Building healthy communities: Establishing health and wellness metrics for use within the real estate industry

November 2014, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

It is increasingly well recognized that the design and operation of the communities in which people live, work, learn, and play significantly influence their health.

However, within the real estate industry, the health impacts of transportation, community development, and other construction projects, both positive and negative, continue to operate largely as economic externalities: unmeasured, unregulated, and for the most part unconsidered. This lack of transparency limits communities’ ability to efficiently advocate for real estate investment that best promotes their health and well-being. It also limits market incentives for innovation within the real estate industry by making it more difficult for developers that successfully target health behaviors and outcomes in their projects to differentiate themselves competitively. Continue reading

New video, infographics, and photos highlight deficiencies in the current U.S. food supply

The dietary recommendations for eating healthy have not changed much in the past few decades—eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and cut back on calories, sugar, and fat. However, it might not be possible for everyone to eat this way even if they tried.

A new study, published in the November issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, reveals that the food supply contains too much sodium, unhealthy fat, and added sugar and not enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for a balanced diet. The findings show that in order to achieve a healthy balance, the fruit supply would need to more than double and the supply of vegetables would need to increase by almost 50 percent. There would also have to be a 40 percent decrease in unhealthy fats and sugar, and more than a 50 percent decrease in sodium. Continue reading

Hungry or not, kids will eat treats

Oct. 21, 2014, Medical Xpress

Even though they are not hungry, children as young as age 3 find high-energy treats too tempting to refuse, according to new research from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

In a study of 3- and 4-year-olds, 100 percent of children opted for a sweet or savory snack despite eating a filling healthy lunch only 15 minutes prior. Continue reading

More physical activity improved school performance

Oct. 14, 2014, Medical Xpress

Just two hours of extra physical activity each week can improve school performance. This has been shown by a study of approximately 2,000 12-year-olds carried out by scientists at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg [in Sweden].

Researchers Lina Bunketorp Käll, Michael Nilsson, and Thomas Linden at the Centre for Brain Repair and Rehabilitation at the Sahlgrenska Academy, tested the hypothesis that increased physical activity stimulates learning and improves school performance. Continue reading

Same genes linked to rapid infant growth, later weight gains

Oct. 21, 2014, HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

Infants who quickly add weight and length may be showing a genetic propensity for obesity as toddlers, a new study suggests.

In adults, certain genes have been linked to increased body fat, but the same genes in infants promote proportionate gains in fat and lean muscle, the researchers said. Continue reading

With extra weight, kids’ hearts change shape

Oct. 17, 2014, Reuters

By Kathryn Doyle

There are noticeable differences in the shape and function of hearts among obese and normal-weight adolescents, researchers say.

“We do not know if (these changes) are clinically meaningful or necessarily dangerous,” said Dr. Norman Mangner of the University of Leipzig Heart Center in Germany. “This is a cross-sectional study and, therefore, we cannot answer this question.” 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. 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