Category Archives: children

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

Third annual Kids’ State Dinner (yes there is one) promotes healthy eating and features the recipes of prize-winning junior chefs

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 1.09.30 PMFor the last three years, our President and First Lady have been hosting a yearly Kids’ State Dinner. This little-known event is just one of the fun, interesting and effective ways Michelle Obama has found to promote healthy eating and fitness to our nation’s youth. The guests at the “dinner” (which is actually a lunch) are the winners of a yearly contest that invites kids across the nation to develop their own healthy recipes and submit them for the opportunity to dine at the White House with the First Family. It’s hands-on, engaging and offers a once-in-a-lifetime prize!

Chef Elena Hirsch’s winning omelet recipe—aptly titled “Barack-oli and Mich-room Obama-let” —landed the 11-year-old her seat at this annual event.

Hirsch is one of the winners of the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge contest. The contest asks children ages 8 to 12 to submit healthy lunchtime recipes of their own creation. Winners and their parents or guardians are then flown to D.C., put up in a hotel, and entertained at the Kids’ State Dinner, which is hosted by first lady Michelle Obama and organized by Epicurious, the Department of Education, and the Department of Agriculture.

This year’s winners—who hail from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories—beat out close to 1,500 other entrants to come to the White House, where they were treated to a special performance from Disney’s “The Lion King” musical and a lively address from President Barack Obama.

“First of all, we have a lot of state dinners around here,” the president quipped. “They’re not always as cheerful and fun as this.”

Obama also revealed his greatest food weakness — chips and guacamole. Although his jokes yesterday might have led you to believe it was a shared milkshake.

Michelle vowed to give up french fries, her greatest food weakness, during her speech.

Notwithstanding its name, the Kids’ State Dinner is actually lunch—(after all, “State Lunch” doesn’t exactly scream presidential)— and the noontime menu features several of the winning recipes. This year, that included chicken lettuce wraps, tomato cucumber salad and “Tropical Strawberry Banana Secret Smoothies.”

The 54 winning recipes were judged based on taste, creativity, affordability, chef’s personal story, and, of course, Michelle’s pet project — MyPlate nutritional standards.

Chef Tess Boghossian, 11, from Illinois won for her healthy rendition of a soup served at Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration.

Chef Elena, creator of the “Obama-let,” said that it took her five days to come up with an omelet recipe that honored the members of the first family. In addition to “Barack-oli” and “Mich-rooms,” her recipe calls for car-MALIA-ized onions and butternut SquASHA, in honor of first daughters Malia and Sasha. All that was missing was first dog Bo.

FoodFacts.com can recall plenty of research that links involving children in a healthy lifestyle to their positive response to healthy foods and healthy habits. In addition to the idea that the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge is a great project that involves kids in the process of making healthy choices, it also makes that process truly memorable for them! What a great event and what a great way to make a healthy impression on the kids of our country!

http://redalertpolitics.com/2014/07/18/michelle-obama-uses-third-annual-kids-state-dinner-contest-promote-healthy-eating-promises-give-french-fries/

McDonalds doesn’t want kids to see Ronald McDonald eating a Big Mac

RonFood marketing to kids is a very controversial subject. There have been many different studies done that do show that all the characters and computer games and TV commercials influence kids to beg their parents for foods we’d probably rather they not eat. And there have been many “agreements” between food companies that have them pledging to change their marketing strategies when it comes to bad food and kids. Most of those pledges aren’t technically broken, as food companies find different ways to get their messages across to the youngest among us. Fast food companies make attempts at making their children’s meals healthier, but somehow or another those fries seem to sneak back into that Happy Meal. Are the food companies intentionally sidestepping responsibility? And what about that Happy Meal anyway?

When Ronald McDonald was first introduced to America in the 1960s, he wore a magic belt that dispensed an endless supply of hamburgers.

But today, according to both food advocates and McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson, America’s most recognizable clown won’t go near a Big Mac.

“You don’t see Ronald McDonald in schools. You don’t see him eating food,” Thompson said Thursday at the company’s annual shareholder meeting, according to multiple reports.

This, health activists say, is so McDonald’s can deflect criticism that it willfully markets the unhealthy food to children.

“They think that by not having him consume the food, it’s not encouraging kids to patronize the brand,” said Jesse Bragg of Corporate Accountability International, a food advocacy group that has been pushing for Ronald’s retirement for years.

In the past, said Bragg, McDonald’s has been criticized for having Ronald visit schools to teach phys ed and appear in connection with charities that work on behalf of sick children.

The company has kept Ronald at arm’s length from its food for years now, nutrition advocates say.

“At least since they joined the Better Business Bureau program in 2006, they’ve been saying they wouldn’t use Ronald McDonald to sell food,” said Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a group that says it helped persuade McDonald’s to join an inititative run by the BBB that sets nutrition standards for advertising food to children under 12.

And Ronald’s abstemious habits may go back much further than that. Geoffrey Giuliano, who portrayed Ronald in public appearances in the late 1970s and early 1980s and is today an outspoken critic of the company, once said in an interview that he “was never allowed to eat the food” while in character because it would have been “unseemly.”

In 2007, Jim Skinner, then CEO of McDonald’s, told Reuters that “Ronald McDonald has never sold food to kids in the history of his existence.”
When asked if it was official policy to keep Ronald McDonald away from the food he was created to promote, McDonald’s spokeswoman Becca Hary said only that “when Ronald McDonald appears in public, he is focused on spreading joy and smiles.” Hary declined to comment on how long this has been the case.

Marketing experts say it doesn’t really matter whether Ronald is ever actually seen eating in public: Kids will still associate him with Big Macs and Happy Meals.

“Kids are hardwired to think that he equals McDonald’s,” said branding strategist Adam Hanft, founder of the marketing firm Hanft Projects.
“There’s a test in marketing where they put people under a full magnetic resonance imaging machine, like a brain scan essentially, and they show people images, and different parts of the brain light up,” Hanft said. “If you showed kids Ronald McDonald, all the reward centers of the brain would go crazy like July 4th. Because he equals the hamburger.”

Ronald McDonald doesn’t sell food? His sole purpose is to spread joy and smiles? FoodFacts.com doesn’t remember Toucan Sam eating Froot Loops. Snap, Crackle and Pop never ate Rice Krispies. They still sold products. Ronald McDonald isn’t an ambassador of goodwill — he’s the mascot for McDonald’s hamburgers. That’s not a smiley face embroidered on his pocket — he wears the golden arches on his jumpsuit.

Come on McDonald’s, we may be gullible, but we are smart enough to understand why the big guy exists. And even if the kids don’t realize it, when they see him they ask their moms for a hamburger.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/28/ronald-mcdonald-is-never_n_5380825.html

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

More kids are eating more fruits and vegetables at lunch

lunches.jpgThere’s news coming in about the effect of the new nutritional guidelines for U.S. schools and it does appear to be encouraging. New standards went into effect in 2012 that required students to include at least one fruit or vegetable on their lunch trays.

A new study that’s been released from the Harvard School of Public Health  clearly shows that there are students who are eating more fruits and vegetables at lunch. Of course, they’re still tossing plenty of produce into the trash, researchers are taking the results as an encouraging sign.

While the study is limited to 1,030 students at low-income elementary and middle schools in the Boston area, it is the first to track student trays from the lunch line to the trash can since the new standards became effective.

In addition to requiring the addition of a fruit or vegetable with lunch, the standards have made vegetable servings bigger and have provided a greater variety of vegetables from which students can choose. They also limit calories and sodium and call for more whole grains than in the past. Some anecdotal reports suggest students nationwide are throwing away more food as a result.

“But the new standards are actually improving diets,” at least at the schools studied, says lead researcher Juliana Cohen.

Research teams visited each school twice before the changes, in fall 2011, and twice after the changes, in fall 2012. They noted tray contents in the lunch line and then collected the numbered trays and weighed the leftovers after lunch. Among key findings:

• All students took entrees, which included foods such as pizza, burgers and sandwich wraps. They ate 88% of those foods in 2012, vs. 72% in 2011.
• 68% took vegetables in both years. They ate 41% in 2012, vs. 25% in 2011.
• 76% took fruit in 2012, up from 53% in 2011. They ate 55% in 2012, down slightly from 58% in 2011 – but because more students chose fruit, overall consumption rose, researchers say.

Kids threw away huge amounts of fruits and vegetables, but the study shows that was happening before the change, Cohen says.

The findings come as school food service directors, represented by the School Nutrition Association, are in Washington, D.C., lobbying Congress to eliminate mandatory servings of fruits and vegetables and slow down other changes. They cite a report just out from the U.S. Government Accountability Office showing a 3.7% decline in students taking school lunches.

“Our members have always encouraged students to take fruits and vegetables, but it’s counterproductive to force it,” especially for older students, says Leah Schmidt, president of the association and director of nutrition services at the Hickman Mills School District in Kansas City, Mo. “There are students who will not eat a fruit or vegetable, and as they get older, they feel they have that right.”

She says the new study is “a very small sample… but I’m glad some schools are experiencing that” increase in fruit and vegetable consumption.

“Kids are picky,” and change is hard, says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group that fought for tougher standards. Schools can reduce waste and get more kids on board without weakening the standards, she says.

“Many schools are working really hard not only to improve the nutritional quality of their offerings but to improve the kid appeal,” she says.

Those of us with children might think back to our pediatrician’s advice when it came to feeding our toddlers. It was simply to offer a variety of healthy food choices for them to try. Improving the nutritional quality of the food choices in our schools and offering a wider variety of fruits and vegetables actually echoes the advice given to parents for their little ones.

When schools followed the new rules and offered foods with better nutritional value, our kids made better choices at lunch because the choices given were better. In addition, when required to choose a fruit or a vegetable while being given a wider array of selections, more kids actually ate the fruit or vegetable. FoodFacts.com does think this is largely about the choices given. Yes, we know that there’s still plenty of produce that finds its way to the trash can, but we certainly don’t think we should be taking steps to reverse or slow down any of these changes. We know most children aren’t ecstatic about fruits and vegetables. Whatever we can do to help them eat more of them during lunch should be done. And we should all feel encouraged that there are some indications that lunch habits seem to be improving.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/04/school-lunch-rules-vegetables-fruit/5979683/

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

Reading difficulties may be related to low levels of Omega-3

While it isn’t in the news often, FoodFacts.com is aware that there are millions of school-aged children worldwide who have difficulty learning to read and mastering proficiency of this basic life skill. We’re also very aware that often reading difficulties can severely affect a child’s self-esteem, make them more prone to bullying by other kids and change their perception of learning in general. Our hearts go out to these kids. We know that their parents, caregivers and teachers work very hard to help them develop their reading skills and that they are required to work much harder than their peers to achieve the same learning levels. It can’t be easy. Today we read about new research coming out of the United Kingdom that may hold some significant information (and eventually help) for kids with reading challenges.

An Oxford University study has shown that a representative sample of UK schoolchildren aged seven to nine years had low levels of key Omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. Furthermore, the study found that children’s blood levels of the long-chain Omega-3 DHA (the form found in most abundance in the brain) ‘significantly predicted’ how well they were able to concentrate and learn.

The study was presented at the conference by co-authors Dr Alex Richardson and Professor Paul Montgomery from Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention. It is one of the first to evaluate blood Omega-3 levels in UK schoolchildren. The long-chain Omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) found in fish, seafood and some algae, are essential for the brain’s structure and function as well as for maintaining a healthy heart and immune system. Parents also reported on their child’s diet, revealing to the researchers that almost nine out of ten children in the sample ate fish less than twice a week, and nearly one in ten never ate fish at all. The government’s guidelines for a healthy diet recommend at least two portions of fish a week. This is because like vitamins, omega-3 fats have to come from our diets — and although humans can in theory make some EPA and DHA from shorter-chain omega-3 (found in some vegetable oils), research has shown this conversion is not reliable, particularly for DHA, say the researchers.

Blood samples were taken from 493 schoolchildren, aged between seven and nine years, from 74 mainstream schools in Oxfordshire. All of the children were thought to have below-average reading skills, based on national assessments at the age of seven or their teachers’ current judgements. Analyses of their blood samples showed that, on average, just under two per cent of the children’s total blood fatty acids were Omega-3 DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and 0.5 per cent were Omega-3 EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), with a total of 2.45 per cent for these long-chain Omega-3 combined. This is below the minimum of 4 per cent recommended by leading scientists to maintain cardiovascular health in adults, with 8-12 per cent regarded as optimal for a healthy heart, the researchers reported.

Co-author Professor Paul Montgomery said: ‘From a sample of nearly 500 schoolchildren, we found that levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood significantly predicted a child’s behavior and ability to learn. Higher levels of Omega-3 in the blood, and DHA in particular, were associated with better reading and memory, as well as with fewer behavior problems as rated by parents and teachers. These results are particularly noteworthy given that we had a restricted range of scores, especially with respect to blood DHA but also for reading ability, as around two-thirds of these children were still reading below their age-level when we assessed them. Although further research is needed, we think it is likely that these findings could be applied generally to schoolchildren throughout the UK.’
The current findings build on earlier work by the same researchers, showing that dietary supplementation with Omega-3 DHA improved both reading progress and behavior in children from the general school population who were behind on their reading.

FoodFacts.com is enthusiastic about the future implications of these important findings. We already understand the significance of a healthy diet for children. We know that childhood obesity is a rampant, worldwide problem and that poor diet during childhood can set up a generation of children for severe health problems later on in life. The importance of Omega-3 fatty acids in a child’s diet, however, may have a strong influence on their educational abilities and might just promote the “ease of learning” that every child deserves.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130913092414.htm

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

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