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

Americans don’t want soda tax, size restrictions

March 20, 2014, Medical Xpress

By Stacey Shackford

Those hoping to dilute Americans’ taste for soda, energy drinks, sweetened tea, and other sugary beverages should take their quest to school lunchrooms rather than legislative chambers, according to a recent study by media and health policy experts.

Soda taxes and beverage portion size restrictions were unpalatable to the 1,319 U.S. adults questioned in a fall 2012 survey as part of a study reported online March 10 in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Adding front-of-package nutrition labels and removing sugary beverages from school environments garnered greater support: 65 percent and 62 percent, respectively —compared with 22 percent for taxes and 26 percent for portion size restrictions. Continue reading

Apples vs. oranges: Google tool offers ultimate nutrition smackdown

March 24, 2014, NPR [The Salt Blog]

By Eliza Barclay

Leave it to the folks at Reddit to uncover the hidden treasures of the Internet. Recently, they were gabbing about Google’s nutrition comparison tool, which was quietly launched at the end of 2013 and escaped us here at The Salt.

Using this clever little tool is as simple as searching for two types of food, preceded by the word “compare.” The word “vs.” between the two foods also seems to work for some comparisons but not every single one.

So, for example, say you want to compare the calories, sugar content, and nutrients of mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes? Just type in “compare mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes,” and boom, you get photos and an elegant chart revealing that sweet potatoes have 4.2 grams of sugar per 100 grams, compared with 0.5 grams in mashed potatoes. Scroll down and you’ll see that sweet potatoes kill mashed potatoes in vitamin A, potassium, and calcium content.

As you contrast ingredients, perhaps out of sheer curiosity, perhaps to design a meal plan, you’ll learn a lot by playing around with the preparation and cooking method of the food. Tweak the mashed potatoes to “potato, mashed, with milk and butter,” and unsurprisingly, the fat content jumps up.

You can even compare apples and oranges (apples are slightly sweeter and have slightly more calories, in case you were wondering). Or analyze foods from totally different food groups — for instance, what do grapes and bacon have in common? Google says it’s getting most of its data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database, so you can compare pretty much anything in it.

According to Google spokeswoman Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi, the company created the comparison tool after the success of its original nutrition search tool, introduced in May 2013.

Gaining excess or too little weight during pregnancy tied to child obesity risk

April 14, 2014, Science World Report

According to researchers at Kaiser Permanente, gaining either excess weight or too little weight during pregnancy appears to elevate the risk of having an obese or overweight child. This study examined recommendations of the Institute of Medicine regarding pregnancy weight gain in relation to childhood obesity.

“Gaining either too little or too much weight in pregnancy may permanently affect mechanisms that manage energy balance and metabolism in the offspring, such as appetite control and energy expenditure,” study’s lead author Sneha Sridhar, MPH, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, said in a statement. “This could potentially have long-term effects on the child’s subsequent growth and weight.”

For this study, the researchers looked at the health records of over 4,145 racially diverse women who completed the health survey taken from 2007-2009 and had a baby.  Apart from this, the researchers even looked at the medical records of children of ages 2 to 5 years. Continue reading

Motivating kids to be more physically active

March 5, 2014, News Medical

Parents can help motivate kids to be more physically active, but the influence may not result in an improvement in their children’s body mass index (BMI), finds a new evidence review in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

“It was disappointing to find the overall impact of interventions on physical activity was so minimal. It was encouraging, though, to find parents’ influence matters in this area, even with older children and teens,” said the review’s lead author Jane Cerruti Dellert, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor and director of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program at the Seton Hall University College of Nursing in New Jersey.

Health promotion advocates attempting to reduce obesity in American children need to address the role of parents in their children’s health-related behaviors, she added. Continue reading