Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Fast food restaurant chains have slowed down televised advertisements, but they are ramping up efforts to market to younger customers by using social media outlets, according to a new study by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. More from Time.com:
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The researchers studied 18 of the top fast food chains in the U.S. and documented the changes in the nutritional quality of the food they served, as well as their marketing campaigns to kids and teens on TV and online.
Since 2010, kids between the ages of 6 to 11 saw 10% fewer TV ads for fast foods, and more of these ads included healthier meals, such as fruit snacks and salads.
But the positive trend also hid some less encouraging news. While the youngest kids were seeing fewer TV ads, older kids and teens still saw about three to five fast food advertisements on television every day. Appeals to teens on social media also surged, and while children saw more advertisements for healthier fast food options, these made up only a quarter of the fast food ads viewed by these kids, and only 1% of kids’ meals at these chains met healthy nutritional standards.
The results highlight the challenge that families face in improving children’s diets, as such enticements to consume high calorie, high fat meals continue to surround them. A recent study published in the journal PLOS One reported, for example, that fast food ads targeting kids were more likely to include toys and giveaways, which are a nearly irresistible draw for younger kids. And research suggests that these types of marketing campaigns seed lasting emotional connections to brands, making children more likely to continue eating at fast food chains and take their own families there as adults.
Monday, November 4th, 2013
Kraft Foods has announced that it will remove Yellow #5 and Yellow #6, two food dyes that give its famous Macaroni & Cheese its iconic yellow color, from its 2014 character-shaped product line. The move comes after a petition bearing more than 50,000 signatures asked the company to remove the dyes to protect kids’ health. The petition cited research linking the artificial dyes with ailments from migraine headaches to asthma. More on Kraft’s announcement from CNN.com:
Kraft has revamped its character-shaped product line for 2014, according to company spokeswoman Lynne Galia. The new versions will have six additional grams of whole grains, be lower in sodium and saturated fat, and will use spices instead of artificial food dyes to recreate the pasta’s famous yellow-orange color.
“Parents have told us that they would like fun Mac & Cheese varieties with the same great taste, but with improved nutrition,” Galia said in an e-mail.
The company will remove Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 from boxes containing pasta shaped like SpongeBob SquarePants and those with Halloween and winter shapes. Two new shapes of the popular pasta — Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and “How to Train Your Dragon 2″ from Dreamworks — will also be free of food coloring, Galia said.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest hailed Kraft’s decision on Friday. Michael Jacobson, the center’s executive director, said he is pleased with the announcement but is “puzzled” as to why Kraft would not change its iconic elbow-shaped macaroni product as well.
“As Kraft has today shown, it is clearly possible to make macaroni and cheese without these harmful chemicals,” Jacobson said in a statement.
Image: Yellow macaroni and cheese, via Shutterstock
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Friday, October 18th, 2013
A diet heavy in bacon and other processed meats may raise a man’s risk of having poor sperm and semen quality, whereas a diet rich in fish could boost male fertility, according to a new study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. More from CNN:
Myriam Afeiche, research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, and her colleagues looked at how types of meat could be associated with semen quality. They took samples from 156 men at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center in Boston and had the men answer a questionnaire about their eating habits.
What does semen have to look like to be considered high-quality? The researchers considered four main parameters:
The concentration of sperm is one part of it. So is motility, or how fast the sperm move. The shape of the sperm also matters, as does the total sperm count – that’s the concentration multiplied by volume.
The researchers did not look at individual kinds of processed meat, so this study won’t tell you if bacon could be more sperm-stunting than hamburgers, or vice versa. But higher intake of processed meat appeared to be related to a lower percent of “morphologically normal” – or well-shaped – sperm.
Regarding fish, it seemed that men who ate more dark meat fish – such as salmon, bluefish and tuna – had higher total sperm count; more white meat fish – such as cod and halibut – was associated with normally-shaped sperm.
The researchers only looked at associations, not causes. It is unclear whether processed meat actually causes changes in sperm, or if it does, how that would happen. It’s possible men who eat more processed meat have an unhealthier diet overall, which could affect their semen. Same goes for fish intake and sperm; researchers don’t know what about fish may benefit the littler swimmers.
“There might be something else going on, but we’re not sure what it is,” Afeiche said.
Trying to get pregnant? Find out if you are maximizing your fertility, or predict your due date.
Image: Bacon, via Shutterstock
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Monday, October 7th, 2013
In theory, chicken nuggets should contain…chicken. But everyone who has ever eaten or fed their children the popular foods has probably wondered at some point whether that’s what they’re eating. Researchers at the University of Mississippi took a scientific look at samples from several fast-food restaurants, and found, alarmingly, that only 50 percent of the average nugget’s contents is actual muscle tissue, what most people would think of as “chicken meat.” More from Reuters:
The nuggets came from two national fast food chains in Jackson. The three researchers selected one nugget from each box, preserved, dissected and stained the nuggets, then looked at them under a microscope.
The first nugget was about half muscle, with the rest a mix of fat, blood vessels and nerves. Close inspection revealed cells that line the skin and internal organs of the bird, the authors write in the American Journal of Medicine.
The second nugget was only 40 percent muscle, and the remainder was fat, cartilage and pieces of bone.
“We all know white chicken meat to be one of the best sources of lean protein available and encourage our patients to eat it,” lead author Dr. Richard D. deShazo of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, said.
“What has happened is that some companies have chosen to use an artificial mixture of chicken parts rather than low-fat chicken white meat, batter it up and fry it and still call it chicken,” deShazo told Reuters Health.
“It is really a chicken by-product high in calories, salt, sugar and fat that is a very unhealthy choice. Even worse, it tastes great and kids love it and it is marketed to them.”
The nuggets he examined would be okay to eat occasionally, but he worries that since they are cheap, convenient and taste good, kids eat them often. His own grandchildren “beg” for chicken nuggets all the time, and he compromises by making them at home by pan-frying chicken breasts with a small amount of oil, deShazo said.
Image: Chicken nuggets, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013
A government program that provides millions of low-income pregnant women, mothers, and children with money and education to help them eat nutritious foods is on the list of agencies that will lose funding as part of the partial government shutdown. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, provides families with children under 5 nutritious meals in an effort to stave off learning disabilities and other health effects of premature birth and other complications. More on the shutdown’s effects on the program from CNN Money:
“No additional federal funds would be available,” to continue the program in the event of a shutdown, the United States Department of Agriculture, which runs WIC, said on its website. “States may have some funds available … to continue operations for a week or so, but states would likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period.”
There are just under nine million women and children on the program, according to USDA. The average monthly benefit is about $45.
That often comes on top of about $135 a month in food stamp benefits. WIC benefits mandate the money can only be spent on an approved list of healthy foods.
Suspending the program is a terrible idea, said Rev. Douglas Greenaway, head of the National WIC Association, which represents the regional offices that administer the programs.
While a suspension would only be temporary, it would send the wrong message to mothers, and perhaps convincing some that it’s not worth signing up for, he said.
Greenaway said the program actually saves taxpayers money.
It costs $20,000 per pound to bring a premature child up to normal weight, he said. All told, for every $1 spent the program saves $4.21 in medical costs, he said.
Image: Mother feeding baby, via Shutterstock
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