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food, nutrition, and health news



Nutrition & Health News, week of March 16th

  • The USDA had planned to purchase tons of “pink slime” to put into school lunches but, after a storm of criticism in the media, has reversed their decision. “Pink slime” is a term for fatty beef trimmings that are used as a filler in ground beef – it looks as gross as it sounds and is not required to be labeled on beef products. This is the same pink slime that McDonald’s and other fast food chains recently decided to stop using – leaving the USDA to pick up the extra for the federal school lunch program. However, after several senators called for a ban of the product in schools entirely, the USDA decided to allow schools a choice of whether or not to use the goop in meals. [Obama Foodorama, The Salt]
  • A new website, the Leanwashing Index, alerts consumers to advertising and marketing ploys that mislead parents and kids into believing junk foods are healthy. The site calls out ads guilty of “leanwashing” by giving them a score based on the degree to which their claims of health benefits are truthful or not. Not surprisingly, some of the worst offenders are sugary cereals and other foods marketed at kids. Check out the site to learn more. [via Marion Nestle]
  • New research* from Harvard links red meat consumption to higher risk of death and cardiovascular disease. The prospective research study, in which participants were followed over a 25 year period, assessed intake of processed and unprocessed red meat and its effects on health. Fear not, meat eaters – the participants at increased risk of death were those eating at least one serving of red meat every single day. Not surprisingly, these same participants were more likely to have unhealthy diets overall.
  • The CDC recently began a national media campaign warning against the dangers of smoking. The ads, in an effort to  get away from spewing statistics on smoking-related deaths, show real people who are living with the devastating health effects of smoking. Preview one of the ads here, and watch out for the campaign starting on March 19th. [Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Blog]

*email me if you would like a copy of this article

Nutrition & Health News, week of Feb. 2

  • The Susan G. Komen Foundation, a private breast cancer advocacy group, caved to political pressure from anti-choice groups and pulled grant funding from Planned Parenthood that went toward providing breast cancer screenings, education, and referrals for low-income women. Despite the fact that the type of grant funding was restricted (meaning it could only be used for its intended purposes, e.g. screenings), the Komen Foundation pulled nearly $700,000 in funding in response to “the fear that an investigation of Planned Parenthood by Representative Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida, would damage Komen’s credibility with donors.” In the past 48 hours, outraged citizens have since made up the amount in donations, including a dollar-for-dollar match up to $250,000 from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. [New York Times]
Update: The Susan G. Komen Foundation has reversed its decision and will continue to allow Planned Parenthood to receive grant funding! Of the reversal, they stated, “amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process…We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics – anyone’s politics.” Read the Komen statement here.
  • An op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times by two professors at Cornell University calls for schools to promote nutritious choices for kids, rather than force them on students. In response to the USDA’s recent revisions to the federal school lunch program, which will require fruits and vegetables to be offered at every meal and restricts some of the unhealthy menu options, they argue that forced adoption of healthy options will produce food waste: “trying to teach students to eat more healthful foods by removing other choices can backfire.” The professors instead encourage schools to “make the more healthful choice the more attractive choice, not the only choice” through simple environmental changes, like more aesthetically pleasing fruit displays, that have proven a effect on kids’ behaviors. They are responsible for the Smarter Lunchrooms Initiative. [LA Times]
  • A survey conducted by Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program, an anti-hunger organization, indicates the low- and middle-income families are cooking more meals and eating healthier than previously thought. The belief that lower income families lack access to healthy foods and tend to rely on fast food meals rather than home cooking  is apparently a misconception. This study showed that “the lower a family’s income, the more they cooked from scratch” with 78% of families regularly (4-5 times per week) cooking meals at home, and 50% reporting that they ate healthily. Access to and cost of healthy foods posed barriers to eating healthily, but for only a small portion of the sample. [Mark Bittman, NYT]
  • A position paper published in Nature argues that consumption of sugar, not obesity, is to blame for rising rates of non-communicable chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancers. Arguing that excessive sugar consumption is the root cause of many of our health problems, the authors call for government regulation of sugar through taxation, sales bans, and “removing sugar from the FDA’s ‘generally regarded as safe’ (GRAS) list of ingredients.” Although these measures are extreme, given that Americans consume an average of more than 600 calories per day from sugar, they may have some merit. [Nature via Fooducate] [see picture above from Nature]

Nutrition & Health News, week of Nov. 4

  • A new research study of teens in Boston public schools indicates a possible link between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and violence. Teens who drank 5 or more cans of soda per week were more likely to carry a knife or gun and to act violently towards friends and family than their peers who drank less than 4 cans per week. More research on this topic is needed, but researchers hypothesized that perhaps the excessive sugar and caffeine intake might be causing aggressive behavior. [The Atlantic]
  • On Tuesday, the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act was introduced in the Senate and the House. The proposed bill would make changes to the current Farm Bill (the next Farm Bill is due to be passed in 2012) to promote small, organic farms and improve local and regional food systems for both farmers and consumers. [Obama Foodorama]
  • A small study looked at the effects of weight on the effectiveness of the seasonal flu vaccine. The study was composed of 74 people who were either normal weight, overweight, or obese. The results indicated that the vaccine was less effective in the obese patients, who had less antibodies over time than patients who were normal weight. The study implies that a higher dose vaccine may be needed for patients who are obese. [Commonhealth]
  • U.S. News has released a list of the healthiest diets. But, no surprise, the healthiest diets aren’t the ones that people say actually work for them, helping them to both eat better and eat less (and lose weight). Topping the list are Weight Watchers and Eco-Atkins. [The Atlantic]

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