Articles Posted in Nutrition

obesity-300x161Although weight issues plague Americans as gravely as anywhere on the planet, obesity also has become a global woe, increasing sharply over the last three decades in 195 countries and afflicting an estimated 604 million adults and 108 million children—roughly 10 percent of the world’s population.

No nation on earth, even with the terrible toll that obesity takes in economic and health terms, has found a way to get its people skinnier and healthier: Weight woes are blowing up in disparate places like Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau, international researchers have reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. Obesity is now a major concern, too, for the people of China, Turkey, Venezuela, and Bhutan.

Public health experts worry about the skyrocketing numbers of overweight people around the planet because evidence shows obesity to be a major factor in heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other debilitating conditions.  These afflictions, combined with weight issues—including among those considered to be too heavy but not necessarily obese—contributed to four million deaths in 2015 alone, said the experts, participating as part of the Global Burden of Disease initiative.

Apple-Juice-286x300For parents who struggle to ensure their kids eat right, news reports in recent days have offered some notable insights:  They may wish to pack school lunches with whole fruit, and be wary of youngsters’ over-consumption of fruit juices. They also may want to cast a skeptical eye on claims for “organic” milk.

And, even as school food programs seem to be making nutritional headway, moms and dads may need to keep a close eye on the lunch rooms due to Trump Administration policy changes.

Although many grownups rightly have sought to exile sugary sweet drinks, especially sodas, from youngsters’ diets, researchers say fruit juice should be substituted sparingly. It should be an occasional treat, not a big part of every meal.

D-vitaminsThe health care pendulum appears to have taken a bad swing to the extreme with vitamin D.  Too many Americans may be taking unnecessary tests to see if they’re deficient of this important nutrient. Too many of us are taking unneeded amounts of it.

Federal experts report that blood tests for vitamin D among Medicare beneficiaries, most 65 and older, increased 83-fold from 2000 to 2010. Testing rates rose 2.5-fold from 2009 to 2014 among those with commercial insurance.  Among a recent sample of 800,000 patients in Maine, nearly one in five had at least one test for blood levels of the vitamin over a three-year period. More than a third got two or more tests, often for vague complaints like malaise or fatigue. Labs and doctors are telling patients who have undergone tests and who have readings in the normal range of 20 to 30 nanograms of the vitamin per milliliter of blood that they suffer a deficiency.

This all is leading to what some experts are terming a “pandemic” of over-testing, faulty diagnosis, and excess consumption of a nutrient, based on sparse evidence and misplaced belief that, as the New York Times reports, “vitamin D can help turn back depression, fatigue, and muscle weakness, even heart disease or cancer. In fact, there has never been widely accepted evidence that vitamin D is helpful in preventing or treating any of those conditions.”

Champagne_1050x700-300x200Here’s hoping the holidays are going well for one and all. But, even as they fly away, moderation and some common sense about the seasonal celebrations is worth keeping in mind.

It can pay, for example, to be careful about what you eat in this festive time. Researchers at the RAND Corporation have just issued a study that finds that consumers are “more likely to choose unhealthy foods from November to December, and the subsequent holiday pounds they gain account for 60 percent to 70 percent of the weight they gain per year.” We’re all too inclined, the researchers said, to feast on “nutritionally undesirable foods” such as sugar-sweetened beverages, chocolates, cookies, candy, and ice cream, leading to added pounds that, alas, don’t go away quickly or easily. Bah, humbug, perhaps to these findings based on information on eating habits of 400,000 South Africans who were followed for four years? Or maybe the calorie-conscious might want to consider the Washington Post’s menu of party options and alternatives?

Or how about following the New York Times’ timely report on how the holidays—with their increased eating and drinking and staying up late or sleeping in—confuse our livers, those vital organs that researchers say closely follow circadian rhythms as they help to filter the blood and to regulate critical body chemistries to process food and liquids, including alcohol.

choppedjr.0.0With the way so many kids raid the refrigerator and gulp down whatever contents may be found there, parents may be tempted to throw up their hands about youngsters’ eating habits. But keep up the good fight, moms, dads, and other grownups: Research increasingly points to childhood─even the time in the womb or shortly thereafter─as a critical periods in combating obesity, and the lifelong ills it can cause. And there may be a surprising skill that youngsters can learn that also  can boost their lifelong nutrition and health.

The New York Times, in two recent health features, has reported on the research on the importance of prenatal, early, and childhood efforts to combat obesity. The paper cites experts and studies that say, for example, that kids can be hampered for life by starting out overweight, adding excess fat cells that long will be tough to shed.

The paper says studies show that expectant moms who carry excess weight don’t benefit their kids. As an expert explains: “Excessive weight gain during pregnancy predicts not just the baby’s birth weight but also the likelihood of obesity in middle childhood.”  Pops also should mind their weight, even before their kids are born, as studies indicate that “Being heavy alters DNA in the father’s sperm that changes gene expression and can be passed down to the next generation.”

FireShot upshot2Sometimes it feels like there is so much information about diet and nutrition that it’s hard to know what to think about what we eat and how it affects our well-being.

The New York Times consulted with experts in nutrition to develop a story and informational graphic that capture how ordinary Americans and nutritionists differ in their views about the health value of foods.

Us:  we think granola bars, coconut oil, frozen yogurt, granola, Slim Fast shakes, American cheese, and orange juice tend to be healthful.

big_sodaThe City of Brotherly Love has passed a tax demonstrating its affection for new revenues and its dislike for unhealthy, sugary soft drinks: It’s unclear, however, whether other governments will follow Philadelphia in imposing soda taxes and whether these levies achieve their public health goal of discouraging harmful sugar consumption, especially by kids.

Big Soda and its allies, grocers and labor unions, fought tooth and nail the city’s 1.5-cent per ounce soda tax, airing $700,000 in opposition commercials and spending an estimated $5 million to persuade officials in a notably poor city to be like 40 other municipal or state governments in rejecting what opponents attacked as a Big Brother levy.

In the end, Philadelphia’s craving for cash for its coffers, as much as any potential health benefits for young folks in town, carried the day. City officials stressed, for example, that the soda tax could fund pre-kindergarten education and other programs. As the New York Times describes it:

myplate_blueNew reports on the hype of breakfast, revised food labeling, sliced fruit portions, and salt intake are worth checking out as we strive to sort hype from reliable information on diet, nutrition, eating, and wellness.

Let’s start with the common belief that breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. That’s not necessarily true, says Aaron E. Carroll, a pediatrics professor at the Indiana University medical school and a columnist for the New York Times Upshot feature.

He dives into studies published in peer-reviewed medical journal, and finds, “the evidence for the importance of breakfast is something of a mess. If you’re hungry, eat it. But don’t feel bad if you’d rather skip it, and don’t listen to those who lecture you. Breakfast has no mystical powers.”

FDAservesizeFDAnewlabelFDAlabelb4afterAfter two decades, Uncle Sam finally has decided to change the way Americans get important health information from labels on their food.

The changes required by the federal Food and Drug Administration will take full effect by July 2018. But the battling over this public health measure has gone on since 2014─and some big agricultural lobbies lost out in their concerted efforts, for example, to keep the public from knowing about added sugar in what we eat.

The new labels aim to be bolder, clearer, and easier to read (see middle figure above) . They reflect more current nutritional thinking, especially taking into account how Americans’ consumption has changed in recent years, including the portion sizes we devour (see far right figure, above).

In her last week of the competition, Toy bid on and won a "growing pound" advantage for the weigh-ins, which would increase each week. In the interest of preserving it, Jen advised her not to use it right away. But that week, Toy went from 282 to 278 pounds, losing only four pounds - not enough to keep her in the game.

A ‘Loser’ contestant with coach. (Copyright NBC)

If you’re staring at that chocolate éclair or slice of apple pie ala mode with special guilt after reading about the weight woes of extreme contestants on a popular television show, fret a wee bit less, please.

It’s true that many pound-conscious people have hit the doldrums after reading in the New York Times that experts monitored some contestants of the hit show, The Biggest Loser, for years after their TV appearances to see if they kept their slimming ways. Nope. Many didn’t.

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