Category: Obesity

Using Mass Communication to Curb Obesity

Internationally we continue to see substantial increases in overweight and obesity rates. In 2016, the World Health Organization reported that about 39% of all adults were overweight. Since overnutrition seems to traverse cultures, languages and international waters many people are looking for the most effective and efficient way of promoting positive health behaviors that promote a healthy weight. I believe mass media campaigns could serve as a solution to the problem. Health professionals can use mass media to improve the dietary habits of populations through multimedia-based communication efforts.

Over the past ten years, we have seen considerable changes in mass media communication largely due to increased use of mobile technology, especially social media. As access to mobile technology increases and people use smart-technology at increasing rates, health professionals have increased opportunities to address the importance of nutrition and physical activity. I believe that no other intervention approach has the potential for as wide a reach as mass media. Mass media campaigns that target individual dietary behaviors like increasing vegetable intake or reducing sodium are effective at promoting those behaviors (1). The “5-A-Day” campaign was successful in its efforts to increase fruit and vegetable intake. It was associated with a significant increase in fruit and vegetable consumption and increased awareness of health benefits associated with consuming fruits and vegetables. The success of mass communication in campaigns and interventions is not exclusive to increasing fruit and vegetable intake. This method has also proven effective at promoting folic acid supplementation and the maintenance of weight loss The Community Guide (2). I believe mass media campaigns advance nutrition efforts to reduce overweight and obesity rates because of the extent to which media is incorporated into people’s daily lives. Mobile technology gives health professionals a chance to engage in dialogue with individuals outside of clinical settings. I believe engaging with individuals in spaces they already visit may help people feel more comfortable and make them more receptive to adopting health-promoting behaviors.

Halloween Candy and the crux of Added Sugars

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays: with the costumes, fascination with the occult, the wonderful fall weather and fall themed foods, and one of my favorite vices being the candy. While I would argue that it’s the chocolate that I love, my sweet tooth cravings are most likely for sugar.

According to the American Heart Association, adult males are recommended not to consume more than 36 grams of sugar per day, while the recommendations for adult females is 25 grams. With that in mind, where does that leave some of our favorite Halloween Candy?

According to a recent study by FiveThirtyEight, the most popular Halloween Candy in the U.S. is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, with the top five being rounded out by Reese’s Miniatures, Twix, Kit Kat, and Snickers. Below are the sugar content in grams for each of the top 5 candies in the fun-size portions, except where otherwise noted:

Candy Sugar Content
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups 10.5 grams
Reese’s Miniatures (3 pieces) 10 grams
Twix 8.5 grams
Kit Kat 7 grams
Snickers 8.5 grams

 

The key here is that we should enjoy our Halloween Candy in Moderation. Often for myself, Halloween starts the downward spiral of unhealthy eating that lasts into the new year. In order to combat this, I am going to (attempt) to cut out added sugar from my diet for the three weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving. While skipping the half-priced post Halloween candy deals will be difficult, I am hoping to use this time to become more aware of the amount of added sugar I consume on a daily basis (just don’t ask me how many mini snickers I ate yesterday). For anyone who is interested in this, I have included a link in the sources below to a guide to a sugar detox. Happy Halloween!

 

Sources:

American Heart Association: Added Sugars –  http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Added-Sugars_UCM_305858_Article.jsp#.Wfc9CGiPLD4

FiveThirtyEight: The Ultimate Halloween Candy Power Ranking –

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-ultimate-halloween-candy-power-ranking/?utm_source=fark&utm_medium=website&utm_content=link&ICID=ref_fark

Daily Burn: Sugar Detox Diet –

http://dailyburn.com/life/health/sugar-detox-diet/

Recent Data on Obesity Prevalence in the U.S.

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) recently released a data brief on recent estimates for obesity prevalence in the United States. These estimates are from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 2015-2016. Some key survey findings showed that in 2015-2016, obesity prevalence was 39.8% among adults and 18.5% among youth in the U.S. Additionally, obesity prevalence was found to be 13.9% for children aged 2-5 years, 18.4% for children aged 6-11 years, and 20.6% for children aged 12-19 years.

While there was not a significant change in obesity prevalence among U.S. adults and youth between 2013-2014 and 2015-2016, obesity continues to remain an important public health concern.

Obesity prevalence rates in the U.S. do not currently meet national weight status objectives set forth in Healthy People 2020, a 10-year national agenda for improving public health in the U.S. These objectives are to reduce the proportion of U.S. adults that are obese to 30.5%, as well as reduce the proportion of U.S. children aged 2-5 years, 6-11 years, and 12-19 years that are obese to 9.4%, 15.7%, and 16.1%, respectively, by the year 2020.

Obesity can lead to serious health effects, such as: high blood pressure, heart disease, and even type 2 diabetes. However, maintaining a healthy weight through eating right and staying physically active can prevent these negative health outcomes.

References

Prevalence of Obesity among Adults and Youth: United States, 2015-2016. (2017, October). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db288.pdf

Nutrition and Weight Status. (2017, October 13). Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/nutrition-and-weight-status/objectives

Eat Right. (N.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/index.htm

Be Physically Active. (N.d.) Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/physical.htm

The link between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity

The link between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and obesity is one that has sparked a hot debate in public health. While some believe it is an arbitrary connection and that regulation of soda consumption seems obsolete, others believe it is the largest contributor to the current obesity epidemic. The American Journal of Public Health published an article this month that followed women for two years and examined their soda consumption and weight. Results showed that the women who had decreased their consumption of sugar-sweetened soda over the two-year period gained less weight while women who had an increase in their consumption of sugar-sweetened soda consumption gained more weight. A similar trend was also seen with waist circumference. The study also found there were no changes seen in weight with sugar-free soda consumption.

This is one of the first article to be published that connects sugar sweetened beverage consumption to increase in weight gain and perhaps will provide evidence to this ongoing debate on how the best ways to combat the obesity epidemic.

Fall for Healthy Options this Season

Ladies and Gentlemen: Fall is upon us! Well, next Friday it is anyway. As the season changes and the leaves along with it, you can unbox those fall scarves and cute booties. You can also expect a few new items on the menu at coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants, and if you’re anything like me, these new menu items are always a highlight. (Pumpkin spiced latte anyone?) They’re a wonderful seasonal treat and hard to resist, but too many can mean excess weight gain and upping your chances of an unexpected visit to the dentist.

If you’re looking to indulge in the fall harvest without any unwanted physical results, check out a few of the recipes below. They’re delicious, comforting and you’re sure to sneak in a veggie or two.

Sweet Potato Cornbread This new twist on an old classic provides all the indulgence of sweet potatoes with the added promise of fragrant spices.

Ratatouille Veggie-loaded and flavor-filled = best of both worlds. What more could you ask for? This dish is a key to guilt-free, wholesome eating.

Butternut Squash Gratin You won’t find boring potatoes here. This creamy dish is a perfect for a luxury weekend or for a workday wind down. For a low-calorie option, try it with low-fat milk.

Happy Eating!

Are you accepting toxic food advice?

If you’re a health junkie or on social media at all, you’ve probably seen these terms: registered dietitian, nutritionist, nutrition coach, food guru, etc.. With so much information flying around there’s a lot of confusion over what it all means and who to listen to when it comes to nutrition advice. My answer? It all depends! All of these titles embody a love of food but there are some big differences in who to look to for food advice. Let’s set the record straight.

Registered Dietitian

Registered dietitians (RDs), also called registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs), are recognized as experts of food and nutrition in the medical field. This is largely because of the many years these professionals spend studying the science behind food and how it affects the body. The government has regulations on who can call themselves a “registered dietitian”. This is to protect the public from people who present themselves as nutrition experts, but who have no formal training. For example, if someone with diabetes accepts nutrition advice from a nutritionist and it hurts them the nutritionist can not be held accountable. Registered dietitians, on the other hand, can lose their license or suffer fines for providing poor nutrition advice.  This is because RDs go through extensive training before they can practice. As of 2017, RDs are required to complete the following:

  • a bachelor’s or advanced degree in food science or human nutrition
  • supervised training and internships
  • pass the RD exam

After RDs are certified, they also have to complete annual training to maintain their credentials. This is my field of study and the past two years I’ve spent work toward a masters in this field has not been easy, but I’m so close to the finish line! From my studies, it seems RDs are excellent in a number of areas. They really understand how to help manage medical conditions and weight loss. They also can point out what diet trends are completely bogus with science.

Nutritionists/Nutrition Coach/Food Guru

Terms like nutritionist, nutrition coach and the like are not regulated. Anyone can use these labels. This isn’t to say they don’t have valuable nutrition knowledge. Many nutritionists have a wealth of nutrition knowledge from experience and self-study. Some of my favorite nutritionist on Facebook and Instagram provide excellent recipe ideas and encourage their followers to make healthy choices with amazing food photography. On the other hand, following nutrition advice from individuals not formally trained in food science can be dangerous. A nutritionist might not fully understand nutrition information or they may be misinformed. This can be dangerous if a nutritionist misinforms a large number of individuals, especially through social media platforms. Misinformation is particularly harmful when individuals are looking to receive information around serious medical conditions like diabetes and weight loss.

The next time you’re in search of food advice think about what you need! If you have a medical condition or you’re looking for advice on how to lose weight in a healthy way, you might want to look for advice from an RD. If you’re looking for meal prepping tips or fitness inspiration, a nutritionist can certainly help. There’s space for both in this food lovers community.

Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene

Like diet and exercise, sleep is an important part of living a healthy life. Sleep supports healthy brain function, healthy growth and development, and our immune function. For adults, the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. But what happens if we don’t get enough shut-eye? This can affect our productivity, our ability to manage our emotions, and even our ability to fight off infections. In addition, a lack of sleep can increase our risk for obesity, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

An important part of getting enough and better sleep is practicing good sleep habits or “sleep hygiene.” Here are some ways that you can practice good sleep hygiene:

Sleep more consistently. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning by setting your alarm. This will help to reinforce your body’s sleep/wake cycle.

Create an optimal sleep environment. It may be helpful to keep any work-related items/electronics in a room other than the bedroom. This will allow you to better associate the bedroom with sleep. Also, use a comfortable mattress and pillows, and try to reduce any light and noise that can affect your sleep. Blackout curtains, eye masks, and/or ear plugs can help with this. Finally, keep your bedroom at a cool temperature (60-75 degrees Fahrenheit) to facilitate sound sleep.

Establish a bedtime ritual. Listening to relaxing music, stretching, or reading before bed can be helpful to prepare you for sound sleep. Avoid activities that are very stimulating such as strenuous exercise or using a computer.

Put away technology. Using electronic devices such as your cell phone and computer before bed can make falling asleep more difficult. This is because the blue light that emanates from your phone and computer screens stimulates your brain, which can affect your sleep/wake cycle. Avoid using these devices 30 minutes before bed.

Avoid cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, and heavy meals before bed. Caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes can act as stimulants that can keep you awake. Avoid these substances 4-6 hours before bedtime. Additionally, avoid heavy foods before bed as these may cause indigestion, disrupting your ability to fall asleep.

If you must, nap during the day. Taking naps later in the day may disrupt your drive to sleep at night.

Happy Sleeping!

Helpful Resources: 

National Sleep Foundation

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

American Sleep Association

National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project (from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine)

References: 

Circadian Rhythm and Your Body Clock. (N.d.). Retrieved from  https://sleep.org/articles/circadian-rhythm-body-clock/

Healthy Sleep Tips. (2017). Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips/page/0/1

National Sleep Foundation. (2015, February 2). National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times. Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times

The High-Tech World of Sleep. (N.d.). Retrieved from https://sleep.org/articles/how-technology-changing-the-way-we-sleep/

Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep. (2007, December 18). Retrieved from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips

Peters, B. (2016, March 1). What Sleep Rituals Should Be Part of Your Bedtime Routine?  Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/bedtime-routines-and-sleep-rituals-for-restful-sleep-3014947

Why Is Sleep Important? (2017, June 7). Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why

Organic by any other name: 2017 Dirty Dozen

You have two sets of potatoes in the grocery store.  One is $0.99/lb.  The other is $1.50/lb and has an organic sticker on it.  If you’re like me you sit there thinking, “Why would I pay more for a little sticker?  I’ll pay a little less and save the change.”  Now, let’s find out if we made the right choice.

Organic basically means that products including lotions, oils and produce are made with fewer chemicals.  (Note that I say fewer we’ll address this in a minute.)  This word is regulated by the USDA which means, unlike terms like cage-free and natural, not just anyone can slap the word organic on something to sell products.  There is a strict list of chemicals and pesticides that the USDA has approved for use on organic produce.  So, while organic isn’t always 100% chemical free, organic farmers do use a lot fewer chemicals than traditional farmers.  When it comes to produce, there is a huge difference in the chemical content.  A lot of food grown in our country is essentially doused in chemicals to keep rodents, fungus, and bugs at bay.  A list comes out every year noting the foods most heavily laden with harsh chemicals.  Allow me to introduce this year’s “dirty dozen”:

1. Strawberries

2. Spinach

3. Nectarines

4. Apples

5. Peaches

6. Pears

7. Cherries

8. Grapes

9. Celery

10. Tomatoes

11. Sweet bell peppers

12. Potatoes

(Source: www.ewg.org)

I can already hear people saying “What’s the point if chemicals could still be present?  “There are chemicals in everything so what’s the point of organic?”  Sure, but what if I told you some people have noted over 20 different pesticides on strawberries?  And that some of the pesticides used by traditional farmers are things like DDT, a chemical linked to cancer and reproductive issues. Other pesticides are linked to brain damage, birth defects and Parkinson’s.  Consumers have to look out for their own best interests.  We have to take responsibility for our own health by paying close attention to what we put in our bodies. Next time you’re out shopping, consider picking up the organic potatoes.  Selecting some organic items could help you live a longer more healthy life.

FDA Makes Big Changes to Nutrition Facts Label

Two weeks ago, the FDA finalized the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged food products. While the iconic look of the twenty-year old label will stay the same, several changes were made to the information provided in order to help consumers make more informed decisions about the foods they eat.

Some of the major changes include:

  • Increasing the type size for “Calories,” “servings per container,” and the “Serving size” declaration. This change along with bolding the number of calories and the “Serving size” declaration will serve to better highlight this important information.
  • “Added sugars,” in grams and as percent Daily Value, will now be included on the label. Because excessive sugar intake typically occurs from the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods that contain an abundance of added sugar (as opposed to natural sugar), this information will now be included on nutrition facts labels.
  • Serving sizes must be based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating. Because how much people eat has changed, and because package sizes affect how much people eat, serving sizes will be updated to be more realistic. For example, the serving size for ice-cream will change from 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup, and both 12 and 20 oz soda bottles will equal one serving, since most people drink a whole bottle in one sitting.

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Old label vs. New label

Manufacturers will need to use the new label by July 26, 2018. However, manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to comply. For more information about all the changes made, visit the FDA website.

Other Dangers of Using Devices at Nighttime

Most of us know that using mobile phones or e-readers before bed can disrupt our sleep cycles, but did you know there are other dangers associated with prolonged exposure to artificial light at night?

Recent research suggests that excess blue light exposure may be doing more than robbing you of a good night’s sleep, and could also increase your risk of cancer, obesity, and depression.

It’s important to understand why the blue light emitted from mobile devices affects your circadian rhythm. Typically, after awaking, people usually open the shades to let in the morning sunlight. Special cells in your eyes detect the natural light and signal your brain to shut off its production of melatonin. The physiological process doesn’t stop there—the morning light also signals cells to increase production of the stress hormone cortisol and a hunger-promoting hormone called ghrelin. The morning light also signals your body temperature and heart rate to rise.

In essence, the morning light allows your body to “reset” itself to prepare for the work ahead, which is exactly what’s supposed to happen in the early hours of the morning. However, this physiological resetting can sometimes occur at night, which is when things can start to go amiss.

Previous research has shown that people who use mobile phones, e-readers, or are exposed to LED lighting have increased appetite, took longer to fall asleep, experienced less restorative REM sleep, and were more tired the following day than those who did not use such devices before bedtime. Another study demonstrated where device users experienced a 55% drop in melatonin after only five days, which can be alarming because in addition to its sleep-inducing powers, melatonin has also been shown to be an anti-cancer agent.

While most of the recent research is too early to determine the true effect of blue light at night, scientists aren’t afraid to suggest that folks burning the midnight oil on their devices are more likely to be obese or suffer from heart disease. Other studies have linked late night workers to higher rates of both breast and prostate cancer.

So, in a world driven by technology, what can we do to ensure we’re getting the proper kind of sleep? Fortunately, there are several steps we can take that won’t require us to toss out our smartphones and computers. With a proper balance, we can have both!

The best advice public health gives us in this department is to power down those devices at a normal hour, or at least an hour before you go to bed (of course, the earlier the better).

Next, try reading an actual paper book before bed. Foregoing the artificial light from a phone or e-reader will signal your brain to begin producing melatonin at a decent hour to prepare your body for sleep.

Also, try purchasing energy-efficient light bulbs. Certain companies now produce bulbs that automatically change their hue depending on the time of day.

Finally, if you must use an electronic device before bed, purchase an app that allows your laptop or phone to emit blue light during the day and shifts to warmer wavelengths by evening. While this option isn’t as healthy as reading a traditional paper book, it should help your body to still produce some amounts of melatonin.

Sweet dreams!