June 2015





NCCOR, JPB Foundation form alliance to support Measures Registry

June 3, 2015, NCCOR

Through a two-year grant from The JPB Foundation, the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) will strengthen its landmark Measures Registry by creating user guides for researchers. With more than 1,000 measures in the Measures Registry, the new guides will help users choose measures best suited for their research and evaluation work.

In April 2011, NCCOR launched the Measures Registry, a free, online, searchable database of diet and physical activity measures relevant to childhood obesity research. Available at www.nccor.org/measures, the resource is widely recognized and was identified as a leading tool by the Institute of Medicine in Evaluating Obesity Prevention Efforts: A Plan for Measuring Progress, as it encourages the use of common tools and research methods across childhood obesity research and prevention programs at the individual, community, and population levels.

“With the continued support of NCCOR partners and this new opportunity made possible by The JPB Foundation, the Measures Registry can enter a new, important phase,” said Dr. David Berrigan, a biologist in the Applied Research Program of the National Cancer Institute. Over the next two years, funding from The JPB Foundation will support the development of domain-specific user guides that: describe the general principles of measurement selection; present case studies on selecting measures; describe challenges to measures harmonization; and highlight additional resources.

With more in-depth guidance, researchers will be better able to share, compare, and analyze their data, thus, maximizing the impact of cutting-edge research and producing a greater collaborative effort to combat the nation’s obesity epidemic.

The JPB Foundation is NCCOR’s first strategic funding alliance. NCCOR strategic alliances allow the Collaborative to engage with other funders in targeted efforts to advance the field of childhood obesity research. The JPB Foundation strives to enhance the quality of life in the United States through transformational initiatives that promote the health of our communities by creating opportunities for those living in poverty, enabling pioneering medical research, and enriching and sustaining our environment.

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Obesity disparity grew among U.S. kindergartners

May 18, 2015, Reuters

Obesity rates among children entering kindergarten in the United States have increased since 1998, except among those from the wealthiest families, according to new research.

The findings, published in JAMA Pediatrics, add to evidence that suggests not all young people are benefiting from a leveling out of obesity rates as reported last year.

“When you start splitting children up by different socioeconomic groups, then you find the increase is rather quite large among the lower socioeconomic group,” said Ashlesha Datar of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Datar and her colleagues used data from nearly 17,000 children entering kindergarten in 1998 and compared them to over 15,500 children who entered kindergarten in 2010.

Overall, Datar found that the prevalence of obesity rose 20 percent from 1998, when about 12 percent of the children were obese, to 2010, when about 14 percent were obese.

There was no difference in obesity rates between boys and girls.

There was a difference, however, when the researchers grouped the children into five different levels based on family wealth.

Specifically, the prevalence of obesity increased among the poorest 60 percent of children and possibly the next 20 percent of kids higher up on the socioeconomic ladder.

Meanwhile, the data suggest, the prevalence of obesity possibly fell among the wealthiest 20 percent of children in the study.

The researchers also found that the difference in obesity prevalence between the poorest and wealthiest children increased from about 6 percent in the 1998 school year to about 11 percent in the 2010 school year.

The new study’s findings are “important and critical information,” said Asheley Cockrell Skinner, an expert on childhood obesity from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“The fact that the prevalence of obesity continues to increase for the poorest children and that that’s not true for wealthier children is a real problem,” said Cockrell Skinner, who wasn’t involved with the new study.

Datar told Reuters Health that last year’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report reflects what’s generally happening among children, while these new data give a better view of what’s happening among kindergarten students.

“We don’t want people to think we’re out of the woods,” Datar said. “That’s not the takeaway we want people to have. We want people to be cautious.”

Policymakers should recognize the environments and the cultures of the poorer people are going to be very differ than for wealthier people, Cockrell Skinner said.

For financially well-off parents, which often include policymakers, she said they “need to better appreciate that they can do things for their kids that a parent with less resources can’t for their children.”

For example, she said, wealthier families may be able to enroll their children in sports programs, while that may not be an option for children from poorer households.

“We need to be creative in how we address those things,” Cockrell Skinner said.

The next step is to determine why all the programs and interventions targeting families at higher risk of obesity don’t seem to be working, Datar said.

“Or, maybe it would be worse in the absence of the program, but it hasn’t solved the problem,” she added.


Original source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/18/us-pediatrics-obesity-economic-disparity-idUSKBN0O31LQ20150518

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Publications & Tools

National Nutrition Research Roadmap 2015-2020: Public comment period

Recognizing the need for a written plan to coordinate federal human nutrition research, the Interagency Committee on Human Nutrition Research (ICHNR) developed the draft “National Nutrition Research Roadmap 2015-2020: Advancing Nutrition Research to Improve and Sustain Health.” The Roadmap includes 11 topical areas that cover the broad spectrum of research likely to accelerate progress in nutrition research. ICHNR invites public input on the Roadmap through June 25, 2015.


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Does summertime weight gain undermine youth obesity prevention efforts?

Emerging evidence shows that children gain more weight during their summer vacation than they do during the entire school year. Some studies also find that the fitness gains children achieve during the school year are erased over the summer months. This research brief synthesizes what is known about summer weight gain and how physical activity and diet during the summer may contribute.


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RWJF series highlights latest research on healthy school environments

Apart from their homes, most children spend more time at school than any other place. A growing body of research shows that healthier school meals and snacks can help improve kids’ diets and may help reduce obesity, while increased physical activity for students improves health as well as academic achievement. This series from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation highlights the latest research showing why a healthier school day is vital to building a Culture of Health.


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Impact of Safe Routes to School programs on walking and biking

In 2005, Congress created the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program to improve safety and increase the number of children walking and biking to and from school. Research studies indicate that the program has increased rates of walking and biking and improved safety. This research review highlights findings from studies conducted in several states and cities that have examined walking or biking rates, safety, and economic issues associated with SRTS.


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Childhood Obesity Research & News

Food ads during children’s TV don’t meet proposed guidelines

May 8, 2015, Business Insider

By Kathryn Doyle, Reuters Health

On network and cable TV, during shows aimed at kids younger than age 12, the vast majority of commercials are for products with too much added sugar, saturated fat, or sodium, according to a new study.

Researchers compared the foods advertised with previous proposed U.S. nutrition guidelines for foods marketed to kids. The proposal was not adopted, and it’s not surprising to see that most foods advertised on TV would not comply with it, said lead author Melanie D. Hingle of the University of Arizona in Tucson.

“It’s very politically charged,” she said. “The take-home message is really not about what would be or could be, but that this independent group of experts in different communities said these are guidelines that make sense nutritionally, and hardly any of these ads meet these guidelines,” Hingle told Reuters Health by phone.

“Food ads that are out there right now are not passing any kind of muster,” she said.

An Interagency Working Group on Foods Marketed to Children (IWG) including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Federal Trade Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration issued a proposal for standards for the nutritional quality of foods advertised to children in 2011.

Their proposal would have limited saturated fat to 1 gram or less, trans fat to less than 0.05 grams, sodium to 210 milligrams or less and added sugars to 13 grams or less per individual product serving size.

Compliance with the IWG proposal, if adopted, would have been voluntary.

The researchers recorded 103 shows aimed at children younger than age 12 on five broadcast networks and two cable channels between February and April 2013. There were 354 food ads in the TV sample.

More than 90 percent of the foods advertised met the IWG proposed trans fat guidelines, while 60 percent to 70 percent met the guidelines for sodium and saturated fat. Only 20 percent complied with added sugar guidelines, however, and fewer than 2 percent met all the IWG guidelines, the researchers reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“These companies make a lot of healthy, high quality foods as well, if they could just shift their advertising,” Hingle said. “Advertising does influence kids’ asking behaviors and consumption.”

“The food industry has been under a lot of pressure over the past 15 years because of the amount of advertising they direct to children and how unhealthy the products are,” said Jennifer L. Harris of the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

“So the industry response was to say, we can self-regulate, we don’t need any government regulation,” Harris told Reuters Health by phone.

In 2006, the Better Business Bureau and 10 leading food and beverage companies launched the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative to shift the mix of advertising directed primarily at children to encourage healthier choices.

“This paper is interesting because it shows that the industry’s definition of what is healthy and should be marketed to kids is completely out of whack with the opinions of government experts who were charged with coming up with recommendations for what should be marketed to kids,” said Harris, who was not part of the new study.

The IWG proposal was “never finalized, completed, or supported,” said Dan Jaffe, group executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers, a trade group representing major food marketers like Kraft Foods.

“The Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative has substantially improved the healthfulness of foods advertised to kids,” Jaffe told Reuters Health by phone. “The IWG proposals went way overboard and were not appropriate; 87 of the top 100 most consumed foods in the United States would not meet the standards,” which would exclude things like yogurt and wheat bread, he said.

“The food industry makes a tremendous effort to come up with things that the public will think are healthy and not fattening,” but the IWG standards are unreasonable, he said.

Food companies have made great strides eliminating trans fats from their products, Hingle said.

“Trans fat had a spotlight on it for a while so things happened,” she said. “I’m hoping things also happen for sugar and sodium.”

Once an overwhelming body of evidence indicates that high levels of saturated fats or added sugars are linked to childhood obesity, enough momentum can build and consumers can insist on changes,” Hingle said.

“Added sugars is probably the next thing,” she said. “We’re pretty close to that tipping point.”

Many parents believe that if foods are designed for and marketed to their kids, they can’t be that bad, Harris said.

“They think that if they were so bad, companies wouldn’t be allowed to do this,” she said. “They don’t understand that food companies can advertise anything they want.”


Original source: http://www.businessinsider.com/r-food-ads-during-childrens-tv-dont-meet-proposed-guidelines-2015-5

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Preschool kids starved for exercise

May 18, 2015, USA Today

By Karen Weintraub

Add preschoolers to the list of Americans who don’t get enough exercise.

In a new study, Seattle researchers found that preschoolers only get about 48 minutes of exercise a day, although some studies suggest they should get at least two hours.

At that age, exercise is crucial for preventing obesity, as well as for developing motor and social skills, said Pooja Tandon, an assistant professor at the University of Washington and a researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Childhood obesity has increased dramatically in the past generation. The percentage of children ages 6 to 11 who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2012, while the percentage of obese adolescents ages 12 to 19 grew from 5 percent to nearly 21 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The push to build academic skills has trickled down to preschools, squeezing out time for active play, Tandon said, noting that research in older kids shows a strong connection between exercise and learning.

In the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers went into 10 preschools in the Seattle area and tracked kids’ activities across the day for a total of 50 days. Nearly 100 children also wore devices to follow their activity levels.

The children were provided opportunities for active play only about 12 percent of the time, while 29 percent of their day was spent napping. Kids spent the rest of their time eating or in sedentary activities. They played outside for a little more than a half hour outside on a typical day, the study found.

“It’s just not enough,” said Tandon, who led the study.

There are many opportunities to make regular features of preschool more active, said Debbie Chang, vice president of Delaware-based Nemours Children’s Health System, which recommends “best practices” for daycare centers. Even reading a book like “The Wheels on the Bus,” can provide a chance for kids to get up and act out the rolling of the wheels and swishing of the wiper blades, rather than sitting quietly and listening, she said.

Preschools can get creative to get kids moving. Chang noted the example of a day care center in Petersburg, Va., which had no outdoor space of its own, but received permission to use the parking lot of a neighboring business so kids could play for an hour in the mornings.

The children’s behavior improved, as did their sleep at nap time, Chang said. Parents saw the benefits of the extra outside time and started making more opportunities for their children to play outdoors.

Day care providers need to be more explicit about making time for active play, agreed Rachel Robertson, vice president of Bright Horizons, an international chain of day care and drop-off centers.

“We as educators have to shift from hoping (active play) will happen to being as purposeful about it as we are about math and language development,” Robertson said.

Getting kids to spell out letters with their bodies or practice numbers while jumping rope can boost both activity levels and learning, she said. “We should see unstructured physical activity woven into our lifestyles,” she said, “rather than as a separate thing that we do.”


Original source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/05/18/preschoolers-not-exercising/27396311/

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Ninety-five percent of parents think their overweight children look ‘just right’

May 12, 2015, Washington Post

By Lenny Bernstein

When researchers recently looked at data on how parents perceive their overweight young children, they learned that 94.9 percent believe the kids’ size to be “just right.” As startling and unsettling as that statistic may be, it had been shown before in smaller populations and wasn’t the worst news out of the study.

Roughly 83 million Americans age 6 and over, or about 28 percent of the population, reported that they did not once participate in any of 104 specific physical activities in the last calendar year, according to annual survey results by the Physical Activity Council (PAC) released on April 22.

More disturbing was what the researchers found when they compared the results with the same survey taken about two decades earlier. Over the years, they realized, the chances of a child “being appropriately perceived by the parents declined by 30 percent.” African American and low-income parents had the most inaccurate perceptions.

“We have changed our perceptions of what our weight ideals are,” even among kids aged 2 to 5, who were the subjects of this study, said Dustin T. Duncan, an assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at New York University Langone Medical Center, who led the research. Most parents can no longer tell what a healthy weight looks like, and their doctors aren’t helping them understand, Duncan said.

“If every other child is obese or overweight, you would think your child is normal as well,” he added. The study also showed that 78.4 percent of parents of obese children believed them to be “just right,” but it made no comparison to earlier data for that group.

Instead of focusing on small groups of overweight or obese kids as other studies have, Duncan’s research used a national sample of children and parents surveyed for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1988 and 1994, and others questioned for the same survey between 2007 and 2012. Both samples had more than 3,000 children.

Parents were asked the “Goldilocks” question: “Do you consider [child’s name] to be: overweight, underweight, just about the right weight, or don’t know?” Researchers compared those responses with the children’s data on standard childhood growth curves.

With parental attitudes quite similar in both surveys and more overweight children in the population today, the chances of any child being seen correctly had declined sharply, according to the study, which was published online in the June edition of the journal Childhood Obesity.

The study contains a number of lessons. First, while some research has shown a possible plateau in the childhood obesity stats, the problem isn’t going away anytime soon. Duncan focused on 2- to 5-year-olds because that’s the age when poor eating habits can take root.

“We know that overweight pre-school children tend to be overweight school children, they tend to be overweight adolescents, and it follows them into adulthood,” Duncan said.

More obviously, some parents have lost a clear idea of what a healthy youngster looks like, just as we all have as waistlines have expanded throughout our society. In African-American and poor neighborhoods, where overweight and obese kids are more common, this phenomenon is more prevalent.

And finally, pediatricians need to do a much better job of explaining what a healthy growth curve looks like, Duncan said. While the study didn’t examine the idea, it’s probable that parents with these perception problems are overweight themselves, Duncan said.

“Most people don’t understand what it means to be overweight … and for a parent, I think it’s really hard to understand these growth charts,” he said.


Original source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/05/12/95-percent-of-parents-think-their-overweight-children-look

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Dairy Queen joins fast food chain trend removing soda from kids menus

May 14, 2015, Forbes

By Hunter Atkins

After years of public pressure on fast food giants to stop marketing sugary sodas to children, Dairy Queen announced it will remove all soda pop products from kids menus by Sept. 1, 2015.

With Dairy Queen agreeing to remove fountain drinks from its children’s menu, it now joins Burger King, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Subway, Chipotle, Arby’s, and Panera in providing more healthful beverage options in their kids meals.

MomsRising.org members, joined by advocates at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, have hounded chains for years to improve the nutritional quality of kids’ meals. Soda has been the targeted focus.

Monifa Bandele, the senior campaign director of MomsRising.org’s Food Justice campaign, stated “Parents and families across the country are applauding as one by one, restaurants are listening to parents and public health experts and starting to do their part to help keep America’s kids healthy.”.

“But we aren’t done yet!” she added, emphasizing the continued to effort against sugar-sweetened beverages that promote heart disease and type 2 diabetes. “Ensuring that our children can make healthy choices is an important part of raising them. When restaurants offer up sugary drinks as a default choice, it undermines those efforts.”


Original source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/hunteratkins/2015/05/14/dairy-queen-joins-fast-food-chain-trend-removing-soda-from-kids-menus/

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Laws against junk food in schools help rich students more than poor ones

May 4, 2015, Los Angeles Times

By Eryn Brown and Teresa Watanabe

Since state laws made it harder for California elementary school kids to get their hands on sugary drinks and junk food snacks on campus, researchers found, students’ risk of becoming overweight or obese fell slightly—but mostly if they came from higher-income neighborhoods.

Examining body mass index measurements of 2,700,880 fifth-graders in the state over 10 years, researchers found that students in those neighborhoods saw their odds of exceeding a healthy weight fall by about 1 percent a year. For all other students, the trends remained essentially flat.

“The magnitude of improvements depended on levels of school neighborhood socioeconomic advantage,” the study authors wrote in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The team sought to analyze the effects of two California laws that targeted “competitive food and beverages,” products such as sodas from vending machines and cookies from snack bars that had been sold on campus in addition to school meals.

The first law, which went into effect in 2004, prohibited the sale of sugary drinks and higher-fat milk to students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The second law was implemented in 2007 and set limits on fat and sugar content of snack foods.

To evaluate the laws’ impact, the researchers looked at fitness measurements and body mass index data collected from fifth-graders through California’s Fitnessgram test, which is given to students in the fifth, seventh, and ninth grades.

The children were considered overweight or obese if their body mass index was at or greater than the 85th percentile, according to growth charts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers also considered the students’ age and race or ethnicity as well as school size, neighborhood income, and education level as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Overall, the proportion of kids who were overweight or obese rose slightly over the course of the study, from 43.5 percent in 2001 to 45.8 percent in 2010, the team reported.

But the growth in obesity rate was virtually halted or reversed in the period after the two laws went into effect than it had been in earlier years, suggesting that the policies on competitive foods had a positive if modest effect.

“Even small reductions in overweight/obesity can have large impacts for the population as a whole,” said study leader Emma Sanchez-Vaznaugh, a health policy researcher at San Francisco State University.

Other experts said the improvements were encouraging.

“Even though the changes are small, this is one of the few cases where we have actual evidence of improvement linked to a policy change,” said obesity researcher Susan Babey of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, who wasn’t involved in the study. “Things aren’t getting bad as fast as they were before.”

The study captured changes only up through 2010. Since then, the federal government has imposed sweeping new rules for school meals, requiring lower levels of sodium, fat, and sugar and more fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. School food experts say they expect these broader changes to help drive down childhood obesity rates.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, officials say they have seen a general improvement in student health and fitness since reforming their food policies more than a decade ago. The district banned soda and sugar-based drinks in 2002 and limited sodium and fat in snack foods in vending machines and school stores in 2003. More recently, the district overhauled school lunches to eliminate chicken nuggets and corn dogs in favor of such fare as turkey burgers and vegetarian calzones.

At Beachy Avenue Elementary in Arleta, Ca., Principal Stephen Bluestein said the policy changes, along with better health and nutrition education, had made a difference.

“Students definitely know more about what good food is,” he said.

Still Babey and others said it was alarming that close to half of fifth-graders were overweight or obese and would face an increased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes and other chronic health problems.

Elizabeth Velten, state and national policy director for the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which has pushed for changes in school nutrition standards and menu labeling, said that in order to make a big change in childhood obesity rates, policymakers would need to pay attention to what kids eat outside of school.

Even if it’s harder to get a soda on campus, children in lower-income neighborhoods are disproportionately targeted by food and beverage advertising, said Velten, who wasn’t involved in the study. Their parents also lack nutrition knowledge and face steep prices for healthful fare, she said.

“The healthy choice is rarely the affordable choice,” she said. “As long as a bottle of water costs more than a soda and [food companies] market to lower-income kids, obesity and diabetes rates will go up in those communities.”

Bluestein said his school was among those that had sharply restricted classroom birthday celebrations, phasing out junk food with plans to ban all [junk] food next year. He was not surprised that the new study found different degrees of progress in combating obesity depending on the income level of the neighborhood.

At Beachy, where nearly all families are low-income, Bluestein said, vendors wait outside the school to sell such unhealthful snacks as corn slathered in mayonnaise and sugar-drenched snow cones. And for lunch, some parents bring McDonald’s Happy Meals and other foods high in sodium and fat to their children, he said.

At Woodland Hills Elementary, Bluestein’s previous school, in a more affluent neighborhood, the principal said there were no such street vendors and that homemade lunches were generally more healthful—whole wheat sandwiches and salads, for instance.

He speculated that parents in lower-income neighborhoods might not have the time or money to provide better for their children.

UCLA’s Babey said it would take a variety of efforts to reverse the tide of obesity.

“There is no one change that will solve this problem,” she said.


Original source: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-school-junk-food-child-obesity-20150504-story.html

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