Food cravings are stronger, but controllable, for kids

Sept. 8, 2014, Medical Xpress

Children show stronger food cravings than adolescents and adults, but they are also able to use a cognitive strategy that reduces cravings, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“These findings are important because they suggest that we may have another tool in our toolbox to combat childhood obesity,” says psychological scientist and lead researcher Jennifer A. Silvers, a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia University in the laboratory of Professor Kevin Ochsner.

Most interventions aimed at preventing or reducing childhood obesity focus on changing the environment—by limiting access to soda, for example, or by encouraging physical activity. Continue reading

New commentary explores the negative impact of weight bias

Theodore Kyle and Rebecca Puhlare are participants on the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Roundtable on Obesity Solutions. In a new commentary, Kyle and Puhlare examine the negative impact of weight bias on finding solutions to the obesity epidemic.

In the paper the authors describe the how weight bias, an often neglected issue, impedes progress toward evidence-based solutions to obesity. They maintain it also leads to adverse health outcomes for children and adults since those who face weight bias are more likely to avoid health care, engage in unhealthy eating behaviors, increase food consumption, avoid physical activity, and experience elevated stress. Continue reading

Rates of abdominal obesity leveling off among kids

July 21, 2014, Reuters

By Kathryn Doyle

After rising steadily for more than 10 years, the proportion of U.S. kids defined as obese due to a large waist circumference held steady [from] 2003–2012, according to a new analysis of national data.

The new results echo recent studies that found the increase in U.S. obesity rates has slowed over the past several years.

“Even though the trends were flat across the years, the prevalence of abdominal obesity is still too high,” said senior author Lyn M. Steffen, from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn.

Abdominal obesity refers specifically to “visceral fat,” or the fat that accumulates around the midsection. This can be measured by waist circumference or by a waist-to-height ratio.

Using biennial data from a nationwide health and nutrition study, Steffen and her co-authors found that about 18 percent of kids ages 2 to 18 were obese based on their waist circumference in 2011 and 2012, very close to the rate in 2003 and 2004. Continue reading

Walking, biking, and taking public transit tied to lower weight

Aug. 19, 2014, Reuters

By Andrew Seaman

People who walk, bike, or take public transportation to work tend to be thinner than those who ride in their own cars, according to a new study from the United Kingdom.

The new findings — including that taking public transportation was just as beneficial as the other “active commuting” modes — point to significant health benefits across society if more people left their cars at home, researchers say.

“It seems to suggest switching your commute mode — where you can build in just a bit of incidental physical activity — you may be able to cut down on your chance of being overweight and achieve a healthier body composition as well,” said Ellen Flint, who led the study. Continue reading

Train your brain to crave healthy food

Sept. 1, 2014, CNN

By Jacque Wilson

It may be possible to rewire your brain so that it wants — craves, even — healthier foods. How? By following a healthy diet.

We know, that wasn’t the quick fix to afternoon ice cream binges you were hoping for. But this research could lead to a more sci-fi solution to the obesity epidemic.

In a pilot study published Sept. 1 in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes, scientists say that changing your eating behavior can actually change how your brain reacts to high-calorie and low-calorie foods.

“We don’t start out in life loving french fries and hating, for example, whole wheat pasta,” senior author Susan Roberts, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Energy Metabolism Laboratory, said in a statement. “This conditioning happens over time in response to eating — repeatedly — what is out there in the toxic food environment.” Continue reading

One in four U.S. kids underestimate their weight

July 31, 2014, HealthDay

Many obese and overweight kids don’t see themselves that way, which makes achieving a healthy weight almost impossible, researchers report.

In a new study, 27 percent of children and teens underestimated their weight. Fewer than 3 percent overestimated it. About 25 percent of parents underestimated their child’s weight and just 1 percent overestimated it, according to the study.

“Efforts to prevent childhood obesity should incorporate education for both children and parents regarding the proper identification and interpretation of actual body weight,” said lead researcher Han-Yang Chen, from the department of quantitative health sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass. Continue reading

Access to places for safe physical activity on the rise

July 16, 2014, Sacramento Bee

By Ana B. Ibarra

Physical activity among adults and teens is on the rise, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The State Indicator Report on Physical Activity 2014 revealed that 54.5 percent of youths in the country have access to parks or playground areas, recreation centers, community centers, boys’ and girls’ clubs and walking paths or sidewalks. Although this means that more than half of U.S families live in neighborhoods that support physical activity, the CDC states there is still more that can be done to increase the percentage.

The report showed that only 19.1 percent of adults in California engage in none leisure-time physical activity; lower than the national average of 25.4. The report also showed that 3.8 percent of adults in the state usually bike or walk to work; the national average was recorded at 3.4 percent. The percent of the state population that live within half a mile of a park is 58.3. Continue reading

Study examines effects of ‘neighborhood poverty’ on obesity

June 20, 2014, Medical Xpress

By Karene Booker

By age 2, poor children have gained more weight than their wealthier counterparts. But after age 2, neighborhood poverty, not family poverty, puts the pounds on, finds a new study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

About one-third of America’s children are overweight or obese, but rates are highest among poor and minority children. The study identifies for the first time the effects of neighborhood-level poverty, family poverty, and ethnicity on children’s weight, shedding new light on the origins of adult health disparities, the authors say.

“The effects of neighborhood poverty on children’s weight may be just as important as the effects of family poverty,” says Cornell’s Gary W. Evans, the Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor of Human Ecology, who co-authored the study with Pamela Klebanov, Princeton University, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Columbia University.

“Children and families are embedded in neighborhoods; poor neighborhoods differ structurally from wealthier neighborhoods, with fewer safe and natural places to play and exercise, fewer supermarkets and more fast food,” Evans explains. Continue reading

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