Stories about: obesity

Bringing back home economics

homeeconomicsIn today’s technologically driven schools, the idea of home economics classes, which were designed to arm kids with half a dozen easy-to-cook recipes, seems a little dated. And faced with busy academic schedules, schools have largely abandoned these lessons. But given the current epidemic of childhood obesity, is this really the smartest move?  In a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), David Ludwig, MD, PhD, argues that instruction in basic food preparation and meal planning are essential for today’s kids, who can’t rely on their parents to teach them these skills.

(Read a related post from Thrive that asks whether it’s realistic to expect marketers to make changes on their own to how they market unhealthy foods to kids, or whether the government should get involved.)

Many parents never learned to cook and instead rely on restaurants, take-out food, frozen meals and packaged food as basic fare. Many children seldom experience what a true home-cooked meal taste like, much less what goes into preparing it.

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FDA tired of misleading food labels

chocolate cheeriosWhether it’s Chocolate Cheerios advertising that it “may reduce the risk of heart disease”, Juicy Juice claiming it aids “brain development” or Nestle’s Drumsticks showcasing it has “0g Trans Fat” but leaving out that eating them may actually help make you fat – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is fed up with false and misleading claims on food labels.

The FDA has sent out a group of letters warning companies about their misleading advertising practices. The commissioner of food and drugs, Margaret Hamburg, M.D., stated on the FDA’s website, “Today, ready access to reliable information about the calorie and nutrient content of food is even more important, given the prevalence of obesity and diet-related diseases in the United States.”

The FDA sent out 17 letters in total addressing the questionable labeling on 22 food products. You can view a list of all of these products on the FDA’s website.

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Do small changes in our diet really add up?

We’re constantly told that if we eat less and exercise more, the pounds will come sliding off. Not true. According to a recent study, small caloric changes have almost no long-term effect on weight.

While this news is disappointing, Children’s obesity expert – David Ludwig, MD, PhD, tell The New York Times that there is hope, especially for children. Small changes made during childhood lead to a much healthier adult lifestyle.

You can read more of Ludwig has to say on topic of childhood obesity here on Thrive.

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Claims of vitamin-fortified, sugary foods hard to swallow

cerealboxWalking down the cereal aisle at the supermarket, it’s impossible to miss the declarations of health benefits prominently located on the fronts of the colorful boxes. The Nutrition Facts Panel—a valuable consumer resource that lists a product’s sugar, salt, fat and calorie content—is usually printed on the side of the box. But do parents searching for a healthful choice even bother to read the nutritional information when the front of the box suggests the product is made of “whole grain goodness” and “immune-boosting” vitamins?

Unfortunately many don’t and that’s a real problem, says David Ludwig, MD, PhD, in a commentary co-authored with Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). “We’ve arrived at the deplorable situation of Cocoa Krispies being marketed as a way to protect children from H1N1 flu, because it has a few added vitamins,” says Ludwig.

Consumers tend to believe claims on the front of packages, according to recent research, and perceive health statements to be endorsed by the government. But few health claims on food products have any basis in science at all. And unlike medications, food product labels don’t have to disclose their potential ill effects, such as obesity from high added sugar content.

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