You may have noticed a certain trend in the Sunday Roundups with the big share of articles and discussions going to obesity, processed foods, junk “foods”, food addiction… It’s not only because they are hot topics in nutrition circles, but because they are issues I feel so strongly about. As I see children reaching puberty at age nine, children suffering from diabetes and obesity, children barely engaging in any physical activity, I can’t help but feel sad and frustrated. And until I can do more about it, this blog is my tiny place for spreading a little bit more awareness.
In an observational study over 12 years, breast cancer survivors who consumed high-fat dairy, milk, butter, ice cream,… were more at risk from dying from cancer or other diseases (namely cardiovascular) than those who had low-fat dairy or no dairy at all. This is not a definitive finding but the researchers speculate it is because of the estrogen found in dairy fat. They did not suggest eliminating dairy products but rather switching to low-fat dairy or plant-based “milks” such as rice, and almond in case of breast cancer diagnosis.
This week was World Salt Awareness Week. It’s not just the few dashes of salt that we voluntarily add to every dish that add up to our daily sodium intake. There are thousands of hidden sources; from processed foods to condiments and canned products. The online salt calculator will allow you to input your daily intake of food whether restaurant meals, processed TV dinners or at-home preparations… and will give you approximately your sodium intake. Daily sodium intake should be no more than 2,300mg or one teaspoon of salt. It should be less than 1,500mg if the person is above 50, has high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
In this study, students were shown images of two candy bars, one with a green calorie label and the other with a red label. Then they were asked to identify which was healthier. Even though both candy bars had the same amount of calories, the one with the green label was perceived as healthier and containing fewer calories. The color green is usually associated with nature and health. And it comes to show how much the marketing efforts of companies namely with packaging, colors and flashy claims can sometimes negatively affect the buyer’s perception. Be a savvy shopper and carefully read the labels.
It may not come as a surprise to many that researchers reported that kids are more likely to eat (or drink) a food product if it has been endorsed by a celebrity. Even when the celebrity was seen on TV in a context other than the ad, the kids still reached over to the endorsed product. What’s even more eye-opening is that the kids consumed more food in general when they saw the celebrity. For instance, if the celebrity is endorsing a brand of chips and the children saw him/her on TV, they are more likely to reach out for a bag of chips even from a different brand. Celebrity endorsements of unhealthy foods are contributing to bad eating habits, but parents are their kids’ first role models. If we want our children to have healthy eating habits, we should lead by example.
Sweetened sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, and energy drinks consumption has risen over the past twenty years. Researchers analyzed the diets of kids aged 2 to 18 years to see how their consumption of sweetened beverages affected their total caloric intake. As compared to kids who have non-sweetened beverages, kids who had sugared drinks had a higher caloric intake. Moreover, drinking sugared beverages was associated with a higher consumption of unhealthy foods mainly pizzas, fries and sweets.
With obesity rates rising, especially among kids, we should all come together (not like Coca-Cola pretend they want us to) to stop this pandemic. Ideally, governments and food organizations should set rules for nutrition labeling so as not to create confusion. Simpler systems need to be implemented to make it easier for the consumer to make the right choice. This is just with the labeling; imagine if these organizations set strict policies for the manufacturing and marketing of such food items! But until then, parents and schools should take matters into their own hands by controlling the junk food the children have access to. Water should be the drink of choice, followed by milk and unsweetened fruit juice. A friendly game of afterschool basketball is no reason to gulp down a bottle of Gatorade or munch on chips and cookies.