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

2.1 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese

May 29, 2104, Los Angeles Times

By Karen Kaplan

The world isn’t getting smaller, it’s getting bigger, according to a comprehensive report published May 29 in The Lancet.

Whether you’re looking at men or women, children or adults, citizens of rich countries or poor ones, people were much more likely to be overweight or obese in 2013 than they were in 1980, the study found.

In 1980 — the year Pac-Man was unleashed on the world and John Lennon was assassinated — there were 857 million people on the planet who were either overweight or obese. Thirty-three years later, the comparable figure was 2.1 billion.

It is not just that the global population grew (and thus the number of people with too many pounds on their frames). The proportion of men who were overweight or obese rose from 28.8 percent in 1980 to 36.9 percent in 2013, while the proportion of women in that category increased from 29.8 percent to 38 percent during the same period, the report said. Continue reading

Young male smokers may raise obesity risk in their future sons

April 2, 2014, Reuters

By Kate Keland

Men who start smoking before the age of 11 risk having sons who are overweight, British researchers have found, adding to evidence that lifestyle factors even in childhood can affect the health of future offspring.

The scientists said the findings, part of ongoing work in a larger “Children of the ’90s” study, could indicate that exposure to tobacco smoke before the start of puberty in men may lead to metabolic changes in the next generation.

“This discovery of transgenerational effects has big implications for research into the current rise in obesity and the evaluation of preventative measures,” said Marcus Pembrey, a professor of genetics at University College London, who led the study and presented its findings at a briefing on April 2. Continue reading

The childhood obesity window is closing: Genetic influence of height and weight grows as we get older

April 23, 2014, Medical Daily

By Matthew Mientka

A new study on twins shows the importance of early intervention as America’s childhood obesity rate continues to rise after doubling during the past 30 years, with more than one-third of children overweight and obese.

By comparing data collected on more than 2,500 pairs of twins with genomic analysis, researchers from King’s College London and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), got a pretty good look at the interplay between nature and nurture. They found the influence of genetics on individual differences in body mass index (BMI) rose from 43 percent at age 4 to 82 percent by age 10, suggesting parents and clinicians might intervene with improved diet and lifestyle choices at earlier ages — when the time is ripe. Continue reading

Supermarket access is key ingredient in obesity programs

May 3, 2014, Medical Xpress

Living close to a supermarket appears to be a key factor in the success of interventions to help obese children eat better and improve their weight, according to a study presented May 3 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Urban neighborhoods and rural towns without access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food are known as food deserts. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, food deserts sometimes have only fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.

Few studies have looked at whether living farther from a large supermarket affects the success of interventions to improve eating habits and reduce weight. Continue reading