USDA awards funding for regional centers of excellence in nutrition education and obesity prevention

Oct. 17, 2014, U.S. Department of Agriculture

On Oct. 17 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded $4 million in grants to establish four regional centers of excellence for research on nutrition education and obesity prevention, as well as a coordinating center, which will develop and test innovative nutrition education and obesity prevention interventions for underserved, low-income families.

“Nearly one in three children today is overweight or obese, and nutrition promotion strategies, including education, public policies, health systems, and environmental changes, are the key to reversing this trend,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, Ph.D., National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) director. “These grants provide the opportunity to improve the health of our next generation and ensure that all children have access to the tools they need to improve their nutrition and physical fitness.” Continue reading

Chef-made meals can increase participation school lunch program, raise vegetable consumption

Sept. 30, 2014, News Medical

Gourmet pizza in school? According to a new Food and Brand Lab pilot study, published in Appetite, chef-made meals can increase participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) by 9 percent and overall selection and consumption of vegetables by 16 percent.

Chefs Move to Schools (CMTS), an initiative of [first lady] Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, pairs chefs with schools in order to provide nutrition instruction to students and culinary advice to interested school food service workers.

At a recent CMTS event at an Upstate New York high school (of 370 students), researchers David Just and Brian Wansink (co-directors of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab) and Andrew Hanks [also of the Cornell lab], collected and analyzed school lunch sales and tray waste data before and after the event to determine its impact on student’s food selection and consumption. The professional chef arrived three days ahead of the date of the event to meet the lunchroom staff and observe student preferences. She also held a tasting event after school for students to meet her and taste the foods she was going to prepare for lunch the following day. To comply with the NSLP requirements for a reimbursable meal each student must select one entree, a [carton of milk], and three sides. The chef created five new NSLP compliant entree recipes: meat taco pizza, bean taco pizza, garlic spinach pizza, meat lover’s pizza, and a mozzarella burger. She also prepared a new pre-packaged side salad. Each of these new items was offered as an optional alternative to the regular school lunch choices: pizza or burger, canned fruit and green beans, broccoli and milk. Continue reading

Obesity rates reach historic highs in more U.S. states

Sept. 4, 2014, Reuters

Rates of adult obesity increased in six U.S. states and fell in none last year, and in more states than ever— 20— at least 30 percent of adults are obese, according to an analysis released on Sept. 4.

The conclusions were reported by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and were based on federal government data. They suggest the problem may be worsening despite widespread publicity about the nation’s obesity epidemic, from first lady Michelle Obama and many others, plus countless programs to address it.

From 2011 to 2012, by comparison, the rate of obesity increased in only one state.

The 2013 adult obesity rate exceeds 20 percent in every state, while 42 have rates above 25 percent. For the first time two states, Mississippi and West Virginia, rose above 35 percent. The year before, 13 states were above 30 percent and 41 had rates of at least 25 percent. Continue reading

Put the physical in education

Sept. 4, 2014, The New York Times [Well Blog]

By Gretchen Reynolds

When confronted with an overly active child, many exasperated teachers and parents respond the same way: “Sit still!” It might be more effective, though, to encourage the child to run. Recent research suggests that even small amounts of exercise enable children to improve their focus and academic performance.

By now it’s well known that diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are increasingly widespread among American children: The label has been applied to about 11 percent of those between the ages of 4 and 17, according to the latest federal statistics. Interestingly, past studies have shown a strong correlation between greater aerobic fitness and attentiveness. But these studies did not answer the question of which comes first, the fitness or the attentional control. Continue reading

Family meals could protect teens from obesity in adulthood

Oct. 4, 2014, Science World Report

By Catherine Griffin

A simple, family meal each day may reduce the risk of obesity in teens. Scientists have found that family meals during adolescence were protective for overweight and obesity in adulthood.

In order to see whether family meals played a role in obesity reduction, the scientists used data from a 10-year longitudinal study. They examined weight-related variables, such as dietary intake, physical activity, and weight control behaviors among adolescents. Then the scientists asked questions to assess family meal frequency and body mass index.

About 51 percent of the subjects were overweight while 22 percent were obese. More surprising though was the rate seen among adolescents who never ate family meals together; 60 percent were overweight and 29 percent were obese at a 10-year follow-up. There was also a stronger positive effect when it came to family meal frequency among black young adults compared with white young adults. Continue reading

Johns Hopkins to hold symposium on social networks’ influence on weight, behavior, health

The Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at Johns Hopkins invites you to attend a day-long symposium titled “The Social Network: A Systems Approach to #ChildhoodObesity.” The event will be Oct. 22, 2014, from 8 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md.

The past decade has seen increasing interest in social networks, i.e., how people are connected to their families, friends, school mates, and work colleagues. These relationships affect what, where, and how children eat and exercise, and in turn, the risk of obesity. Continue reading

Researchers: Link between repeated antibiotic use in early childhood and obesity

Sept. 30, 2014, The Washington Post

By Ariana Eunjung Cha

When a parent carrying a screaming toddler with a middle-ear infection or other common ailment shows up, many pediatricians instinctively reach for their prescription pads. Despite warnings about the risk of resistance, antibiotics remain one of the most frequently used weapons in routine care. But now doctors have another reason to be cautious: the risk of obesity.

In a study published online Sept. 30 by JAMA Pediatrics, researchers reviewed records from about 65,000 children from 2001 to 2013 and found that almost 70 percent received antibiotics before age 2. On average, each child received 2.3 courses. Continue reading

Gap in diet quality between wealthiest and poorest Americans doubles, study finds

Sept. 1, 2014, National Geographic

By Tracie McMillan

The diets of low-income Americans have worsened in the past decade, even as the diets of the wealthiest Americans have improved, according to a new study that is among the first to measure changes in diet quality over time by socioeconomic status. Overall diet quality in the United States remains poor, said the lead author of the study, published Sept. 1 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

Although the study found that the diet of all Americans improved on average between 2005-2010, the progress masked a decline in diet quality among the poor. The result: a doubling of the gap in diet quality between the wealthiest Americans and the poorest.

The study attributed the change to the higher cost of convenient and healthy meals, as well as limited access to quality supermarkets in some poorer neighborhoods. Continue reading

USDA backs healthy incentives

Oct. 6, 2014, U.S. Department of Agriculture

USDA is firmly committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to a safe, healthy, adequate, and affordable diet. Unfortunately, our nation is facing an unprecedented nutrition crisis, with far too many Americans facing both food insecurity and obesity. Although it seems paradoxical, the two actually go hand in hand far too often. To reverse the course of this two-sided crisis, we must create a cultural change that facilitates and encourages healthy food choices among all Americans.

Continue reading

USDA invests nearly $118 million to support America’s specialty crop producers

Oct. 2, 2014, U.S. Department of Agriculture

On Oct. 2 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced nearly $118 million in grants to strengthen markets for specialty crops, such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture, and nursery crops. The grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill as part of an effort to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and provide resources to strengthen American agriculture. The Secretary made the announcement in Florida.

“Specialty crop grants provide a major boost to the rural economies,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Today’s announcement is another example of how [the U.S. Department of Agriculture] (USDA) is implementing the Farm Bill to deliver critical tools producers need to successfully grow, process, and market high-quality products.”

Sales of specialty crops total nearly $65 billion per year, making them a critical part of the U.S. economy. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), will provide $66 million to state departments of agriculture for projects that help support specialty crop growers, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, through research and programs to increase demand. In addition, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is awarding $51.8 million in grants through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI). SCRI supports the specialty crop sector by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops. Continue reading