Boston Children’s Hospital’s doctors and researchers are constantly working to uncover and understand health and medical questions. Health Headlines is a twice-monthly summary of some of the most important research findings.
Top news this week includes research focused on the link between screens and nearsightedness, a revolutionary new diet theory and a study underscoring the health benefits of skin-to-skin contact for preemies.
HealthDay News reports children who spend lots of time indoors and on computers and other electronic devices may be raising their risk for nearsightedness, a panel of U.S. ophthalmology experts suggests. Boston Children’s Dr. David Hunter explains what nearsightedness is and how going outside helps your eyes see farther away.
Boston Children’s Dr. David Ludwig, has developed a startling new theory that turns traditional diet advice on its head: overeating doesn’t make you fat; the process of getting fat makes you overeat. In his new book, Always Hungry? Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight Permanently, Ludwig lays out his premise that our 40-year embrace of calories in, calories out has actually contributed to weight gain. He recently did a Q&A interview with Forbes.com about his research and how he came to understand that the biology of weight loss was far more complicated than “eat less, move more.”
International Business Times reports on a study from Boston Children’s Dr. Grace Chan that finds skin-to-skin contact may reduce deaths for infants with low birth weight. Low birth weight infants are particularly vulnerable during their first month of life so the researchers encourage skin-to-skin contact, also known as kangaroo mother care (KMC), especially in developing countries where conventional treatments are not widely available.
Learn more about the Boston Children’s Department of Ophthalmology.
The scales may not be tipping quite so precipitously for some low-income preschoolers. So says a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nineteen states saw small decreases in obesity rates among preschoolers between 2008 and 2011, while rates held steady in another 20 states. Is this cause for celebration, cautious optimism or concern?
Perhaps all of the above, says David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital. “The report is a small, but encouraging, sign after nearly half a century of bad news.” The latest data, along with several other reports, suggest the era of continually rising obesity rates may be drawing to a close.
That’s the good news. But most epidemics aren’t halted by a crook in the prevalence curve. In fact, containing the obesity curve will require more muscle from federal decision makers. …
After spending more than 15 years researching evidence-based ways to prevent and treat childhood obesity, David Ludwig, MD, PhD and director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital knows that obesity is a complex epidemic that can’t be fought from only one angle.
After TEDMED classified childhood obesity as one of its Top 20 Great Challenges of 2012, the public was invited to submit questions about the state of the epidemic and how we might go about reducing childhood obesity. Of these questions, 10 were selected by TEDMED and posed to Ludwig. Here are his responses.
1. What are the top 10 causes of obesity in children, and which ones can be reduced or prevented?
2. Apart from the genetic component of childhood obesity, what do we know about parents’ roles in influencing their children’s weight?
3. Are there affordable and effective programs to reduce childhood obesity that can be reproduced on a large scale?
4. Should we be concerned that campaigns against childhood obesity might have an unintended negative consequence of actually increasing the risk of eating disorders?
5. Studies reveal extraordinary variances in rates of childhood obesity among different groups, such as some Native Americans and African-American teenage girls. Why is this, and how should we address the issue in a culturally sensitive way?
6. What do we know about the impact of food advertising aimed at children, and how effective has voluntary restraint (on the part of food companies, restaurants, etc.) been in combating any negative effects?
7. Because of the relationship between obesity and the development of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, today’s children could be the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. Which elements of society (including but not limited to care providers, citizens, government, business, religious institutions, or any other group) should play a role in combating this problem, and what steps should they take?
8. Kids spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of various kinds of screens (phone, TV, computer, video game). Does this play a role in childhood obesity and, regardless, might screens also be enlisted as part of the solution to childhood obesity?
9. How do gender differences and body image issues influence childhood obesity and how should programs to address childhood obesity take these differences into account?
10. Schools have undertaken a number of special initiatives to combat childhood obesity, including: offering healthier lunches; eliminating soda from vending machines; and weighing students, then sending parents “fat” report cards. Do these programs make a difference? What can and should schools do to help their students achieve and maintain a normal weight?
Our approach at the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital is as extensive as childhood obesity itself—focusing not only on patient care, but also on clinical research, advocacy and community education, and on developing innovative treatments to effectively address each patient’s individual biology and behavior.
The Center’s clinical arm—The Optimal Weight for Life Program—is one of the largest and most respected childhood obesity clinics in the country, and we’ll continue to fight, treat and prevent obesity until every child is well. Request an appointment at one of our Boston, Waltham or Peabody locations.
Given the whirlwind of media around New York’s recent ban on super-sized sugary drinks it’s no surprise to hear that sugar-sweetened beverages add extra calories to our diets—and, ultimately, extra pounds to our bodies. What’s more surprising is just how directly sugar-sweetened beverages impact weight gain, and how keeping zero-calorie drinks in the house can prevent that unnecessary weight from affecting our kids.
Recently, researchers Cara Ebbeling, PhD, (associate director) and David Ludwig, MD, PhD, (director) of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital examined the relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain and teen’s home environments. They looked at 224 teens who were either overweight or obese, and who drank sugar-sweetened beverages on a daily basis. …