu items at restaurants is designed to make diners stop and think, tally up the total, and make wiser choices.

In real life, that doesn’t seem to be the case, according to new research.

In a poll of 2,000 Philadelphia fast food customers, aged 18 to 64, few used the information, even if they noticed it, said study author Brian Elbel, an assistant professor of population health and health policy at the New York Univesity School of Medicine.

“Forty percent of the sample saw it and about 10 percent [overall] said they used it and reported to us that they purchased fewer calories,” he said. Continue reading