Study: Children who are physically fit have enhanced language skills

June 3, 2014, Red Orbit

Physically fit children are not only healthier, they have faster and more robust neuro-electrical brain responses while reading, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Illinois. The findings were published in the journal Brain and Cognition.

Although the research does not prove that higher fitness directly affects the changes in the electrical activity in the brain, it does offer a mechanism to explain why physical fitness associates closely with improved cognitive performance with a variety of tasks and language skills.

The difference between physically fit children and unfit children is that better language skills are obtained with children that are fit. The study also revealed no difference while the child was reading correct sentences or ones with errors.

“All we know is there is something different about higher- and lower-fit kids,” said University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Charles Hillman, who led the research with graduate student Mark Scudder and psychology professor Kara Federmeier. “Now whether that difference is caused by fitness or maybe some third variable that (affects) both fitness and language processing, we don’t know yet.” Continue reading

How grocery store coupons can encourage healthful eating

April 10, 2014, The Washington Post

By Lenny Bernstein

Grocery coupons aren’t associated with nutritious food. Big chains use them to lure you into the store, offering discounts mostly on processed food and snacks. When researchers looked at 1,056 coupons available online for supermarkets nationwide, they found that the largest share (25 percent) were for “processed snack foods, candies, and desserts.” Another 14 percent offered price breaks on prepared meals, 11 percent were for cereals, and 12 percent were for beverages, more than half of which were sodas, juices, and energy or sports drinks.

Just 3 percent offered discounts on vegetables, 1 percent were for unprocessed meats, and fewer than 1 percent provided breaks on fruit prices. And those fruits were canned, not fresh.

If stores make “the unhealthier option less expensive and easier to purchase, we can’t be surprised when [people] purchase it,” said Andrea Lopez, a research analyst at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, who helped conduct the study. It was published in March in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease. Continue reading

Analysts blame cheap food for obesity across all groups

May 23, 3014, Los Angeles Times

Our food is cheap — perhaps too cheap, if you look at the intersection of economics and obesity.

Researchers have found that obesity hits all groups of Americans — those with more money and education and those with less. That, and some other findings, challenge the common views about what’s fueling obesity in this country.

“[S]ome widely held beliefs about obesity and environments have little evidence in their favor, and some are contradicted by the data,” the researchers wrote May 22 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

The researchers acknowledge that there are disparities in weight and health among groups of Americans, but they said that trends toward obesity occur in all groups. And they found that some of the circumstances commonly considered to be the causes are not borne out by data. Continue reading

Research concludes sugar-sweetened beverages contribute to the U.S. obesity epidemic, particularly among children

April 23, 2014, PR Newswire

In response to the ongoing policy discussions on the role of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) on weight and health, The Obesity Society (TOS) concludes that sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) contribute to the United States’ obesity epidemic, particularly among children. Based on an in-depth analysis of the current research, TOS’s position statement unveiled April 23 provides several recommendations for improving health, including that children minimize their consumption of SSBs.

“There’s no arguing with the fact that the high rates of obesity in the United States are troubling for our nation’s health, specifically the recently reported rise in severe obesity among children in JAMA Pediatrics,” said TOS spokesperson Diana Thomas, Ph.D., Professor at Montclair State University and Director of the Center for Quantitative Obesity Research.

“Following a thorough review and analysis of the existing research, TOS concludes that, by adding more non-nutritious calories to the American diet, SSBs have contributed to the U.S. obesity epidemic. Further, we recommend that to maintain and improve health children minimize drinking SSBs and adults reduce or avoid SSB consumption as part of an overall strategy to reduce calories.” Continue reading

The one good thing about teens and sports drinks

May 6, 2014, TIME

By Alice Park

Researchers confirm a strong connection between sports and energy drinks and smoking, video game playing, and sugary soda consumption. But the beverages were also linked to more physical activity among teens.

Considering what we know about kids and sports drinks — briefly, that according to leading health groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children should not be drinking them — the small silver lining, according to a recent study, is that kids who drink them tend to exercise more than those who don’t. But they were also more likely to do things that harm their health, too.

Nicole Larson and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health asked nearly 3,000 students in grades six through 12 an exhaustive series of 235 questions and concluded that nearly 40 percent drank a sports drink at least once a week. Both boys and girls consuming sports drinks regularly were more likely to smoke and to play video games, the researchers found. They were also more likely to drink sugary soda and juice. The fact that sports and energy drink consumption are correlated with other risky behaviors, such as smoking, isn’t a surprise (though, to be clear, the researchers do not suggest a cause-effect relationship between the two). Continue reading

Less sleep linked with obesity in low-income kids

April 26, 2014, Huffington Post

Kids from low-income homes who get less sleep at night may have a higher risk of obesity, a small new study suggests.

Researchers from the Rush University Prevention Center examined several potential obesity risk factors — including food intake and screen time — in addition to sleep, and found that sleep duration was the only factor directly associated with low-income children’s weight.

Specifically, children of normal weight slept for 33.3 more minutes than children who were overweight or obese in the study.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine; because they have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be regarded as preliminary.

The study included 6-to 13-year-olds from 103 low-income, urban households. Researchers analyzed their diets, amount of screen time, and sleep, and took note of what food, electronics, and sports equipment they had in their homes and bedrooms. Continue reading

Chocolate milk ban in the school lunch rooms may not be effective

April 17, 2014, Red Orbit

Citing insufficient nutritional value, some schools have banned chocolate milk from their lunch programs and offered skim milk instead. However, that move may be counterproductive as a new study published in PLOS ONE has found that kids who no longer have the choice on chocolate milk take 10 percent less milk and waste 29 percent more.

The researchers came to their conclusions after looking at school lunch programs in 17 Oregon elementary schools — including 11 where chocolate milk had been removed from the cafeterias and substituted with skim milk. Although this strategy removed the added sugar in chocolate milk, the researchers saw negative nutritional and economic consequences.

While the kids did have a lower intake of added sugars due to the switch, they were also found to be consuming less calcium and protein. In addition to seeing lower milk sales and higher milk waste, the study team also found a 7 percent drop in school lunch participation. Continue reading

Free drinking water available to most U.S. kids at school lunch

April 9, 2014, HealthDay

Most schools meet a new U.S. government requirement to provide free drinking water for students during lunchtime, a new study finds.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rule for schools in the National School Lunch Program took effect at the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

Most schools fulfill the requirement by having water fountains in the cafeteria, providing cups for use at drinking fountains, placing water pitchers on lunch tables, and offering free bottled water.

Schools in the south were more likely to meet the requirements than those in other regions of the nation, according to the study published April 9 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Continue reading

Family TV saturated with junk food ads

March 24, 2014, Medical Xpress

Researchers from the University of Liverpool have found that young people are exposed to advertisements that promote unhealthy food during primetime TV, which are normally banned from children’s programming.

An analysis of more than 750 ads found that almost one in four TV ads shown between 8-9 p.m. were for food, and it was possible for viewers to be exposed to as many as 11 ads for junk food per hour.

Within these food ads, the most frequently shown ads promoted unhealthy products from supermarkets such as Aldi and Morrisons (25 percent), followed by fast-food chains such as KFC (13 percent), with chocolate and sweet companies like Lindt and Haribo the third most common (12 percent). Continue reading

A third of school-age kids may have risky cholesterol levels

March 28, 2014, NPR [Shots Blog]

By Linda Poon

Of all the things parents worry about when it comes to their children’s health, high cholesterol probably isn’t very high on the list.

But roughly one in three primary school kids may already have borderline-high or high cholesterol, according to a large study to be presented this week at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology. And while the cholesterol may not be causing any evident problems for those children now, researchers say, it could already be starting to harden and narrow their arteries, paving the way for heart disease and stroke down the road.

In fact, previous research has suggested that a child’s total cholesterol level is the single greatest predictor of whether he or she will have extremely high cholesterol as an adult, says Thomas Seery, a pediatric cardiologist at the Texas Children’s Hospital and the study’s lead author. Continue reading