Stories about: OWL

Sugar and vice

Despite it being an ingredient that no one needs on a daily basis, sugar plays a starring role in many of our diets. The American Heart Association suggest that kids eat no more than three teaspoons (12 grams) of sugar a day, but Sara Yen, registered dietitian at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Martha Eliot Health Center, says most kids are probably exceeding that. And with the many sugar variations and substitutes, there seems to be confusion about what sugar and its spinoffs really are, and what they mean for our bodies.

Yen demystifies the situation without sugarcoating it.

“The reason we tell patients to avoid sugar is because it provides calories and refined carbohydrates, but not much else,” she says. “It’s what we call empty calories: You take them in, but in terms of fiber, vitamins and minerals, it’s not beneficial.”

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Apples vs. Oz

In many cases jucies aren't much of a healthier alternative to soda

By now you’ve probably heard about Dr. Oz’s war against apple juice. The doctor/TV personality recently made claims that many brands of apple juice contain too much arsenic, a known cancer-causing agent found in many pesticides.

The Food and Drug Administration was quick to respond to Oz’s study, saying that any trace levels of arsenic found in apple juice sold in the US was perfectly safe, and statements to the contrary were “irresponsible and misleading.”

Inflammatory or not, Oz’s attack on apple juice seems to have gotten the public’s attention. But as many people consider the hidden ingredients in their kids’ favorite drink, they seem to be ignoring a far more obvious problem with many popular juices: Large amounts of sugar.

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Food for thought: The war against childhood obesity

Daivd Ludwig, MD, PhD

For David Ludwig, MD, PhD, one of health’s most fundamental truths can be traced back to a 2,000-year-old quote from Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine: “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.”

It’s a simple but powerful philosophy, and when combined with current research in obesity prevention, it’s one of the cornerstones of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) Clinic. “Hippocrates was right, nutrition really is the foundation for health and well-being,” says Ludwig. “He understood that intuitively, without access to the modern science and technology.”

Founded by Ludwig in 1996, OWL is a multidisciplinary clinic with a staff that includes physicians, nurses, dietitians and experts in child behavior. With Ludwig at the helm, OWL has spent the past decade and a half researching childhood obesity while serving over 1,500 patients a year, making it one of the largest and most respected childhood obesity clinics in America. Now, thanks to a $7 million grant provided by the New Balance Foundation, Ludwig and his team will be able to expand their clinical research, patient care and community health programs. The newly created New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center will bring Ludwig’s message to even more children and communities struggling with weight issues.

Since he was 8 years old, Ludwig has been captivated by the inner workings of the human body. By the time he finished the fourth grade he had read every physiology book on the shelves of his local library.

That fascination stayed with him throughout his education. When he began his pediatric endocrinology fellowship at Children’s, he focused his studies on diet and weight, researching how brain function affects body size, as well as the role genetics plays in why some people become obese and others do not.

But with childhood obesity already reaching epidemic status by the mid-1990s, Ludwig felt a more preventive approach was needed to remedy the mounting health problems that overweight children would face in the future.

“Our genes, though important, haven’t caused the epidemic—so we need to look to the environment for the answers,” he says.

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Should the state intervene on behalf of morbidly obese children?

When we think of child abuse and neglect, we think of burns and bruises and children left unattended. We don’t think of obesity. But maybe, in some cases, we should.

In a recent commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, argues that life-threatening obesity—where a child’s body mass index (BMI) is beyond the 99 percentile and multiple attempts to help the child lose weight have failed—could call for state intervention, and in extreme cases foster care.

Children in this highest BMI category are at great risk for many serious health complications. We all know that childhood obesity can lead to life-long health complications, but in extreme cases it can be life-threatening in the short term. For example, type 2 diabetes, which is being seen in younger and younger patients as the childhood obesity epidemic continues, can cause very serious complications and even be fatal. Sleep apnea, which often occurs in obese children, can lead to very dangerous heart problems.

Because of these dangers Ludwig says the most severe instances of childhood obesity may justify a child’s removal from the home because of imminent health risks to the child and the parents’ continued failure to address those problems.

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