December 2023


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NCCOR Needs Your Help! New Communication Campaign Promotes Sleep Variables in the Catalogue of Surveillance Systems

December, NCCOR

Join NCCOR’s new campaign to advance sleep-related research! Recently, NCCOR added 36 new sleep variables to our signature tool, the Catalogue of Surveillance Systems (CSS). This expansion streamlines research efforts into the emerging area of sleep and obesity research and ultimately supports more effective interventions and public health strategies.

Here are five ways you can help:

  1. Share our Factsheet: Distribute our new factsheet that details the addition of sleep variables and their relevance in childhood obesity research.
  2. Engage on Social Media: Share our social media graphic and message to let others in your network know about this exciting update.
  3. Host Webinars or Workshops: Utilize this opportunity to host educational sessions focusing on the importance of sleep variables in research.
  4. Include in Newsletters or Blogs: Feature the update about sleep variables in your newsletters, e-mail lists, or message forums.
  5. Discuss in Meetings: Introduce the new sleep variables during staff meetings or professional gatherings.

The CSS, launched in 2011, has grown to include over 100 surveillance systems relevant to childhood obesity research. Recognizing the intricate relationship between sleep patterns and childhood obesity, we’ve introduced sleep variables, including physical and social sleep environments, sleep duration and quantity, disturbances, quality, and regularity. This crucial addition fills a gap, allowing researchers and public health professionals to navigate datasets with greater precision.

This enhancement symbolizes NCCOR’s commitment to driving innovation in childhood obesity research. Visit today and discover how the new sleep variables can enrich your studies.

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New NCCOR Editorial Explores the Intersection of Structural Racism, Social Determinants, and Childhood Obesity

NCCOR is pleased to announce a new editorial in the journal Childhood Obesity titled, The Influence of Social Determinants of Health and Structural Racism on Childhood Obesity. It explores the relationship between social determinants of health (SDoH), structural racism, and childhood obesity and highlights gaps and opportunities for advancing measurement in this field. Through a landscape analysis and expert interviews, several measures for SDoH and structural racism (n=47) were found from multiple disciplines; however, their application to childhood obesity is limited. Expert interviews (n=5) highlighted the need for more comprehensive measures and frameworks to ensure measures are properly used in a public health context. These recommendations can also be expanded to inform research efforts to understand the multilevel factors that influence childhood obesity. The editorial is based on an earlier NCCOR report that identified measurement tools and resources to assess individual and environmental level influences on childhood obesity.

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Publications & Tools

NCCOR Toolbox: NCCOR Graphics Available for Free Online

December, NCCOR

Did you know that NCCOR offers many free graphics? Visit the NCCOR resource library and select “Graphic” from the publication type drop-down menu. There you will find social media graphics, infographics, and handouts. Looking for something specific? You can also filter by topic or sort by year. Please let us know if an NCCOR graphic helps with your next presentation, online post, or classroom lecture. We are always eager to hear your success stories!

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Deadline Approaching for Abstract Submissions to the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity’s (ISBNPA) Annual Meeting

December, NCCOR

ISBNPA is returning to the U.S., May 20-23, 2024 in Omaha, Nebraska. This international conference attracts leading researchers, academics, health professionals, students, and policymakers. Abstract submission closes on December 15 for novel research in behavioral nutrition, physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep. Conference registration is also now open, and sponsorship opportunities are still available. Visit the ISBNPA2024 website to learn more.

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USDA Tools Help Childcare Centers with Meal Planning

December, NCCOR

USDA’s Team Nutrition released menu planners to help childcare center and family day care home operators understand the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meal pattern requirements and serve high-quality breakfast meals and snacks. These tools are for use by state agencies, sponsoring organizations, and others to train providers, operators, menu planners, and other staff in meeting CACFP nutrition standards that include a greater variety of vegetables, more whole grains, and less added sugars and saturated fat. Visit their recently updated webpage to download the resources and learn more about the CACFP.

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NIH’s Data Portal Helps Advance Minority Health

December, NCCOR

Visualize data and locate information critical to identifying and understanding minority health and health disparities with the Data Portal from NIH’s National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities. The Data Portal provides resources to help prioritize the focus of research and public health efforts to reduce disparities and improve minority health at the national, state, and local levels. It provides interactive graphics and maps to assess the magnitude of health disparities, explore spatial and temporal trends, identify geographic patterns, and examine determinants along a social-ecological framework. Learn more on the HDPulse website.

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Childhood Obesity Research & News

Novel Research Unveils Methodological Approach to Study Why Some Individuals are Prone to Weight Gain, While Others Are Protected from Weight Gain

November 21, 2023, EurekAlert!

Even though it’s known that people who have a higher genetic risk for obesity generally have a higher body mass index (BMI), researchers have unveiled a new methodological approach to find out why some individuals are more susceptible to weight gain than others for reasons not related to their genetic liability to obesity, according to a study published in Obesity, The Obesity Society’s (TOS) flagship journal. The study is the first of its kind to determine in a pair of twins with large intrapair BMI differences whom of the co-twins had acquired a BMI that deviated from their genetically-informed BMI.

“This novel approach opens doors to uncover the protective and detrimental factors that precede weight gain, offering valuable insights into how people can maintain a healthy weight,” said Bram J. Berntzen, PhD, Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, University of Helsinki, Finland. Berntzen is the corresponding and first author of the study.

In previous research, scientists have studied adult monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs with large within-twin-pair differences in BMI. However, these studies were cross-sectional and did not consider the genetic pre-disposition to obesity. Earlier studies on twin pairs with large intrapair BMI differences have also not established whether the co-twin with higher or lower BMI is the one who deviates more from genetic pre-disposition. In the current research, the study’s authors investigated 36-year BMI trajectories in twins whose BMI in young adulthood was below, within or above their genetically-predicted BMI. Below prediction means resilience against weight gain while above indicates susceptibility to weight gain prior to study inclusion.

Researchers selected the twin pairs from the Older Finnish Twin Co-hort, a group consisting of twins born before 1958 and alive in 1974 in Finland. Surveys conducted in 1975 and 1981 targeted all twins in the co-hort, whereas a 1990 survey was restricted to twins born between 1930 and 1957.

Genotype data were collected mainly from the late 1990’s onwards. Based on twins participating in 1975, 3,227 complete same-sex twin pairs (34% monozygotic) around their 30’s had genotype data. The 2011 data collection targeted twins born between 1945 and 1957 with 943 of them (44% monozygotic) having genotype data.

Zygosity or twin characteristics were confirmed through genotyping information derived from blood samples. Personal characteristics were self-reported through a questionnaire. BMI was also self-reported through weight and height measurements. BMI was categorized as underweight, normal weight, overweight and obesity. The polygenic risk score for BMI was based on 996,919 common single nucleotide polymorphisms.

In monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs with large intrapair BMI differences, two-thirds of co-twins with a higher observed BMI in 1975 deviated above predicted BMI compared to one-third of co-twins with a lower BMI who deviated below prediction. Each deviating individual had a twin sibling who followed their genetic pre-disposition to obesity. Individuals below, within and above prediction in 1975 reached, respectively, normal weight, overweight and obesity by 2011, with a mean BMI increase of 4.5.

Additionally, Berntzen noted the BMI of twins when they were a young adult played an important role in whether they reached a healthy body weight after 36 years since everyone generally gained weight with aging. Berntzen added “for this reason, it’s vital to study the reasons for weight gain already during childhood before they become young adults.” Future studies may examine characteristics of children over time, calculating their genetically-informed BMI as they reach young adulthood to understand the factors affecting their weight gain trajectories, he said.

The study’s authors noted that the determinants and health implications of regular BMI trajectories instead of PRS-enriched BMI trajectories require further research.

Other authors of the study include Teemu Palviainen and Jaakko Kaprio, Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, University of Helsinki, Finland; Karri Silventoinen, Faculty of Social Sciences, Population Research Unit, University of Helsinki; and Kirsi H. Pietiläinen, Obesity Research Unit, Research Program for Clinical and Molecular Metabolism, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki and HealthyWeightHub, Endocrinology, Abdominal Center, Helsinki University Hospital, University of Helsinki.

The authors declared no conflict of interest.


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Benefits of Adolescent Fitness to Future Cardiovascular Health Possibly Overestimated

November 17, 2023, EurekAlert!

There is a well-known relationship between good physical fitness at a young age and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. However, when researchers adjusted for familial factors by means of sibling analysis, they found a weaker association, although the link between high body mass index (BMI) and cardiovascular disease remained strong. The study, which was conducted by researchers from Karolinska Institutet and other universities, is published in JAMA Network Open.

“This does not mean that fitness is irrelevant,” says the study’s last author Viktor Ahlqvist, doctoral student at the Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet. “We could still see an association, although it was weaker after taking into account factors shared by full siblings. We also think that adolescence is an important time in life for establishing good habits such as exercising and having a healthy diet.”

Challenging to Prove Causal Associations

Many observational studies have previously demonstrated links between various risk factors at a young age and cardiovascular disease in adulthood. However, whether the associations are causal is challenging to prove because of the potential influence of unaccounted genetic and environmental factors. A collaborative team including researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has therefore tried to examine if a large proportion of cardiovascular diseases in adulthood could indeed be prevented with a lower BMI, lower blood pressure, improved physical fitness or improved muscle strength in adolescence.

Sourcing data from the Swedish Military Conscription Register and other Swedish registries, the researchers identified over a million 18-year-old males and followed them for 60 years. Almost half of them were full brothers.

“The strength of our study, which makes it more reliable than many other conventional observational studies, is that we have used sibling analyses,” says the study’s first author Marcel Ballin, researcher at Uppsala University and analyst at Region Stockholm’s Centre for Epidemiology and Community Medicine. “By doing so we could examine how the relationship changes when controlling for all shared sibling factors. This includes environmental factors such as childhood environment and half of the genetics.”

High BMI Is a Strong Risk Factor

The results show that a high BMI in late adolescence was strongly associated with future cardiovascular disease, even after the researchers had controlled for shared familial factors. However, the association between physical fitness and cardiovascular disease was considerably weaker in the sibling analysis, suggesting that many previous observational studies might have overestimated the relevance of adolescent fitness to cardiovascular health later in life.

“Our conclusion is that of the risk factors studied, high BMI is the strongest individual risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and that efforts to tackle the obesity epidemic should continue to be given high priority,” says co-author Daniel Berglind, docent at the Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet. “A good level of fitness and muscle strength in adolescence doesn’t seem as crucial, but physical activity still remains important for public health, as it can bring other health benefits.”

Several limitations

The study examined the association between risk factors at a young age and future cardiovascular disease; other disease outcomes were not investigated. The researchers had no data on whether the participants’ risk factors varied later in life, and they only studied men, which makes it difficult to extend their findings to women. The Military Conscription Register also lacks details on certain risk factors for future cardiovascular disease, such as diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, blood lipids and blood glucose.

The researchers received no specific grant for this study. Co-author Martin Neovius is on the advisory panels for Ethicon, Johnson & Johnson and Itrim and has been a consultant for the Swedish armed forces outside the scope of this study. No other conflicts of interest have been reported.


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USDA Nutrition Incentives Improve Access to Healthy Food

November 13, 2023, U.S. Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced an investment of more than $52 million to improve dietary health and access to fresh fruits and vegetables for eligible families.

The funds support efforts across three National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) competitive grant programs that make up the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP). The program is named in honor of the former USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (1997 to 2001).

“USDA is delivering on its promise to bolster food and nutrition security for underserved communities,” said USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young. “Investments like this enable people to afford and eat healthy fresh fruits and vegetables so they don’t have to make a choice between healthy eating and cheaper less healthier options.”

GusNIP’s three grant programs include Nutrition Incentive, Produce Prescription and the Nutrition Incentive Program Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation and Information (NTAE) Center. By bringing together stakeholders from various parts of the food and health care systems, GusNIP projects help foster understanding to improve the health and nutritional status of participating households, facilitate growth in underrepresented communities and geographies, and aggregate data to identify and improve best practices on a broad scale.

“GusNIP has provided over $270 million in funding to nearly 200 projects throughout the U.S. since its 2019 launch and participants are consistently reporting increased fruit and vegetable intake as a result,” said NIFA Director Dr. Manjit Misra. “This latest round of funding only strengthens the impacts these programs are having nationwide.”

Nineteen awardees are receiving GusNIP Nutrition Incentive (NI) funding totaling $41.8 million. NI projects increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by providing incentives at the point of purchase among income-eligible households participating in the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Produce Prescription awards account for $5.2 million to 11 awardees. These projects demonstrate and evaluate the impact of fresh fruit and vegetable prescriptions. The goals of the program are to increase procurement and consumption of fruits and vegetables, reduce individual and household food insecurity and reduce health care use and associated costs.

One awardee is receiving $7 million through the NTAE Center program. NTAE projects offer training, technical assistance, evaluation and informational support services.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean-energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit


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WIC is Vital – but Vastly Underutilized, Research Finds

November 3, 2023, U.S. Department of Agriculture

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, is vital to the health and well-being of nearly half of our nation’s babies, along with millions of young children up to age 5 and their mothers. Yet, recent research based on 2021 data published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service shows more than 6 million of those who are eligible for the program are missing out on its proven health benefits.

The just released study reports that an average of 12.13 million moms, babies, and young children were eligible for WIC in 2021. However, only 51%, or 6.21 million, of those who were eligible actually participated.

A number of new findings are included in this year’s report: coverage rates by urban and poverty status; participation rates by state, race, and ethnicity; state estimates by WIC participation category, race, and ethnicity; and nonparticipation rates among Medicaid and SNAP participants.

While eligibility estimates for 2022 and 2023 are not available yet, preliminary data shows that WIC participation is rising in most states, with 6.7 million moms, babies and young kids benefitting from the program today. But sustaining that progress will depend on congressional action to maintain the longstanding bipartisan commitment to provide enough funding for WIC to serve all eligible people seeking to join the program. The Biden-Harris Administration asked Congress early this fall to fund WIC at the level needed to support this increased participation, but Congress has yet to take action on the request.

A failure to fully fund WIC this fiscal year means some states would likely need to put eligible families on waiting lists.

“We’re making progress in connecting more of our nation’s youngest children and moms with WIC’s life-changing benefits,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “It’s up to Congress to fully fund WIC this fiscal year and continue the 25-year bipartisan track record of making sure every eligible low-income mom, infant, and child seeking WIC services can get the vital nutrition they need to thrive.”

WIC provides mothers and young children with supplemental nutritious food, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, immunization screening, and important health and social services referrals. A strong body of research supports the positive impact of these benefits. For example, WIC mothers and children are more likely to eat healthy. WIC participation also results in fewer infant deaths, fewer premature births, and increased birth weights — and it is shown to reduce healthcare costs.

Recognizing these powerful outcomes, Congress has fully funded the program for decades, allowing USDA and its state agency partners to provide these robust benefits and services to all those who are eligible and wish to participate.

Congress also provided USDA with funding in the American Rescue Plan Act to modernize and strengthen the program so that it reaches more eligible families and serves them well throughout the entire time they’re eligible. FNS investments include prioritizing outreach, improving the shopping experience, investing in and diversifying the WIC workforce, and enhancing technology and service delivery.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to creating a healthier future for our country and that starts by ensuring every mom, baby and child in the U.S. receives the nutrition they need to achieve their full potential,” said Stacy Dean, deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. “By closing the WIC participation gap, we can make incredible progress on addressing hunger, nutrition and health in America.”

Learn more about how WIC builds healthy foundations and how FNS is modernizing WIC at the FNS website.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of 16 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy, released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022. To learn more about FNS, visit and follow @USDANutrition.


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