March 2015





Connect & Explore: First Findings from USDA’s FoodAPS

March 16, 2015, NCCOR

NCCOR webinar reveals insights from Department of Ag’s FoodAPS data, as well as new research opportunities made possible by the first-of-its-kind survey.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) is the first-ever nationally representative and comprehensive survey of American households’ food purchases and acquisitions. This robust and first-of-its-kind dataset enables scientists to conduct research studies that support the design and implementation of policies and regulations affecting America’s food and nutrition assistance programs.

The survey includes nationally representative data from nearly 5,000 households, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households, low-income households not participating in SNAP, and higher-income households.

“FoodAPS is enriched by extant data, such as locations of food stores and restaurants, food prices, food-related school district and community policies, and other location-based population characteristics linked to FoodAPS households,” said Mark Denbaly, Deputy Director for Food Economics Data at USDA’s Economic Research Service. “This enables a variety of research to understand how varying local food environments influence food acquisition decisions,” added Denbaly.

On March 31, the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) will connect you to researchers who will answer your questions and share key findings from the just released report, Where Do Americans Usually Shop for Food and How Do They Get There? Findings from FoodAPS. Learn about FoodAPS data availability and how you can take advantage of the FoodAPS dataset.

Join us at 1 pm, Eastern on March 31, for the one-hour event. Our speakers are:

  • Jessica Todd, Senior Economist, Economic Research Service-USDA
  • Mark Denbaly, Deputy Director for Food Economics Data, Economic Research Service-USDA

You must register to receive webinar access. The event is free but attendance is limited, so tell a friend and register today!

Register for Connect & Explore: First Findings from USDA’s FoodAPS

Please consider sharing this information on your social networks using the hashtag #ConnectExplore. We will also be live tweeting the event so be sure to follow the conversation at @NCCOR. For those who cannot attend, the webinar will be recorded and archived on

Back to Top

Society of Behavioral Medicine announces NIH mHealth Training Institute, presidential roundtable, and exhibit featuring NCCOR

March 5, 2015, NCCOR

From training on mobile health (mHealth) technology to a presidential roundtable on National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research’s (NCCOR) activities, resources, and funding opportunities, the upcoming Society of Behavioral Medicine’s (SBM) 36th Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions in San Antonio will offer numerous opportunities to connect with NCCOR.

SBM kicks off with a preconference training on the use of mHealth technologies to prevent childhood obesity. Mentored by expert faculty, the “NIH mHealth Training Institute” will include presentations followed by hands-on experience developing an mHealth research project. Attendees will learn about the central multidisciplinary aspects of mobile and wireless research; project development and implementation from conception to analysis; and cross-cutting research issues. The workshop will be held on Wednesday, April 22 from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter, Salon KL. To learn more and register, visit Registration for the conference is not required if you are only attending the training institute.

Researchers can also connect with NCCOR at the presidential roundtable, “National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR): Accelerating Progress on Childhood Obesity through Research.” During this session, participants can learn about NCCOR’s activities, its resources for researchers, and funding opportunities. The session, on Thursday, April 23 from 7:30 – 8:15 a.m., will also include an engaging discussion on emerging areas of interest, including the study of childhood obesity declines, healthy food incentives, and lessons learned from global efforts. The location for the roundtable will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

At NCCOR’s exhibit booth, attendees can learn more about the Collaborative’s resources and connect with staff from NCCOR’s Coordinating Center.

For more information about the 36th Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, visit For questions about SBM, email


Original source:

Back to Top

Publications & Tools

Connect & Explore Webinar recording now available

NCCOR’s Connect & Explore Webinar on Feb. 23 provided the first public forum to connect with authors from the recently released Lancet Series on Obesity. The series discusses reasons for scarce progress; reviews regulatory, non-regulatory, and quasi-regulatory actions; identifies high-priority actions; challenges entrenched dichotomies; and proposes a reframing of obesity. The webinar unpacks the latest Lancet Series and explores how public support for policy actions and new thinking can move the needle on obesity.


Back to Top

Special Issue: Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration Project

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established the Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration (CORD) Project in 2011 to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and address the call for comprehensive, multi-level, multi-setting approaches to prevent and reduce childhood obesity. In February 2015, Childhood Obesity released a special issue on CORD including nine articles and an accompanying editorial. The articles describe how CORD builds on existing work, uses stakeholders’ perspectives of problems and feasible solutions, and leverages state and local infrastructure in three states.


Back to Top

2015 Dietary Guidelines: Scientific report and public comment period

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee submitted the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Advisory Report) to the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in February 2015. The Advisory Report provides the federal government with a foundation for developing national nutrition policy. However, the Advisory Report is not the Dietary Guidelines for Americans policy or a draft of the policy. The federal government will determine how it will use the information in the Advisory Report as the government develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. HHS and USDA will jointly release the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans later this year. The public is encouraged to view the Advisory Report and provide written comments through 12:00 a.m., Eastern, on April 8, 2015.



Back to Top

What We Eat in America data tables now available

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released new summary data tables from What We Eat in America, the dietary intake interview component of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The new data tables from NHANES 2011-2012 include nutrient intakes per 1,000 kilocalories and nutrient intakes from restaurants. The tables include population estimates for percent reporting, mean amounts, and percentages of selected nutrients from foods and beverages obtained from all restaurants, full service restaurants, and quick service restaurants.


Back to Top

New reports find more low-income children participate in school breakfast

School breakfast continues to make significant gains in communities across the United States, according to two new analyses by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released today, which look at school breakfast participation at the district, state, and national levels. During the 2013-2014 school year, an average of 11.2 million low-income children ate a healthy morning meal each day at school, an increase of 320,000 children from the previous school year, according to FRAC’s “School Breakfast Scorecard” on state trends and “School Breakfast — Making it Work in Large Districts.”


Back to Top

Tool helps countries reduce food marketing to children

Marketing of foods high in energy, fats, sugars, or salt has a documented harmful impact on children. Despite progress in some countries, government action to restrict such marketing remains less than optimal. A nutrient profile model, developed by the World Health Organization, can be adapted by countries to develop and implement policies to restrict food marketing to children or to monitor the extent and nature of food marketing.


Back to Top

Childhood Obesity Research & News

Obesity experts call for stricter rules on junk food ads targeted at children

Feb. 18, 2015, The Guardian

By Sarah Boseley

Tough new controls must be introduced worldwide to stop commercial companies marketing unhealthy foods and drinks which make children overweight and stunt their growth, say some of the world’s leading obesity experts.

No country has yet reversed its obesity epidemic, they point out in a major new series of six papers in The Lancet medical journal. The best that has been achieved is a flattening of childhood obesity rates in countries like the United States and United Kingdom, but not among poorer families. The levels are still very high, which means that many thousands of overweight children will have health problems as adults. In England, a third of 10- to 11-year-olds and more than a fifth of 4- to 5-year-olds are overweight or obese.

Tim Lobstein and colleagues, in one of the papers, call for governments to press the World Health Organization to take radical action so that children do not develop a taste for sweet drinks and unhealthy food. They say it should bring in a code of marketing, similar to that which prevents infant formula companies promoting their products to women in a way that deters them from breastfeeding.

“The food industry has a special interest in targeting children,” they write. “Not only can the companies influence children’s immediate dietary preferences, but they can also benefit from building taste preferences and brand loyalty early in life, which last into adulthood.”

Lobstein and colleagues calculate the money to be made by food companies from overweight children. “Fat children are an investment in future sales,” said Lobstein, from the London-based World Obesity Federation. They use data from the United States, where children are on average 5 kilograms (kg) heavier than those of 30 years ago, and so consume an extra 200 kilocalories (kcal) a day more than a child from the 1970s would have – or 73,000 kcal more per year.

The average cost of food energy is about 56 cents per 100 kcal – so 200 kcal a day implies spending an extra $1.12 a day per child, or more than $400 a year. “With about 50 million school-age children in the United States, the combined value of their excess food consumption each year approaches $20 billion. A high proportion of these children will continue over-consuming through adulthood, creating a market for the U.S. food and beverage industry, which we estimate to be worth considerably more than $60 billion each year.”

With such high sums at stake, says the paper, the food industry is likely to resist controls in the same way that the tobacco and alcohol industries have.

Children’s poor nutrition worldwide, including in the United Kingdom, leads to stunting as well as obesity. It is not only in poor countries that stunting, poor growth in children eating food without sufficient nutrients, exists side by side with obesity. The authors point out that the national school measurement program in England shows children in poor households are not only likely to be fatter, but also shorter than children in affluent families.

To protect the health of children, there must be “substantial change in the governance of food supplies, controls on commercial competition, and measures to promote and protect healthy food supplies,” they say.

“Food supply targets cannot be left to the whim of multinational food companies, commodity markets, and speculative financiers, but will need to be kept under tight supervision and regulation.”

In the lead paper in the series, Dr. Christina Roberto, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the United States and colleagues say that obesity is too often simplistically pitched as a competition between personal responsibility and state intervention or government regulation versus industry’s voluntary controls.

“Our understanding of obesity must be completely reframed if we are to halt and reverse the global obesity epidemic. On one hand, we need to acknowledge that individuals bear some responsibility for their health, and on the other hand recognize that today’s food environments exploit people’s biological, psychological, and social and economic vulnerabilities, making it easier for them to eat unhealthy foods,” she said.

“It’s time to realize that this vicious cycle of supply and demand for unhealthy foods can be broken with ‘smart food policies’ by governments alongside joint efforts from industry and civil society to create healthier food systems.”

A third paper examines the U.K. government’s public health responsibility deal with the food industry, however, and finds it lacks any means of monitoring or verifying the calorie-cutting pledges of food and drinks companies. That is “problematic and substantially reduces the credibility of the self-reported information provided by companies,” say Boyd Swinburn, from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and colleagues.

“The government has yet to publicly implement an action plan to hold non-compliant and under-performing companies to account,” they say. An independently appointed body or ombudsman is needed “to monitor the fidelity of the U.K. government’s provision of incentives and disincentives to industry and the enforcement of policies, regulations, and laws.”

The Food and Drink Federation has a policy position on its website with regard to the responsibility deal: “We support the responsibility deal as providing an effective framework within which government, industry, NGOs, and health professionals can debate issues honestly and work together effectively to tackle public health challenges.”


Original source:

Back to Top

Nutrition panel calls for less sugar and eases cholesterol and fat restrictions

Feb. 19, 2015, The New York Times (Well Blog)

By Anahad O’Connor

A nutrition advisory panel that helps shape the country’s official dietary guidelines eased some of its previous restrictions on fat and cholesterol on Feb. 19 and recommended sharp new limits on the amount of added sugar that Americans should consume. To be healthy, adults should take 10,000 steps per day or at least that’s the popular notion.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which convenes every five years, followed the lead of other major health groups like the American Heart Association that in recent years have backed away from dietary cholesterol restrictions and urged people to cut back on added sugars.

The panel said that Americans were eating too much salt, sugar, and saturated fat, and not enough foods that fit a “healthy dietary pattern,” like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and moderate levels of alcohol. Members of the panel said they wanted Americans to focus less on individual nutrients and more on overall patterns of eating, such as a Mediterranean-style diet, which is associated with lower rates of heart disease and stroke.

The panel singled out added sugars as one of its major concerns. Previous dietary guidelines have included warnings about eating too much added sugar, but for the first time the panel recommended that Americans limit it to no more than 10 percent of daily calories — roughly 12 teaspoons a day for many adults — because of its link to obesity and chronic disease.

Americans consume 22-30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices, and other sugary drinks. The panel said sugary drinks should be removed from schools, and it endorsed a rule proposed by the Food and Drug Administration that would require a distinct line for added sugars on food nutrition labels, a change the food and sugar industries have aggressively fought.

Many experts, including some who disagreed with the panel’s cautions on salt and saturated fat, applauded its stronger stance on added sugars.

“That was one of the high points of these guidelines, and something that was sorely needed,” said Dr. Ronald M. Krauss, the director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute. “There is a striking excess of added sugar intake in all age groups across the population.”

Dr. Krauss, the former chairman of the American Heart Association’s dietary guidelines committee, said that the advisory panel’s emphasis on overall dietary patterns was “a tremendous move in the right direction.” As part of that move, the panel dropped a suggestion from the previous guidelines that Americans restrict their total fat intake to 35 percent of their daily calories.

Since they were first issued in 1980, the guidelines have largely encouraged people to follow a low-fat diet, which prompted an explosion of processed foods stripped of fat and loaded with sugar. Studies show that replacing fat with refined carbohydrates like bread, rice, and sugar can actually worsen cardiovascular health, so the guidelines encourage Americans to focus not on the amount of fat they are eating but on the type.

The guidelines advise people to eat unsaturated fat — the kind found in fish, nuts, and olive and vegetable oils — in place of saturated fat, which occurs primarily in animal foods.

The panel also dropped a longstanding recommendation that Americans restrict their intake of dietary cholesterol from foods like eggs and shrimp — a belated acknowledgment of decades of research showing that dietary cholesterol has little or no effect on the blood cholesterol levels of most people.

“For many years, the cholesterol recommendation has been carried forward, but the data just doesn’t support it,” said Alice H. Lichtenstein, the vice chairwoman of the advisory panel and a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University.

Dr. Krauss said that some people experience a rise in blood cholesterol after eating yolks and other cholesterol-rich foods. But these “hyper-responders” are such a minority — roughly a few percent of the population — that they do not justify broad restrictions on cholesterol intake.

The advisory panel does not issue the official guidelines. Its report is sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years. The agencies usually adhere very closely to the panel’s recommendations.

Although consumers rarely pay direct attention to the guidelines, they nonetheless influence the diets of tens of millions of people. The guidelines shape the menus of the school lunch program, which feeds more than 30 million children each school day, and they are incorporated into national food assistance programs like Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The advisory panel included the vegetarian diet as an example of what it called a healthy eating pattern, noting that a plant-based diet is also more sustainable, with less of an impact on the environment. But critics questioned whether the guidelines might overstep the mandate to focus on health and nutrition.


Original source:

Back to Top

Obesity in preschoolers may be declining

Feb. 10, 2015, Medscape

By Jenni Laidman

Trends from multiple studies suggest preschoolers in the United States may be bridging a caloric gap, researchers report in a commentary published online Feb. 9 in Pediatrics. The results suggest the recent decline in obesity rates in 2- to 5-year-olds may continue.

The caloric gap estimates how many calories children must eliminate from their daily diet to bring obesity rates down to the 1970s pre-obesity epidemic levels. Among children aged 2 to 5 years, the gap is about 30 kilocalories (kcal) daily.

Such a calorie reduction may be behind the findings from two national surveys that showed declining obesity rates among preschoolers in recent years, note William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, director of the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University, Washington, DC, and Christina D. Economos, PhD, director of the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts.

Dr. Dietz and Dr. Economos considered both the most recent report of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PedNSS) annual state-based survey of 2- to 4-year-old low-income children. Both surveys showed a trend toward declining obesity among preschool-age children.

The NHANES database demonstrated a statically significant 5.5 percent decrease in obesity prevalence among 2- to 5-year-olds between 2003 and 2004 and 2011 and 2012, after declines in 2008 and 2009, the authors note. No change in obesity rates occurred in other age groups. In 2008 and 2011, PedNSS found a significant decrease in the absolute prevalence of obesity, averaging 0.7 percent in 18 states in 2008 and 2011.

Supporting these data, studies from six states and 14 communities also reported a decline in childhood obesity prevalence similar to that seen in PedNSS, the authors report.

“I continue to be encouraged,” Sarah E. Barlow, MD, MPH, told Medscape Medical News, when asked about the new analysis.

“I have my fingers crossed that we’ll continue to see this with the next round of NHANES results,” continued Dr. Barlow, who is an associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the Center for Childhood Obesity at Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston.

The authors report, “If current trends in decreased fast food and sugar drink consumption continue, and as the current cohort of 2- to 5-year-old children ages, we might anticipate further declines in the prevalence of childhood obesity. However, the greater declines observed in white children compared with other ethnic groups emphasize that intensified efforts to identify and implement effective strategies to address ethnic disparities are essential.”

The authors point to a number of trends that may have contributed to the decline in obesity prevalence in the younger set and helped toddlers bridge the caloric gap. For instance, the authors cite a 2013 report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition estimating that between 1990 to 2000 and 2009 to 2010, the daily intake of sugary beverages fell by 68 kcal in 2- to 5-year olds. In addition, between 2003 to 2004 and 2007 to 2008, children aged 2 to 11 years reduced the number of calories they consumed at fast food restaurants by 64 calories.

Although children in other age groups also reduced calories in those time frames, they faced larger gaps. Those aged 6 to 11 years need to cut consumption by 150 kcal daily to lower obesity rates to 1970s levels, and 12- to 19-year-olds have a 180 kcal gap to close. Children aged 6 to 11 years cut sugary drink consumption by 71 kcal, and children aged 12 to 19 years reduced sugary beverages by 84 kcal. Children aged 12 to 19 years reduced fast food consumption by only 14 kcal, the authors report.

The authors also note that another contributor to the preschooler weight loss could be the inclusion of fruits and vegetables in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children food packages, which began in 2009. The program also now includes whole grains and 2 percent milk. Another possible contributor is a reduction in the calorie supply. Last year, the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation announced a 6.4 trillion calorie reduction by companies that supply 36 percent of the calories sold in the United States, which adds up to nearly 80 kcal per person per day, the authors report.

Although praising the commentary and calling the recent decline in pediatric obesity “encouraging,” Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, told Medscape Medical News that it is important to remember the limitations of the cited studies, including sample size. Dr. Wang is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health in the State University of New York at Buffalo and chair of the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

“Mainly, the decline is just observed in preschool age children, but not in older children. Most of the data used are collected from very small samples,” he said, noting that although the studies were designed to provide a nationally representative estimate, “it’s of doubt how nationally representative the related estimates are, in fact.”

Further, Dr. Wang said, declining obesity in low-income populations could be a result of an increase in the number of children from minority and immigrant groups. “Some of them may be likely to have lower weight than other groups of children,” he noted.

He said first lady Michele Obama’s efforts addressing childhood obesity also may have mobilized some parents. “Such efforts have drawn more parents’ attention, and may have affected their parenting regarding their children,” he said. “Likely young kids, but not the older ones, are more responsive to such efforts by the parents.”


Original source:

Back to Top

Impact of a supermarket on children’s diets

Feb. 26, 2015, MedicalXpress

Locating full-service supermarkets within neighborhoods considered to be “food deserts” may not result in healthful dietary habits or reductions in childhood obesity—at least in the short term, according to a new study by New York University Langone Medical Center researchers in the Feb. 26 online edition of the journal Public Health Nutrition.

Researcher Brian D. Elbel, PhD, MPH, associate professor of population health and colleagues compared two neighborhoods in the Bronx: Morrisania, where a new, government supported, full-service supermarket was placed, and Highbridge, where no new market was built. Caregivers of young children 3- to 10-years-old and living in those neighborhoods were surveyed. Shopping and consumption information was collected from them prior to the opening of the market, five weeks after it opened, and again one year after the store opened.

The researchers analyzed 2,172 street intercept surveys and 363 dietary recalls from a sample of predominantly low-income minorities. They found that while there were small, inconsistent changes in diet over the time periods, there were no appreciable differences in availability of healthful or unhealthful foods at home, or in children’s dietary intake as a result of the presence of the supermarket.

Low-income and minority children are disproportionately affected by obesity, and children residing in low-income and minority neighborhoods are less likely to have access to healthful food options than children living in wealthier neighborhoods. Full-service supermarkets, which tend to offer greater varieties of fresh, affordable fruit and vegetables, are less available in low-income communities. However fast food restaurants, small grocers, and bodegas that generally sell higher calorie, nutritionally-poor foods and beverages are more prevalent in poorer neighborhoods than in wealthier ones.

Many have hoped that greater access to healthful food retail outlets could reduce the incidence of childhood obesity. However these efforts have not been evaluated for their impact on household food availability or for changes in dietary patterns amongst children residing in the target communities. This is the first controlled study (including a comparison group) to evaluate the impact of a government-subsidized supermarket on food consumption for children.

According to the research findings, the introduction of a government-subsidized supermarket did not result in significant changes in household food availability or children’s dietary intake, at least one year after opening for the neighborhood as a whole.

“Low-income and ethnic minority neighborhoods are underserved by supermarkets relative to their higher-income counterparts, and it would appear to be logical that increasing availability of healthful foods could improve diets,” said Dr. Elbel. “However, we do not yet know whether or under what circumstances these stores will improve diet and health. Food choice is complex, and the easy availability of lower-priced processed foods and pervasiveness of junk food marketing have implications for behavior change as well.

New supermarkets may play an important role, and further work is needed to determine how these policies might be best structured.”

Dr. Elbel points out that further research is needed to determine whether healthy food retail expansion can improve food choices of children and their families, including where best to place these stores, under what circumstances they will be successful, and with what other policies or programs they should be coupled.


Original source:

Back to Top

Burger King pulls soda from kids meal menu

March 10, 2015, U.S. News & World Report

By Kimberly Leonard

Kids who want soda with their burgers or chicken nuggets and fries are going to have to look extra hard to find it.

Burger King has now joined the ranks of fast-food chains that are dropping soda from their menus for kids.

Though children will still have the option of ordering soda if they want to, the default kids menu will not list or market it. Instead, kids will be able to get fat-free milk, low-fat chocolate milk or 100 percent apple juice. The move occurred a month ago, but Burger King has not announced the change until now.

McDonald’s and Wendy’s – two other big burger vendors – also have made the change.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, soda is the leading source of calories in children’s diets, and its consumption promotes diabetes, tooth decay, obesity, and heart disease.

The menu changes by fast-food joints come amid growing pressure from parent and nutrition groups. In recent years, the federal government has been raising awareness about childhood obesity, which affects 18 percent of American kids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Congress in 2010 passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to address nutrition content in school breakfasts, lunches and vending machines, and first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign has shined a spotlight on the issue.

“While this is a great first step – we urge all fast-food restaurants to further improve upon their healthy options for children and adults by serving whole grain rolls, offering more fruit and vegetable options, reducing sodium across the menu, and adopting a comprehensive policy to limit the marketing of unhealthy food to children,” Monifa Bandale, senior campaign director of the Food Power project for grassroots organization, said in a statement on the move by Burger King.


Original source:

Back to Top

Childhood obesity risk increases when mother is obese, smokes

Feb. 2, 2015, Medical Daily

By Dana Dovey

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years. Aside from the psychological effects that extra weight can have on a child, it is also a serious physical health concern. Obesity puts young people at a significantly increased risk for multiple conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and bone and joint problems. Interestingly, research continues to show that much of childhood obesity is actually predetermined by events that occur even before conception. A recent study has confirmed five factors can contribute to future obesity in a woman’s unborn child, many of which occur even before conception. Researchers hope that by making these factors well known, women will consciously prepare their bodies for pregnancy.

Obesity is not as simple as overeating. Other factors play a role in this debilitating and life-threatening condition. Scientists from the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton in England pointed out five risks factors of a pregnancy and early life that increased a child’s risk of obesity. These include: breastfeeding for less than a month, mother’s obesity at time of pregnancy, mother gaining excess weight during pregnancy, mother’s smoking habits, and a low vitamin D level.

In a study now published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers analyzed data from 991 children in order to determine just how many of these factors influenced a child’s weight in later life. For example, at age 4, children with four or five of these factors were 3.99 times more likely to be overweight or obese than children who had experienced none, and fat mass was, on average, 19 percent higher, the press release reported. Two years later, these children were nearly five times more likely to be overweight or obese and had an average fat mass 47 percent higher than their peers. According to the researchers, these numbers remained the same even when factors such as the children’s diet and average exercise were taken into account.

“Early life may be a ‘critical period’ when appetite and regulation of energy balance are programmed, which has lifelong consequences for the risk of gaining excess weight,” explained lead researcher Dr. Sian Robinson in the press release. Robinson explained, based on the evidence found, early prevention against childhood obesity needs to start even before the child is conceived, and that having “a healthy body weight and not smoking at this time could be key.

It’s not just that the fat or toxins are passed from mother to child in-vitro; it’s believed that these lifestyle choices of the mother can actually affect her unborn child’s DNA. Known as epigenetic changes, it’s been observed that certain non-biological factors influence how DNA is expressed, and these changes can then be passed on from mother to offspring.

“The reality is we can now say with great certainty that the child doesn’t quite start from scratch — they already carry over a legacy of factors from their parents’ experiences that can shape development in the fetus and after birth,” Dr. Sarah Robertson from the University of Adelaide wrote in Science last year, commenting on how a mother’s lifestyle influences her children, the Daily Mail reported.

A recent study found that one of the most effective ways to get pregnant women to quit smoking was by giving them a prize. The U.K. study found that 23 percent of women quit smoking during their pregnancy if they were offered a financial incentive, either in the form of a coupon or gift card. Along with helping women to kick the habit, it was also found that women who received an incentive experienced fewer cravings, although the residual urge to relapse remained.

As for obesity during pregnancy, this issue is of particular concern, since, according to the Daily Mail, almost half women of child-bearing age are overweight or obese. More than 15 percent are in the “dangerously overweight” category. Obesity, both prior to conception and during the pregnancy, is not only a heath concern for the unborn child, but also the mother. Obese pregnant women experience greater risk of a number of conditions, including: gestational diabetes, infection, sleep apnea, labor problems, and even increased risk of miscarrying.

It’s advised by the Institute of Medicine that women who were not considered overweight prior to their pregnancy gain between 25-35 pounds. However, for overweight women, it’s advised that they gain only between 15-25 pounds. These are only suggestions, however, and it’s best that women who are either pregnant or looking to become pregnant speak with their doctor on what the best weight gain plan for their specific body may be, in order to ensure the health of both mother and baby. Working out a proper diet plan with the help of a doctor will also ensure that both mother and baby are getting adequate amounts of vitamin D.

Decreases in time spent breastfeeding is largely a cultural problem. None of the top 10 countries with the highest breastfeeding rates exist in Europe or North America, suggesting social trends have an influence on a woman’s decision to breastfeed or not. The Wall Street Journal reported that in the United States the percentage of women who breastfeed is below public health goals. The researchers hope that their study will help aid the effort already being taken by public health officials in order to encourage more women to breastfeed.


Original source:

Back to Top

Residential treatment program helps obese kids lose weight

Feb. 9, 2015, HealthDay

By Randy Dotinga

Extremely obese kids in an intensive 10-month residential treatment program lost more weight than their counterparts, and appeared to reverse artery damage that could lead to clogged arteries and heart disease, according to a new study from Belgium.

The obese children in the intervention program lost about 60 pounds. Meanwhile, children who received standard diet and exercise counseling gained more than 16 pounds, according to the study.

In the big picture, the study proves that “cardiovascular risk in highly obese children can be reduced through a residential treatment program focusing on diet and exercise,” said study lead author Dr. Luc Bruyndonckx, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Antwerp, Antwerp University Hospital.

The study was published online Feb. 9 in the journal Pediatrics.

An estimated one in three children in the United States is overweight or obese, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As many as 70 percent of obese kids aged 5 to 17 already have at least one risk factor for heart disease, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, the CDC noted.

In the new Belgian study, researchers tracked 33 kids (24 girls and nine boys, with an average age of 15) for 10 months while they lived in a residential weight-loss facility. Researchers also tracked 28 similarly obese kids encouraged to reduce calories and exercise at home. By the end of the 10-month study, six children dropped out of the residential intervention and seven dropped out of the usual care group.

To be included in the study, children younger than 16 had to have a body mass index (BMI) in the 97th percentile for their age and gender. This means they were more obese than 97 percent of their peers. BMI is an estimate of a person’s body fat levels. Anything higher than 30 is considered obese, according to the CDC. Children older than 16 had to have a BMI of 35 or higher to be included in the study.

Kids in the program “start treatment during the summer holiday and start school in September in the center,” Bruyndonckx said. “Treatment lasts until June the following year. Over the weekend, children go back to their parents.”

The children in the program were only allowed to eat 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day. They also had to participate in physical activity every day and get mental health support.

Weight, body fat levels, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure all improved in the children who took part in the residential program. In addition, the study was the first to show that obese children can reverse damage to the arteries that’s considered the first step toward clogged arteries, Bruyndonckx said.

The study did not include any long-term information on the children, so it’s unknown if they were able to keep the weight off and sustain the improvements in their blood vessel health.

A significant concern is the cost of the program. The researchers estimated that the residential program costs about $260 per child, per day. However, Bruyndonckx pointed out that obese adults are also expensive to society.

“We do believe that there is a place for residential treatment for motivated adolescents and children with severe obesity” for whom regular treatment isn’t sufficient, Bruyndonckx said.

Dr. Caroline Apovian, a professor of medicine and pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, said the study appears to be valid. It’s significant because it shows the reversal of the artery problems, she said.

“Endothelial dysfunction is the beginning of heart disease, which is striking to see in an adolescent,” Apovian said.

“This matters a lot in the long run as long as the weight loss is maintained,” she added.


Original source:

Back to Top