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

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

Nudged to the produce aisle by a look in the mirror

Aug. 27, 2013, The New York Times

By Michael Moss

Samuel Pulido walked into his local grocery store on a sweltering day, greeted by cool air and the fantasy-world ambience of the modern supermarket.

Soft music drifted. Neon-bright colors turned his head this way and that. “WOW!!!” gasped the posters hanging from entranceway racks, heralding the sugary drinks, wavy chips, and Berry Colossal Crunch being thrust his way.

Then he looked down at his grocery cart and felt quite a different tug. Inside the front of the buggy, hooked onto its red steel frame, was a mirror. It stretched nearly a foot across, and as Mr. Pulido gripped the cart a little more tightly, it filled with the reflection of his startled face.

The sight was meant to be a splash of reality in the otherwise anonymous la-la land of food shopping, a reminder of who he was, how he looked and perhaps what he had come in for. And if the spell cast by the store wasn’t entirely broken, it seemed to have lost at least some of its grip. Continue reading

Kids have fun getting fit

July 28, 2013, The Buffalo News

By Amy Moritz

Jillian Huber watched as her son, Jeffrey, ran down the inflatable track and sprinted over to the bounce house. The 2½-year-old was filled with toddler energy and he was using every morsel of it. Some days, when Huber is mentally debating whether to get up and go to the gym for her workout, Jeffrey is pestering her with the question: “Are we going to the gym today?”

Yes, her son has become one of the key motivators in Huber’s workout routine. She joined Fitness 360 in North Buffalo, N.Y., and when the facility opened up its kids’ only Jungle Gym, it became perfect for the Hubers. She could introduce her son and her 7-year-old daughter Anna to a healthy, active lifestyle while she worked on her own pieces of a healthy, active lifestyle. Continue reading

Fighting childhood obesity one school cafeteria at a time

May 10, 2013, ABC News

By Lisa Stark

In the fight against childhood obesity, the weapons have been many. Schools have tried exercise and education, and the government has mandated healthier school lunches. Now a school district in Virginia is believed to be the first in the country to try something radical —redesigning the school building, itself.

“It’s not completely out of thin air,” said public health expert Terry Huang, who helped spearhead the project, [and is a member of an expert scientific panel for the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR)]. “It is rooted in a long history of reinventing school designs to promote learning and mental well-being. We simply took that one step further.”

The result is a new elementary school for 970 kindergarteners through fifth-graders that opened this school year in rural Buckingham County, Va. From the ground up, the school is designed to promote activity and healthy eating. Continue reading

Green food labels make nutrition-poor food seem healthy

March 12, 2013, Medical Xpress

A Cornell researcher says in a forthcoming print issue of Health Communication that consumers are more likely to perceive a candy bar as more healthful when it has a green calorie label compared with when it had a red one—even though the number of calories are  the same. And green labels increase perceived healthfulness of foods, especially among consumers who place high importance on healthy eating.

“More and more, calorie labels are popping up on the front of food packaging, including the wrappers of sugary snacks like candy bars. And currently, there’s little oversight of these labels,” said Jonathon Schuldt, assistant professor of communication and director of Cornell’s Social Cognition and Communication Lab. “Our research suggests that the color of calorie labels may have an effect on whether people perceive the food as healthy, over and above the actual nutritional information conveyed by the label, such as calorie content,” added Schuldt, who wrote the article, “Does Green Mean Healthy? Nutrition Label Color Affects Perceptions of Healthfulness.” Continue reading