Obesity rate for young children plummets 43 percent in a decade

Feb. 25, 2014, The New York Times

By Sabrina Tavernise

Federal health authorities on Feb. 25 reported a 43 percent drop in the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year-old children over the past decade, the first broad decline in an epidemic that often leads to lifelong struggles with weight and higher risks for cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

The drop emerged from a major federal health survey that experts say is the gold standard for evidence on what Americans weigh. The trend came as a welcome surprise to researchers. New evidence has shown that obesity takes hold young: Children who are overweight or obese at ages 3 to 5 years are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults. Continue reading

Higher blood pressure at 18 means hardening arteries at 40

Feb. 4, 2014, NPR [Shots Blog]

By Maanvi Singh

Young people in their teens and early 20s probably aren’t thinking about heart disease. But maybe it’s time they did.

People who have slightly higher blood pressure when they’re ages 18 to 25 are more likely to have high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries in their 40s, a study says. About one quarter of the people in this study were in that group.

“We need to be aware that what happens when we’re young adults is going to have an impact,” says Norrina Allen, an epidemiologist and the study’s lead author.

She and her colleagues at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine looked at data from 4,600 men and women in Chicago, Birmingham, Ala., Minneapolis, and Oakland, Calif., who have been followed for over 25 years. About 19 percent of the people had blood pressure that was consistently higher than their peers. Another 5 percent started with higher blood pressure that then rose over time. Continue reading

New infographic explores how changing communities gets people moving

Communities across the nation are doing more to ensure that streets, sidewalks, schools, and parks support walking, biking, and playing. A new infographic from Active Living Research (ALR) highlights several studies that evaluated changes in physical activity after the implementation of built environment and programmatic modifications in different cities. For example, children are more likely to walk or bike to school when there are quality streets and crosswalks, and programs that promote safety; existence of bike lanes is related to higher rates of cycling; and the presence of recreational facilities close to home encourages more physical activity. Continue reading

Heavier dieters using diet drinks should look at food too, study says

Jan. 16, 2014, Los Angeles Times

By Mary MacVean

Overweight and obese adults who use diet drinks to help them lose weight need to take another look at the food they eat, according to researchers who reported Jan. 16 that those people ate more food calories than overweight people who drank sugar-sweetened beverages.

The scientists writing in the American Journal of Public Health did not say the dieters should give up on no- and low-calorie drinks; rather, they said the dieters should look at what else they’re consuming, especially sweet snacks, to find other ways to modify their diets. Continue reading

Cornell nutrition report cards show students eat healthier when their parents are watching

Jan. 21, 2014, Poughkeepsie Journal

Researchers at Cornell University have found a low-cost way to convince students to pass up cookies and desserts at lunchtime and select fruits and veggies instead: Letting them know that their parents are watching.

A pilot study for nutrition report cards was conducted two years ago in Waverly Central School District. Parents who signed up to participate were emailed the weekly report cards that listed the foods their children were selecting à la carte during lunch. The students’ choices were tracked electronically through modified cash registers.

Despite being called report cards, the students were not awarded actual grades. But simply knowing their parents were monitoring their habits was enough to get students to pick fewer sweets and flavored milk and opt for vegetables and fruits more frequently. Cookie consumption alone dropped from 14.3 percent to 6.5 percent. Continue reading

New evidence on how weight, diet, and exercise can help reduce cancer risk

Feb. 18, 2014, The Washington Post

By Suzanne Allard Levingston

Cutting your risk of cancer is no longer just about shunning tobacco. Be lean. Eat healthfully. Get active. Common-sense lifestyle strategies for lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes are now being shown to help prevent many types of cancer.

Of course, there are few absolutes in cancer prevention. Cancer is still a riddle, with many factors, including genetics, playing a role. But growing evidence suggests that there are steps that we can take to lower our chances of getting the disease, experts say.

Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society (ACS), urges careful attention to the “three-legged stool” of excess weight, poor diet, and inadequate physical activity, which together are linked to between a quarter to a third of cancer cases. If tobacco use continues its decline of the past 15 years or so, he said, that trio may supplant smoking as the leading preventable cause of cancer. Continue reading

Gardening counts as moderate- to high-intensity exercise for kids, study finds

Feb. 4, 2014, Huffington Post

Gardening counts as moderate- to high-intensity exercise for kids, according to a small new study.

To gauge the physical intensity of common gardening activities, Korean researchers had 17 children with an average age of 12 in South Korea wear telemetric calorimeters and heart rate monitors as they engaged in 10 gardening-related activities, including watering, digging, sowing seeds, harvesting, and raking.

The children in the HortTechnology study were given five minutes for each task, with a five minute break between each task. They went to the gardens in two visits, and completed five tasks during each visit. Continue reading

Fast food: A symptom, not the cause of childhood obesity

Jan. 21, 2014, WUNC North Carolina Public Radio

It’s easy to point the finger at fast food joints. A decade after the breakout documentary, “Super Size Me,” the cheap, un-nutritious, happy meal is a go-to candidate for public ire when it comes to childhood obesity.

But a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina says that explanation might be too easy.

After studying nearly 5,000 children, the researchers say that fast food consumption may be indicative of dietary problems, but the greater concern lies in a child’s broader diet throughout the day. Continue reading

Study: Preschoolers require 11 hours to achieve recommended daily physical activity

Jan. 9, 2013, News Medical

Preschool-aged children require the majority of their waking day, approximately 11 hours, to achieve their recommended daily physical activity, a Vanderbilt study published in Obesity found.

Children in the study, ages 3-5, achieved this activity through relatively short bursts of energy expenditure as opposed to the longer and more routine periods of exercise typically exhibited by adults.

Senior author Shari Barkin, M.D., director of the Division of General Pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and William K. Warren Foundation Professor of Medicine, notes that several public health organizations offer general guidelines on how much moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) a preschooler needs, but there is very little data on how and if this activity is actually attained. Continue reading

For its five-year anniversary, NCCOR debuts interactive annual report

Five years ago the nation’s leading research funders — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and U.S. Department of Agriculture — came together in a common mission to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and application of childhood obesity research and formed the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR).

In recognition of the contributions NCCOR has made over the past five years, the Collaborative has a new online format for their annual report featuring audio testimonials from researchers and childhood obesity experts, as well as videos and other interactive design features. Continue reading