Farmers market vouchers may help low-income families eat healthier

July 24, 2014, HealthDay

Giving low-income families vouchers to buy fruits and vegetables at farmers markets could increase their consumption of these healthy foods, according to a new study.

Low-income families tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. In addition to not having adequate access to healthy foods, cost is also an issue. Farmers market vouchers could help address both of these obstacles, the researchers noted.

“In terms of healthy food options, farmers market incentives may be able to bring a low-income person onto the same playing field as those with greater means,” study author Carolyn Dimitri, an associate professor of food studies at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, said in a university news release.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (previously known as food stamps) are accepted at one in four farmers markets in the United States. The researchers pointed out these benefits normally can be used to buy any type of food, including ice cream or soda. Continue reading

Sibling composition impacts childhood obesity risk

July 8, 2014, Medical Xpress

It is well-documented that children with obese parents are at greater risk for obesity. In a new study, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Cornell University, and Duke University looked at how different kinds of family associations affect obesity, specifically how sibling relationships affect a child’s weight. They not only found a correlation between parents and child, but also discovered a link between having an obese sibling and a child’s obesity risk, after adjusting for the parent-child relationship. Their findings are published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

By surveying adults in 10,244 American households, investigators found that the likelihood of childhood obesity varies with the number of children in a household, as well as their gender. According to the study, in a single child household, a child is 2.2 times more likely to be obese if a parent is also obese. Continue reading

Safe routes to school examined: How structural changes around schools affect children’s mobility and safety

June 9, 2014, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The problem. In 1969, more than 40 percent of U.S. schoolchildren ages 5 to 18 walked or bicycled to school. By 2009, this number had declined to 12.7 percent. A 2008 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigating why more children do not walk to school found traffic safety to be the second most common barrier, after distance to school.

In 1999, California became the first state to approve legislation creating a Safe Routes to School program (SR2S). Eight years later, in 2007, legislative bill AB 57 extended the program indefinitely with funding provided from the State Highway Account at an annual amount of $24.25 million. Projects are identified through a statewide competition and require a 10 percent local match. They support engineering modifications near schools, such as new traffic lights, bike lanes, pathways, and sidewalks in the vicinity of schools serving K–12 students with the goal of making walking and biking easier and safer for children.

David Ragland, Director of the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) at the University of California, Berkeley, led the research team studying the long-term impact of the improvements on walking and bicycling levels and on safety. Continue reading

Study finds elementary students like new healthier lunches

July 23, 2014, The Wall Street Journal

By Caroline Porter and Stephanie Armour

A new study reveals that the healthier school lunches despised in 2012 are now found to be agreeable among students and staffers.

When the federal government implemented new school meal regulations in 2012, a majority of elementary school students complained about the healthier lunches, but by the end of the school year most found the food agreeable, according to survey results released July 21.

The peer-reviewed study comes amid concerns that the regulations led schools to throw away more uneaten food and prompted some students to drop out of meal programs.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago surveyed administrators at more than 500 primary schools about student reaction to the new meals in the 2012-2013 school year. They found that 70 percent agreed or strongly agreed that students, by the end of the school year, generally liked the new lunches, which feature more whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and lower fat levels. Continue reading

The cheap, colorful way cities are trying to fight childhood obesity

July 31, 2014, City Lab

By Aarian Marshall

The United States has a well-known childhood obesity problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one third of the nation’s children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012. The percentage of obese children ages 6 to 11 more than doubled over the past three decades, from 7 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2012.

But some cities, designers, and child health advocates think they have a solution—at least a small part of a solution. And the best news for cash-strapped schools and governments is that the solution is cheap.

In the language of playground design, “ground markings” are shapes, pictures, or games drawn onto the surfaces of play areas. These include readymade hopscotch squares, giant maps, and big circles to leap between. Continue reading

We’re all in the clean-plate club, researchers conclude

July 24, 2014, Los Angeles Times

By Mary Macvean

Seems that most of us take to heart the common admonition to clean our plates, at least when we fill them ourselves.

Adults eat nearly 92 percent of the food they put on their plates, according to research published in the International Journal of Obesity.

There were some variations: If people were distracted, they ate less, almost 89 percent of what they took; they ate 92.8 percent of meals but only 76.1 percent of snacks. At home or in a lab, the amount eaten was about the same, and men and women ate the same percentages.

“If you put it on your plate, it’s going into your stomach,” said Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and the study’s lead researcher. Wansink, who frequently studies eating habits, conducted the research with Katherine Abowd Johnson, a doctoral student at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Continue reading

To encourage kids to eat more vegetables, don’t focus on the health benefits

July 22, 2014, Science World Report

By Kathleen Lees

A healthy diet remains an essential part of a child’s development. However, many children might not be so eager to pick up a piece of broccoli. Of course, they’d much rather have some candy or cake. But is it all just about the taste?

A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that children might be more likely to eat their fruits and vegetables if they didn’t know about the added health benefits.

“We predicted that when food is presented to children as making them strong or as a tool to achieve a goal such as learning how to read or count, they would conclude the food is not as tasty and therefore consume less of it,” said researchers Michal Maimaran of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, in a news release. Continue reading

Severe obesity in teens tied to possible kidney problems

April 25, 2014, HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

Nearly one-fifth of severely obese teens have poor kidney function, a small new study suggests.

The study included 242 severely obese teens taking part in research on weight-loss surgery.

Seventeen percent of the teens had protein in their urine, which is an early sign of kidney damage. In addition, 7 percent had indications that their kidneys were working too hard, and 3 percent showed evidence of progressive loss of kidney function, the findings revealed.

Girls were more likely than boys to have protein in their urine, while those with the highest body mass index scores (BMI) — an estimate of body fat based on height and weight — and those with reduced insulin sensitivity were more likely to show signs of progressive loss of kidney function. Continue reading

Smoking, extra weight in pregnancy tied to obesity throughout childhood

June 23, 2014, Reuters

By Shereen Lehman

Women who smoke during pregnancy and are overweight early in pregnancy are more likely to have children who become obese as toddlers and stay obese through their teenage years, according to a new study.

Obesity rates have more than doubled among U.S. children and quadrupled among U.S. adolescents in the past three decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in every three young people is obese.

The authors of the new study looked at how children’s body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height, changed over time, from ages 1 to 18. They found being consistently obese was associated with certain exposures in the womb, and with having asthma and other problems in adolescence.

Past studies looking at risk factors for obesity and the consequences of being obese have focused on weight at one point in time, Dr. Wilfried Karmaus said. Continue reading

You eat twice as much sugar as you should

June 27, 2014, TIME

By Abby Abrams

Bad news for your sweet tooth: People’s average consumption of sugar should be cut in half, a British government advisory group has recommended.

A draft report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition said that in order to curb obesity, people should reduce their sugar intake so that it only accounts for 5 percent of their daily energy intake, down from the current recommended level of 10 percent. The group also said people should minimize consumption of sugar sweetened beverages because of their association with type 2 diabetes, as well as increase their fiber intake.

“There is strong evidence in the report to show that if people were to have less free sugars and more fiber in their diet they would lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and bowel cancer,” said Committee chair Dr. Ann Prentice. Continue reading