- NCCOR launches a new look
- Materials available to support HBO’s ‘The Weight of the Nation’ documentary series
- Added sugars pile up on children’s plates
- Heavier baby girls at higher risk for diabetes, heart woes as adults
- Parents should lead by example in weight loss, study finds
CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS
- Exercise might boost kids’ academic ability
- Student fitness improves with anti-obesity program
- McDonald’s unveils new children’s advertising
April 1, 2012, NCCOR
The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) has redesigned and enhanced its suite of communications products to improve usability and user engagement. Its highly visible website – www.nccor.org – has new features and a bolder look. Written material and presentation templates have also been updated, and an improved NCCOR e-Newsletter will debut in May.
The move improves the Collaborative’s reach and positions www.nccor.org as the resource for childhood obesity research information.
NCCOR is a unique example of a public-private partnership that brings synergy and innovation to combat childhood obesity. The redesign was born out of a desire to have NCCOR’s online presence be as synergistic and innovative as the Collaborative itself. In addition to a more engaging design, the website now boasts social media tools (e.g., Twitter feed, blog) that enhance the Collaborative’s communication methods and create opportunities to cross-promote NCCOR projects and events, original articles, and funding opportunities. Updates to the e-newsletter template subscribers receive will highlight these new NCCOR tools, as well.
Some of the new website design features include:
- Social media tools: Users can now follow us on Twitter, keep apprised of the latest childhood obesity issues and news on our blog, and provide feedback through blog comments and opinion polls. Check them out and join the conversation!
- Picture carousel of featured projects/events: Want to know what’s new with NCCOR? Just take a look at the revolving pictures on the homepage. Click on a picture to learn more.
- Improved navigation bar: The most used sections of the website are now prominently featured at the top of the page, in color, making it easy for users to quickly find what they are looking for.
The website also features project pages reflecting all of NCCOR’s current activities, biographies of the inaugural NCCOR External Scientific Panel (NESP), and the Collaborative’s latest infographics. Stay tuned for website additions to the website in the Spring, such as videos related to NCCOR resources, and access to the NCCOR 2011 Annual Report.
The enhanced look and feel of the website, e-newsletter, and other products are meant to increase user engagement, drive traffic to the site, and ultimately increase the awareness of NCCOR’s mission, goals, and projects to old and new audiences alike.
April 2, 2012, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A multi-part, multi-platform event, HBO’s Weight of the Nation is comprised of a series of four documentary films, three children’s films, and up to 12 bonus short films. The mission of this public education campaign is to accelerate efforts to eliminate obesity across the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with HBO Documentary Films, the National Institutes of Health, the National Academies of Science, Institute Of Medicine, Kaiser Permanente, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to roll out the community and state engagement component of the campaign. Activities that support the community and state engagement efforts will include regional screenings in several major cities, the distribution of up to 40,000 community action kits, an HBO website and a social media campaign. In addition, parts of the documentary series will be screened at the CDC’s Weight of the Nation™2012 conference in Washington, DC, on May 7.
On May 14-15, HBO will broadcast the documentaries through all its channels including the HBO main channel, multiplex channels, HBO On Demand, HBO GO, and more. The films will stream free of charge on HBO.com. In addition to the community screenings of the films and on-demand access to the online short films, non-HBO subscribers will be able to view the films when they are broadcast as HBO’s local affiliates are removing the subscription requirement for the week of May 14, giving access to non-subscribers.
Community and state programs may opt to host opinion leader screening events that will help engage community and state decision makers, leaders, elected officials and local media. Programs may also opt to advance their community mobilization activities by hosting a screening with coalition members, community and state activists and others positioned to implement programs and strategies. Event planning materials, discussion guides, and other helpful information to host a screening event will be included in the screening kits.
Visit http://theweightofthenation.hbo.com/# to read the pre-release information and to sign up for a screening kit from HBO. You can also navigate to the Facebook page that HBO has established to promote the film (Facebook.com/TheWeightOfTheNation), and “like” the page while you’re there.
Visit www.CDC.gov/Obesity to learn more about the epidemic and the multiple strategies that will help us address this epidemic, or www.CDC.gov/WON to learn more about the CDC’s Weight of the Nation 2012 conference.
For more information, please contact Rosie Bretthauer-Mueller, CDC, RBretthauer-Mueller@cdc.gov.
March 22, 2012, NCCOR
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published an article about National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research’s (NCCOR) Measures Registry and Catalogue of Surveillance Systems.
The April 2012 article − authored by NCCOR members Robin McKinnon, Jill Reedy, David Berrigan, Susan Krebs-Smith on behalf of all members in the NCCOR Registry and Catalogue working groups − describes the functions of the Catalogue and Registry, the development process, and the impact of the two tools. The article notes some of the gaps that the Catalogue has identified such as the lack of policy surveillance systems and the dearth of databases at the food retail level. The article also describes the Registry’s impact in identifying gaps in measures available in Spanish, as well as those for rural populations or environments.
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine is the official journal of the American College of Preventive Medicine and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research. It publishes articles in the areas of prevention research, teaching, practice, and policy.VIEW A COPY OF THE PDF
March 19, 2012, The New York Times
By Nicholas Bakalar
Older children consume more sugar than younger ones do, boys consume more than girls, and white children consume more than black or Mexican-American children, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics. And they all consume too much.
Researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a continuous examination of a large cross-section of the American population. The survey includes interviews, physical examinations and laboratory tests of blood and urine. For this study, published on Feb. 29, researchers interviewed subjects about their food consumption over the previous 24 hours.
The scientists measured all added sugars — spooned on at the table or used as ingredients in processed and prepared foods like bread, jam, candy, and ice cream. Added sugars include white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, honey, molasses, and others, but not sugars in fruit or pure fruit juice.
Boys got an average of 16.3 percent of their calories from added sugar, and girls 15.5 percent. The older the child, the greater the intake of sugar calories — the diets of 2- to 5-year-olds had less than 14 percent sugar, but boys aged 12 to 19 consumed 17.5 percent of their calories as added sugar, and adolescent girls, 16.6 percent.
Non-Hispanic whites consumed the largest percentage of calories from sugar and Mexican-Americans the smallest. Family income made no difference in sugar consumption.
The numbers reveal two facts that may contradict commonly held beliefs. First, young people got 60 percent of their sugar calories from foods, and only 40 percent from soft drinks. And second, whether it was from food or drink, they got most of their sugar at home, not at school or elsewhere.
Cynthia L. Ogden, senior author, [NCCOR member], and an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that added sugars account for 27 percent of the calories in a chocolate chip cookie, 17 percent in a blueberry muffin, 42 percent in sugar-sweetened cereal and 91 percent in a can of cola. The CDC recommends that no more than 5 to 15 percent of calories come from solid fats and added sugars.
“The important thing is reading food labels,” Dr. Ogden said, “and looking at what you’re consuming.”
Heavier baby girls at higher risk for diabetes, heart woes as adults
March 29, 2012, HealthDay News
Overweight female babies are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes in adulthood, a new study suggests.
Researchers looked at more than 1,000 17-year-olds in Australia who had been followed since birth. The goal was to examine whether birth weight and body fat distribution in early childhood was associated with future health risk factors such as obesity, insulin resistance and high blood pressure.
The study found that teen girls with larger waist circumference, higher levels of insulin and triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood), and lower levels of “good” HDL cholesterol were heavier from birth than other girls.
Birth weight and body fat distribution in early childhood seemed to have no impact on these risk factors in males, the authors noted.
The study will be published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism.
“What happens to a baby in the womb affects future heart disease and diabetes risk when the child grows up,” lead author Dr. Rae-Chi Huang of the University of Western Australia in Perth, said in a news release from the Endocrine Society.
“We found that female babies are particularly prone to this increased risk, and females who are at high risk of obesity and diabetes-related conditions at age 17 are showing increased obesity as early as 12 months of age,” Huang said.
Huang said the findings are important because there are increasing rates of obesity and gestational diabetes among pregnant women in Western nations. This means a rise in the number of overweight female babies.
“Our results can be applied to public health messages targeting both maternal health and measures in early infancy regarding the prevention of childhood obesity and its consequences,” Huang said.
Although the study showed an association between early obesity and increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
March 22, 2012, HealthDay News
Losing weight themselves is the best way for parents to help their children shed excess pounds, new research suggests.
The study included 80 parent-child sets with an overweight or obese 8- to 12-year-old. The participants took part in a parent-only or parent/child treatment program for five months.
The researchers assessed the effectiveness of three types of parenting skills taught in the family-based treatment programs for childhood obesity. The skills included: leading by example, or parents who took steps to lose weight themselves; changing the home food environment; and parenting style, such as encouraging the child to take part in the weight-loss program or helping limit what the child ate.
As in previous studies, this one found that parents’ weight loss was the only significant predictor of children’s weight loss.
“The number one way in which parents can help an obese child lose weight? Lose weight themselves,” Kerri Boutelle, an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, said in a UCSD Health Sciences news release. “In this study, it was the most important predictor of child weight loss.”
The findings were published online in the journal Obesity.
“Parents are the most significant people in a child’s environment, serving as the first and most important teachers,” said Boutelle, who is also head of the eating disorders behavioral treatment program at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. “They play a significant role in any weight-loss program for children, and this study confirms the importance of their example in establishing healthy eating and exercise behaviors for their kids.”
About 31 percent of children in the United States — between 4 million and 5 million kids — are overweight or obese, according to recent data.
CHILDHOOD OBESITY NEWS
Exercise might boost kids' academic ability
March 12, 2012, HealthDay
Promoting physical activity among young school kids can end up improving their academic performance, a new study suggests.
Italian researchers tracked 138 children aged 8 through 11 who took mental acuity tests under a series of conditions that sometimes involved physical activity and sometimes did not.
“Schoolteachers frequently claim that students lose attention and concentration with prolonged periods of academic instruction,” first study author Maria Chiara Gallotta, at the University of Rome, said in a news release. “The key elements of learning, particularly important during development, are attention and concentration. Our study examined the relationship between exertion and the attention and concentration levels of schoolchildren.”
The findings appear in the March issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Over a three-week period, the children sat for three exam sessions of 50 minutes each. Before the first test they had all engaged in some form of physical exertion. Before the second test they had only engaged in academic exercises. And the third time they had participated in both physical and academic activity. All the tests were structured to gauge concentration skills as well as the speed with which the kids responded and the quality of their answers.
The children performed best following either physical activity or academic activity, but less well when both were combined before testing.
Processing speed went up by nine percent after engaging in some form of mental “exercise” and 10 percent after physical activity. But after a combined physical and mental exertion, testing scores went up by just four percent.
Similarly, in terms of concentration skills, pretesting mental activity boosted scores by 13 percent, while physical activity sent scores rising by 10 percent. When both were combined, testing results went up by just two percent.
The authors said the lower scores could be due to a rise in stress associated with asking children to exercise both their brains and their bodies in the same time span.
“Our findings,” Gallotta said, “suggest that varying types of exertion have different beneficial influences on school children’s immediate cognitive performance. While more research is needed, we believe this provides helpful justification for increasing physical activity opportunities in the academic setting.”
Student fitness improves with anti-obesity program
March 23, 2012, Reuters Health
By Aparna Narayanan
Obesity rates continue to climb in California schools, but exercise and nutrition programs may be having a positive effect on student health, a new study suggests.
Kids entered fifth grade more obese every year, but they did not gain more weight and their overall fitness improved as they moved to higher grades.
“We accomplished a significant first step and that is to slow obesity,” said Dr. William Bommer, a cardiologist at the University of California, Davis, who worked on the study. “But we importantly were not able to reverse it.”
The researchers, whose report is published in the <em>American Heart Journal</em>, recorded the fitness gains after California mandated exercise time and healthful eating in public schools across the state in 2005.
While the findings suggest the prevention programs may be helping, they can’t prove the programs caused the health improvements.
Obesity is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments in children and adults. About 17 percent of children and teens in the United States are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In response to rising obesity trends, California required public schools to provide an average of 20 minutes of physical exercise per day for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade, and 40 minutes for grades six to 12. Schools also had to increase the quality and quantity of health education and could no longer serve high-fat, high-sugar foods and drinks.
Bommer’s team tracked data from more than six million students in fifth, seventh and ninth grade from 2003 to 2008, after these measures took effect.
At each grade level, the students took fitness tests which included body mass index (BMI) measurements, endurance runs, push-ups and shoulder stretches. The researchers analyzed those test records for changes in obesity and fitness.
They found some encouraging signs. Though the number of obese kids continued to increase (2 percent more children were overweight or obese in 2008 than in 2003), the rate of increase seemed to be slowing.
Obesity rates rose an average of 0.3 percent per year during the study, compared with about 0.8 to 1.7 percent per year in previous national studies.
Students showed small improvements in body fat and weight as they progressed from fifth to seventh to ninth grade. They also got better—or at least did not get worse—in physical fitness areas such as abdominal strength, upper body strength and flexibility.
One particular finding defied researchers’ expectations: more students entered fifth grade obese every year, however they didn’t gain further excess weight between fifth and ninth grades.
“We thought that probably what we’d find was the entrance class was about the same (every year) and kids were gaining weight during the school years,” Bommer explained.
Nor did the fifth-graders lose the weight as they progressed through the grade levels. Indeed, Bommer’s team attributes the overall rise in rates of obesity and overweight seen among all students during the study period mainly to the rise among the incoming generations of fifth graders.
Further research is needed to determine whether this early obesity develops before kids get to kindergarten or during elementary years, Bommer told Reuters Health, as well as where future interventions could make a difference.
“If you become obese as a student or adolescent, it’s very difficult to reverse that obesity when you’re an adult,” he added.
Dr. Maura Frank, a professor of clinical pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, described the California programs as a model for other states.
“When we work with individual families or schools, if we don’t have the support of public policy, nothing can be done,” said Frank, who wasn’t involved in the study. “It’s a prerequisite for change on a population level.”
The findings on growing obesity rates among fifth graders are equally important, she told Reuters Health.
“It highlights the need to start with interventions earlier,” she said.
McDonald's unveils new children's advertising
March 5, 2012, Chicago Tribune
By Emily Bryson York
McDonald’s Corp. unveiled new kids advertising in March, fulfilling a pledge to include a nutritional or physical activity message in all communication with children starting in 2012.
The Oak Brook-based fast-food giant says it’s doing the right thing for its customers and its brand. But activist groups, who see McDonald’s as the emblem of what’s wrong with American eating, decry any advertising to children under age 12, who critics say are too young to know when they are being targeted with ad messages.
“We’re a leadership brand, whether it’s for children’s advertising or the food we serve in the restaurants,” said Marlena Peleo-Lazar, chief creative officer of McDonald’s USA. “We saw an opportunity to take a ... stance, not from a duress standpoint but from a leadership sort of way, and as a brand it really does illustrate that we believe in doing the right thing.”
McDonald’s spent about $115 million advertising Happy Meals during 2010, about 13 percent of the company’s $884 million in measured U.S. media spending, according to Kantar Media.
The national ad push supports the chain’s revamped Happy Meal, now available at its 14,000 U.S. restaurants, with a burger or chicken nuggets, apple slices, fries and one percent white or fat-free chocolate milk.
The 1.1-ounce portion of french fries is new. McDonald’s introduced apple dippers with caramel sauce as a fry alternative in 2004, later learning that only 11 percent of customers were ordering it. The new meal has effectively made a fruit or vegetable mandatory. The most popular Happy Meals now contain 20 percent fewer calories, McDonald’s has said.
One commercial in the new series features Ferris, a little boy living on a farm with a pet goat that is an indiscriminate eater. Rather than put the goat out to pasture, the boy and his father teach the wayward animal the importance of a balanced diet, particularly dairy and fruit.
Ferris and the goat are enjoying Happy Meals, with fries and apple slices, at the Golden Arches at the end of the commercial, illustrating the concept of balanced eating.
The message: “Joy is a gift. This is the box that it comes in.”
“I think having a positive message is actually confusing if the bottom-line message is that coming to McDonald’s will make you happy,” said Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, who has not seen the commercial. Her group opposes ads directed at children younger than 12.
But it shouldn’t be McDonald’s job to educate children about nutrition, said Michele Simon, a public health lawyer retained as an expert witness in litigation against McDonald’s.
“What we want is for McDonald’s to get out of the way, for parents to do their job to teach their children about nutrition,” Simon said.
Peleo-Lazar, a McDonald’s veteran, acknowledged that criticism is inevitable. “You can be a brand that responds to everything or you can focus on the right thing for the brand and the business,” she said.
Although activist groups have sought to regulate McDonald’s and other fast-food chains by banning free toys in certain areas unless they meet certain nutritional standards, the industry has been working to regulate its own advertising to children.
Elaine Kolish, vice president of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative at the Better Business Bureau, who has seen the ads, described them as “outstanding” and said she was “delighted that McDonald’s is incorporating nutrition and activity messages into the advertising.” Kolish also applauds the tiny fry containers as a way of teaching portion control.
“Foods aren’t forbidden,” she said. “You just have to eat them in moderation.”
Food advertising to children on network television has declined dramatically during the past three decades, according to a federal report.
In 1977, food ads made up 62 percent of the advertising on network programs for which more than half the audience was children. By 2004, that figure had dropped to 33 percent, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
A BBB study in 2010 looked at 35 hours of kids programming and found that 24 percent of the ads were for food. The other ads, Kolish said, were for “sedentary activities” like video games, movies or TV shows.
McDonald’s is among 16 food and beverage companies that have joined the BBB’s advertising initiative. Each has promised to limit child-directed advertising of its least-healthy products, focusing instead on healthier options meeting nutritional criteria that each company established independently.
Last summer, McDonald’s USA President Jan Fields promised to include positive messages in all communications with kids, like tray liners, in-store merchandising, online and TV.
McDonald’s conducted research for several days in Chicago with kids ages 7-12 to determine what motivated them to eat healthy and to exercise. Peleo-Lazar said she was impressed with how knowledgeable the children were about nutrition, including understanding calories and food groups.
John Montgomery, creative director at Leo Burnett Chicago, the advertising agency handling McDonald’s Happy Meal business in the U.S., said the strategy is to “have a cast of characters that try to make things fun, like ants and spiders that work out get stronger.”
“Very much like kids learning to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ you have to remind them over and over, so it’s a recurring story” about healthy choices, Montgomery said. “Hopefully, we create it elegantly and subtly and talk about it through characters’ achievements, through making the right choices in life and exercise.”
But it’s this strategy McDonald’s most vocal detractors are likely to object to.
“It’s all about the branding, forming an emotional bond with your child,” said Simon, the expert witness. “The fact that McDonald’s is exploiting children’s emotional vulnerability through cartoons and animals just continues to further the exploitation.”