Sugary drink sales plummeted after price increase, study says

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From Colombia to South Africa, France to India, governments around the globe are exploring whether taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) might curb obesity rates. Do these fines actually work to prevent people from choosing sweet drinks? Adding a small fee to the price tag of SSB’s at one UK restaurant chain most likely contributed to a decline in their sales, according to a study (published Oct. 2017) in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. Jamie’s Italian, a chain created by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, launched its own health campaign in September 2015. Along with adding 10 pence (about 13 cents) per drink to SSB, the chain offered new lower-sugar beverages and redesigned its menus.

After the fee was introduced, the chain observed an 11% decline in the number of sugar-sweetened beverages sold per customer during the first 12 weeks, according to the researchers. Over a six-month period, after the levy was charged, the number of sugary drinks had declined by 9.3% per customer. “Sugar taxes are currently prevalent policies to curb obesity rates and improve population diet,” said Steven Cummins, senior author of the study and a professor of population health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “There’s actually very little evidence that they work in practice. There’s only a couple of studies that assess the impact of these kinds of (taxes) in real life on real customers.” Cummins and his colleagues analyzed Jamie’s Italian health campaign to add to this knowledge base.

‘Fat man of Europe’

Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, including non-diet sodas, flavored juices, and some sports drinks, is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cavities. In the UK, sugar-sweetened drinks may account for half of the excess calories consumed per day by children (two-thirds by U.S. children) while one in four British adults (one in three U.S.) are obese, according to a 2013 report from the United Nations.  The same report also found that obesity rates among adults have more than tripled in the past three decades. In 2015, the National Health Service made public its worries that the UK has become the “fat man of Europe.” Shortly after that, Jamie’s Italian decided, according to its website, to “raise awareness of how much sugar is present in certain soft drinks and make people think about their sugar intake, particularly that of their children” by adding 10 pence to the price tag.
Any profits raised by the fee were to be donated to The Children’s Health Fund in support of programs aimed at improving children’s health and food education, the campaign made clear. Cummins said he and his colleagues “had no control over the design or delivery” of Jamie’s Italian health intervention. Independently, the restaurant chain created and implemented the fee, made changes to its menu to explain the new price, introduced fruit spritzers (fruit juice mixed with water) and created promotional materials. “Jamie Oliver also broadcasted an hourlong documentary just a few days before the levy was introduced,” Cummins added. “So there was quite a lot of media coverage.”
The price increase can be seen as a complex “intervention” including a financial element in combination with non-fiscal components, the researchers said. Analyzing sales data from before and after the intervention, Cummins and his colleagues calculated the average number of sugar-sweetened beverage sales per customer in 37 Jamie’s Italian restaurants. In the 12 months prior, a total of 2,058,581 non-alcoholic beverages were sold in the restaurants, and 38% (775,230) of them were sugar-sweetened drinks. Adding a 10-pence fee to SSB was associated with significant declines (11.04%) in sales per customer, with the highest reductions in restaurants with higher SSB sales per customer (18.77%), the results indicated.
It could be that customers switched to water or other kinds of beverages, potentially fruit juices, or the adults might even choose alcoholic drinks, Cummins said. “We don’t exactly know what they’re substituting for; my guess is primarily water.”A longer follow-up period is required to assess whether the effects will be sustained, the researchers noted. “It’s a straightforward intervention, actually, and there’s no reason why other commercial restaurant chains cannot implement this kind of intervention,” Cummins said. “It wouldn’t require major changes or costs.”
That said, his experience of working with Jamie’s Italian suggested no harm regarding negative financial consequences. “There may be some financial impact, and we don’t know what it might be, but it’s likely not large,” Cummins said. “It may be that other types of chains that sell different types of food might have a larger impact economically” — but this is “fairly unlikely.”

Small changes

“A lot is going on here in this study,” said Jayson L. Lusk, a professor and head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, who did not participate in the research or the analysis. “It’s hard to conclude that the price change in sugar-sweetened beverages is the main cause of the changes being observed,” Lusk said, noting that bottled water and diet cola consumption fell at about the same rate as the increased-price sugary beverages after the intervention began. Meanwhile, the beverages introduced after the price increase introduce a “confound” into the experiment: an element that disrupts and adds confusion to the results. Overall, previous research on this topic suggests that such taxes will probably have small effects on consumption of taxed beverages and that people will merely substitute other high-calorie, non-taxed drinks and foods, Lusk said.
So, can sugar-sweetened beverage taxes lower SSB consumption? “Yes, by a small amount,” he said. “But that’s different than saying sugar-sweetened beverage taxes reduce caloric intake. “There’s also literature showing these taxes tend to be regressive, affecting lower-income households more than higher-income households,” Lusk said. Jason M. Fletcher, a professor of public affairs and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said some of the results from the new study suggest a “general weakness in the analysis.” Fletcher did not participate in the new study.
After the intervention, there was a reduction in sales of all types of beverages compared with before the intervention, Fletcher noted, and the authors did not adequately estimate the effects of the 10-pence levy for each beverage in their analysis. “In our own work, we find support for substitution effects in the U.S., where higher taxes on soda lead to two effects: (1) less consumption of soda and (2) more consumption of other high-calorie drinks,” Fletcher said. “Combining these effects can lead to no increase in health.” Americans consume more than 40 gallons of sugary drinks per capita each year, on average.
“Sugar taxes in England have not been proposed, but there is in legislation to be implemented next year as a proposal from Her Majesty’s Treasury on implementing a sugar tax of 20% on producers and manufacturers of sugar-sweetened beverages — so not to the consumer but to the producers themselves,” Cummins said. Some of the major manufacturers have announced that they are going to reformulate their products to avoid the tax. “So in one sense, the policy has already had an effect regarding persuading companies to reformulate their products to avoid the extra costs that will be levied upon them,” Cummins said. “Within the whole of the food system, there are a variety of different types of responses,” he said, adding that he hopes to study these responses. “We’re interested in capturing these kinds of systemwide effects.”
Nutrition Nugget
Eat Your Chocolate! Yes, you read that right! Having a small amount of dark chocolate – 70-85% cocoa – is rich in fiber, iron, and magnesium, among other minerals. Plus, it’s a great source of antioxidants which reduces free radicals in your body.
Word of the Nugget
 Analects: A collection of short literary or philosophical extracts.
Inspiration Nugget
People have to pretend you're a bad person so they don't feel guilty about the things they did to you.

World will have more obese children and adolescents than underweight by 2022

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The number of obese children and adolescents (aged 5 to 19 years) worldwide has risen tenfold in the past four decades, according to a new study led by Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO). If current trends continue, more children and adolescents will be obese than moderately or severely underweight by 2022. The study is published in The Lancet. It analyzed weight and height measurements from nearly 130 million people aged over five (31.5 million people aged 5 to 19, and 97.4 million aged 20 and older), the largest number of participants ever involved in an epidemiological study. More than 1000 researchers contributed to the study, which looked at body mass index (BMI) and how obesity has changed worldwide from 1975 to 2016.

During this period, obesity rates in the world’s children and adolescents increased from less than 1% (equivalent to five million girls and six million boys) in 1975 to nearly 6% in girls (50 million) and nearly 8% in boys (74 million) in 2016. Combined, the number of obese 5 to 19-year-olds rose more than tenfold globally, from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016. An additional 213 million were overweight in 2016 but fell below the threshold for obesity. Lead author Professor Majid Ezzati, of Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “Over the past four decades, obesity rates in children and adolescents have soared globally, and continue to do so in low-and-middle-income countries. More recently, they have plateaued in higher income countries, although obesity levels remain unacceptably high.”

Professor Ezzati adds: “These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe, with healthy nutritious foods too expensive for poor families and communities. The trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese and also malnourished. We need ways to make healthy, nutritious food more available at home and school, especially in poor families and communities, and regulations and taxes to protect children from unhealthy foods.”

More obese than underweight 5 to 19-year-olds by 2022

The authors say that if post-2000 trends continue, global levels of child and adolescent obesity will surpass those for moderately and severely underweight for the same age group by 2022. Nevertheless, the large number of moderately or severely underweight children and adolescents in 2016 (75 million girls and 117 boys) still represents a major public health challenge, especially in the poorest parts of the world. This reflects the threat posed by malnutrition in all its forms, with there being underweight and overweight young people living in the same communities. Children and adolescents have rapidly transitioned from mostly underweight to mostly overweight in many middle-income countries, including in East Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The authors say this could reflect an increase in the consumption of energy-dense foods, especially highly processed carbohydrates, which lead to weight gain and poor lifelong health outcomes.

Dr. Fiona Bull, the programme coordinator for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) at WHO, said: “These data highlights, remind and reinforce that overweight and obesity is a global health crisis today, and threatens to worsen in coming years unless we start taking drastic action.”

Global data for obesity and underweight

In 2016, there were 50 million obese girls and 74 million obese boys in the world, while the global number of moderately or severely underweight girls and boys was 75 million and 117 million respectively. The number of obese adults increased from 100 million in 1975 (69 million women, 31 million men) to 671 million in 2016 (390 million women, 281 million men). Another 1.3 billion adults were overweight but fell below the threshold for obesity.

Regional/Country data for obesity, BMI and underweight

Obesity:

The rise in childhood and adolescent obesity in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Asia, has accelerated since 1975. Conversely, the rise in high-income countries has slowed and plateaued. The largest increase in the number of obese children and adolescents was seen in East Asia, the high-income English-speaking region (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK), and the Middle East and North Africa. In 2016, obesity rates were highest overall in Polynesia and Micronesia, at 25.4% in girls and 22.4% in boys, followed by the high-income English-speaking region. Nauru had the highest prevalence of obesity for girls (33.4%), and the Cook Islands had the highest for boys (33.3%).

In Europe, girls in Malta and boys in Greece had the highest obesity rates, at 11.3% and 16.7% of the population respectively. Girls and boys in Moldova had the lowest obesity rates, at 3.2% and 5% of the population respectively. Girls in the UK had the 73rd highest obesity rate in the world (6th in Europe), and boys in the UK had the 84th highest obesity in the world (18th in Europe). Girls in the USA had the 15th highest obesity rate in the world, and boys had the 12th highest obesity in the world. Among high-income countries, the USA had the highest obesity rates for girls and boys.

BMI:

The largest rise in BMI of children and adolescents since 1975 was in Polynesia and Micronesia for both sexes, and in central Latin America for girls. The smallest rise in the BMI of children and adolescents during the four decades covered by the study was seen in Eastern Europe. The country with the biggest rise in BMI for girls was Samoa, which rose by 5.6 kg/m2, and for boys was the Cook Islands, which rose by 4.4 kg/m2.

Underweight:

India had the highest prevalence of moderately and severely underweight (BMI <19) throughout these four decades (24.4% of girls and 39.3% of boys were moderately or severely underweight in 1975, and 22.7% and 30.7% in 2016). 97 million of the world’s moderately or severely underweight children and adolescents lived in India in 2016.

Solutions exist to reduce child and adolescent obesity

In conjunction with the release of the new obesity estimates, WHO is publishing a summary of the Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) Implementation Plan. The plan gives countries clear guidance on effective actions to curb childhood and adolescent obesity. WHO has also released guidelines calling on frontline healthcare workers to actively identify and manage children who are overweight or obese. Dr. Bull added: “WHO encourages countries to implement efforts to address the environments that today are increasing our children’s chance of obesity. Countries should aim particularly to reduce consumption of cheap, ultra-processed, calorie dense, nutrient poor foods. They should also reduce the time children spend on screen-based and sedentary leisure activities by promoting greater participation in physical activity through active recreation and sports.”

Dr. Sophie Hawkesworth, from the Population Health team at Wellcome Trust, which co-funded the study, said: “Global population studies on this scale are hugely important in understanding and addressing modern health challenges. This study harnessed the power of big data to highlight worrying trends of both continuing high numbers of underweight children and teenagers and a concurrent stark rise in childhood obesity. Together with global health partners and the international research community, Wellcome is working to help identify new research opportunities that could help better understand all aspects of malnutrition and the long-term health consequences.”

My thoughts: The unfortunate and sad reality is that I was not surprised when I read the research. 😔 However, this is just more proof that we have to work together as a world, not a country, to fight this epidemic…..and not only obesity but eating disorders as a whole. We can win!

Adapted from: NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC). Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128*9 million children, adolescents, and adults. The Lancet, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/ S0140-6736(17)32129-3

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Schedule time each week to plan healthy meals! Keep your recipes, grocery list, and coupons in the same place to make planning and budgeting easier.

 

Daily Inspiration 

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Vitamin D protects against severe asthma attacks

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Taking oral vitamin D supplements in addition to standard asthma medication could halve the risk of asthma attacks requiring hospital attendance, according to research led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). Asthma affects more than 300 million people worldwide and is estimated to cause almost 400,000 deaths annually. Asthma deaths arise primarily during episodes of acute worsening of symptoms, known as attacks or ‘exacerbations’, which are commonly triggered by viral upper respiratory infections. Vitamin D is thought to protect against such attacks by boosting immune responses to respiratory viruses and dampening down harmful airway inflammation.

The new study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, and published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, collated and analyzed the individual data from 955 participants in seven randomized controlled trials, which tested the use of vitamin D supplements. Overall, the researchers found that vitamin D supplementation resulted in:

  • A 30% reduction in the rate of asthma attacks requiring treatment with steroid tablets or injections, from 0.43 events per person per year to 0.30.
  • A 50% reduction in the risk of experiencing at least one asthma attack requiring Accident and Emergency Department attendance and/or hospitalization, from 6% of people experiencing such an event to 3%.

Vitamin D supplementation was found to be safe at the doses administered. No instances of excessively high calcium levels or renal stones were seen, and serious adverse events were evenly distributed between participants taking vitamin D and those on placebo. Lead researcher Professor Adrian Martineau said: “These results add to the ever growing body of evidence that vitamin D can support immune function as well as bone health. On average, three people in the UK die from asthma attacks every day*. Vitamin D is safe to take and relatively inexpensive so supplementation represents a potentially cost-effective strategy to reduce this problem.”

The team’s use of individual participant data also allowed them to query the extent to which different groups respond to vitamin D supplementation, in more detail than previous studies. In particular, vitamin D supplementation was found to have a strong and statistically-significant protective effect in participants who had low vitamin D levels to start with. These participants saw a 55% reduction in the rate of asthma exacerbations requiring treatment with steroid tablets or injectionsfrom 0.42 events per person per year to 0.19. However, due to relatively small numbers of patients within sub-groups, the researchers caution that they did not find definitive evidence to show that effects of vitamin D supplementation differ according to baseline vitamin D status.

Professor Hywel Williams, Director of the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme, said: “The results of this NIHR-funded study brings together evidence from several other studies from over the world and is an important contribution to reducing uncertainties on whether Vitamin D is helpful for asthma — a common condition that impacts on many thousands of people worldwide.” Dr David Jolliffe from QMUL, first author on the paper, added: “Our results are largely based on data from adults with mild to moderate asthma: children and adults with severe asthma were relatively under-represented in the dataset, so our findings cannot necessarily be generalised to these patient groups at this stage. Further clinical trials are on-going internationally, and we hope to include data from them in a future analysis to determine whether the promise of today’s results is confirmed in an even larger and more diverse group of patients.”

*On average, 11 people in the U.S. die from asthma attacks every day.

Adapted from: David A Jolliffe, Lauren Greenberg, Richard Hooper, Christopher Griffiths, Carlos Camargo Jr, Conor Kerley, Megan Jensen, David Mauger, Iwona Stelmach, Mitsuyoshi Urashima, Adrian Martineau. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent asthma exacerbations: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data’. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/S2213-2600(17)30346-6

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Break up with Sneaky Salt! Take the pledge and learn how to reduce the sodium your family eats. Most sodium in the American diet comes from processed and restaurant foods, not from the salt shaker!

 

Daily Inspiration 

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The Best Way To Help Your Child With Their Weight & Body Image + Chaos

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If you have kids in your life, you’re probably already aware that body image challenges start early. Numerous studies have shown that even elementary school children, especially girls, believe they need to change something about their body, whether it’s their weight, their hair, their freckles, or something else. It can be heartbreaking to watch the children we care about struggling with these issues, and so many grown-ups want to know what they can do to help. As it turns out, there IS one thing that we, as adults, can do to create an environment that truly supports our kids’ development of a healthy, positive body image. It’s something we actually have a lot of control over, and best of all, when we start doing this, it will immediately make our own lives better, too.

I would like to share my thoughts on the best way to help children with their weight and their body image. Though I do not have credentials behind my name….yet (another six months and I will!), I have struggled with anorexia nervosa for almost 20 years. I have been in recovery for four years so I give myself a bit of credibility when it comes to this subject. I also do a ton of research!

We live in a time when so many people, young and old, are experiencing an epidemic of body hate and body dissatisfaction. You can read the statistics. Nine out of 10 women polled are hitting on their bodies, and 40% of girls, three to six years old, are already dieting. They’re hating on their body. They’re wanting to change their body parts.

This is crazy! This is the kind of challenge that cuts me to the core….and I hope yours as well.

Hating our body, judging it, and believing that it’s unlovable in some way is the royal road to misery and an unhappy life.

Think about it. When we’re born into this world, watch a baby. They’re not sitting there worried about how they’re looking or running around naked or if they’ve got little bits of body fat here and there. Babies and infants are in love with their physiology. It’s just all one. It’s pleasure. It’s play. However, so many people are struggling in silence with self-defeating thoughts about their own physical form. We’ve got to change that.

An unhappy and unresolved body image keeps us small in our sense of self. It limits our personal growth. It stops our best creativity, and it leaves us far short of the beautiful potential that we are born with. Body hate shuts down the soul. It ruins us. It’s a soul crusher!

If you’re a parent or you have kids in your life and you really want to help the child, especially if you’re a parent, then you want to give them the best chance of a loving relationship with their body….OR at least I hope you do! An unhappy body image these days often starts at a young age. However, there is one strategy that will help you succeed in such a brilliant and beautiful way:

Heal your own relationship with your body!

That’s it. Work on you. Work on your relationship with your body. Get to a place, please, as fast as you can where you forgive your own imperfections and where you let go of your own self-criticism. Stop the fight. Just stop the war because your children, our children pick up on who we are. Children are brilliant observers. They’re not good interpreters, but they’re brilliant observers. They will observe mommy, daddy hating on their own body. They’ll feel it. They’ll absorb it through the airwaves.

In a way, this is the beauty of our young ones. They want to be like us, and they will be like us. Therefore, it is best to look in the mirror and start to work on SELF. It is going to save your kids so much heartache and unnecessary waste of life energy as they get older.

SO AGAIN!!…….the greatest gift you can give your kids is to do your own work and do it now and stop the nonsense in your own head! Here’s how you start: Call a cease-fire on self-attack, and mean it! Just wake up and say cease-fire! Consciously choose to begin to love yourself in small ways. It’s a practice. You’ve got to practice every day.

Every day practice gratitude in some way, shape, or form, for the body that you’ve been given. I know you’ve got complaints about it and this and that and all that. However, balance out all those crazy complaints with some gratitude. Find ways every day to affirm love for your body.

Honestly, it is as simple as that because when you do work on yourself, you save future generations from pain and suffering. However, I know for some…..it isn’t that simple. Your “leading by example” will uplift them in ways that they’ll never know, and when you do that, when you do your work on self so your kids don’t have to finish up that work, we create such a better planet and such a better environment for all of us to thrive in. This is the magic of the world!

 

Chaos: Emily Rosen

 

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Enjoy fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and albacore tuna are good choices!

 

Daily Inspiration 

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Food allergy diagnosis by oral food challenge is safe, says study

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A new study concludes that medical procedures known as oral food challenges, which are used in clinics to test people for food allergies, are very safe and rarely cause severe reactions. A report on the study, led by researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, and Texas Children’s Hospital, also in Houston, is published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Lead author Dr. Kwei Akuete, a practicing allergist and member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), says, “Oral food challenges are a very important tool for anyone who wants to know if they have a food allergy.” Food allergy is a serious medical condition that arises when the body’s immune system reacts to a harmless food protein, or allergen, as if it were a disease-causing germ.

The reaction is often unpredictable and ranges in severity from person to person, as well as over time in the same person. It can range from minor abdominal pain or hives on the skin to a severe and potentially fatal condition called anaphylaxis, accompanied by low blood pressure and loss of consciousness. Up to 15 million people in the United States are affected by food allergy. Research also suggests that food allergies affect around 4 percent of children and adolescents in the U.S., where prevalence among children went up by 18 percent between 1997 and 2007.

Oral food challenge

As yet, there is no cure for food allergy, so the only way to prevent reactions is to avoid the foods that cause them. In the U.S., 90 percent of severe allergic reactions are caused by eight food groups: crustacean shellfish, eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, soy, tree nuts, and wheat. Food allergy is not the same as food intolerance, and its symptoms can be mistaken for other medical conditions. It is therefore important that any diagnosis is confirmed by a qualified allergist who can then advise a food plan that is tailored to the patient’s specific allergies.

The new study concerns a type of noninvasive medical procedure called the oral food challenge (OFC), or feeding test. During an OFC, a board-certified allergist invites the patient to eat increasing amounts of a food very slowly and monitors them very closely for any reaction. OFCs are usually performed because other allergy tests, such as blood and skin tests, together with a careful medical history, have been inconclusive. OFCs are performed in two modes: open and blinded. In open OFCs, (more common in clinical practice) both the patient and the administrator know which food is being tested. Blinded OFCs are more common in research.

OFCs found to be safe

For their study, Dr. Akuete et al. investigated the results of 6,327 open OFCs that were carried out between 2008 and 2013 in five food allergy centers across the U.S. The majority of the OFCs were carried out in patients under the age of 18. They used a statistical method called meta-analysis to pool and analyze the data, and to determine rates of food allergy reactions and anaphylaxis. The results showed that only 14 percent of the patients that had OFCs experienced any reaction, and only about 2 percent experienced anaphylaxis.

The reactions that were not anaphylaxis only occurred on one part of the body, for example, hives on the skin. These were classed as mild to moderate reactions, and most of them were treated with antihistamines. Of the more severe reactions, the authors note, “19 OFCs resulted in patients being placed in hospital observation, and 63 were treated with epinephrine.

OFCs ‘improve quality of life’

“Food challenges improve the quality of life for people with food allergies, even if they are positive,” says senior study author Dr. Carla Davis, who is also a practicing allergist and ACAAI member. Dr. Davis explains the importance of having the test sooner rather than later, saying, “When an OFC is delayed, sometimes people unnecessarily cut certain foods out of their diet, and this has been shown to lead to increases in health costs to the patient. A delay risks problems with nutrition, especially for children.” It is important to seek an accurate diagnosis so that a clear recommendation can be made about which foods to avoid, she adds.

Adapted from:

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Pick plants! Protein derived from plant sources such as seeds, nuts, tofu and tempeh, as well as grains, can help lower cholesterol, improve your heart health and add a satiating blend of flavors to extend Meatless Monday to the rest of the week.

Daily Inspiration 

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And for one more gobble day!

 

 

Premature infants may get metabolic boost from mom’s breast milk

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The breast milk of mothers with premature babies have different amounts of microRNA than that of mothers with babies born at term, which may help premature babies catch up in growth and development, according to researchers. In a study, researchers compared the breast milk of mothers with babies born prematurely between 28 and 37 weeks gestation and at term after 38 weeks. They examined whether there were differences in the composition of the breast milks’ microRNAs, snippets of RNA that affect gene expression and can be passed to the infant.

“We found that there are differences in these microRNA profiles, and that the majority of the altered microRNAs influence metabolism,” said Molly Carney, medical student in the Penn State College of Medicine. “If those microRNAs are being transferred to the infant, that could potentially impact how the newborn processes energy and nutrients.” The researchers said the results, recently published in Pediatric Research, could help better match babies with donated breast milk and give insight into how to develop better infant formula.

Babies born prematurely are at risk for a host of problems, including failure to thrive and neurodevelopmental delays. They also tend to be born at a lower weight than term infants. Because of these issues, premature babies have different nutritional needs than babies born at term.

Previous research has established that the macronutrients, fats, sugars (carbohydrates) and proteins, in the breast milk of mothers with premature babies are customized to meet the unique needs of these infants. However, although researchers have suspected that microRNAs in breast milk have a role in infant health and development, no study has specifically looked at whether microRNAs differed between premature and term breast milk. The researchers collected 36 samples of breast milk from mothers with infants born at term and 31 samples from mothers with infants born prematurely. They then processed the samples in a lab, extracted the microRNAs and compared them to the human genome to pinpoint the differences between premature and term breast milk.

After the analysis, the researchers identified nine microRNAs that were significantly different in the premature breast milk. They found that these microRNAs target metabolic processes and may help regulate gastrointestinal function and energy use in premature babies. Steven Hicks, assistant professor of pediatrics in the Penn State College of Medicine, said the results may help explain why premature infants tend to do better when breast-fed by their mothers.

“We know that babies born prematurely have better health outcomes with breast milk than with formula, and our results may explain some of these health benefits associated with breast-feeding,” Hicks said. “The unique microRNA profiles that we found in premature breast milk seem well suited to premature infants, because they target metabolic pathways that could spark catch-up growth.” For example, microRNAs found in premature breast milk block both ADRB3 and NR3C1 gene expression, both of which negatively affect adipogenesis, or fat storage. Blocking these pathways could help boost fat production in premature babies that are having difficulties gaining weight.

Hicks said the results could have several applications, including matching babies with donated breast milk. “For a variety of reasons, babies who are born preterm often rely on donated breast milk,” Hicks said. “Oftentimes, that milk comes from a mother who gave birth at term, and has been breast-feeding for months. That milk may not be optimal for a 32-week premature infant who was born two days ago.”

Hicks also said the findings could lead to opportunities to create better baby formula in the future. “MicroRNAs are an epigenetic material that is made by our bodies and is not present in formula. So even though formula is made to mirror the nutritional components of breast milk — carbohydrates, lipids and proteins — it doesn’t have any of these epigenetic factors,” Hicks said. “It is possible to create microRNAs in a lab and put them in formula. This approach might help bridge the health gap we see between formula- and breast-fed infants.” The researchers said the study helps reinforce that breast milk has multiple nutritional benefits, and may be adapted to individual infant’s needs.

Adapted from: Penn State. (2017, September 14). Premature infants may get metabolic boost from mom’s breast milk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 15, 2017 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170914084048.htm

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Have a vegetable at breakfast! Most people save their veggies for dinner, but it’s perfectly healthy to think outside the cereal bowl and veg out at breakfast, with veggies. For example, add a sliced tomato to your cheese sandwich or some mushrooms to your eggs.

Daily Inspiration 

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7 Ways to Make Halloween Safer for Kids with Food Allergies

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Halloween time can be a season of costumes, scary movies and candy. But for parents of kids with food allergies, there is a different reason to be frightful. Six of the top eight allergens are in high circulation around Halloween. Wheat, milk, soy and even egg are used in many chocolates, caramels and fruit chews. Even more candies are made with or processed on the same equipment as peanuts and tree nuts, such as walnuts, almonds and cashews. Even small amounts of these allergens can cause an anaphylactic reaction in kids who are allergic to them.

“Parents are responsible for ensuring that their kids are aware of the various strategies to manage their food allergies,” says Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, CLT, who is a Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She recommends parents take the time to discuss with their children the allergens that may be hidden in specific foods, including Halloween treats. “Parents also should talk to kids about strategies for when they are attending parties and trick-or-treating, including what to do if they think they are having an allergic reaction,” she said. “Parents should be sure that a responsible adult at the party is aware of their child’s allergies.” Consider these tips for a safe, allergen-free Halloween.

Read All Labels

This is good advice for all candy, but especially true for miniatures or snack sizes, which sometimes are processed in a different facility than regular-sized candy. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires that all FDA-regulated foods list the top eight major allergens in the ingredients list with common names of the allergen included in parentheses — such as “lecithin (soy)” or “whey (milk).” Some packaging includes a note with “Contains …” or “May contain …” statements following the ingredient list. These statements are completely voluntary, so play it safe and read the ingredients list every time, even in products you typically consider “safe.” Since many individual bite-size candies don’t contain an ingredients list, look up the ingredients for specific products online to ensure they are safe for your child to eat. If a product is homemade or has no label, throw it out.

Talk to Your Neighbors

Neighbors and friends may want to buy allergen-free candy but don’t know what to buy, or may not even know that your child has a food allergy. Share with them what to look for when purchasing candy, or even offer to provide them with “safe” candy that they can hand to your trick-or-treater.

Look for the Teal Pumpkins

Created by Food Allergy Research & Education in 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project is a campaign to raise awareness of food allergies and provide safe options for food allergic trick-or-treaters. Participants pledge to put a teal pumpkin outside their homes, indicating they have safe, non-food treats available.

Instill the “Always Ask First” Rule

Carry candy for young children and remind all children not to share food and to ask you before eating anything. “Kids should learn to always read the label before eating any packaged food or candy,” says Angelone. “I recommend the ‘ask before eating anything’ rule. Kids can sort all candy when they return home, and parents can provide ‘safe,’ alternative foods for parties at school or other events. If in doubt, throw it out, trade it or give it away. It’s helpful to make a list of packaged treats that are safe based on individual allergies.”

Safe at School

If your child’s class celebrates Halloween, take an active role in preventing the risk of a dangerous allergic reaction. Talk to the teachers in advance, volunteer to organize the party, offer to bring the treats or non-food goodies or plan to attend in person and double-check that your child’s emergency action plan and epinephrine pens are up-to-date.

Trade or Donate

Before setting out trick-or-treating, make a plan with your child to swap any unsafe candy for another prize such as a safe candy, book or small toy. Or, donate candy to the local food pantry or other charitable organization.

Start a New Tradition

Host a costume party at your house, so you are in charge of treats. Or, forgo candy altogether and offer trick-or-treaters a variety of non-candy items such as stickers, glow sticks, bouncy balls or fake mustaches.

Adapted from: Rima Kleiner, MS, RD, LDN

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Look For Shortcuts! Healthier versions of convenience foods can be time savers when it comes to getting healthy meals on the table in a flash. Next time you’re shopping, look for these nutritious options: Pre-cut butternut squash, ready-to-go stir-fry vegetables and pre-made salads.

Daily Inspiration 

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