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Regulating Sugars in Soft Drinks

sugarsIn a press release issued yesterday, HealthDay News reported that a leading consumer advocacy group, along with nutrition experts and health agencies from a number of U.S. cities, are calling for lowering the amount of sugars added to soft drinks.

The press release reads as follows:

Led by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the group  sent a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to determine safe levels of high-fructose corn syrup and other sugars in sodas and assorted soft drinks.

Currently, the average 20-ounce bottle of soda contains about 16 teaspoons of sugars made from high-fructose corn syrup, the CSPI said. The American Heart Association currently recommends that men consume no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugars daily, and women no more than 6 teaspoons’ worth.

Some 14 million Americans of all ages now get more than one-third of their calories from added sugars, the petition stated.

“The consumption of such high amounts of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup [in sodas] are causing serious health problems, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, among others,” said CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson.

There’s been a great deal of scientific evidence gathered over the past decade to support that link to health problems, he said, and “we’re contending that much of the evidence centers around beverages.” The CSPI believes most sugary sodas could be safely replaced by those made with low-calorie sweeteners.

The group said its petition has the support of public health departments in Baltimore; Boston; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and other cities, as well as leading academics at Harvard and Yale universities and other institutions around the country.

According to Jacobson, the FDA is legally bound to examine the health effects of the amount of sugars being consumed and take corrective action.

The center is first asking the FDA to determine the safe level of sugar in drinks. Also, it wants the FDA to issue targets for the sugar content of other sugary foods and urge industry to voluntarily reduce sugar levels in those foods, Jacobson said.

“The third thing is to educate consumers to choose healthier foods and beverages,” he said.

The FDA classifies high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose and other sugars as “generally recognized as safe,” Jacobson said.

“What we’re asking the FDA to do is to modify those regulations and set some limits in beverages,” he said.

In the 1980s, the FDA twice committed to looking at limiting the level of sugars in foods if new scientific evidence found sugar levels were harmful to the public, or if sugar consumption rose, Jacobson said.

“We are reminding the FDA of that and saying you have an obligation to revisit this and protect the public’s health,” he said.

It will take years before any action is taken, but that gives industry time to adjust to using less sugar in drinks, Jacobson said.

Jacobson said economic issues shouldn’t be part of the FDA’s consideration. “There are winners and losers for any kind of a regulation. The sugar industry and the corn industry [which supplies ingredients for high-fructose corn syrup] would be losers, but the soft drink industry might be winners,” he said.

The makers of no-calorie sweeteners “would probably make out like bandits,” Jacobson said.

The CSPI hopes new sweeteners — such as rebiana, made from the stevia plant — will replace high-calorie sugar, making drinks healthier.

Although some people are concerned that these sweeteners may be harmful, Jacobson said they are still a better option than sugar.

“The FDA considers all these sweeteners perfectly safe,” Jacobson said. “We think the certain harm that’s coming from the 16 teaspoons of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle of soda greatly outweighs the speculative risk from artificial sweeteners,” he added.

“We have an obesity epidemic on our hands, with two-thirds of Americans obese or overweight, and that should take precedence over smaller concerns,” Jacobson said.

One industry representative took issue with the new petition.

“As we continue to debate the root causes of our nation’s obesity issue, we need to rely on science and facts, not look for quick fixes that draw focus away from developing real solutions to a complex problem,” said J. Patrick Mohan, the interim president of the Corn Refiners Association, which represents high-fructose corn syrup manufacturers.

And the American Beverage Association, which represents soft drink makers, said its industry is already making changes.

“Today about 45 percent of all non-alcoholic beverages purchased have zero calories and the overall average number of calories per beverage serving is down 23 percent since 1998,” the ABA said in a statement issued Wednesday. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Americans are consuming 37 percent fewer calories from sugars in soft drinks and other sweetened beverages than in 2000,” the group added.

“Everyone has a role to play in reducing obesity levels — a fact completely ignored in this petition,” the ABA said. “This is why the beverage industry has worked to increase options and information for consumers.”

Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, said he joined the CSPI effort and is “proud to have signed the petition.”

“The evidence that an excess of added dietary sugars, in any of its many guises, is a major contributor to the prevailing public health ills of our time is now essentially incontrovertible,” he said. “It stands to reason that lowering those levels will help in efforts to reduce the levels of obesity, diabetes and other chronic disease.”

Soda and other sugary drinks are the single biggest source of calories in the U.S. diet, with Americans, on average, consuming between 18 and 23 teaspoons — about 300 to 400 calories — of added sugars each day, according to the petition.

Many teens and young adults consume even more sugar than the average. Some get at least 25 percent of their calories from added sugars, according to the 2007-2008 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The CSPI petition notes that cities around the country have taken note of the problem and have acted. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is capping restaurant soda serving sizes at 16 ounces — a move that has met with considerable resistance from some who believe it tramples individuals’ rights.

Note: A judge blocked the enforcing of the NYC law, that was to go into effect earlier this week, just a day before it was to become law.

Parents Underestimate the Calories in Fast Food Meals

At a recent meeting of the Obesity Society Jason Block, MD, of Harvard Medical School and fellow researchers reported that parents often underestimate the calories their school-age kids are consuming when they eat large meals at fast food restaurants.

caloriesAccording to the study, the average meal purchased  in four New England cities contained 733 calories, and 21% contained more than 1,000 calories, But the parents estimated an average of only 562 calories per meal, with 72% underestimating the actual content. “There was an association between larger meals and larger underestimations, which may hold some promise for menu labeling,” Dr. Block said. He noted that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that restaurants with 20 or more locations nationwide post calorie information on their menus.

The researchers found that only 15% of parents saw nutritional information in the restaurants and fewer still (4%) used that information when ordering. “So they may not use it even if it’s more accessible,” Block stated.

Last year at the society’s annual meeting, Dr Block reported that 80% of adolescents in Boston, Springfield, Mass., Providence, R.I., and Hartford, Conn., underestimated the amount of calories their fast food meals contained and 86% did not notice any nutritional information in the restaurants.

In the current study, Block and his colleagues visited 10 restaurants in each of the four cities… three McDonald’s, three Burger King, two Subway, one KFC, and one Wendy’s. Each restaurant was visited six times at dinnertime.

Those participating in the study included parents or legal guardians of children and teens, ages 3 to 15 (mean age 7.9). The analysis included 330 families, representing 45% of those who were approached.

Most of the children (57%) were overweight or obese. The sample was ethnically diverse — 33% black, 30% Hispanic, 19% white, 3% Asian, and 15% other or multiracial.

The researchers collected receipts when the parents left the restaurants and administered a short survey about the calorie content of the meal and awareness and use of the nutritional information. The actual calorie content of the meals was calculated using the receipts and information on the restaurants’ websites.

Many of the parents purchased large meals for their children and most underestimated the calorie content. Nearly one-quarter (24%) underestimated the calorie count by at least 500.

Those who underestimated the daily requirement tended to also underestimate the calories in a meal, a finding that “supports an anchoring statement on menus,” Block said. The federal regulations require that, in addition to calorie information, menus must include an anchoring statement describing the typical daily calorie requirement.

The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars Seed Grant.

Source: The Obesity Society

 

Health Tips from Those in the Know

healthSoccer Players

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons offers these health tips for soccer players:

  • Stay in good physical shape, even in the off-season, with regular exercise and strength training.
  • Always warm up and stretch before playing.
  • Always cool down and stretch after playing.
  • Be sure to drink enough water before and during play.
  • Always wear proper safety gear, including shin guards and shoes with ribbed soles or molded cleats.
  • When the field is wet, use soccer balls made of synthetic, nonabsorbent materials, instead of leather.

Obese Youth and Gallstones

According to health information from the U.S Dept of Health and Human Services obese youth are an eight times higher risk of gallstones than youth who are not obese.

Young people should only rarely have gallstones. But doctors are treating more teens for the buildup of the hardened cholesterol-laden lumps in the gallbladder. Research finds that the risk of gallstones was higher in obese young people.

At Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena, research scientist Corinna Koebnick looked at medical records of 766 10- to 19-year-olds with gallstones, “Obese youths have a much higher risk – up to 8 times higher – than their normal-weight counterparts.” Koebnick shared that parents and kids should get together on eating right and being moreactive.

This health study in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

 

 

Good Food on a Tight Budget

The following post is courtesy of a email from  Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, EWG, a nonprofit organization

EWG collaborated with Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters to create our newest shopping guide – Good Food on a Tight Budget, http://tinyurl.com/8rjd5mb – to help you shop smarter and fill your grocery cart with the foods that deliver the biggest bang for your buck.

foodThis brand new shopping guide looks at 100 foods that are healthy, inexpensive, clean and green. The guide features simple tips for eating well, tasty recipes for meals and kids’ snacks, as well as proven money-saving tools for tracking food prices and planning meals.

Click here to check out EWG’s Good Food on a Tight Budget – including 15 recipes that average less than $1 per serving and tips like, http://tinyurl.com/8rjd5mb:

:: A pear a day keeps the pesticides away – more fiber, potassium and folate than an apple and fewer pesticide residues.

:: Eat your garnish – parsley packs a punch as potent as kale for a quarter the price.

:: Not a carrot lover? Sweet potatoes pack twice the fiber, potassium, and vitamin A as carrots.

:: Super okra? Okra beat out more than 100 other veggies to rise to the top of our lists.

Did you know: one serving of filling oatmeal is about half the cost of a bowl of sugared cereal? For animal sources of protein – roasted turkey tops the list. But to eat on the cheap, you can’t beat pinto beans or lentils for one-fifth the cost.

These tips are perfect for back-to-school, too – and to help you plan out food choices for those important meals, the guide’s lead author, EWG nutritionist Dawn Undurraga, pulled together visual suggestions for a week of easy lunches. Click here to read her back-to-school blog, http://tinyurl.com/bs5sflt.

We believe that eating healthy and affordably should be easy. I hope you enjoy this new guide.

You can own a hard copy of the 32-page, full color Good Food on a Tight Budget Booklet. It’s filled with tips, shopping guides and all the information you need to shop healthier and save money. EWG will send you a copy of the booklet when you donate.

Click here to donate and get your guide today, http://tinyurl.com/9pe3877.

 

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, wants all Americans to know about programs and resources to help children and parents curb obesity  including the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health’s We Can!! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition)® program.

Through public-private partnerships, safe places to play and nutritious food options are being made available in neighborhoods and schools across America. Exciting new programs include the Partnership for a Healthier America and Olympic Team USA’s commitment to provide 1.7 million kids the opportunity to participate in free and low cost physical activity programs offered by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USOC National Governing Bodies for sport, and others over the next year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a new farm to school grant program designed to educate children about food sources, and increase the availability of locally sourced foods in schools.

obesityOver the past 30 years, the childhood obesity rate in America has almost tripled. According to the Centers for Disease Control,CDC, in 2010, approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years were already obese. Children and teenagers who are obese are more likely to become obese adults. Overweight and obese youth are at greater risk of developing serious adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, certain types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.

That is why HHS, with the President’s Council, supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s goal to end childhood obesity within a generation through her Let’s Move! program. Everyone has a role to play – parents and caregivers, school teachers and administrators, community leaders, local elected officials, after school programmers, and health care providers.

According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and adolescents aged 6–17 years should spend 60 minutes or more being physical active each day.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, released by HHS and USDA, provide nutritional guidance for Americans to promote good health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity. The guidelines recommend balancing calories with physical activity, and encourage Americans to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains.

To learn more about National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month or for tips on how to help your kids lead healthy lifestyle visit http://www.fitness.gov