Thursday, August 29th, 2013
A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that schools are making some strides in helping kids make healthy choices. The report revealed a jump in the number of schools phasing out junk foods, and found more elementary schools offering gym classes. More from The Washington Post:
[A]fter years of efforts to phase out junk food like candy and chips, the percentage of school districts that prohibited such food in vending machines increased from 29.8 percent in 2006 to 43.4 percent in 2012, according to the CDC’s 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study. Also, slightly more than half of school districts – up from about 35 percent in 2000 — made information available to families on the nutrition and caloric content of foods available to students.
“Schools play a critical role in the health and well-being of our youth,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, in the news release. “Good news for students and parents — more students have access to healthy food, better physical fitness activities through initiatives such as ‘Let’s Move,’ and campuses that are completely tobacco free.”
Since 2000, the number of school districts that require elementary schools to teach physical education increased. In addition, the number of districts entering into agreements with local YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs or local parks and recreation departments went up, according to the study.
Meanwhile, the percentage of districts with policies that prohibited all tobacco use during any school-related activity increased from 46.7 percent in 2000 to 67.5 percent in 2012.
The CDC study is a periodic, national survey that examines key components of school health at the state, district, school, and classroom level, including health education; physical education and activity; health services; mental health and social services; nutrition services; healthy and safe school environment; faculty and staff health promotion; and family and community involvement.
Image: Student in cafeteria, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
For the first time, and after six years of debate, the US Food and Drug Administration has agreed to regulate what a label of “gluten free” means on foods. Before the new guidelines, food manufacturers could include traces of gluten at their discretion. The news will come as a relief to parents whose children are diagnosed with celiac disease, or who have other gluten intolerances. More from The Associated Press:
Under an FDA rule announced Friday, products labeled “gluten free” still won’t have to be technically free of wheat, rye and barley and their derivatives. But they almost will: “Gluten-free” products will have to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
That amount is generally recognized by the medical community to be low enough that most people who have celiac disease won’t get sick if they eat it.
People who suffer from celiac disease don’t absorb nutrients well and can get sick from the gluten found in wheat and other cereal grains. Other countries already have similar standards.
Celiac disease affects up to 3 million Americans. It causes abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea, and people who have it can suffer weight loss, fatigue, rashes and other long-term medical problems. Celiac is a diagnosed illness that is more severe than gluten sensitivity, which some people self-diagnose.
Only a very small number of people wouldn’t be able to ingest the amount of gluten that will be allowed under the new rule, FDA officials said.
“Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said. “The FDA’s new ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people with this condition make food choices with confidence and allow them to better manage their health.”
The rule would also ensure that foods with the labels “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” meet the definition. Manufacturers will have a year to comply, but the FDA urged companies to meet the definition sooner.
Image: Gluten free sign, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Children as young as five are at a heightened risk of being obese if they regularly drink sugary beverages such as sodas, juices, and sports drinks, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Children who drink sweet drinks less often are less likely to be obese, according to the study. More from Reuters:
Although the link between sugary drinks and extra weight has been well documented among teens and adults, researchers said that up until now, the evidence was less clear for young children.
“Even though sugar-sweetened beverages are relatively a small percentage of the calories that children take in, that additional amount of calories did contribute to more weight gain over time,” said Dr. Mark DeBoer, who led the study at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
He and his colleagues surveyed the parents of a nationally-representative group of 9,600 children when the kids were two, four and five years old. The children were all born in 2001. Parents reported on their income and education, as well as how often children drank sugary beverages and watched TV.
The children and their mothers were weighed at each survey visit.
The proportion of kids who had at least one soda, sports drink or sugar-sweetened juice drink each day ranged from 9 to 13 percent, depending on their age.
Those children were more likely to have an overweight mother and to watch at least two hours of TV each day at age four and five.
After accounting for those influences as well as families’ socioeconomic status, the researchers found five-year-olds who had at least one sugary drink each day were 43 percent more likely to be obese than those who drank the beverages less frequently or not at all.
Kids were considered obese if they had a body mass index – a measure of weight in relation to height – above the 95th percentile for their age and gender, as calculated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Image: Child drinking sweet beverage, via Shutterstock
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Monday, August 5th, 2013
Half of American new mothers now breastfeed their newborns for the recommended period of at least six months, according to data analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More from Today.com:
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It’s a big increase from just 35 percent in 2000 and is good news for babies and moms alike, as breastfeeding boosts the immune system, may lower the risk of obesity and is even linked with higher intelligence.
“This is great news for the health of our nation because babies who are breastfed have lower risks of ear and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes and obesity, and mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that newborns get nothing but breastmilk until they are six months old. The AAP recommends that mothers continue to breastfeed, along with giving other food, after six months for at least a year or even longer “as mutually desired by mother and infant.”
Studies show that babies given nothing but breastmilk for the first four months of life have a 72 percent lower risk of severe pneumonia and other lower respiratory tract infections for their first year. If moms stop breastfeeding between four and six months, their babies have four times the risk of pneumonia compared to moms who breastfeed for a year or longer.
Breastmilk contains the nutrients that a newborn baby needs and also transfers disease-fighting antibodies from mother to baby – something that’s very important for the first few months before an infant can be vaccinated. There’s also a growing body of evidence that beneficial bacteria, and perhaps also viruses and fungi, from a mother’s milk and skin can affect her baby’s health.
AAP, breast milk, breastfeeding, cancer, CDC, intelligence, newborns, nutrition, obesity | Categories:
Child Health, Parents News Now, Trends
Wednesday, July 31st, 2013
As part of a campaign to combat childhood obesity in New York City, two area hospitals have begun a pilot program that involves sending kids home from exams with prescriptions for fruits, vegetables, and other healthy choices. More from Time.com:
Pediatricians at Lincoln Medical Center and Harlem Hospital are sending young children who visit the hospital for obesity treatment home with prescriptions to eat one more serving of fruits and vegetables each day. The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription (FVRx), a four month pilot program, allows the patients with prescriptions to get coupons for fresh produce at farmers markets and the city’s green carts.
With more pediatricians treating kids for diseases formerly only seen in adults, some hospitals, feeling pressure to address one of the leading causes of health problems in their communities, are taking the lead in finding better ways to encourage children to eat better and exercise more.
Image: Tomatoes, via Shutterstock
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