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Monday, November 11th, 2013
Children who don’t get an adequate amount of sleep each night may be at higher risk of obesity, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. More from The New York Times:
Researchers randomly divided 37 children aged 8 to 11 into two groups. Each group increased their habitual time in bed by an hour and a half per night for one week, then decreased their time by the same amount the next week. They wore electronic devices to measure sleep time, were assessed for daily food intake three times a week, and had blood tests to measure leptin, a hormone that affects hunger, and high levels of which correlate with fat tissue accumulations.
Children consumed 134 calories fewer each day during the increased sleep week than the during the week with less sleep. Fasting leptin levels were lower when the children slept more and, over all, the children’s weight averaged about a half pound less at the end of long sleep weeks than short ones.
Image: Child eating, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, November 7th, 2013
The Food and Drug Administration of the federal government has announced a that partially hydrogenated oils, which are a major source of “trans fats” in processed foods, are no longer “generally recognized as safe” in the U.S. food supply. The move is considered a first step toward a ban of the artificial fats in most foods, as CNN.com reports:
If the preliminary determination is finalized, according to the FDA, then partially hydrogenated oils will become food additives that could not be used in food without approval. Foods with unapproved additives cannot legally be sold.
Trans fat can be found in processed foods including desserts, microwave popcorn products, frozen pizza, margarine and coffee creamer, and has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Partially hydrogenated oil is formed when hydrogen is added to liquid oils to make solid fats, like shortening and margarine. It increases the shelf life and the flavor of foods. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or shortening, was used in American kitchens as early as 1911.
However, in recent years many food manufacturers have taken steps to limit or eliminate trans fat from their products.
McDonald’s, for instance, stopped cooking its french fries in trans fat more than a decade ago. The company’s website says all its fried menu items are free of trans fat.
New York City in 2007 adopted a regulation banning partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and spreads in restaurants.
Trans fat intake among American consumers decreased from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about a gram a day in 2012, according to the FDA.
However, “current intake remains a significant public health concern,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a written statement.
There is no safe level of consumption of trans fat, Hamburg said. It has been shown to raise the “bad,” or LDL, cholesterol.
Image: Margarine on bread, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be fed only formula or breast milk until they are 6 months old, but more than 90 percent of mothers are offering solid food to their babies earlier than that, with 40 percent offering solids before 4 months, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC survey, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, said the findings are “worrisome” in that babies may be at increased risk for developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, eczema, and celiac disease. More from NBC News:
The mothers who volunteered for the CDC study filled out food diaries and questionnaires designed to ferret out their opinions on why and when solid foods should be offered.
Among the moms offering solid foods to infants younger than 4 months, the most commonly cited reasons for doing so included: “My baby was old enough;” “My baby seemed hungry;” “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula,” “My baby wanted the food I ate;” “A doctor or other health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food;” and “It would help my baby sleep longer at night,” researchers reported.
What’s more, moms who fed their babies formula were far more likely to start solids too early versus those who exclusively breast-fed (53 percent versus 24 percent), the study showed.
One food expert unaffiliated with the CDC study suggested that some health-care providers may simply be unfamiliar with current baby-feeding recommendations.
“I think this is worrisome,” said Ann Condon-Meyers, a pediatric dietician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “I think it may show that word isn’t getting out that … it is 6 months before solid foods should be offered.”
Image: Baby being fed, via Shutterstock
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Friday, March 8th, 2013
Kraft Foods’ iconic macaroni and cheese is a favorite among kids, but its cheesy yellow color comes from food dyes that could be harmful to children’s health. That’s the claim made by a Change.org petition that has collected more than 50,000 signatures in an attempt to convince Kraft to refrain from using artificial food dyes Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 in their products.
Two North Carolina food bloggers, Vani Hari and Lisa Leake, started the petition after learning that a number of countries ban the chemical dyes, or require foods containing them to have a warning label. The Center for Public Interest has conducted research linking the dyes with conditions from migraine headaches to asthma.
“If an American company can take the time and expense to reformulate a safer food product for countries overseas, then I believe Americans deserve the same treatment,” said Leake, a mother of two girls and creator of the “100 Days of Real Food” website. “It’s rather shocking that we are still being fed ingredients, which are no longer used – and in some cases banned – elsewhere.”
In Europe, foods that contain Yellow #5 are required to carry a warning label. The chemical has been completely banned in Norway and Austria. In the United Kingdom, Kraft’s “Cheesey Pasta,” the British version of the American Macaroni and Cheese product, doesn’t contain artificial food dyes.
“After suffering some serious health issues, I became incredibly passionate about understanding what is in food – how it is grown, what chemicals are used in its production, and what eating food does or doesn’t do for the body,” said Hari, a popular food activist writer who has been featured in the New York Times and is a regular contributor to NBC’s Charlotte Today. “I knew I needed to do something.”
Image: Macaroni and cheese, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, March 7th, 2013
Food allergies in children seem to be getting more common, with foods like eggs and peanut butter as top culprits. New recommendations from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology urge parents to introduce highly allergenic foods, including fish, eggs, and nuts, to babies as young as ages 4 and 6 months, saying that early exposure may lower the risk of the allergy. More from the Wall Street Journal:
The recommendations are a U-turn from 2000, when the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines that children should put off having milk until age 1, eggs until 2 and peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts and fish until 3. In 2008, the AAP revised its guidelines, citing little evidence that such delays prevent the development of food allergies, but it didn’t say when and how to introduce such foods.
Food allergies affect an estimated 5% of children under the age of 5 in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The prevalence of a food allergy for children under 18 increased by 18% from 1997 to 2007.
“There’s been more studies that find that if you introduce them early it may actually prevent food allergy,” said David Fleischer, co-author of the article and a pediatric allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver. “We need to get the message out now to pediatricians, primary-care physicians and specialists that these allergenic foods can be introduced early.”
Dr. Fleischer said more study results are needed to conclusively determine whether early introduction will in fact lead to lower food-allergy rates and whether they should be recommended as a practice.
Image: Peanuts, via Shutterstock
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