Are sugary drinks fattening? Depends who you ask

Jan. 3, 2014, The New York Times

By Nicholas Bakalar

Are there good scientific studies that show that drinking sugar-sweetened soda increases the risk for obesity? The answer may vary depending on who is paying for the study.

Researchers examined 17 large reviews of the subject (one review assessed results for adults and children separately, so there were 18 sets of study conclusions). Six of the studies reported receiving funds from industry groups, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, the American Beverage Association and others. The other 12 reviews claimed no conflicts of interest. The analysis appears in the December issue of PLOS Medicine. Continue reading

NCCOR releases new FPED fact sheet and webpage

The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) has recently released an updated webpage and new fact sheet for the Food Patterns Equivalents Database (FPED).

FPED is an essential resource for any researcher or nutritionists interested in examining food intakes in a standardized way.  The FPED fact sheet and webpage are valuable companion pieces to the existing documentation for FPED available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website. Continue reading

Color-coded labels, healthier food

Jan. 7, 2014, Harvard Gazette

Using color-coded labels to mark healthier foods and then displaying them more prominently appears to have prompted customers to make more healthful long-term dining choices in their large hospital cafeteria, according to a report from Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

In the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM), the MGH research team noted that the previously reported changes have continued up to two years after the labeling intervention was introduced.

“Our current results show that the significant changes in the purchase patterns of both hospital employees and all customers resulting from the labels and the choice architecture program did not fade away as cafeteria patrons became used to them,” says Anne Thorndike of the MGH Division of General Medicine, who led the study. ”This is good evidence that these changes in healthy choices persist over time.” Continue reading

New APHA infographic examines how public health has helped curb obesity

The American Public Health Association (APHA) recently released an infographic describing the burden and cost of obesity, how public health helps curb obesity, and the importance of public health funding.

Share this infographic widely and use it as an example when talking to decision makers about the importance of public health funding. Continue reading

Passing bowls family-style teaches daycare kids to respond to hunger cues, fights obesity

Jan. 13, 2014, Medical Xpress

When children and child-care providers sit around a table together at mealtime, passing bowls and serving themselves, children learn to recognize when they are full better than they do when food is pre-plated for them, reports a new University of Illinois study of feeding practices of children ages 2 to 5 years in 118 child care centers.

“Family-style meals give kids a chance to learn about things like portion size and food preferences. When foods are pre-plated, children never develop the ability to read their body’s hunger cues. They don’t learn to say, okay, this is an appropriate portion size for me,” said Brent McBride, director of the university’s Child Development Laboratory and lead author of the study.

The study found that Head Start centers were in significantly greater compliance with this and other Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics benchmarks than other centers surveyed, including participants in the USDA’s supplemental nutrition assistance program CACFP, and non-CACFP state-licensed centers. Continue reading

Pay kids to eat fruits and veggies with school lunch

Dec. 16, 2013, Brigham Young University

The good news: Research suggests that a new federal rule has prompted the nation’s schools to serve an extra $5.4 million worth of fruits and vegetables each day.

The bad news: The nation’s children throw about $3.8 million of that in the garbage each day.

Researchers from Brigham Young University and Cornell University observed three schools adjust to new school lunch standards that require a serving of fruits or vegetables on every student’s tray – whether the child intends to eat it or not. As they report in the December issue of Public Health Nutrition, students discarded 70 percent of the extra fruits and vegetables.

“We saw a minor increase in kids eating the items, but there are other ways to achieve the same goal that are much, much cheaper,” said BYU economics professor Joe Price.

Strange as it sounds, directly paying students to eat a fruit or vegetable is less expensive and gets better results. Continue reading

Materials from NIH Workshop on the Prevention of Obesity in Infancy and Early Childhood

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently held a Workshop on the Prevention of Obesity in Infancy and Early Childhood that brought together scientists with expertise in pediatric obesity, epidemiology, developmental psychology, developmental and behavioral pediatrics, nutrition, physical activity, sleep, temperament, and parenting to determine:

  • What is known regarding risk for excess weight gain in infancy and early childhood
  • What is known regarding interventions that are promising or have been shown to be efficacious
  • Challenges and opportunities in implementing and evaluating behavioral interventions in parents and other caregivers and their young children

Continue reading

Obesity may disturb bone growth during teen years

Dec. 18, 2013, Reuters

By Shereen Jegtvig

Obese teens might not develop sufficient bone mass relative to their body weight, according to a new study from Brazil.

Both body fat and lean body mass have an impact on bone growth, but it’s not clear if the bones of the heaviest teens are strong enough for their weight and that could have long- and short-term consequences.

Bone mineral acquisition “rises exponentially in both genders” during the growth spurt following puberty, the researchers write in the journal Nutrition.

Previous studies examining whether obesity interferes with bone development have shown conflicting results — some indicate bone density is fine when compared just to the adolescent’s lean mass (muscle).

But others have suggested bone density doesn’t increase enough during this important period to support the heavier weight of obese teens, potentially putting them at increased risk for bone fractures. Continue reading

Changes in fast food combo meals means fewer calories for kids

Dec. 20, 2013, Red Orbit

By Gerard LeBlond

Obesity among children is a growing problem, especially with the abundant availability of fast food establishments. Public health officials estimate there is a 17 percent obesity rate among youths.

Recently, two researchers at Cornell University, Dr. Brian Wansink and Dr. Andrew Hanks, analyzed data from 30 representative McDonald’s restaurants to find out if children would choose a higher calorie meal to compensate for smaller combo meal portions.

Before 2012, Happy Meals were served as either a chicken nuggets, cheeseburger, or hamburger entrée. The side items were either apples or a small fry, and the beverage was either a fountain drink, apple juice, white milk, or chocolate milk.

As of April 2012, all restaurants in this chain served a smaller portion of fries “kid fry.” The smaller portion is 1.1 ounce instead of the 2.4 ounces previously served. Continue reading

Study: Healthy diets cost about $1.50 more a day

Dec. 6, 2013, Red Orbit

A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) demonstrates that the healthiest diets cost about $1.50 more per day than the least healthy diets. The findings, published in the British Medical Journal Open, are based on the most comprehensive examination to date comparing prices of healthy foods and diet patterns versus less healthy ones.

“People often say that healthier foods are more expensive, and that such costs strongly limit better diet habits,” said Mayuree Rao, a junior research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH. “But, until now, the scientific evidence for this idea has not been systematically evaluated, nor have the actual differences in cost been characterized.”

The HSPH team conducted a meta-analysis of 27 existing studies from 10 high-income countries to answer this question. The studies included price data for included foods and for healthier versus less healthy diets. The team evaluated several factors, including the differences in prices per serving and per 200 calories for particular types of foods, and prices per day and per 2,000 calories (the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended average daily calorie intake for adults) for overall diet patterns. The team assessed both prices per serving and per calorie because prices can vary depending on the unit of comparison. Continue reading