Nutrition News Bites – November 15th

by Lindsey Toth

Sebelius: New food labels will help shoppers make healthy choices

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told an obesity summit in Mississippi that consumers will find it easier to choose healthy foods when manufacturers begin putting easy-to-read nutrition labels on package fronts next year. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute are planning a $50 million education campaign in 2011 to raise consumer awareness about the labels.

Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds

On a “convenience store diet”, Kansas State University nutrition professor, Mark Haub, lost 27 pounds in two months. Haub limited himself to less than 1,800 calories per day, munching on Twinkies every three hours intead of meals, and adding variety with Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Doritos chips, sugary cereals, and Oreos. In addition to the weight loss, Haub’s LDL dropped 20%, his HDL increased by 20%, and his triglycerides dropped 39%.

Study: Organic produce is not nutritionally superior

A study that compared organically grown carrots, potatoes and onions with conventionally grown ones found no statistical difference in the amount of certain polyphenols they contained. Scientists were seeking to determine whether soil conditions and growth systems would result in different amounts of flavonoids and phenolic acids, but commentators have noted that there are still reasons to choose organic foods.

Shoppers would welcome help with healthy food choices, survey finds

A survey found 69% of supermarket shoppers said they are interested in freshly prepared healthy meals; 64% would welcome programs suggesting healthier alternatives to the products they are buying; and more than 40% expressed interest in recipes, nutrition counseling, health screening services and other wellness programs.

Stress takes a toll on Americans’ eating habits, survey shows

A Harris Interactive survey of 1,134 Americans found that 76% of them cited money as a source of stress in 2010, compared with 71% last year. Respondents also said that stress had influenced their daily lives in the previous month, with 31% skipping meals, 40% overeating or eating unhealthy foods and 44% losing sleep.

College students get less exercise through the years

College students exercise less and gain weight as they advance in their studies, researchers found. Data showed freshmen walked an average of 684 minutes a week while seniors were more likely to take a bus and walked just 436 minutes a week.

Vending machine industry decries calorie labeling effort

The vending machine industry was up in arms Monday after learning that it stands to spend 14 million hours a year to comply with the law requiring calories to be listed next to food items in snack machines. The law requires vending machine operators with 20 or more machines to provide a sign in close proximity to disclose the calorie count of each food item.

School districts make food-program nutrition a priority

School districts nationwide are making nutrition a priority in their food programs by growing gardens, buying local produce and getting parents involved in meal planning. The nonprofit Wellness in the Schools program in New York City puts culinary-school graduates in public schools to make tasty, nutritious and appealing meals.

The science behind why we love ice cream

Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia have found that the salivary enzyme amylase could play a key role in determining the appeal of various textures of food. Researchers took DNA samples and found that people with higher numbers of gene copy, AMY1, reported that starch turned to liquid more quickly.

Study suggests over-diagnosis of food allergy in children

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late last year that there has been an 18% rise in prevalence of food allergies among US children from 1997 to 2007. Depending on the reason for food avoidance, 84-93% of foods were restored to children’s diets following oral food challenges.

Lindsey Toth is currently finishing up her time in the joint Dietetic Internship/MS Nutrition and MS Nutrition Communications program. Boston’s beautiful scenery has turned Lindsey into an avid runner, and she just recently finished her first half marathon in September.  When Lindsey isn’t yogging, she is content sitting down with a close group of friends, baking some delicious treats, and watching a classic Disney movie.

What’s on the Sprout staff’s plate for the week of November 15th?

Culled from the Friedman Sprout’s Delicious news feed:

Caroline Carney is reading Get Off the Couch: The Full Yield Program can change your diet for the better.

Jeff Hake is checking out the website for the Urban Design Lab.

Meghan Johnson is seeing the connection between the fact that Almost Half of US Could Be Obese by 2050, that Fast Food Ads for Kids Are Up Despite Industry Vow,  and The Onion’s Nation Waist-Deep in Soybeans After $30 Trillion Dollar Farm Subsidy Bill Accidentally Passed.

Katie Andrews is reading up on the topic of weight loss (here, here and here) on the Huffington Post.

Rachel Perez is going fishing at Fish For Your Health.

Quote for the week of November 15th

“In lower-income communities, there is an expectation that when you get older, your hair gets gray and you get diabetes, because it’s so common.”

Bill Walczak, executive director of Codman Square Health Center,as quoted by The Boston Globe

Nutrition News Bites – November 8th

by Lindsey Toth

Researchers: 42% of U.S. population will be obese
Harvard University researchers calculated the likelihood of becoming obese and found that American adults have a 2% risk for obesity in any given year — and that risk increases by 0.5% annually for every obese friend a person has. The researchers projected that obesity rates in the U.S. will reach 42%.

Michigan prohibits alcohol-caffeine drinks
Michigan appears to be the first state to ban drinks that combine alcohol and caffeine, following incidents in other states in which students were hospitalized after consuming such beverages. The FDA is investigating the safety of the drinks.

Movers and shakers embrace vegan diets
A growing number of corporate CEOs, politicians and high-powered celebrities have cut animal products out of their diets, a move that may be as much a status symbol as an ethical choice, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. Bill Clinton, Russell Simmons and Alec Baldwin are now among the 1% of Americans who follow a vegan diet, and high-profile casino mogul Steve Wynn, who gave up animal products in June, has tweaked menus at several of his eateries to include vegan options.

Gluten-free diet benefits only celiac disease patients
Medical experts say eating nothing but gluten-free food is very difficult for celiac disease patients and yet has become a trendy mainstream diet. Celebrities claim there are health benefits to going gluten-free, but gastroenterologist Dr. Jeanette Keith says there are no studies showing people who do not have celiac disease should “absolutely eliminate gluten.”

Obesity is contagious among friends 

A new study suggests that the more obese friends you have, the more likely you are to become obese.  This latest research confirms a 2007 study by Harvard researchers and others that showed that one person’s obesity can significantly increase the chance that his or her friends, siblings and spouse also will become heavy, suggesting that weight gain does spread through social networks. 

Dietary Guidelines may tell adults to cut down on salt
A federal advisory committee wants the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, to be released in December, to recommend that adults reduce daily sodium intake from 2,300 milligrams to 1,500 mg. Average consumption is about double that recommendation, and reducing it is part of an effort to lower blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular disease. 

Study: Infants’ peanut allergies may be tied to moms’ consumption
A study of 503 infants found that 140 tested positive for a strong sensitivity to peanuts, and a mother’s peanut consumption during pregnancy was a strong predictor of peanut sensitivity. “While our study does not definitively indicate that pregnant women should not eat peanut products during pregnancy, it highlights the need for further research,” the lead researcher said.

Diet high in monounsaturated fats improves cholesterol levels
Participants who were assigned to a low-cholesterol diet high in monounsaturated fats had a 12.5% increase in their HDL, or “good,” cholesterol levels and a 35% drop in their LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels compared with the low-MUFA group, a small study showed. 

Test results back safety of Gulf seafood for public consumption
FDA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials examined 1,735 tissue samples of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico and found that less than 1% of these samples tested positive for dispersants used to clean up the BP oil spill. “The overwhelming majority of the seafood tested shows no detectable residue, and not one of the samples shows a residue level that would be harmful for humans. There is no question Gulf seafood coming to market is safe from oil or dispersant residue,” said the FDA’s commissioner, Margaret A. Hamburg. 

Researchers say alcohol is the most dangerous substance
British researchers evaluated commonly abused substances and found that alcohol was the most dangerous, with a score of 72 on preset criteria, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. The researchers said the findings support previous reports that “aggressively targeting alcohol … is a valid and necessary public health strategy.” 

Study looks at reasons for raw-milk boom
Researchers at Ohio State University are conducting a study to determine why some people prefer raw milk and others do not. “We truly do not know very much about how people make the choice to drink raw or pasteurized milk,” said Lydia Medeiros, a professor who said she wants to find out why interest in raw milk is increasing. “There’s just nothing in the literature.”

Lindsey Toth is currently finishing up her time in the joint Dietetic Internship/MS Nutrition and MS Nutrition Communications program. Boston’s beautiful scenery has turned Lindsey into an avid runner, and she just recently finished her first half marathon in September.  When Lindsey isn’t yogging, she is content sitting down with a close group of friends, baking some delicious treats, and watching a classic Disney movie.

What’s on the Sprout staff’s plate for the week of November 8th?

Culled from the Friedman Sprout’s Delicious news feed: 


Sarah Gold, Katie Andrews, and Meghan Johnson are all reading While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales.

Rachel Perez is checking out the US Government Accountability Office’s Food Topics Collection, the National Institutes of Health’s Dietary Supplements Fact Sheets, and the website for the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.

Jeff Hake is reading GOP to investigate ‘scientific fraud’ of global warming.

Katie Andrews is reading Six Meaningless Claims on Food Labels

Meghan Johnson is reading The fattest ape: An evolutionary tale of human obesity.

Quote for the week of November 8th

“Eating a steak three times a day can potentially whittle your waistline, but the impact it’s having on your insides might not be as attractive.”

–Personal trainer Cornell McClellan, as quoted by the Chicago Sun-Times

The Balance Your Life Campaign: Bringing Friedman Lessons to Medford

by Marina Komarovsky

At the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, we know nutrition. At the Tufts University undergraduate Schools of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, they want to know about it. MS Nutrition Communication and DPD candidate Kate Sweeney ’11 decided to take on the challenge of linking supply and demand. When Dr. Jeanne Goldberg, her advisor, recommended Sweeney connect with Tufts Director of Health Education Ian Wong for her internship requirement, she became the graduate student intern for Balance Your Life, a healthy lifestyle campaign for Tufts undergraduates that kicked off this semester.As I chatted with Sweeney, she apologized for pausing to text back and forth with a fitness instructor that would be teaching kickboxing in a dormitory lounge that evening. She pointed out that with the cold weather, the student organization Jumbo Striders was scaling back its new all-levels running and walking initiatives, but that they would start back up in the spring. After our meeting, she e-mailed me examples of cute signs flaunting the nutrient content of dining hall selections that will soon be posted along the buffet lines. But how did Sweeney and her collaborators at Tufts-Medford figure out what students would respond to? Read on to see what went down.

Why change?

Well, you probably recall that college students do not tend to have the healthiest lifestyle habits. As they fly along their daily trajectories between classes, band rehearsals, study groups, debate team meetings, drop-ins with friends, and parties, undergrads are grabbing whatever food they can find along the way. And when they have an hour, they opt to utilize it to finish a paper (due in an hour) rather than trek to the gym.

In fact, a 2008 survey at Tufts showed that 87% of students were not eating the recommended of five fruits and vegetables per day, and that 61% were not fulfilling physical activity recommendations, as specified by the Department of Health and Human Services. This was a clear indication that change was necessary.

But what do students want?

Two focus groups provided the answer. Last spring, students in a course taught by Dr. Goldberg led a focus group discussion on diet, exercise habits, and barriers to healthy behaviors with Tufts freshmen – the primary target group for the campaign. This past summer, Sweeney organized another focus group that honed in on the specifics of where students sought health information, which campaign title and logo would resonate with them, and what kinds of interventions might be effective.

The ultimate goal of a healthy lifestyle campaign is to prevent chronic disease in the long term. When researchers at the John Hancock Research Center for Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention looked at Tufts students’ HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels as part of the Tufts Longitudinal Health Study, they found that as many as one third of students were not in the optimal range for at least one of these – already putting them at increased risk for chronic disease – and that these values were associated with students’ levels of physical fitness. Nevertheless, as Sweeney learned from focus group discussions, “a misconception that a lot of students have is that it’s okay to push this to the future.”

So Sweeney and her collaborators considered: How can we prevent chronic disease if students don’t care about it? They made the executive decision to give the students what they want. Fine, they said, think about heart disease later. For now, let’s talk about how exercise will help you to feel energized, how eating fiber-containing foods will satisfy your hunger, and even about how the copper content of mushrooms will give you great hair.

The campaign

Balance Your Life focuses on two behavioral goals: increasing fruit and vegetable intake, and increasing physical activity. For each of these, “it’s a two-pronged approach,” Sweeney explains. “We’re sharing recommendations and giving students the opportunity to practice those things.”

On the nutrition side, “What can nutrients do for you?” is an informational initiative that draws attention to fruit and vegetable options by highlighting one nutrient per food item and describing the specific benefits it confers. Friedman Nutritional Epidemiology PhD candidate Shilpa Bhupathiraju points out that while it is true that “if you advertise foods with respect to just one nutrient, you’re not discussing the other important nutrients present … it reinforces the concept of consuming different foods.” In her research, Bhupathiraju has found that even when the intake of fruits and vegetables is limited, greater variety makes a difference. Two action-oriented initiatives will be phased in later this year: “The Perfect Plate” will be a big-picture approach using additional dining hall signs to take students through the steps of creating a healthy meal, and a set of criteria will be designed for recommending local restaurants as healthy options for eating out.

Physical activity initiatives are already in full swing. “Gym Comes to You” brings fitness instructors straight to freshman dorms, eliminating the popular excuse of “the gym is too far.” Sweeney has also created a partnership with the running group Jumbo Striders and has worked with them to expand their offerings to a variety of fitness levels. Professor and researcher Dr. Jennifer Sacheck, who worked on the study looking at physical fitness in relationship to HDL, LDL, and triglycerides, stresses the importance of incorporating physical activity. The study showed that having better aerobic fitness was more important for reducing chronic disease risk than having a low percent body fat. “We’re better off thinking about getting healthy first, and then getting thinner … is something that will come naturally,” she says. A host of information on physical activity and nutrition can also be found on the campaign’s ever-expanding website,

Who will be involved?

The campaign is continuing to evolve. Sweeney estimates that it will be in development over the next three to five years, and will eventually become part of the campus culture. “It’s not a program, it’s a permanent resource,” she articulates. Of course, a campaign this size will require a number of collaborators to work together. Balance Your Life is already working across four college departments and enlisting three student organizations, plus a number of student volunteers in the effort.

And most importantly, Sweeney stresses, “getting students [from Friedman and Tufts-Medford] involved with each other is a secondary goal of the campaign.” We have all this nutrition and physical activity know-how, it’s only logical to share it with our undergrad littles. Sound good? You can get involved! Contact and look for more news on Balance Your Life.

Marina Komarovsky is an MS-Nutritional Epidemiology/MPH-Health Communication student who is very into apples, mango lassies, hip hop, and swing dancing. She is also moderately into nutritional biochemistry and statistics, and her goal in writing is to relate research findings to those who are not into those things at all. She is currently studying endocrine regulation of metabolism.