PUBLICATIONS and TOOLS
- New Additions to the NCCOR Catalogue of Surveillance Systems
- Study Finds that Obesity in Childhood May Not Lead to Elevated Health Risks if Nonobese as an Adult
- Community Development and Public Health
- Many Kindergarteners on Road to Obesity, Study Finds
- Study: Teens in Greater Danger of Heart Disease
- Watching TV Most Damaging Pastime for Inactive Children
- Study: Where You Live Can Help Determine Your Health
CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS
- Congress Blocks New Rules on School Lunches
- U.S. Food Lobby Fighting Hard To Defend Kid Ads
- It's an Uphill Climb for Obese Kids and Their Parents
- Can An App Make Grocery Shopping Fun And Educational?
Nov. 10, 2011, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Public Health News Center
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has been awarded a $16 million U54 cooperative agreement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a global center of excellence to address the childhood obesity epidemic. The new Johns Hopkins Global Center for Childhood Obesity will emphasize the integration of geospatial analysis with a systems science and transdisciplinary approach to childhood obesity, bringing together basic science, epidemiology, nutrition, medicine, engineering and environmental and social policy research, among other fields, in an unprecedented, innovative way.
Based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and in collaboration with scientists at the NIH, the Center will involve more than 40 investigators from 15 domestic and international institutions, including faculty from five Johns Hopkins schools, namely Whiting School of Engineering, School of Medicine, School of Nursing and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.
The $16 million grant, provided by the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), will fund research and training initiatives over the next five years. The Johns Hopkins University and several other institutions are providing an additional $4 million in funding support.
The Global Center for Childhood Obesity is a key new initiative under the auspices of the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR), which coordinates childhood obesity research across the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In addition to studying the drivers of the childhood obesity epidemic and environmental and policy interventions, the Center will also provide rapid-response grants to investigators in the field worldwide to obtain time-sensitive data on environmental and policy changes relevant to childhood obesity.
"The new Center will address many needs in the prevention and study of childhood obesity. This initiative will help create research and training opportunities that go beyond traditional methods, and on an unprecedented global scale," said Youfa Wang, MD, MS, PhD, founding director of the Center and associate professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of International Health.
"The Center's focus on systems science will help train a new generation of researchers and public health professionals to help fight the growing global epidemic of childhood obesity and non-communicable chronic diseases. We are going to bring together a large number of investigators from many different disciplines and from different countries to address the complexity of childhood obesity," said Layla Esposito, PhD, program director from the NICHD. Terry Huang, PhD, MPH, senior scientific advisor to NCCOR, concurs.
The new Center will provide a research and training infrastructure for building the capacity for integrating systems science into obesity and chronic disease research. Study results are expected to inform policy design and future empirical research.
"Childhood obesity is a pressing issue in both the United States and developing countries. The Global Center for Childhood Obesity will seek answers to this challenge, which is in line with the Bloomberg School's fundamental mission of protecting health and saving lives—millions at a time," said Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health.
"The Global Center for Childhood Obesity will draw upon resources from across Johns Hopkins University to focus our diverse scientific and academic resources on addressing the obesity epidemic in new ways," said Lloyd Minor, MD, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs of Johns Hopkins University.
According to the World Health Organization, worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. In 2008, 1.5 billion adults aged 20 and older, were overweight or obese, and 65 percent of the world's population lives in countries where overweight and obesity kill more people than underweight. Nearly 43 million children under age 5 were overweight in 2010. According to the CDC, childhood obesity in the U.S. has more than tripled in the last 30 years. In 2008, more than one-third of American children and adolescents were overweight or obese, which greatly increases the risk of obesity-related illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Prevention of obesity in children is a key to fighting the global epidemic.
PUBLICATIONS and TOOLS
NCCOR Catalogue of Surveillance Systems New Additions
Two new Data Resources Have Been Added to the Catalogue of Surveillance Systems.
- National Survey on Recreation and the Environment NSRE
- Census Transportation Planning Package CTPP
Access the NSRE
Access the Catalogue at www.nccor.org/css
Please visit www.nccor.org for more information about the CSS, a full list of NCCOR-led projects, upcoming events, and childhood obesity research highlights.
Study Finds that Obesity in Childhood May Not Lead to Elevated Health Risks if Nonobese as an Adult
A new study reports that obese children who lose weight and become nonobese adults have the same risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension as those who have never been obese. Meanwhile, obese adults who were also obese as children have a greater risk of suffering from these health risks. This study was principally funded by the Academy of Finland, and appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Community Development and Public Health
It has long been understood that many factors beyond health care actually influence health. Social and economic determinants of health include income, education, physical environment, social isolation, and concentration of poverty. Given this reality, there is a growing realization of the potential for synergies between work to revitalize low-income communities and the need to promote and improve health.
Community development encompasses a range of efforts to improve the physical, economic, and social environment by promoting affordable housing, small-business development, job creation, and social cohesion in low-income neighborhoods. The field of community development is diverse. It includes real estate developers, financial institutions and other investors, community organizations, and local governments. These players have unique assets, as well as a network of connections that can be used to address the root causes or "upstream factors" that affect health.
This policy brief describes the potential for the community development sector to work more closely with the public health and related health-focused sectors, which may be useful for NCCOR-funded community interventions. It discusses the potential impact of their efforts on health outcomes, and the challenges they may face.
Many Kindergarteners on Road to Obesity, Study Finds
Nov. 23, 2011, HealthDay
By Jenifer Goodwin
Today's kindergarteners are heavier than kids brought up in the 1970s and 1980s and appear to be on the road to becoming overweight and obese in the years to come, a new study finds.
It's not just kids who are already overweight getting more and more so, there is an entire shift. Even those who are normal weight are gaining weight," said lead study author Ashlesha Datar, senior economist at RAND Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif.
Researchers analyzed data on nearly 6,000 white, black and Hispanic children who participated in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study -- a nationally representative sample -- and had their height and weight measured over nine years, in kindergarten, first, third, fifth and eighth grades.
The study found nearly 40 percent of kindergarteners had a body mass index (BMI) in the 75th percentile or above, up from 25 percent in the 1970s and 1980s, when the growth charts were developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While a BMI in the 75th percentile is still in the normal range, that child may be headed for being overweight or obese, Datar said. And if they're already at the 75th percentile in kindergarten, they don't have far to go before they tip into the overweight or obese category, which puts them at risk of serious health problems as adults.
Traditionally, a BMI in the 85th to 95th percentile is considered overweight, while above the 95th percentile is obese. The number of kids at the top of the scale has swelled too.
About 28 percent of kids from the current sample had a BMI in the 85th to 95th percentiles, compared with 10 percent of earlier generations, while 12 percent had a BMI above the 95th percentile, compared with 5 percent of the earlier group of kids.
Gains in BMI were most striking among Hispanic children and black girls, according to the study, published in the December issue of Pediatrics.
Percentile measures how a child stacks up to others his age. So, a child in the 75th percentile for weight is presumably heavier than 75 percent of other children his age, since children are compared to one another. Therefore, by definition, 25 percent of kids should be in that category.
But with so many kids heavier than they used to be, the old weight distributions may not hold up, Datar said.
There were also fewer kids at the lower end of the weight spectrum. About 14 percent were in the lowest fourth for weight compared with 25 percent in earlier generations and 18 percent were in the second lower quartile compared with 25 percent in earlier generations.
The weight gain accelerated between kindergarten and third grade. The proportion of kids in the top quartile (75th percentile or above) was almost 48 percent by third grade, but weight gain leveled off after that.
Experts said the findings show that to make an impact on skyrocketing childhood obesity rates, programs to encourage better eating habits and more physical activity have to start very early, possibly even in preschool. Those programs also need to include kids who are normal weight.
“If you find your child is in the 75th percentile, it should be warning to you that your child is at higher risk of being an obese adult, and you need to start thinking about what your family is doing as far as eating habits, food intake and exercise," Datar said.
The reasons that America's kids are getting heavier overall aren't fully understood, but there are many possibilities, said Dr. Albert Rocchini, a professor of pediatrics at University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.
These include the ready availability and convenience of high-fat, high-sugar and highly caloric snack and processed foods and less physical activity because of video games, TV and less outdoor play time. Many families rely more on fast food and restaurant food, which tend to pack more calories than home-cooked food.
This study reinforces what people are noticing, and it's a little discouraging," said Rocchini. "The incidence of obesity is going up because everybody is getting heavier," he said.
For health reasons, it's important to get a child's weight gain under control, he added. A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that obese children who became obese adults were at much higher risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis.
Study: Teens in Greater Danger of Heart Disease
Nov. 17, 2011, Chicago Sun Times
By Kim Janssen
When Vince Carter started teaching math 35 years ago, there was one surefire way to get every student to enthusiastically raise an arm.
"If you needed someone to move some boxes down the corridor, they'd all volunteer just to get out of class," the Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center teacher recalls with a laugh.
"Nowadays, they'd only do it if the boxes were full of $100 bills — they'd rather sit in their chairs.
"Kids got lazy!"
It's a symptom — and cause — of the national childhood obesity epidemic that first lady Michelle Obama has made it a personal priority to battle, and one that many parents of smartphone, video game and television-obsessed teenagers will likely recognize.
But teens' increasingly poor diets and sedentary lifestyles have now reached the point where the U.S. is losing the battle against heart disease for the first time in more than 40 years, according to the authors of a major Northwestern University study released Wednesday.
"We are all born with ideal cardiovascular health, but right now we are looking at the loss of that health in youth," said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, an associate professor at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine who led the study. "Their future is bleak."
The study looked at 5,547 children nationwide ages 12 to 19. Not one child among them ate a diet that met all five of the American Heart Association's criteria for being healthy, Lloyd-Jones said. The kids ate too much salt, drank too much sugary pop and did not get enough fresh fruit, vegetables, fiber or protein, he added.
More than one in three are overweight or obese and have high blood sugar, putting them at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the study found. Less than half got enough exercise.
The findings matter, because cardiovascular damage "that kills us in our 40s and 50s starts to form in adolescence and young adulthood," Lloyd-Jones said.
An increasing cardiovascular mortality rate in 35- to 44-year-olds, which had been decreasing for decades but is now once again on the rise, shows the effects teenagers' lifestyle choices are already having, Lloyd-Jones said.
He noted with displeasure Congress' failure this week to tighten school meal nutrition standards, describing the pizza and french fry-laden diets of youths as the single largest obstacle to healthy hearts. Though the AHA's ideal criteria are so strict that only a tiny percentage of adults meet them, even smaller diet changes can make a big difference to teenagers' chances of later having heart problems, he said.
The study's results did not surprise former gym teacher Paul Zientarski, who helped devise a pioneering approach to health and physical education at Madison Junior High in Naperville in the 1990s.
Students at Madison and other schools in district 203 use heart-rate monitors to individually tailor workout regimens, focus less on competitive sports at which a handful of top athletes dominate, and are offered free heart exams. Their school cafeterias contain no fried foods or sugary drinks. By last year, less than 9 percent of students there were overweight — way below the national average — said Zientarski, who now works as a consultant.
Though the approach has won plaudits, been linked to increased academic performance and spread to other states, a narrow focus on test scores means "many schools feel they do not have the time or resources to tackle this," he said.
"Schools can't be expected to do this on their own — parents have to get involved," he added.
It's a message echoed by Oak Park-River Forest High School Athletic director John Stelzer.
"When we were kids our parents had to call us in," he tells moms and dads attending parent evenings. "Now we have to push our kids out the door."
Watching TV Most Damaging Pastime for Inactive Children
Nov. 28, 2011, Daily Mail
By Sadie Whitelocks
Watching television is the most damaging activity an inactive child can indulge in, a study has warned.
Exploring the health impact of different types of sedentary behavior, scientists discovered that high levels of TV viewing were associated with an increased risk of heart disease, compared with other pursuits such as computer use.
It is now hoped that the findings will encourage parents to be more aware of the damaging effects certain activities can have.
Researchers at Canada's Queen's University looked at the relationship between the type of activity and health-related outcomes based on 2,527 people aged 6-19 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) 2003 - 2006.
A cardio-metabolic risk score (CRS) calculated on age, waist circumference, blood pressure and cholesterol levels matched against the type of sedentary behavior revealed watching TV as the most unhealthy pastime.
Children who spent several hours a day staring at a screen, demonstrated a higher waist circumference and cholesterol levels which can trigger a range of disorders including coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
"The take home message is that we want children to be more physically active, but then, at the same time, we need to think about what they're doing the rest of the time," said Valerie Carson, lead researcher.
"Our study suggests we should also limit children's television viewing time," Carson added.
It was known that physical activity lowers children's risk of developing heart disease in later life, but physical inactivity does not necessarily increase it.
With this in mind, researchers wanted to explore how different types of sedentary behavior carry a variety of health risks.
"Even if a child is physically active, this activity is really only making up a short period of their whole day, so it's important to look at other aspects of their day to see what's going on. Part of that is the kind of sedentary behaviors they engage in," Carson said.
Findings published in the journal
The findings support previous studies.
Researchers from University College London revealed earlier this year that watching TV for four hours a day can double the risk of a heart attack among adults and called for recreational guidelines to be issued.
Study: Where You Live Can Help Determine Your Health
Nov. 18, 2011, The Baltimore Sun
By Andrea K. Walker
Sabrina Oliver looked forward to good schools and safer streets when she moved her family from her crime-ridden and trash-strewn West Baltimore neighborhood to the suburbs, but was surprised to discover another benefit as well — a dramatic improvement in their health.
The asthma that afflicted daughter Nyla, 9, and frequently kept her out of school just about disappeared when the family relocated to Parkville, and most recently to Orchard Beach, where there were no roaches and mice, and less dust because the houses were more modern. Although chronic depression had once mentally paralyzed Oliver — keeping her out of work and on disability — the 38-year-old no longer takes antidepressants and has a job sitting with severely ill patients at hospitals.
"I feel transformed," Oliver said. "I feel like I moved to a whole other world."
Sociologists and public health officials have long thought a ZIP code is at least as important as race, age and genetics in determining a person's health. Now, a growing body of more advanced research is bringing the issue to the forefront once again and opening up the debate about how the nation looks at health care.
In one recent study, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found racial disparities normally associated with hypertension, diabetes and obesity weren't as strong when they took into account where people lived.
The researchers looked at racially integrated, working-class neighborhoods, including in Southwest Baltimore, and found that blacks and whites had similar health outcomes. They also compared health outcomes in the neighborhoods to national health surveys. Across the country, blacks are more likely to suffer from hypertension, but when looking at the Baltimore neighborhood, the disparity declined by 29 percent. Blacks and whites in the neighborhood also showed similar odds of being obese.
The researchers attributed the difference to whites in the neighborhood having higher rates of disease than whites on average nationwide. "When whites are exposed to the health risks of a challenging urban environment, their health status is compromised similarly to that of blacks, who more commonly live in such communities," the researchers wrote.
"When people are living in a similar type of environment and they behave similarly, they tend to have similar health outcomes," said Thomas LaVeist, director of the Center for Health Disparities Solutions at Hopkins and lead author of the study, which was released last month in Health Affairs.
A different social experiment started by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the 1990s is now also showing evidence that women in five cities, including Baltimore and Los Angeles, had a lower risk for diabetes and extreme obesity when they moved to better neighborhoods.
Under the program, HUD looked at the health impact a ZIP code played in the lives of 4,500 families, some who were given vouchers that allowed them to move out of neighborhoods with poverty rates of 40 percent or more. The other families stayed. Researchers revisited the families who moved over two years beginning in 2008, testing their blood levels, checking body mass index levels and having the families take a survey. They compared the results to a group of families who hadn't moved.
The study, published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the longer people lived in a lower-poverty neighborhood, the more their body mass index and diabetes symptoms improved.
People who stayed in the old neighborhoods had a prevalence rate of 18 percent for extreme obesity, while women who left were one-fifth less likely to suffer from extreme obesity. They were also one-fifth less likely to have diabetes than women who didn't move.
Jens Ludwig, a professor at the University of Chicago and lead author of the HUD study, said he hopes results like this will help the health industry see improving neighborhoods as a form of preventive care.
"The standard way we tend to do things is we have these low-income families living in these incredibly distressed neighborhoods, and we sit back and wait until someone comes to the doctor's office to say, 'I'm feeling bad, and have got this ailment and that ailment,'" Ludwig said. "People in the health system might think harder about intervention and preventive care by addressing the community-level risk factors that contribute to these adverse health outcomes."
Oliver was able to move to a better neighborhood under a federal program administered by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland that relocates low-income Baltimore families to what they call "opportunity neighborhoods" in the city or suburbs, where they have access to better schools and employment, less exposure to crime and more reliable transportation services. More than 1,500 families under the program have been moved from areas where the median income was $24,182 to neighborhoods with median incomes of $48,318.
Administrators of the program, which was not part of the Hopkins or HUD studies, soon began noticing anecdotally that many of the families that moved had seen their health improve as well. Most noticeable was the improvement in asthma among children.
"Our kids were in and out of the emergency room, and now that they're out of the city, their emergency room visits are down," said Barbara Samuels, managing attorney for ACLU of Maryland's Fair Housing Project. "It's important because asthma is a huge problem. It's one of the main reasons kids miss school in Baltimore."
Oliver walked around her old neighborhood recently and recalled that she once was afraid to send her kids outside. Drug dealers would sit on her front steps. Houses were boarded up all around her, and people's yards were littered with trash. She couldn't get rid of the roaches and mice that lived in the walls of her house.
Oliver felt like she was under a tremendous amount of stress as she constantly worried about the well-being of her family.
Nicole Davis also saw improvement in her son's asthma when she moved under the ACLU-administered program. Before their move to Laurel two years ago, Davis and her four kids lived in a corner house on Bentalou Street in West Baltimore that was badly maintained. People hung out on the corners, and the children couldn't play outside.
One of Davis' sons was in the emergency room every other week, sometimes for a few days at a time, because of asthma. He often missed school for doctor appointments. But now his asthma is under control, and the occasional attacks are eased by medication.
"He is definitely healthier," Davis said of her son." That was one good thing about moving."
The most recent studies didn't address why community matters, but public health officials and past research have found that a variety of factors may make a difference.
Old housing stock in some neighborhoods can contain mold, dust and other bacteria that can cause asthma and other respiratory ailments to flare up. When families can't go for walks because their neighborhoods are dangerous and can't buy healthful food because there are no nearby grocery stores, it can lead to weight gain. The stress of living in neighborhoods with violence can also lead to mental health problems, such as depression.
Some poor neighborhoods also don't have access to good jobs, which can be a problem because most Americans get health insurance through their employers. Some neighborhoods also aren't near hospitals, although that is less true in Baltimore, where health care is a major industry.
Much of the debate and policy surrounding health has been focused on medical care. Many in the field hope that as more studies are devoted to neighborhood disparities, social issues will foster more attention.
Dr. Michelle Gourdine, a Maryland physician and health consultant, said creating healthier communities can be accomplished through policy changes as simple as creating tax incentives to attract grocery stores to poor neighborhoods or as controversial as implementing fast-food bans in poor neighborhoods. Planning boards can require new developments to have features such as walking paths and parks.
Better health outcomes can lead to other improvements in life. When the HUD program was first implemented, one of the main goals was to improve participants' chances at finding a job, said Erika Poethig, a deputy assistant secretary in HUD's Office of Policy. The agency wasn't looking at health outcomes, but it figured out the two go hand-in-hand.
"By improving people's health, you are improving their employment opportunities," Poethig said. "They can sustain a long work day and people are able to keep a job. While that is not the outcome we thought we'd get or the reason for the initial study, we realize health can create better outcomes in many ways."
CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS
Congress Blocks New Rules on School Lunches
Nov. 15, 2011, The New York Times
By Ron Nixon
In a victory for the makers of frozen pizzas, tomato paste and French fries, Congress on Nov. 14 blocked rules proposed by the Agriculture Department that would have overhauled the nation's school lunch program.
The proposed changes — the first in 15 years to the $11 billion school lunch program — were meant to reduce childhood obesity by adding more fruits and green vegetables to lunch menus, Agriculture Department officials said.
The rules, proposed last January, would have cut the amount of potatoes served and would have changed the way schools received credit for serving vegetables by continuing to count tomato paste on a slice of pizza only if more than a quarter-cup of it was used. The rules would have also halved the amount of sodium in school meals over the next 10 years.
But lawmakers drafting a House and Senate compromise for the agriculture spending bill blocked the department from using money to carry out any of the proposed rules.
In a statement, the Agriculture Department expressed its disappointment with the decision. "While it is unfortunate that some in Congress chose to bow to special interests, USDA remains committed to practical, science-based standards for school meals that improve the health of our children," the department said in the statement.
Food companies including ConAgra, Del Monte Foods and makers of frozen pizza like Schwan argued that the proposed rules would raise the cost of meals and require food that many children would throw away.
The companies called the Congressional response reasonable, adding that the Agriculture Department went too far in trying to improve nutrition in school lunches.
"This is an important step for the school districts, parents and taxpayers who would shoulder the burden of USDA's proposed $6.8 billion school meal regulation that will not increase the delivery of key nutrients," said John Keeling, executive vice president and chief executive of the National Potato Council.
The Agriculture Department had estimated that the proposal would have cost about $6.8 billion over the next five years, adding about 14 cents a meal to the cost of a school lunch. Corey Henry, a spokesman for the American Frozen Food Institute, said the proposed rules simply did not make sense, especially when it came to pizza.
The industry backs the current rules which say that about a quarter-cup of tomato paste on a slice of pizza can count as a vegetable serving. The Agriculture Department proposal would have required that schools serve more tomato paste per piece of pizza to get a vegetable credit, an idea the industry thought would make pizza unappetizing.
The department said the change would have simply brought tomato paste in line with the way other fruit pastes and purees were credited in school meals.
Nutrition experts called the action by Congress a setback for improving the nutritional standards in school lunches and addressing childhood obesity.
"It's a shame that Congress seems more interested in protecting industry than protecting children's health," said Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit research group. "At a time when child nutrition and childhood obesity are national health concerns, Congress should be supporting USDA and school efforts to serve healthier school meals, not undermining them."
U.S. Food Lobby Fighting Hard to Defend Kid Ads
Nov 7, 2011, Reuters
By Diane Bartz
Some of the world's biggest food companies won a partial victory in a battle over junk food advertising for children and now they are going for the kill.
Food giants such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Kraft and advertising companies successfully pressed U.S. regulators to acknowledge they may weaken proposed guidelines that bar junk food advertisements aimed at children and younger teens. Their success alarmed campaigners fighting obesity.
The Federal Trade Commission signaled in mid-October it would likely drop a plan for voluntary guidelines banning junk food ads to children 17 and under, instead lowering the age limit to 11 and under. Final guidelines are expected by year's end.
The World Health Organization previously called for mandatory rules to limit children's exposure to junk food ads and the American Academy of Pediatrics in September urged regulators "in the strongest possible terms to make the nutrition principles and marketing definitions mandatory."
But the food companies have waged a powerful campaign to avoid any restrictions. The industry took its complaints as high as the White House, just as Michelle Obama has been making a issue of growing vegetables to encourage children to eat better.
Ten major corporations and trade organizations list the issue as something they are lobbying hard on and some have millions of dollars to spend, according to lobby disclosures. "This is the kind of issue that has many, many, many people in the food and beverage industry ... very concerned," said Dan Jaffe, spokesman for the Association of National Advertisers.
The loss of ads have worried companies such as Coca-Cola Co, which has spent $4.74 million to lobby so far this year; Kraft Food Inc, which has spent $2.09 million; and PepsiCo Inc, which has spent $2.61 million, among others.
Trade groups such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which spent $2.98 million so far this year, and the National Restaurant Association, which spent $2.1 million, say ditching the guidelines is important to their members.
The issue is expected to come up on November 15, when the Senate Commerce Committee holds hearings to consider the nomination of Jon Leibowitz to remain head of the FTC.
The Agriculture Department similarly signaled it was likely to shift nutritional standards for foods that could be advertised to children, dropping a requirement that they contain a healthy element such as whole grains. It has instead lauded a proposal from the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, a food industry group, that puts limits on salt, fat and sugar.
Both the CFBAI and the Agriculture Department say the same foods that would be banned for advertising to children under one standard, would also be banned under the other while the CFBAI standard is easier to implement, according to both the Agriculture Department and the CFBAI.
A long list of foods satisfy the CFBAI, but would fail the original federal standard -- including SpaghettiO's Meatball, several flavors of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms, says Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Although the administration has signaled it will likely weaken the guidelines, food manufacturers and their lobbyists are pressing for a total scrapping of the federal plan.
"There's no bigger priority for the food sector," said Scott Faber of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
One food industry official, said corporate lobbying had reached well into the White House and that his CEO had talked to officials there about the issue.
Health groups have also lobbied the White House hard; a dozen met with the administration last week.
"We stressed that they should not put a White House/administration stamp of approval on the CFBAI standards as they are," said Wootan. Under pressure, some companies have reduced the sugar, salt and fat in foods made for children. General Mills Inc's Lucky Charms and Cinnamon Toast Crunch both have 10 grams of sugar in a 3/4 cup serving, while Cheerios has 1 gram of sugar in a 1 cup serving.
Kraft's Cadbury, Hershey Co, Mars and Nestle Ltd have already stopped advertising to children. Kraft stopped advertising Kool-Aid and Oreos to children in 2005 and has reduced sugar and salt in some foods, but denied this was done to head off potential government action. Kraft has spent $2.09 million on lobbying this year.
But there are still plenty of high-sugar cereals to tempt children. While Kellogg's Rice Krispies has just 4 grams in a 1-1/4 cup serving, Frosted Flakes has 11 grams of sugar in 3/4 cup. A cup of Froot Loops Marshmallow has 14 grams.
Kellogg, which did not respond to email or telephone requests for an interview, has liberally rewarded its friends in Congress. Rep. Fred Upton, who harshly criticized the administration effort at a recent hearing, has received $58,052 from Kellogg since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks corporate influence in politics.
A total of $5,000 of that came during this election cycle, according to their data. The National Restaurant Association also gave him $5,000, while Coca-Cola donated $2,500.
Kellogg gave another IWG skeptic, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, $1,000 in this election cycle. Blackburn also received $2,000 from Campbell Soup Co and $1,000 from PepsiCo.
The money spent lobbying does not erase the fact that children are ill-equipped to distinguish fact from marketing fiction, says Dr. Steven Abrams, a nutrition expert with the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"I personally would suggest that we should make it easier for kids to make the right choices. Kids are easily influenced by what they see," said Abrams.
But food and advertising companies consider even the watered-down proposal a threat. Not all U.S. food companies have signed onto the industry initiative, but all would be subject to the guidelines.
"We made some progress," said ANA's Dan Jaffe. "Victory is far from where we are."
It's an Uphill Climb for Obese Kids and Their Parents
Nov. 29, 2011, USA Today
By Nanci Hellmich
Helping a child lose 100 pounds or more is a brutal, uphill battle even with intense diet and behavior treatment, national childhood obesity experts say.
Interest in the treatment of severely obese children is in the spotlight this week after the news that an 8-year-old Cleveland boy who weighed more than 200 pounds was taken from his family and put into foster care. Social workers said it was necessary because the third-grader's mother wasn't doing enough about his weight.
It's hard for a child to lose that much weight, says Melinda Sothern, co-author of Trim Kids and a professor at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. She has treated more than 3,000 obese and severely obese children over the past 20 years.
Even the most well-meaning parents would have a hard time sticking with a diet program that would "erase 100 pounds off a child," she says.
Still, parents have a responsibility to try to help their overweight children reach a healthy weight, and the kids are more likely to be successful if they are involved in an intense, family-based program that includes guidance from a doctor, registered dietitian, psychologist and exercise physiologist, Sothern says. But it's costly to do this, and it's hard find facilities that offer this type of help for families with severely obese children, she says.
Marilyn Tanner, a registered dietitian at Washington University in St. Louis who has worked with overweight children for 20 years, agrees that it's very difficult to help a child lose 100 pounds. "A lot of time if you can stop children from continuing to gain, you are ahead of the game."
Nutrition experts might try to help a 200-pound child lose 50 pounds and grow into the 150-pound weight, says Tanner, who is a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Approximately 17 percent or 12.5 million of children and adolescents are obese. Extremely obese children are a subset of this number.
Some of those children appear to have the deck stacked against them genetically, Sothern says. "They are resistant to treatment. I've seen it. Parents can be doing everything correctly, and the child's weight won't budge. It may be virtually impossible for the kids to resist food. They are constantly putting food in their mouth to feel satiated."
Some of them have metabolism issues and a reduced ability to use fat as fuel, Sothern says. Still, all of those issues can be managed with proper diet and exercise and appropriate medical support, she says.
It's critical that parents try to rein in their child's weight as soon as possible, she says.
"Even if they don't develop type 2 diabetes, these children aren't happy," Sothern says. "They can't run. They can't play because their joints hurt, and they run out of breath. They get fatigued. So they move to sedentary pursuits because they can't keep up."
The family has to come together and make a firm commitment on a lifestyle overhaul for the overweight child's sake, she says. They need to make the changes gradually over time.
Tanner says every member of the family needs to be on board, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings. Sometimes, one member of the family can sabotage the efforts. For instance, grandparents may give the kids candy bars or money that the child uses to buy unhealthy foods.
With severely overweight children, there are often emotional factors that need to be addressed, including depression, possible abuse and family upheaval, Tanner says. Parents or caregivers sometimes inappropriately use food as a reward, she says. For instance, if a child does well in school, they may get treated to pizza or ice cream.
When it comes to helping overweight children, Sothern says, people should stop blaming parents and start helping them. "Parents should be supported. They need to take responsibility, but they need help to do so."
Can an App Make Grocery Shopping Fun and Educational?
Nov. 29, 2011, Good Technology
By Nina Lincoff
The next location for story time may not be bedside, but among the bananas and cabbages in the produce aisle at the local market. Taggie, a smartphone app developed by recent Dutch design school graduate Niels van Hoof, allows users to direct a smartphone camera at the barcode of food items to learn about their origin, growth process, and different varieties. After recognizing the scanned barcode, Taggie launches a 3D augmented reality animation to engage children with a short, fun lesson about the food.
While Taggie is still in development, the idea comes at the right moment. Globally, there are more than 1 billion overweight adults, 300 million of whom are clinically obese. By allowing children to engage in the shopping experience, Taggie helps them make informed decisions about what's not only good to eat, but good for them, too.
Van Hoof developed the app as a graduation project for the Design Academy in Eindhoven, Netherlands after being inspired by Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. "He went to schools and tried to find out if kids know where food comes from," van Hoof says. Perhaps needless to say, most of them didn't—which set van Hoof's wheels in motion. Van Hoof hopes that by using the app, children will "discover more about fruits and vegetables and [will not be] afraid of the product anymore, which results in living healthier."