Category Archives: Nutrition
Beverage companies spent $866 million to advertise unhealthy drinks in 2013, and children and teens remained key target audiences for that advertising, according to a new report released today at APHA by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. The report “Sugary Drink FACTS 2014” highlights some progress regarding beverage marketing to young people, but also shows that companies still have a long way to go to improve their marketing practices and the nutritional quality of their products to support young people’s health.
“Despite promises by major beverage companies to be part of the solution in addressing childhood obesity, our report shows that companies continue to market their unhealthy products directly to children and teens,” said Jennifer Harris, PhD, Rudd Center’s director of marketing initiatives and lead author of the report. “They have also rapidly expanded marketing in social and mobile media that are popular with young people, but much more difficult for parents to monitor.”
Harris and her team examined changes in the nutritional content of sugar-sweetened drinks including sodas, energy drinks, fruit drinks, and others. They also analyzed marketing tactics for 23 companies that advertised these products, including changes in advertising to children and teens on TV, the internet, and newer media like mobile apps and social media. Researchers also examined changes in the nutrition and marketing of diet beverages, 100% juice, and water. The report was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Learn more about the key findings of the report in the following exclusive interview with Harris. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
NPH: You issued the first version of this new report in 2011. What are the changes since then?
Jennifer Harris: The biggest change that we saw was a very significant decline in advertising on television. Preschoolers are seeing 33% fewer TV ads for sugary drinks in 2013 than they saw in 2010. Children are seeing 39% fewer, and teens are seeing 30% fewer. So, that was really some great news to see, but some categories had bigger declines than others. Fruit drinks went down by about 50%, but advertising for energy drinks that kids see actually increased. So, there was some good news and some bad news.
Public Perceptions on Obesity Are Changing
New research that looked at the opinions of both the public and health care professionals during the past year finds a shift away from seeing obesity as a personal problem resulting from bad choices. Health care professionals were already less likely than the public to view obesity as a personal problem of bad choices, according to the study was presented earlier this week at the Obesity Society Annual Meeting in Boston. The study used an online survey of more than 50,000 members of the public and more than 5,000 health care professionals, finding that the percentage of Americans seeing obesity as a community problem increased by 13 percent in 2014 over the previous year and the percent of health care professionals increased by 18 percent, although that was a smaller increase than the previous year. Wealthier and younger respondents were more likely to view obesity as a medical problem. Male and rural respondents more likely view obesity as a personal problem of bad choices. Read more on obesity.
Many People, Who Think They Have a Penicillin Allergy, Don’t
Many people have been incorrectly told that they're allergic to penicillin, and have not had testing to confirm an allergy, according to a two new studies presented this week at the annual conference of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The studies are very important, according to the researchers, because giving alternative antibiotics to people who don’t need them results in inferior treatment, higher costs and higher toxicity for patients. Of 384 people in one study who thought they were allergic to penicillin, 94 tested negative. In the second study, 38 people who believed they were allergic to penicillin had skin testing and all tested negative. "A large number of people in our study who had a history of penicillin allergy were actually not allergic," said Thanai Pongdee, MD, a member of the ACAAI and the author of one study. "They may have had an unfavorable response to penicillin at some point in the past, such as hives or swelling, but they did not demonstrate any evidence of penicillin allergy at the current time.” Read more on infectious disease.
School Lunches Often Healthier than Packed Lunches
Researchers from Virginia Tech recently conducted a study that compared school lunches with home-packed lunches and found that school lunches were typically more nutritious. The researchers reviewed more than 1,000 lunches—about half packed and half prepared by three public schools—and found that rates of calories, carbohydrates, fat, saturated fat, sugar, vitamin C, and iron were significantly higher for packed lunches compared to school lunches. Protein, sodium, fiber, vitamin A and calcium were significantly lower for packed lunches compared to school lunches. "Habits develop in early childhood and continue into adolescence and adulthood. Therefore, this is a critical time to promote healthy eating. Determining the many factors which influence the decision to participate in the [school lunch program] or bring a packed lunch from home is vital to addressing the poor quality of packed lunches," says Elena L. Serrano, PhD, Family Nutrition Program Project Director, and Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise at Virginia Tech and the lead author of the study. Read more on nutrition.
Massachusetts Now Has the Nation’s Strongest Paid Sick Leave Requirements
Massachusetts now has the nation’s strongest requirement for providing paid sick leave. Under a ballot question passed yesterday, people who work for businesses with 11 or more employees are now entitled to up to 40 hours of paid sick time each year. Workers at smaller companies will receive 40 hours of annual unpaid sick time. NewPublicHealth has previously written on the benefits of paid sick leave, including about an American Journal of Public Health study which found that a lack of paid sick leave can be a significant factor in the spread of disease. Read more on business.
Study: Fast Food Marketing to Children Disproportionately Affects Certain Communities
Fast food marketing directed toward children disproportionately affects black, middle-income and rural communities, according to a new study out of Arizona State University (ASU). Researchers studied the marketing practices of 6,716 fast food restaurants, determining that “while most fast food restaurants sampled were located in non-Hispanic and majority white neighborhoods, those situated in middle-income neighborhoods, rural communities and majority black neighborhoods had higher odds of using child-directed marketing tactics.” “Marketing food to children is of great concern not only because it affects their current consumption patterns, but also because it may affect their taste and preferences,” said ASU researcher Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, an associate professor of nutrition in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion. “We know that consumption of fast food in children may lead to obesity or poorer health, and that low income and minority children eat fast food more often.” Read more on nutrition.
Study: No Link Between Media Violence and Real-Life Violence
Despite the popular notion that media violence is a factor in real-life crime, homicide rates have actually fallen over the past several decades as media violence—in movies, on television and in video games—has increased, according to two new studies in the Journal of Communication. One of the studies examined the level of violence in 90 movies from 1920 to 2005, while the other looked for links between violence in video games and real-life violence among American young people from 1996 to 2011. "The idea that media has big effects on us or shapes our society is probably untenable," said author Christopher Ferguson, chair of the psychology department at Stetson University in Florida. "This doesn't mean media has no effect at all, of course, only that we need to try to move media research out of these culture wars if we're going to make any progress." Read more on technology.
DOT Launches New Website for Cruise Ship Passengers
The U.S. Department of Transportation has launched a website with information and resources from several federal agencies to help people considering cruise ship vacations make informed decisis. Information includes consumer assistance, vessel safety and cruise line incident reporting statistics. “We are committed to providing the traveling public with as much information as possible to make informed decisions about their travel and making sure they know their rights before, during, and after their trip,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, in a release. Read more on transportation.
Ten Foundations Receive HUD/USDA Secretaries’ Award
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently honored ten foundations for helping to improve communities in across the country. According to the departments, the ten foundations have helped foster significant improvements in housing and neighborhoods, education, health and recreation, transportation, community participation, arts and culture, public safety, sustainability and economic development across all American geographies—urban, suburban and rural. “These foundations understand that strong communities connect families with the promise of living the American dream,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro, in a release. “Powerful outcomes occur when the philanthropic and public sectors come together to solve problems, enhance neighborhoods and expand opportunity for others. Read more on housing.
Americans Still Eating Trans Fats
A new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association finds that Americans are eating less trans and saturated fats than they were three decades ago, but they’re still consuming them in higher quantities than recommended for good cardiovascular health. The study was based on surveys of approximately 12,000 adults ages 25 to 74. Read more on nutrition.
EBOLA UPDATE: U.S. Begins Isolating Soldiers Returning from West Africa; Australia Institutes Visa Ban
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The U.S. military has begun isolating soldiers returning from Ebola-fighting efforts in West Africa, while Australia has become the first “rich nation” to impose a visa ban on the affected countries. Public health officials, including those in Washington, D.C., say such measures risk turning the doctors and nurses who help Ebola patients into “pariahs,” according to Reuters. "Returning health workers are exceptional people who are giving of themselves for humanity," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "They should not be subjected to restrictions that are not based on science. Those who develop infections should be supported, not stigmatized." Read more on Ebola.
Study: Brain Injuries After Age 65 May Increase the Risk for Dementia
Brain injuries after the age of 65 may increase a person’s risk of developing dementia, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Neurology. Researchers analyzed data on almost 52,000 emergency room patients who had suffered traumatic injuries in California from 2005 to 2011, finding that while just under 6 percent of those with injuries outside the brain went on to develop dementia, more than 8 percent of those with moderate to mild traumatic brain injuries did so. While at ages 55 and older, moderate to severe brain injury was associated with increased risk of dementia, by age 65 even mild brain injury increased the dementia risk. "This was surprising and suggests that the older brain may be especially vulnerable to traumatic brain injury, regardless of the traumatic brain injury severity," said study lead author Raquel Gardner, MD, a clinical research fellow with San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "Or to spin it more positively, the younger brain may be more resilient to mild traumatic brain injury or may take longer to show symptoms of dementia.” Read more on aging.
Study: Greater Use of Spices, Herbs Could Promote Healthier Eating
Using spices and herbs to make healthy food more appealing can help reduce sodium, calorie and fat intake, according to a new study in the journal Nutrition Today. A special edition of the publication, titled Spices and Herbs: Improving Public Health Through Flavorful Eating, includes 16 papers exploring the latest research on spices, herbs and their links to healthy eating. "We now understand that spices and herbs have a meaningful role to play in bringing flavor to the forefront of today's health and wellness conversations," said Johanna Dwyer, DSc, RD, professor of medicine and community health at Tufts University School of Medicine, editor of Nutrition Today. "It will take all of us working together – from scientists to chefs and product developers to policy makers – before we can really begin to improve public health through flavorful eating." Read more on nutrition.
A recently published research brief finds that six months after updated U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for healthier meals were implemented in public schools, elementary and high school students are buying—and eating—the healthier meals.
The brief published by Bridging the Gap, a national research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), shows that 70 percent of elementary school principals and school food directors said that students generally liked the healthier school lunches that began being served in the fall of 2012. Similarly, 70 percent of middle school students and 63 percent of high school students also like the meals. These are the first national studies to examine students’ reactions to the healthier meals.
“The updated meals standards are resulting in healthier meals for tens of millions of kids,” said Lindsey Turner, lead author of the elementary school study, and a co-investigator for Bridging the Gap. “Our studies show that kids are OK with these changes, and that there have not been widespread challenges with kids not buying or eating the meals.”
The survey responders were asked about students’ initial reaction to the meals in fall 2012, and how things were progressing a few months afterwards. Findings included:
- About half of the responders from elementary schools (56 percent) reported that students complained at first, but by spring 2013 64 percent of responders said few students were complaining.
- In middle schools, the percentage of students complaining dropped from 44 percent in fall 2012 to 11 percent in spring 2013. High schools saw similar declines, from 53 percent to 18 percent.
- Eighty-four percent of elementary school responders said approximately the same number of students (or more) were purchasing lunch this school year as did the previous year.
- Seventy percent of responders said middle-school students generally liked the new lunches, as did 63 percent of responders from high schools.
“The updated meal standards are a landmark achievement—they make schools healthier places for our nation’s children and are a critical step toward reversing the childhood obesity epidemic and building a Culture of Health nationwide,” said Tina Kauh, program officer at RWJF. “Policymakers at all levels should be encouraged by these findings and should continue to support schools’ efforts to provide students with healthy meals and snacks.”
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Lindsey Turner about the study findings.
NewPublicHealth: News reports from about a year back seemed to indicate some kids were not happy with the healthier lunches. But your studies show that for the most part school lunches are being well-received.
Lindsey Turner: Many of those news stories were early on soon after the lunches had been changed. They’re also based on fairly small numbers of schools or case reports, and so one challenge with that is that it may not necessarily be representative of schools in general across the country. One of the strengths of our study is that we were able to get data from a fairly large number of schools from all across the country, which presents a little bit more of a balanced picture of what’s actually going on.
Sixteen major food and beverage companies acting together as part of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF) sold 6.4 trillion fewer calories in the United States in 2012 than they did in 2007, according to a study published last week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The companies collectively pledged to remove 1 trillion calories from the marketplace by 2012, and 1.5 trillion by 2015.
An independent evaluation funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) found that the companies have already exceeded their 2015 pledge by more than 400 percent.
Today, at 2 p.m. ET, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO of RWJF, and Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo and chair of the HWCF, will discuss the findings and efforts in an online event. PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff will moderate.
UPDATE: Sierra Leone Ends Three-Day Lockdown, Reports 130 New Cases
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
Officials in Sierra Leone have ended a three-day curfew designed to help contain the continuing spread of the Ebola virus, calling the effort a success. Authorities reported 130 new cases during the lockdown and are waiting for tests on 39 more people. The West African country has been one of the hardest hit by the outbreak—more than 550 of the nearly 2,800 total deaths have been in Sierra Leone. In addition more than 100 tons of health-related supplies are being flown to Sierra Leone and Liberia. They include gloves, masks, gowns, goggles, saline, antibiotics, oral rehydration solution and painkillers. "We must do all we can to reduce further the human tragedy caused by this deadly outbreak and help communities avoid an even deeper setback than has occurred already," said Chief Executive Thomas Tighe of Direct Relief, according to USA Today. Read more on Ebola.
Study: Medicare Patients Less Likely to Receive Post-Stroke Surgery
Despite the fact that it can significantly help recovery and reduce the risk of long-term disability or even death, a common post-stroke surgical treatment is far less likely to be referred by physicians of patients with Medicare, according to a new study in the journal PLOS One. Researchers at the University of Florida (UF) analyzed data on more than 21,000 adult patients discharged from 2003 to 2008 with a diagnosis of subarachnoid hemorrhage, finding that—when compared to patients with private insurance—Medicare patients were almost 45 percent less likely to receive surgery and were more than twice as likely to die in the hospital. Azra Bihorac, MD, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of anesthesiology, medicine and surgery at the UF College of Medicine, said the results could indicate a conscious or unconscious bias. “Not every hospital has skilled neurosurgeons who specialize in subarachnoid hemorrhage,” he said in a release. “If these hospitals don’t have the necessary expertise, then they may actually overestimate the risk of a bad prognosis. They may assume that the patient won’t do well anyway, so they won’t proceed with surgery.” Read more on access to care.
Study: Weekly Text Reminders about Calories Help People Make Healthier Choices
Something as simple as a weekly text reminder may help U.S. adults develop a better understanding of basic nutrition and make healthier food choices, according to a new study in Health Promotion Practice. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health sent either a weekly text message reminder, a weekly email reminder, or no weekly reminder about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation of a reasonable daily caloric intake—2,000 calories—to 246 participants dining in the Johns Hopkins Hospital cafeteria. They found that at the beginning of the study approximately 58 percent knew the recommended benchmark, but after four weeks the participants who received texts were twice as likely to know the benchmark. “While daily energy needs vary, the 2,000-calorie value provides a general frame of reference that can make menu and product nutrition labels more meaningful,” said study leader Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, in a release. “When people know their calorie ‘budget’ for the day, they have context for making healthier meal and snack choices.” Read more on nutrition.
EBOLA UPDATE: Death Toll Now to at Least 2,296
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The death toll from the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa is now at least 2,296, according to the World Health Organization. However, the global health agency does not have the latest figures from Liberia—the country that has been hit hardest by the disease—making the true toll likely much higher. "It remains a very grave situation," said Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Tuesday, according to Reuters. "It is taking a long time to respond effectively .... We expect it to accelerate for at least another two or three weeks before we can look forward to a decline." As of Sept. 6 there were 4,293 recorded cases in five countries. Read more on Ebola.
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Clinton Foundation Announce Consensus Statement on Treating Prescription Drug Abuse and Misuse
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Clinton Foundation have released a consensus statement calling for a public health frame to analyze and disseminate proven, evidence-based intervention to combat prescription drug abuse and misuse. The statement is in response to President Clinton’s call-to-action on the subject in May of this year. “Prescription drug abuse and misuse, as well as widespread addiction and diversion of these products to the illicit market, represents one of the greatest challenges to our country’s public health in recent memory,” said Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a release. “This consensus statement marks a continuation of our school’s commitment, as well as that of the Clinton Foundation, to address epidemic rates of poisonings and deaths that are occurring due to prescription opioids and other prescription drugs that are highly prone to abuse and misuse.” According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses killed 41,430 people in 2011, making it the leading cause of injury deaths. Read more on substance abuse.
CDC: 90% of Youth Ages 6-18 Consume Too Much Sodium
Approximately 9 in 10 U.S. children ages 6-18 consume more than the recommended amount of sodium, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report also found that approximately 43 percent of the sodium comes from the ten foods they eat the most often: pizza; bread and rolls; cold cuts/cured meats; savory snacks; sandwiches; cheese; chicken patties/nuggets/tenders; pasta mixed dishes; Mexican mixed dishes; and soups. “Too many children are consuming way too much sodium, and the result will be risks of high blood pressure and heart disease in the future,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, in a release. “Most sodium is from processed and restaurant food, not the salt shaker. Reducing sodium intake will help our children avoid tragic and expensive health problems.” Read more on nutrition.
EBOLA UPDATE: 55 CDC Workers Now on the Ground in West Africa
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
There are now 55 disease detectives and other experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the ground in West Africa in response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak. All told, more than 350 CDC U.S. staff are working around the clock on logistics, communications, analytics, management and other support functions. “We are fulfilling our promise to the people of West Africa, Americans, and the world, that CDC would quickly ramp up its efforts to help bring the worst Ebola outbreak in history under control,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “We know how to stop Ebola. It won’t be easy or fast, but working together with our U.S. and international partners and country leadership, together we are doing it.” Read more on Ebola.
Three Studies Offer Differing Takes on Extremely-Low Salt Diets
Two new studies in the New England Journal of Medicine are calling into question the conventional wisdom that as little sodium as possible is always the ideal. The first study found that extremely low-salt diets may not be as beneficial as believed—and may even be dangerous—and the second found that people with moderate salt intake don’t benefit from reductions as much as people who consume higher amounts of salt. "Previously it was believed that the lower you go the better. What these studies show collectively is that there is an optimal level, and lower is not necessarily better," Andrew Mente, MD, of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, chief author of the blood pressure study, according to Reuters. However, a third study also published in the journal found a direct link between less salt and better health, and no evidence to indicate that extremely-low sodium levels were dangerous. Read more on nutrition.
SAMHSA: States Meeting Goals for Reducing Tobacco Sales to Minors
All states and the District of Columbia continue to meet their goals of preventing tobacco sales to people under the age of 18, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report found that only 9.6 percent of inspected retail outlets illegally sold tobacco products to minors in 2013, below the goal of 20 percent set by the Synar Amendment program. The rate was as high as 72.7 percent only 16 years ago. “Tobacco use is still the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. We must do everything we can to deter minors from buying tobacco products,” said Frances Harding, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. “For the past 17 years, the Synar program has made a real difference in lowering the levels of illegal tobacco sales to minors across the nation. However, everyone in the community must continue to work together in eliminating these illegal sales.” Read more on tobacco.