Category Archives: Childhood Obesity

Nutritionally, it’s all about the first 1,000 days of life

the-importance-of-fiber-during-pregnancy-newFoodFacts.com has devoted a lot of blog space discussing the importance of children’s nutrition. We’ve certainly had plenty of good reasons for that — the obesity epidemic has affected our kids in a profound way, compromising their health and altering their young lifestyles. Much has been done in an effort to change and ultimately reverse the crisis. School lunches are under new regulations. First Lady Michelle Obama has done a wonderful job with her groundbreaking Let’s Move campaign. We’ve even seen some major manufacturers commit to ditching artificial food colors in products our children love.

But what if we started earlier in our children’s lives? What if healthy eating started, say, at conception, and lasted throughout the first 1,000 days of a child’s life?

That is what Lucy Martinez Sullivan hopes to drill into the national and international conversation with her organization, 1,000 Days. “I realized how little attention and how little money had been focused” on this stage in life, she said.

The most important time to pay attention to a child’s nutrition is from the time of conception until they are 2 years old. Good nutrition during this critical window can change their lives, leading to better growth of brain and body.

Certainly, some of the important focuses of 1,000 Days are conditions in poorer countries without great infrastructure. But the U.S. ranks among the top 10 worst-performing countries when it comes to several major factors of child and maternal health. We are a part of this as much as anywhere else.
Sullivan is on a campaign to get the message out to decision makers, world leaders, and perhaps most important, parents.

To try to help her expand the reach of her campaign, she partnered with a woman so many of us know, Heidi Murkoff — otherwise known as the writer of the “What to Expect” books.

“The lack of interest” in the earliest years of life “is just startling,” Murkoff said. “The whole focus is on elementary school kids. They’re already 9 years old.”

Did you know, according to the Journal of Obesity in 2012, that french fries are the most common “vegetable” among 12-15 month olds in North America? With 18.5 percent of them eating fries at least once a day? Or that by 19 to 24 months, 62 percent of toddlers had eaten a baked dessert, 20 percent consumed candy, and 44 percent had consumed a sweetened beverage, according to the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2013?

So while many countries that Sullivan deals with are in crisis mode because the children are undernourished, ours are poorly nourished. And that means their brains aren’t growing, they are in trouble physically, and it will be hard to dig out from under the damage already done.

So what now? As far as these two powerhouses are concerned, they will work together to try to engage the next generation of moms, policy makers and advocates to ensure a better start for babies worldwide.

Murkoff said she wants to see healthy food become more affordable and available. She wants to see more help to support breastfeeding for those who are able. “It’s a process that doesn’t come naturally,” she said. But many women want to, they just don’t know how. Or they are forced to return to work, many times to a place or shift work that doesn’t allow for pumping.

What does this mean for you and me? We need to change the way we all look at nutrition, childhood obesity and what causes a lack of good health — from the earliest days. That will help us prevent the worst diseases and health outcomes for the newest generation.

And, Murkoff noted, we have to “nurture the nurturer.”

That sentiment, Sullivan noted, will happen if we work to change policies, like a lack of paid maternity leave. How can we feed our children well, or even attempt to breastfeed them, if we have to return to work shortly after birth? How can we watch what goes into their little bodies if we can’t cobble together good childcare for those of us who do work? How can we feed them fresh fruits if we live in areas that have nothing but corner stores?

“The more we neglect populations…the more these families get locked into a cycle of bad health,” Sullivan said. “We need to set moms up to succeed.”

There’s so much critical information that’s revealed here. The research cited is fairly astounding. And it certainly points to the idea that we can do so much better for our children here in the U.S. We can remember when people were appalled when ketchup was considered a vegetable in school cafeterias and now we’re finding out that french fries are the most common “vegetable” for a substantial percentage of one-year-olds. It’s absolutely time to focus more energy on the nutritional quality of diets for the youngest among us. We’ll be doing so much for the health of future generations — and, in doing so, we’ll have a better opportunity reverse the obesity crisis once and for all.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/10/21/good-nutrition-during-the-first-1000-days-of-life-is-critically-important/

Parents: here’s another great reason to spend more time in your own kitchen!

cooking togetherHere at FoodFacts.com, we spend a lot of time talking about the importance of preparing meals at home. You know the reasons we’re such strong proponents of home cooking — better ingredients, less salt, less sugar and healthier fats are among the finer points. But we should never forget to include the idea that home-cooked meals that utilize fresh ingredients win on flavor over processed foods every single time.

For parents, especially, cooking at home is a significant aspect of raising healthy kids. With the obesity crisis at unprecedented levels, home cooking makes a real difference in the lives of our children. It also helps our kids develop a taste for foods that aren’t chicken nuggets so that they’ll actually embrace the vegetables and fruits that are an important part of their healthy diet. It seems that new information has revealed that eating home-cooked meals does exactly that!

Research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, suggests that the amount time parents spend on food preparation at home influences children’s food intake decisions made in the laboratory without parental supervision.

“In general, research shows that children tend to eat inadequate amounts of nutrient-rich foods while eating large amounts of sugary and fatty foods,” Shehan said. “It’s encouraging to see that parents can possibly affect the quality of their children’s food choices outside the home by spending more time cooking.”

The main findings showed that children whose parents reported more time spent on food preparation at home independently chose to eat meals that were lower in energy density (a measure of calories per gram) than children whose parents reported less food preparation time. In other words, the children whose parents reported more time on food preparation tended to make healthier food choices in the lab than children whose parents spent less time at home on food preparation, even without parental supervision.

The study, conducted through Penn State’s Department of Food Science and Department of Nutritional Sciences, involved 61 children between ages 4 and 6 and their parents. Each family in the study participated in two laboratory visits, where children tasted and rated their liking of a variety of foods and were then given unlimited access to these foods without adult instruction or interference. Children were allowed to eat as much or as little of any of the foods presented, which included highly energy dense foods such as chicken nuggets and chocolate chip cookies, as well as lower calorie foods such as grapes and broccoli. Meanwhile, parents completed questionnaires addressing various topics including their home food environment, their child’s food preferences and habits, and their family’s socioeconomic status.

To elucidate the neural mechanisms of such age-related changes in taste preference and sensitivity, electrophysiological experiments examined taste response characteristics of chorda tympani nerves. These nerves mediate gustatory information from the tongue to the brainstem. The researchers observed no significant differences in activity of the chorda tympani nerves by taste stimuli across the different age groups.

This research suggests parental home food preparation may influence children’s food intake patterns, even when children are eating outside the home. Future research studies are needed to see whether encouraging increased amounts of home food preparation or teaching parents food preparation skills will improve children’s eating habits.

“Even after controlling for family income and whether or not children had a parent at home full time, we found that children whose parents spend more time cooking make better choices,” Shehan added. “Our food preferences develop early in life, so getting young children to eat nutritious foods can help them stay healthy in the long run.

What we serve at home appears to develop taste preferences in children and that’s important. We all know kids love chocolate chip cookies, but that broccoli you’re preparing, or that whole grain pasta with vegetables that they really love — they’re going to look for those foods when they aren’t at home, too. And for every parent that’s struggled to find the time to put a home-cooked healthy meal on the table at the long day, that’s a great motivation to continue those healthy habits for the whole family!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729224914.htm

Childhood obesity: there’s more than a physical price to pay

Cost of Childhood ObesityWhile there has been some good news recently regarding the obesity crisis, there’s still a long way to go. With about one in every three children and teens in the U.S. either overweight or obese, there are many health concerns related to childhood obesity. This life-altering condition is a burden for the millions of children affected by it, both emotionally and physically.

Now, we’re learning more details about the financial burden as well.

For the first time, the costs of the condition, called “one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization, have been quantified by researchers. The findings are shocking: The epidemic has an estimated $19,000 price tag per child.

The cost analysis was led by researchers at the Duke Global Health Institute and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore, who measured direct medical costs, such as doctors’ visits and medication. Additional costs, such as lost productivity due to obesity, were not included.

The figure becomes more frightening when the number of obese children in the U.S. is taken into account: Lifetime medical costs for 10-year-olds alone reach $14 billion.
With this new research, the incentive to reduce childhood obesity comes with economic benefits in addition to health, said Eric Andrew Finkelstein, the lead author of the study.
“These estimates provide the financial consequences of inaction and the potential medical savings from obesity prevention efforts that successfully reduce or delay obesity onset,” he said.

Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released numbers last year touting a surprising 43 percent drop in obesity rates among two- to five-year-olds in the last decade, they don’t take into account the bigger picture. Obesity rates still go up as children age. The condition is also associated with premature death later in life and remains a global epidemic.

FoodFacts.com tries to keep our community up to date with news and research regarding the obesity crisis. As we said, there’s still so much work to do. As our children’s caregivers, it’s up to us to begin healthy habits for them right from the start. Fresh, real foods and plenty of activity should help to set them up for a healthier life that doesn’t include the emotional, physical and financial problems connected with obesity.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/04/12/childhood-obesity-epidemic-costing-almost-20000-child

Finally, some good news in the midst of the obesity crisis

198561_10150136837518407_7743506_n.jpgThere are real efforts being made in the fight against obesity, but it’s still a global crisis affecting millions. While FoodFacts.com has devoted many blog posts to research findings and changes to government nutrition standards for our schools, the data has remained fairly negative. Today though, we can report on some significant data that may indicate a turning of the tides here in the U.S.

New federal data published Tuesday show a 43 percent drop in obesity rates among children ages 2 to 5 during the past decade, providing an encouraging sign in the fight against one of the country’s leading public health problems, officials said.
The finding comes from a government study considered a gold standard to measure public-health trends. Researchers found that just over 8 percent of children 2 to 5 were obese in 2011-2012, down from nearly 14 percent in 2003-2004. Although the drop was significant, federal health officials noted that obesity rates for the broader population remain unchanged, and for women older than 60, obesity rates rose about 21 percent during that period.

The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, comes on the heels of data released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found that obesity rates among low-income preschoolers participating in federal nutrition programs declined broadly from 2008 to 2011 after rising for decades.

Cynthia Ogden, a CDC epidemiologist and lead author of the most recent study, said that the data offer good news in at least one age group.

“We see hope in young kids,” she said.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey tracks obesity data by measuring height and weight. The data are released every two years.

CDC officials said that last year’s data represented the largest and most comprehensive report of declining obesity rates in poor children. Nineteen states and U.S. territories had a lower percentage of obese children ages 2 to 4.

“We continue to see signs that, for some children in this country, the scales are tipping,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said. Federal researchers have also seen encouraging signs from communities across the country with obesity-prevention programs, including Anchorage, Philadelphia, New York City and King County, Wash., he said.

“This confirms that at least for kids, we can turn the tide and begin to reverse the obesity epidemic,” Frieden said.

Researchers say that they don’t know the precise reasons behind the drop in obesity rates for children 2 to 5. But they noted that many child-care centers have started to improve nutrition and physical activity standards over the past few years. Ogden said that CDC data also show decreases in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among youth in recent years.

Another possible factor might be improvement in breastfeeding rates in the United States, which helps fight obesity.

In a statement, first lady Michelle Obama praised the progress in lowering obesity rates among young children and said that participation in her Let’s Move! program was encouraging healthier habits.

A child is considered obese if his or her body mass index, calculated using weight and height, is at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex, according to CDC growth charts.

The new information is certainly encouraging and the findings of declining consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages for young children is very good news! We’re hopeful that in future reports, we’ll be able to observe significant decreases in obesity for other age groups. Proposed changes to nutrition labels and the possible ban on trans fat in our food supply may prove to have positive effects for the entire population.

Good news about the obesity crisis … it’s a nice change!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/new-cdc-data-shows-43-percent-drop-in-obesity-rates-among-children-2-to-5/2014/02/25/b5b3a3fa-9e65-11e3-9ba6-800d1192d08b_story.html

School BMI screenings may not be perfect but they are a useful tool in the fight against childhood obesity

FoodFacts.com has been keeping an eye on the recent information in the news regarding parental responses to the in-school BMI screenings that are currently occurring in 21 different states (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia). Children are screened in school for their BMI and then parents whose kids are determined to be overweight or obese by their BMI measurement are sent letters with the specifics of those measurements. It certainly isn’t helping that the letters have been labeled “fat letters” by students and teachers.

Those opposing the practice are voicing a number of different concerns including bullying, self-esteem issues and eating disorders. It is felt that, especially for girls, this BMI-driven approach to combating obesity is sending the wrong message. Already bombarded by “perfect body” images in the media, young girls can now be told they are the wrong “number” and that could encourage a rise in eating disorders. There is a definite cultural attitude towards obesity that somehow associates the overweight with being less appealing and less likeable. Folks are reasonably concerned that a letter home regarding a child’s BMI can certainly be a cause for their child to experience bullying from other kids because they’ve been labeled “fat” by their school system.

But most concerning are the reports from outraged parents whose children aren’t overweight at all who are receiving these letters anyway. These children are typically athletes – kids whose muscle mass accounts for more of their weight than it would for non-athletes. In some cases, the children’s height was recorded incorrectly. And in some cases, it’s been a combination of the two. Bottom line, in these instances the BMI measurement wasn’t an accurate picture of the child’s health.

Recent data reveals that 31.9% of children and teens in the United States are overweight or obese. We can all agree that this percentage is far too high and that too many of our children are at risk for adult obesity. We can all agree that obese children are at greater risk for suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure and that the lifestyles of children can be drastically altered due to their weight. Doesn’t that sound like we need a way to measure and track those kids who are obese or at risk for being obese?

In 2005, the US Preventive Services Task Force found that BMI is the preferred measure for detecting overweight children. BMI measurements not only identify children at risk for adult obesity and weight-related problems, they can also be correlated with long-term outcomes.

The biggest criticism for identifying children at risk for obesity through BMI measurement is the misclassification of athletic children. Kids with a higher lean body mass may fall into higher BMI percentiles and therefore may be identified as overweight or even obese when they aren’t. This is true of the system – but it is only applicable to a relatively small population of kids. Proponents of the system, state that this is why BMI is used as a screening tool and not a diagnostic tool.

And while it isn’t difficult to see the association of BMI screenings and the subsequent letters sent home to parents and bullying, self-esteem issues and an increase in eating disorders, in the state of Arkansas studies have shown that the BMI screening system has not shown any negative consequences for those children involved. At the same time, those studies have found that since the screenings began more Arkansas parents have signed their children up for sports or exercise classes and that the quality of family diets has increased.

FoodFacts.com is well aware that there are a number of valid concerns being raised in relationship to in-school BMI screenings. On the other hand, we’re just as aware of the 31.9% of America’s children classified as obese who are at a higher risk of adult obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and other preventable medical problems. If BMI screenings can give us a more accurate picture of the health of our children, help encourage lifestyle changes for those that need them and help lower weight associated health risks as a result, perhaps we need to hang in there through this process. While obviously not perfect, BMI screenings appear to be able to help the population. Perhaps the processes will be improved over time so as to ease the concerns expressed by parents and caregivers. As we seek ways to reverse the obesity crisis and assure that our children live longer, healthier lives we are called on to embrace the changes that will help us achieve our goals.

http://pediatricsde.aap.org/pediatrics/september_2013?pg=15#pg20

Excessive weight gain during pregnancy linked to childhood obesity

FoodFacts.com takes enormous interest in the latest information released that may present us with new insights into the obesity crisis. What we’ve been able to determine from the wealth of new studies published in the last few years is that the obesity epidemic is complex and linking its origins to one or two different possible causes can’t even begin to bring us closer to solutions. There are a broad range of factors requiring a multi-faceted approach to reversing and preventing obesity in the future. Today we read new research information linking obesity to pregnancy weight gain.

Women who gain excessive weight during pregnancy are at higher risk of having overweight or obese children, according to a study published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts, conducted a population-based cohort study of 42,133 women who had more than one singleton pregnancy and their 91,045 children.

The study involved matching records of all live births in Arkansas with state-mandated data on childhood body mass index (BMI) and height from public schools between 2003 and 2011.

The researchers wanted to determine whether childhood obesity is due to conditions during pregnancy, which can influence birthweight, or whether other shared mother and child factors, such as genes and diet, play a part.

The results of the study showed that on average, mothers gained around 14 kg in each pregnancy.

Researchers say that for every kilogram of weight a mother gains during pregnancy, at age 12 their child’s BMI will increase by 0.02 kg/m2.

Using a within-family design (testing associations within each family), the researchers found that for every kilogram of weight a mother gained during pregnancy, their child’s BMI would increase by 0.02 kg/m2 (8%) by age 12.

When the researchers adjusted the results for differences in birthweight, this increase in weight still remained significant.

Overall, variations in pregnancy weight gain accounted for a 0.43 kg/m2 difference in childhood BMI. By comparison, there has been an estimated 2 kg/m2 increase in the average BMI of children in the US since the 1970s.

The researchers note that although it would have been useful to include data of the mothers’ pre-pregnancy BMI in this study, this would have differentiated the results further since women with higher BMI tend to gain less weight during pregnancy.

Because childhood body weight predicts adult body weight, the study authors say their findings suggest that overnutrition in pregnancy may program the fetus for an increased lifetime risk for obesity, although the magnitude of this effect may be small.

FoodFacts.com once again wants to emphasize the importance of nutritional awareness for the entire population. Eating well during pregnancy is such an important part of taking care of a mother’s own nutritional needs. While weight gain is an essential part of a healthy pregnancy, excessive weight gain should be avoided – not just for the health of the expectant mother, but also for the health of the child as well.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266807.php

Severe obesity rising among American youth

FoodFacts.com makes every effort to keep our community up to date on the latest news regarding the obesity crisis. We’ve got a long road ahead of us as we, as a nation and a world, attempt to reverse a trend that’s making our population prone to preventable conditions and diseases. Sadly, the news we read today speaks to the idea that we aren’t where we need to be in order to realize the turn-around we so desperately need.

About 5 percent of U.S. children and teens are “severely obese,” and the numbers are rising, according to a new statement from the American Heart Association.

Although recent data suggesting that the rate of childhood obesity has started to level off, “a worrisome trend has emerged in the form of severe pediatric obesity,” the researchers wrote in their study published today (Sept. 9) in the journal Circulation.

“Severe obesity in young people has grave health consequences,” said study author Aaron Kelly, a researcher at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis. “It’s a much more serious childhood disease than obesity.”

Severely obese children have higher rates of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular issues at younger ages, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and early signs of atherosclerosis – a disease that clogs the arteries.

Treating children and teens with of severe obesity is challenging, the researchers said. Many treatments that are commonly used with some success in overweight and obese children, such as lifestyle changes, are less effective in those with severe obesity.
The researchers recommended using a standard definition for severe obesity in youth; they define children over age 2 as severely obese if they have a body mass index (BMI) at least 20 percent higher than 95 percent of other children of the same age and gender. The researchers also said any child with a BMI of 35 or higher should be considered severely obese.

Based on this definition, a 7-year-old girl of average height weighing 75 pounds, or a 13-year-old boy of average height weighing 160 pounds, would be defined as severely obese.

Most experts recommend treating severely obese children first with the least intensive treatment options such as lifestyle changes, the researchers said. More intensive treatments such as medication and potentially surgery should be considered after other treatments have failed.

Increased funding will be needed for research into whether new medications and other treatments, including surgery, are safe and effective in treating children with severe obesity, the researchers said.

FoodFacts.com will continue to follow news and research regarding the obesity crisis. We know there will continue to be reasons for hope and encouragement as new research leads us to the kinds of treatment that will have a lasting and positive effect, finally reversing the existing trends of the growing crisis.

http://www.livescience.com/39509-severe-obesity-youth.html

Healthy eating habits are especially important during pregnancy

FoodFacts.com devotes many blog posts to the importance of healthy eating habits. While there are many contributors to the worldwide obesity crisis, we do know with certainty that the prevalence of processed foods and beverages in our diets stands out as one of the significant causes of the current, continually growing problem of obesity. Particularly disturbing among children, rates of obesity keep climbing as healthy dietary habits continue to devolve around the globe. So we continually reiterate the importance of avoiding processed foods and beverages and emphasize the significant health benefits of fresh, whole foods prepared at home.

Today we read about a new study that underscores the importance of healthy eating habits during pregnancy, and the effects of the diets of expectant mothers on the next generation. Researchers have found that mothers who eat junk food while pregnant are more likely to have children with mental health problems.

Researchers from Deakin University in Australia, alongside researchers from Norway, analyzed more than 23,000 mothers who were a part of the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, gathered information regarding the mothers’ diets throughout pregnancy and their children’s diets at both 18 months and 3 years of age.

The mothers were also asked to complete questionnaires when their children were 18 months, 3-years and 5-years-old to establish symptoms of depression, anxiety, conduct disorder and ADHD. The researchers then analyzed the relationship between the mothers’ and children’s diets, and the mental health symptoms and behaviors in the children aged 18 months to five-years-old.

Results of the study reveal that mothers who eat more unhealthy foods during pregnancy, such as sweet drinks, refined cereals and salty foods, have children with increased behavioral problems, such as aggression and tantrums.

Additionally, the findings show that children who eat more unhealthy foods in their first years of life, or who lack nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, also show increased aggression and behavioral problems, as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Associate professor Felice Jacka, researcher at the IMPACT Strategic Research Center at Deakin University, says: “It is becoming even more clear that diet matters to mental health right across the age spectrum.”

“These new findings suggest that unhealthy and ‘junk’ foods may have an impact on the risk for mental health problems in children, and they add to the growing body of evidence on the impact of unhealthy diets on the risk for depression, anxiety and even dementia. The changes to our food systems, including the shift to more high-energy, low nutrition foods developed and marketed by the processed food industry, have led to a massive increase in obesity-related illnesses right across the globe,” she says.

While there is no need for mothers to go on special diets during pregnancy, it is important to eat a variety of different foods every day to make sure that both mother and child are getting the right balance of nutrients.

Other studies have also suggested potential health risks of eating junk food while pregnant. Animal research from the Royal Veterinary College in London in 2006 suggested a link between unhealthy food during pregnancy and the risk of obesity in offspring.

FoodFacts.com thinks it’s important to note that just as there has been an upswing in childhood obesity rates, there has also been an upswing in childhood depression and behavioral difficulties. While there’s been no definitive link between diet and childhood mental health, it is interesting that both obesity and depression/behavior challenges have risen at the same time that the proliferation of processed foods and beverages in our food supply is higher than it’s ever been. Certainly food for thought. While we want everyone to make the healthiest dietary choices, we want to make sure that expectant mothers everywhere take especially good care of themselves, for both their own well-being and the well-being of their precious children.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265039.php

Yet another reason children and soda don’t mix

Everyone in the FoodFacts.com community is very familiar with our view of soda. We don’t like it. There are quite a few different reasons and we can name some of them readily – high fructose corn syrup, sodium benzoate, phosphoric acid, artificial colors, artificial flavors, aspartame, acesulfame potassium and those really are just a few. Trust us, we could go on and on. Sodas offer no nutritional value and a myriad of possible problems. And today we read a new study that has just added a new possible problem to an already long list.

It appears that soda may cause young children to become aggressive and develop attention problems, according to a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, the University of Vermont and Harvard School of Public Health, studied around 3,000 children aged 5.

All children were enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study – a cohort study that follows mothers and children from 20 large cities in the US.

The researchers asked the mothers of the children to report their child’s soft drink consumption. Their child’s behavior in the 2 months prior to the study was reported through a “Child Behavior Checklist.”

Just over 40% of the children consumed a minimum of one serving of soft drinks a day, while 4% consumed four or more soft drinks a day.

The study results found that any level of soft drink consumption was linked to higher levels of aggressive behavior, as well as more attention and withdrawal problems.

Compared with children who did not consume any soft drinks, those who had four or more soft drinks a day were over twice as likely to:

• Destroy other people’s belongings
• Physically attack others, and
• Get into fights.

Dr. Shakira Suglia, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, says: “We found that the child’s aggressive behavior score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day.”

The study authors say there has been a lot of research on the effects of soft drinks in adults. But the relationship between soft drinks and child behavior has not been closely evaluated until now.

They note that although their study has been unable to identify exactly why soft drinks can cause these behaviors in children, they recommend that limiting or abolishing a child’s soft drink consumption could combat this issue.

FoodFacts.com looks forward to more detailed studies that focus on a possible causal relationship between children’s soda consumption and aggressive behavior. Drinking soda has been linked to diabetes and heart disease. It is considered a major contributor in the obesity crisis. And it adds nothing to our health and well-being. Those statements alone are good enough reasons to keep sodas away from our children. This study certainly points out additional problems with small children and soda consumption. Children require a healthy beginning in order to encourage healthy habits throughout their lifetime. Let’s help them get the healthy start they all deserve.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264943.php

Food advertising on children’s websites doesn’t meet current nutritional standards

FoodFacts.com has featured our share of blog posts reviewing the ongoing battle to increase the quality of advertising foods targeted to children. In the past food companies have pledged to self-regulate the ads they are placing in the media, promising to promote healthier products for kids.

A new study out of the Yale Rudd Center and published online in Pediatric Obesity, finds that companies are placing billions of ads for unhealthy foods and beverages on children’s websites. The study evaluated banner ads and other display web advertising on sites that are popular with children – sites like Nick.com and CartoonNetwork.com. It’s the first study that looks closely at food advertising on the web that’s specifically aimed at children.

Rudd Center researchers used syndicated Internet usage data from comScore to identify popular children’s websites and the food advertisements viewed on those web sites from July 2009 through June 2010. Food ads were classified by category and the companies’ participation in the food industry’s self-regulatory program, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). Researchers also evaluated the nutritional quality of the advertised products. Most large food companies are a part of the CFBAI and have pledged to promote only healthier food choices in advertising targeted to children. Web advertising is included in that pledge.

Researchers found that 3.4 billion display advertisements for food and beverages were viewed on popular children’s websites annually. More than one-half of these ads appeared on just two Viacom sites: Nick.com and NeoPets.com. Children who visited NeoPets.com viewed on average 30 food ads per month. Food Manufacturers who are a part of the CFBAI placed 89% of the food advertisements on children’s websites.

Three-quarters of the advertisements promoted brands that food companies participating in CFBAI identified as healthier dietary choices for child-directed advertising, yet the products in 84% of those ads had high levels of fat, sugar, and/or sodium. Almost two-thirds of food ads were for sugary breakfast cereals and fast food. Researchers noted that advertised foods that were designated by CFBAI companies as healthier dietary choices appropriate for child-directed advertising were less likely to meet nutrition standards proposed by the government than other foods advertised to children.

To address limitations of the CFBAI, the U.S. Congress commissioned an Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (IWG) with representatives from four government agencies to develop more effective guidelines for responsible food marketing to children. The authors assert that stronger nutrition standards are required for foods marketed to children, such as those proposed by the IWG, to meaningfully improve the nutritional quality of food and beverage advertising on children’s web sites.

There have been previous studies conducted in regards to food advertising on television that’s targeted to children. Those studies have shown that the self-regulatory concept of the CFBAI haven’t changed much on TV in terms of the nutritional quality of the foods marketed to kids. This study demonstrates that CFBAI pledges aren’t protecting children from web advertising of nutritionally poor foods. While the content of websites like Nick.com and CartoonNetwork.com are safe and engaging for children, over one-third of the food advertising that kids are seeing constantly on those sites are for foods that contain high levels of sugar, fat or sodium.

FoodFacts.com knows that any parent who has taken a child to a grocery store understands how much food advertising affects our kids. If it looked cool and fun on TV or on the internet, kids beg their parents to purchase the product. The point is that healthy foods can also be cool and fun and manufacturers can be more responsible about the products to which they are exposing our children. While we certainly understand that content is king for any website, when it comes to websites for children, adults need to consider more than the safety of the content their children are engaging with. When it comes to giving our children the healthiest start in life, ads count too. Let’s all practice viewing media choices for children through the lens of nutritional awareness!

http://news.yale.edu/2013/07/08/foods-advertised-popular-childrens-websites-do-not-meet-nutrition-standards