October 6th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Anyone wondering why more than 23 million U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or obese can find the answer in a study published this month in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Researchers from the National Cancer Institute can sum it up in two words: empty calories.
Here are the basic findings:
Read More:Kids Consume 40% of Calories from Solid Fat, Sugar
July 6th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
A new study reveals that children were exposed to fewer TV ads for sweets and beverages in 2007, but more fast food ads (as compared to 2003).
Past studies have demonstrated that TV advertising influences the short-term eating habits of children ages 2 to 11, and some research shows ads can also influence daily dietary intake. That’s why major U.S. food companies adopted the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative in 2006, which held that 50% of child-targeted advertising would promote healthier products or good nutrition/healthful lifestyles.
But there was one significant problem: Each company had its own definition of “healthier,” according to Lisa M. Powell, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago, whose research will appear in the September issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
Here’s what the researchers found:
- Between 2003 and 2007, daily average exposure to televised food ads decreased by 13.7% among children ages 2 to 5 and by 3.7% among children ages 6 to 11, but exposure increased by 3.7% among teens ages 12 to 17.
- Ads for sweets aired less often, with a 41% decrease for 2- to 5-year-olds, a 29.3% decrease for 6- to 11-year-olds and a 12.1% decrease for 12- to 17-year-olds.
- Beverage ads decreased by 27% to 30% across the three age groups, with substantial cuts in ads for sugar-sweetened beverages.
- But exposure to fast food ads increased by 4.7% for children 2 to 5, by 12.2% for children 6 to 11 and by 20.4% for teens 12 to 17.
Dr. Powell and her colleagues chalk up the last statistic to the power of branding. They also found a racial gap in advertising, with African-American children viewing 1.4 to 1.6 times as many food ads per day.
The researchers recommend continued monitoring of ads targeted toward children, as well as nutritional assessments for advertised products.
Read More:Kids See Fewer Sweets/Beverages Ads, But More Fast Food Ads
March 10th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
As noted yesterday in When Costs Rise, Sales of Unhealthful Foods Drop, so-called sin taxes on unhealthful foods may help stem America’s obesity and diabetes epidemics.
Facing critical budget deficits, some city and state legislators are embracing the idea. Earlier this month, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter proposed a tax on soda purchases, while Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter last month signed a bill to tax candy and soda.
“State-level taxes exist on soda sold in grocery stores and vending machines in 34 and 39 states, respectively, and the mean taxes, currently applied for revenue generation, range from 3% to 4%,” write San Francisco Department of Public Health officials Mitchell H. Katz, MD, and Rajiv Bhatia, MD, in an editorial published in Monday’s edition of Archives of Internal Medicine.
But there’s not much evidence to support a link between such modest surcharges and changes in consumer behavior, they note.
“More substantial surcharges may decrease the consumption of sweetened beverages and, equally important, increase the consumption of more healthful alternatives,” write Drs. Katz and Bhatia.
The revenues cities and states collect “could be used to increase awareness about the harm of sugar-sweetened beverages and fund structural interventions, such as creating water stations in schools,” they add. “Copying a successful tactic of anti-tobacco crusaders, the funds also could be used to counter the lavish advertising of soda and junk food or for ‘marketing’ ordinary tap water.
“In the end,” they conclude, “putting our money where our mouth is means aligning our economic incentives so that we always serve up the healthful choice.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Suicide by Sugar: A Startling Look at Our #1 National Addiction
Read More:Should Food Prices Reflect Health Priorities?
March 9th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Adults tend to consume less pizza and soda when prices increase, and their body weight and overall calorie intake also appear to decrease, according to a report in yesterday’s edition of Archives of Internal Medicine.
“To compensate for food environments where healthful foods (i.e., fresh fruits and vegetables) tend to cost more, public health professionals and politicians have suggested that foods high in calories, saturated fat or added sugar be subject to added taxes and/or that healthier foods be subsidized,” the authors write as background information in the article. “Such manipulation of food prices has been a mainstay of global agricultural and food policy, used as a means to increase availability of animal foods and basic commodities, but it has not been readily used as a mechanism to promote public health and chronic disease prevention efforts.”
Between 1985 and 2005, a 10% price increase was associated with a 7% decrease in calories consumed from soda and a 12% decrease in calories consumed from pizza, according to lead researcher Kiyah J. Duffey, PhD, and colleagues at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
A $1 increase in the cost of soda or pizza was also associated with a lower overall daily calorie intake, lower body weight and improved insulin resistance score. A $1 increase in the cost of both soda and pizza was associated with even greater changes.
The researchers estimate an 18% tax on these foods would result in a decline of roughly 56 calories per person per day—the equivalent of 5 pounds per person per year—with corresponding reductions in the risk of obesity-related diseases.
“In conclusion, our findings suggest that national, state or local policies to alter the price of less healthful foods and beverages may be one possible mechanism for steering U.S. adults toward a more healthful diet,” the authors write. “While such policies will not solve the obesity epidemic in its entirety and may face considerable opposition from food manufacturers and sellers, they could prove an important strategy to address overconsumption, help reduce energy intake, and potentially aid in weight loss and reduced rates of diabetes among U.S. adults.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back
Read More:Can Higher Taxes Beat Obesity?
February 17th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
It’s a kooky world. Just when you think you’ve seen it all—WHAM—this news comes over the wire.
After being stabbed, a Canadian man went back to the bar to finish his beer, instead of seeking medical attention!
And in a Sweden, a woman convinced the court to let her enter an addiction program, for Coca-Cola.
When police arrived they found the man drinking a beer despite a minor “poke” to his chest. And he was uncooperative and wouldn’t talk.
So, since the stabbed man was cool with it, the police weren’t all that concerned and so far no suspects have been named; The Edmonton Sun reports.
Wow, I guess it was a great beer.
Now, in Malmo, Sweden a court of appeals overturned an earlier decision and will allow a woman, who has been deaf since childhood, to check into a facility for addictions to Coca-Cola and food.
The new court order is in response to the woman saying her eating and drinking habits have led to emergency hospitalization for diabetes and high blood pressure; via The United Press International.
I weep for our species.
Read More:Unhealthy Food News: Beer Stabbing & Cola Addiction
May 30th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
Kudos to The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association (AHA).
Former President Bill Clinton (left) was instrumental in striking a deal with Cadbury Schweppes, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the American Beverage Association to change soft-drink policies at New York schools in an effort to combat childhood obesity—a major concern for parents who embrace organic living.The new guidelines limit school beverages to 100 calories per container, except for certain milks and juices. The beverage industry will work to implement these standards in 75% of U.S. schools before the 2008–2009 school year begins, with full implementation before the 2009–2010 school year. (School districts must be willing to amend existing contracts with beverage suppliers.)
“This is an important announcement and a bold step forward in the struggle to help America’s kids live healthier lives,” says Clinton, an Alliance leader.
Elementary schools will sell only water, 8-oz. calorie-capped servings of certain juices with no added sweeteners, and fat-free/low-fat regular and flavored milks. Middle schools will apply the same standards, with portion sizes increasing to 10 oz. Ditto for high schools, but they can also offer no- and low-calorie drinks, including diet and unsweetened teas, diet sodas, fitness water, low-calorie sports drinks, flavored water, seltzers and light juices (up to 12 oz.).
“This really is a groundbreaking agreement,” says AHA President Robert Eckel, MD. “Many school districts are headed in the same direction as our guidelines. We commend the many leaders and advocates who have fought for healthier school environments.”
But children’s nutrition advocate Ann Cooper believes we still face challenges: “Any agreement that limits high-fructose corn syrup and sugar and non-nutrient foods that are served in schools is good,” she told Associated Press reporter Karen Matthews, “but I don’t think it goes far enough.” Cooper would like to see restrictions on sports drinks and flavored milks.
Press conference photo: Gina Gayle/U.S. Newswire
Read More:New York Bans Sugary Sodas; More States to Follow