When it comes to the holiday season, sugar is everywhere, particularly in desserts and holiday candy. But did you know that sugar is also added to many everyday foods, including soups and yogurt?
“Many people are unaware of just how pervasive added sugar is in our foods,” said Dr. Mollie Grow, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “It isn’t just cookies and soda, it’s being added to many foods that most people wouldn’t consider as sweets.”
The result: the average American adult is consuming three times more sugar than is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) – 76.7 grams per day versus the recommended 25 grams per day, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“The problem with sugar is that it presents a variety of risks to our health,” said Grow. “Some are more obvious, in the sense that more sugar means more calories which can contribute to weight gain. Weight gain leads to obesity, and can bring along many health problems like diabetes. But an excess amount of sugar also affects our long term health by altering our metabolism and causing inflammation.”
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It’s a serious business to win over the minds and taste buds of youth today. In fact, the food industry spends about $1.8 billion annually on food marketing to children and adolescents, according to a review by the Federal Trade Commission. In 2006, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) was launched by food companies to promote healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles in advertisements. But it may not be enough, says Dr. Mollie Grow, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
In an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, Grow weighs in on a study published this year about how children perceived television advertisements by two national fast food chains. According to Grow, the study shows there is room for improvement when it comes to how the food industry advertises healthier dietary choices. Many fast-food chains have agreed to standards when advertising to kids, but it seems they are not always clear to children.
In the study titled “Children’s Reaction to Depictions of Healthy Foods in Fast-Food Television Advertisements,” researchers found that advertisements don’t adequately depict healthier options to children. Many children in the study couldn’t correctly identify the healthy food items in the advertisements. Furthermore, 81% of the children participating in the study said they remembered seeing french fries in an advertisement, when the food that was shown was actually apples. That has led researchers to beg the question: Can more be done by advertisers to influence children’s dietary decisions and curb childhood obesity? Read full post »
Dr. Mogomotsi Matshaba, a clinician and researcher at the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Center of Excellence in Gaborone, Botswana.
Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s mission to prevent, treat and eliminate childhood disease extends far beyond the Pacific Northwest or even the United States. Researchers like Dr. Jason Mendoza, of the institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, are advocating for vulnerable patients all over the world. Mendoza recently led a global health research study in Botswana, published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, to find out if inadequate access to food, also called food insecurity, might be associated with worse health outcomes of HIV-positive children in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Studying patients with the greatest need
HIV is a major public health problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2012, there were 3.3 million children worldwide, under the age of 15, living with HIV. Of those, 2.9 million were in Sub-Saharan Africa. Botswana has one of the highest HIV rates of countries in this region, with 23% of adults (ages 15 to 49) infected. Additionally, from 2010 to 2012, 27.9% of people in Botswana did not have physical or economic access to enough nutritious food to maintain a healthy, productive lifestyle. Read full post »
The teen years can be difficult– you’re fighting for your independence but still trying to develop an identity. And your 20s come with their own obstacles, like going to college, starting a career and living on your own. Can you imagine facing those developmental milestones while injecting yourself with insulin or enduring chemotherapy?
Dr. Abby Rosenberg, medical leader for Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer program and researcher in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Clinical and Translational Research, and Dr. Joyce Yi-Frazier, research health psychologist at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, have seen teens with cancer and type 1 diabetes struggle physically and psychosocially. Adolescents and young adults with cancer are less likely to achieve social milestones like college, marriage, and employment and more likely to suffer from anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Likewise, teens with type 1 diabetes struggle to control their blood sugar levels and are more likely to be depressed.
“The teen and young adult years are a critical time of transition for anyone,” Rosenberg said. “When you add a serious illness to the mix, you are asking patients to do extraordinarily hard things. We want to help them integrate the experience into their identity so they are not only surviving, but thriving.”
An intervention model
To help patients, Rosenberg and Yi-Frazier worked together on the Promoting Resilience in Stress Management (PRISM) study. PRISM is an intervention model designed to teach patients resilience – the ability to maintain psychological and physical well-being in the face of stress – to buffer the impact of serious illness. Read full post »
From left: Dr. Jason Mendoza, Gov. Jay Inslee, West Seattle Elementary School principal Vicki Sacco and vice proncipal.
Gov. Jay Inslee joined staff from Seattle Children’s Research Institute this morning as they lead a group of West Seattle children in a “walking school bus.”
A walking school bus is an organized group of children who walk to school together each day while supervised by an adult. Jason Mendoza, MD, MPH, is leading a study in partnership with Seattle Public Schools, to determine whether obesity can be prevented with activities that were common during eras when obesity was less prevalent.
“Decades ago children were more likely to walk to school and obesity rates were much lower,” Mendoza said. “I want to find out whether encouraging children to walk or ride their bike to school might increase their overall physical activity.”
Inslee joined this morning’s walk to West Seattle Elementary to show his support of the program and encourage kids to stay active. The governor is supporting walking to school as part of his “Healthiest Next Generation” initiative. Read full post »
Big changes could soon be coming to grocery stores across the U.S., but for those who don’t pay attention to the black and white nutrition label located on the back of food and beverage packages, the change might not seem very drastic.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed giving Nutrition Facts labels a makeover, a change Michelle Obama, an advocate for preventing childhood obesity, says “will make a big difference for families all across this country.” The tweaks are intended to help consumers make more informed decisions about what they put into their bodies. The proposed Nutrition Facts label, if approved, will be the first new look the label has received in over 20 years. Read full post »
More than one third of children and adolescents are obese or overweight, and more and more families are coming to Jason Mendoza, MD, MPH, for advice on how to help their kids lose extra pounds. But obesity treatments can be difficult to complete and are often expensive. Mendoza is testing a new approach that aims to prevent obesity using ideas from eras when obesity was uncommon.
“I’m looking at whether getting children to walk or ride their bikes to school can increase children’s physical activity and reduce their risk of obesity,” said Mendoza, a principal investigator in the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and associate professor at the University of Washington.
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Kirsten Thompson in the new garden
With a nationwide spotlight on fighting childhood obesity since obesity prevalence among kids and teens in the U.S. has almost tripled, it’s important we find ways to instill healthy lifestyles in today’s youth to prevent them from developing health issues down the road.
At Seattle Children’s, dietitian Kirsten Thompson found a unique way to teach kids and their families about making healthy choices by transforming the hospital’s old helipad into a teaching garden for patients and families.
Thompson, whose master’s thesis was about gardening with kids, began looking for a place to plant a teaching garden when she joined Children’s in 2008. The opportunity finally arrived this spring when the Building Hope expansion was completed and the helipad moved to a site near the new Emergency Department.
Every Wednesday, Thompson works with Children’s patients in the garden for an hour to teach them how to raise vegetables. They then head inside to the hospital’s Eat Well Be Well studio to prepare healthy, garden-inspired meals.
“The goal is to encourage and empower kids and families to eat healthy,” Thompson said.
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The transition back to school is fast approaching and while kids may be wondering whether or not their Captain America lunchbox is still cool, parents are thinking about what should go in it.
Celia Framson, MPH, RD, CD, a clinical pediatric dietitian at Seattle Children’s Hospital, says parents shouldn’t panic about packing the perfect lunch for their child. Instead, they should involve kids in the packing process and focus on providing a balanced meal that meets a child’s taste preferences and nutritional needs. Parents should also model healthy behaviors that their kids can learn from so they can adopt healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
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Receiving report cards from schools is a standard practice that helps parents stay informed about their child’s academic performance. But now, schools in some states have been going one step further and are also letting parents know how their child’s weight measures up.
A new report released this week in Pediatrics has spurred debate around this issue as it states that Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings in schools and subsequently informing parents about their child’s weight category is a necessary step in the fight against the childhood obesity epidemic.
Twenty one states, not currently including Washington, have enacted policies or made recommendations about collecting height and weight data and assessing body composition in schools. In some states, like Massachusetts and Arkansas, a confidential letter that has been dubbed a “fat letter” is mailed to parents whose child has a high BMI, informing them of their child’s weight status and advising them to talk with a doctor.
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