Category Archives: Nutrition

FDA explains proposed changes to food labels

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Nutrition Facts Label: Proposed Changes Aim to Better Inform Food Choices
An FDA Consumer Update
Feb 27, 2014

new food label

The proposed Nutrition Facts label (above) will emphasize the number of calories and servings per container; update % Daily Values for nutrients such as fiber and calcium; update serving sizes; list the amount of added sugars; require listing of potassium and vitamin D if present, and no longer require the labeling of Vitamins A and C.

A lot has changed in the American diet since the Nutrition Facts label was introduced in 1993 to provide important nutritional information on food packages.

People are eating larger serving sizes. Rates of obesity, heart disease and stroke remain high.

More is known about the relationship between nutrients and the risk of chronic diseases.

So the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposes bringing this familiar rectangular box—which has become one of the most recognized graphics in the world—up to date with changes to its design and content.

“Obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases are leading public health problems,” says Michael Landa, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

“The proposed new label is intended to bring attention to calories and serving sizes, which are important in addressing these problems. Further, we are now proposing to require the listing of added sugars. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends reducing calories from added sugars and solid fats,” Landa said.

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Women’s Health — Week 26: Heart Disease

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tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women. The good news is that you can greatly reduce your chances of developing heart disease.

Making healthy changes in daily habits, learning about your personal risk factors, and taking needed medication as prescribed are all important keys to heart health.  Continue reading

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Health news headlines – February 8th

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Typewriter-Spelling-NEWS

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Women’s Health — Week 22: Eating Disorders — Anorexia and Bulimia

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tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Eating disorders are marked by extremes. An eating disorder can be an extreme reduction of food intake or extreme overeating, or feelings of extreme distress or concern about body weight or shape.

A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food than usual, but at some point, the urge to eat less or more spirals out of control.

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Cafeteria ‘traffic light’ promotes healthier eating – study

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Stop light meal

A workplace cafeteria used “traffic light” labeling to indicate the healthiness of food and drinks and rearranged items so that healthier, green-labeled items were more visible. According to a study of 2,285 Massachusetts General Hospital employees who regularly used the cafeteria sales of healthy items jumped, and after two years, employees continued to make healthier choices. – Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reports. To learn more go here.

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Can a dietary supplement treat a concussion? No

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Illustration of the skull and brainA Consumer Update from the US Food and Drug Administration

Exploiting the public’s rising concern about concussions, some companies are offering untested, unproven and possibly dangerous products that claim to prevent, treat or cure concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is monitoring the marketplace and taking enforcement actions where appropriate, issuing warning letters to firms—the usual first step for dealing with claims that products labeled as dietary supplements are intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.

The agency is also warning consumers to avoid purported dietary supplements marketed with claims to prevent, treat, or cure concussions and other TBIs because the claims are not backed with scientific evidence that the products are safe or effective for such purposes.

These products are sold on the Internet and at various retail outlets, and marketed to consumers using social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

One common claim: Using a particular dietary supplement promotes faster healing times after a concussion or other TBI.

Even if a particular supplement contains no harmful ingredients, that claim alone can be dangerous, says Gary Coody, FDA’s National Health Fraud Coordinator.

“We’re very concerned that false assurances of faster recovery will convince athletes of all ages, coaches and even parents that someone suffering from a concussion is ready to resume activities before they are really ready,” says Coody. “Also, watch for claims that these products can prevent or lessen the severity of concussions or TBIs.”

A concussion is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head, or by a violent shaking of the head and upper body. Concussions and other TBIs are serious medical conditions that require proper diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring by a health care professional.

The long-term impact of concussions on professional athletes and children who play contact sports has recently been the subject of highly publicized discussions.

A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that if concussion victims resume strenuous activities—such as football, soccer or hockey—too soon, they risk a greater chance of having a subsequent concussion.

Moreover, repeat concussions can have a cumulative effect on the brain, with devastating consequences that can include brain swelling, permanent brain damage, long-term disability and death.

“As amazing as the marketing claims here are, the science doesn’t support the use of any dietary supplements for the prevention of concussions or the reduction of post-concussion symptoms that would enable one to return to playing a sport faster,” says Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplement Programs.

The Claims

One of the first alarms raised about dietary supplements being promoted to treat TBI came from the U.S. Department of Defense.

“We first learned from the military about a product being marketed to treat TBI, obviously a concern with wounded veterans. We were taken aback that anyone would make a claim that a supplement could treat TBI, a hot-button issue,” says Jason Humbert, a senior regulatory manager with FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs. “That sparked our surveillance.”

FDA routinely monitors the marketplace. However, with more than 85,000 dietary supplements on the market and no product registration, products making false claims can slip through, at least for a time.

Typically, products promising relief from TBIs tout the benefits of ingredients such as turmeric and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil. Turmeric is an Indian spice in the ginger family.

For Omega-3, FDA has recommended a maximum daily level of 3 grams per day from all sources due to possible problems with increased risk of bleeding, increases in cholesterol and problems with controlling blood sugar levels.

In its initial surveillance, FDA identified two companies selling multiple products claiming to prevent and treat concussions and other TBIs. One company claimed to have “the world’s first supplement formulated specifically to assist concussion recovery,” saying “it has the dynamic ability to minimize long-term effects and decrease recovery time.”

A National Football League player testified to its “proven results in my own recovery” from a concussion, and an unnamed “licensed trainer” said he had incorporated it into his “concussion management protocol.”

Similar claims were made by the other company, which was selling four products claiming to protect against and help heal TBIs. FDA sent letters in 2012 warning both companies that their products were not generally recognized as safe and effective for treating TBIs, that the products were misbranded (a legal term meaning, in this case, that the labeling of the products did not have adequate directions for use), and that unless various violations cited in the letters were promptly corrected, the violations could result in legal action taken without further notice, such as seizure or injunction.

Both companies changed their websites and labeling.

In December 2013, FDA issued a warning letter to Star Scientific, Inc., for marketing its product Anatabloc with claims to treat TBIs. FDA continues to monitor the marketplace for products with similar fraudulent claims, and will take appropriate regulatory action to protect the public health.

“As we continue to work on this problem, we can’t guarantee you won’t see a claim about TBIs. But we can promise you this: There is no dietary supplement that has been shown to prevent or treat them,” says Coody. “If someone tells you otherwise, walk away.”

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Dec. 31, 2013

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Women’s Health – Week 18: Gestational Diabetes

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From the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Gestational diabetes (pregnancy)

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that occurs when a woman is pregnant. Changing hormone levels and weight gain are all part of a healthy pregnancy.

But both these changes can make it hard for your body to keep up with its need for a hormone called insulin. Your body may not get the energy it needs from the food you eat and, later in your pregnancy, you could develop gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes often goes away after the baby is born but having gestational diabetes can place you and your child at increased risk for developing diabetes later in life.

Taking care of yourself will help keep you and your baby healthy throughout your lives. Important action steps include:

  • Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Being physically active for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week.
  • Following a healthy eating plan.

Your health care provider will decide when you need to be checked for diabetes depending on yourrisk factors. Risk factors include:

  • Age: 25 years of age or older.
  • Weight: Being overweight or obese.
  • Family history: Having a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes.
  • Baby’s birth weight: Delivering a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
  • Health history: A previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes in an earlier pregnancy.
  • Blood glucose (blood sugar): Having pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal.
  • Race/ethnicity: Being of African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander descent.
Risks of gestational diabetes
Having gestational diabetes may increase your risk of high blood pressure or your baby may grow very large. Both can make delivery difficult and dangerous for you both. It can also cause other problems for your baby including: 

  • Low blood glucose right after birth.
  • Breathing problems.
NIH and You
The NIH Office of Research of Women’s Health has partnered with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease’s National Diabetes Education Program on its Small Steps. Big Rewards – It’s Never Too Early…To Prevent Diabetes campaign to increase awareness about the future health risks for women with a history of gestational diabetes and their children. The campaign promotes screening for type 2 diabetes in women with a history of gestational diabetes, provides advice on future health risks, and promotes the importance of adopting and maintaining healthy behaviors.

for more information: www.niddk.nih.gov

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Women’s Health – Week 16: Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2

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From the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Glucometer showing a blood sugar of 105Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Your blood always has some glucose in it because your body needs glucose for energy. Too much glucose, however, is not good for your health.

Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps the glucose from food get into your cells. If your body does not make enough insulin, or if the insulin does not work the way it should, glucose cannot get into your cells for energy. It stays in your blood instead. Your blood glucose levels then get too high, causing diabetes.

With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of diagnosed diabetes in the United States. Children and young adults most often develop type 1 diabetes, but it can appear at any age.

With type 2 diabetes, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood. People with type 2 diabetes often need to take pills or insulin. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and can occur at any age, even childhood.

Having a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes, or being overweight and inactive increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Pregnant women can also develop diabetes, called gestational diabetes (see Week 18 for more information). Gestational diabetes often goes away after the baby is born. But having gestational diabetes can place you and your child at increased risk for developing diabetes later in life.

Symptoms of diabetes may include fatigue, thirst, weight loss, blurred vision, and frequent urination. With type 2 diabetes, some people have no symptoms at all. A blood test can show if you have diabetes.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause serious problems. It can damage your eyes, kidneys, heart, gums, teeth, and nerves. It can lead to blindness, kidney failure, and the loss of a foot or a leg. The most serious problem caused by diabetes is heart disease. If you have diabetes you are more than twice as likely as people without diabetes to have a heart attack or a stroke.

The good news is that if you have diabetes, you can take steps to manage the disease. Learn how to manage the ABCs of diabetes. A is for the HbA1C test, which shows you what your blood glucose has been over the past 3 months. B is for blood pressure and C is for cholesterol.

You can lower your chances of developing serious health problems by keeping your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in the target range your health care provider gives you. You can manage your diabetes by being active every day and keeping your weight in a healthy range. Follow your meal plan, take your medications, and check your blood glucose as directed by your health care provider.

For more information: www.yourdiabetesinfo.org

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Understanding obesity in children – AHRQ summary for parents

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Kids 1From the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

How do I know if my child is at a healthy weight?

young boy on scaleYour child’s doctor will track your child’s height and weight over time and can tell you if your child is at a healthy weight. During wellness checkups, be sure to talk with your child’s doctor about your child’s weight.

Your child’s doctor may ask you about:

  • Your child’s eating habits
  • Whether you have places to get healthy food for your child
  • How much physical activity your child gets
  • Whether there are safe places for your child to run around and play
  • How much screen time your child has each day (time spent watching television, playing video games, or sitting in front of a computer, cell phone, or tablet such as an iPad)
  • Any health problems your child has
  • Your family’s medical history

What is BMI and what are BMI percentiles?

To find out if your child is in a healthy weight range, your child’s doctor may use something called BMI, or “body mass index.” BMI is a measurement based on your child’s height and weight. BMI helps the doctor estimate how much body fat your child has. The doctor can use BMI to see if your child is at a healthy weight for his or her height. A healthy BMI is different for girls and boys and changes by age.

Your doctor may compare your child’s BMI to the typical BMI range for children of the same sex and age. To do so, doctors may use what is called a “BMI percentile.” This can help the doctor figure out if a child is underweight, at a healthy weight, overweight, or obese.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children are considered:

  • At a healthy weight if their BMI is between the 5th and 85th percentile
  • Overweight if their BMI is between the 85th and 95th percentile
  • Obese if their BMI is in the 95th percentile or above

To calculate your child’s BMI and BMI percentile, go to http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/.

What health problems can being overweight or obese cause for a child?

Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. They are also more likely to develop serious health problems such as:

  • High blood sugar or diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol (a type of fat in the blood)
  • Sleep apnea (a condition in which you stop breathing for brief periods of time while you sleep)
  • Heart problems (such as heart attack or heart failure) or a stroke as an adult
  • Extra pressure on bones and joints, which could lead to bone and joint problems both as a child and as an adult
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (a disease caused by too much fat in the liver)
  • Low self-esteem or depression
  • Eating disorders such as binge eating and purging

What might lead to a child becoming overweight or obese?

Many things can lead to a child becoming overweight or obese, including:

  • Unhealthy eating habits. Children may eat too much, eat too many unhealthy foods, or drink too many sugary drinks.
  • Not getting enough sleep. Children who do not get enough sleep each night are more likely to become overweight.
  • Family history. Children from overweight families may be more likely to become overweight. This could be due to a child’s genes or learned family eating habits.
  • Not enough physical activity. Children may not get enough physical activity. Children should be active for at least 1 hour each day.
  • Too much screen time. Children may have too much screen time during the day. Some children may eat while watching television or playing on the computer.
  • Environment. Children may spend time in an environment (such as with relatives, with friends, in childcare, or at school) where healthy eating choices or opportunities for physical activity are not available.Keeping Your Child From Becoming Overweight or Obese

How can I keep my child from becoming overweight or obese?

To help keep your child from becoming overweight or obese, make sure your child eats healthy and is physically active. There are many things that can be done at home, in school, and in the community to help keep children at a healthy weight. Some examples of each are listed below.

At Home

There are many things you can do at home as a family. Some examples include:

Eat healthy
  • Cook healthy meals at home with foods from each food group.
    • The food groups include fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods (such as meats, eggs, fish, tofu, and beans), and low-fat or nonfat dairy.
  • Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast every day.
  • Eat at the table as a family instead of in front of a screen (television, computer, cell phone, or tablet).
  • Limit or do not keep unhealthy foods and drinks at home.
    • Replace unhealthy snacks such as cookies, candy, or chips with healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables.
    • Replace unhealthy sugary drinks such as sodas, sports drinks, or juices with healthy drinks such as water and low-fat or nonfat milk.
  • Eat most meals at home instead of at restaurants. At home, you are better able to limit the amount of fat, sugar, and salt in your meals.
  • Be sure to eat the right amount of food.
For more information about healthy foods, eating the right amount, and sample menus, go to http://choosemyplate.gov.
father swimming with his childrenBe physically active
  • Give your child a chance to run around and play – at least 1 hour a day.
  • Plan fun activities like bicycling, walking to the park, playing ball, or swimming.
  • Encourage everyone in the family to be active during the day.
    • For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk or bike places instead of driving or taking the bus.
  • Limit the amount of screen time each day.
  • In addition to being physically active, make sure your child gets enough sleep each night.

Let’s Go! is a program to keep children from becoming obese. The program focuses on healthy eating and physical activity.

Let’s Go! recommends the “5-2-1-0” healthy habits for each day:

  • 5 fruits and vegetables
  • 2 hours or less of screen time for recreation
  • 1 hour or more of physical activity
  • 0 sugary drinks

Let’s Go! also recommends keeping television and computers out of your child’s bedroom and not allowing screen time for children younger than 2 years.

Let’s Go! is a State of Maine program that also supplies resources to communities outside of the State. These graphics and messages are adapted from Let’s Go! at www.letsgo.orgExit Disclaimer

In School

Girl in cafeteria line

In addition to eating healthy and being physically active at home, school programs can help keep children at a healthy weight. School programs could include things such as:

  • Lessons about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity
  • Information sessions for parents to learn ways to help keep their child at a healthy weight
  • Healthy breakfast and lunch options in the cafeteria with the right portion sizes
  • Healthy snacks and drinks in vending machines and at parties and events
  • Filtered water coolers to encourage drinking water instead of soft drinks or sports drinks
  • Adult-led walk-to-school or bike-to-school groups
  • A longer physical education (PE) period in which children are physically active
  • Gym equipment such as balls and jump ropes for use during recess

Let’s Go! also has resources for schools to help children eat healthy and be physically active. For more information and toolkits for your child’s school, go to www.letsgo.org/toolkits/Exit Disclaimer

To find out what your child’s school is doing to help keep children from becoming overweight or obese, talk with your child’s principal, school nurse, or school counselor. You can also ask how to become involved in the school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) or Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO).

In the Community

In addition to home and school, things can also be done in the community to help keep children at a healthy weight. Communities and community centers can:

  • Improve community parks, sidewalks, and biking paths.
  • Take steps to make parks, sidewalks, and biking paths safe.
  • Advertise community events such as health fairs, 5K walks, sports events at local parks, community garden programs, and local farmers markets. This can be done on posters, in local newspapers, and on local television and radio stations.
  • Offer programs in which families can get advice on healthy eating and being physically active.

For other resources to help keep your child at a healthy weight, go to:

For more information about improving parks, sidewalks, and biking paths in your area, contact your local parks and recreation department.

For more information about events or programs in your community, contact your local community or recreation centers (such as the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, or local religious community centers).

What have researchers found about doing things at home, in school, and in the community to help keep children from becoming overweight or obese?

Healthy eating and physical activity are very important in keeping children from becoming overweight or obese.

Researchers found that:

  • Programs at schools to help children eat healthy and be physically active can keep children from becoming overweight or obese.
  • Along with school programs, additional steps at home and in the community can also help.
  • More research is needed to know which particular programs or steps work the best.
  • Talking With Your Child’s Doctor, School, and Community Centers

Examples of Questions To Ask Your Child’s Doctor

  • Is my child at a healthy weight?
  • What are the most important things for me to do at home to help keep my child at a healthy weight?
  • How can I get my child to eat healthy foods?
  • How much of each type of food should my child eat?
  • How much physical activity does my child need each day?
  • What are the best types of physical activity for my child?
  • How much screen time should I allow my child each day?
  • How much sleep should my child get each night?
  • Do you have any resources that can help me keep my child at a healthy weight?
  • Do you know of any community resources that can help?
  • If there are no grocery stores nearby or healthy food is too expensive for me, do you know of any resources that could help me?
  • If there is no safe place for my child to play outside, how can I help my child stay active?

Examples of Questions To Ask Your Child’s School Principal, Nurse, or Counselor

  • Does the school offer programs to help keep children from becoming overweight or obese? If not, how can we start some?
  • In the cafeteria and in vending machines, are healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables available instead of sugary drinks and salty or fatty foods?
  • How much time is my child given during PE, recess, and throughout the day to be physically active?
  • Does the school ever use PE or other physical activity as punishment?
  • Do you have adult-led walk-to-school or bike-to-school programs or other physical activity programs for children?
  • Are there information sessions that I can attend to learn more about helping my child stay at a healthy weight?
  • What can I do at home to help reinforce what my child is taught about healthy eating and physical activity at school?
  • Do you know of any community resources that can help?

Examples of Questions To Ask Your Local Community or Recreation Center

  • Do you have any resources or programs on healthy eating or physical activities for children?
  • Do you keep a calendar of community events such as health fairs, 5K walks, or sports events at local parks?
  • Do you have a list of local community gardens or farmer’s markets?
  • Do you know of any programs that can give me advice on how to help my family eat healthy and be physically active?Sources

The information in this summary comes from the report Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs: Comparative Effectiveness Review and Meta-Analysis, June 2013. The report was produced by the Johns Hopkins University Evidence-based Practice Center through funding by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Additional information came from the MedlinePlus® Web site, a service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. The site is available at www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus.

This summary was prepared by the John M. Eisenberg Center for Clinical Decisions and Communications Science at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX. It was written by Amelia Williamson Smith, M.S., Jason A. Mendoza, M.D., M.P.H., and Michael Fordis, M.D. Parents of children between the ages of 2 and 18 reviewed this summary.

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Women’s Health – Week 6: Bone Health and Osteoporosis

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From the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Bones are living tissue. A healthy body with strong bones is essential to overall health and quality of life. Strong bones support us and protect the heart, lungs, brain, and other organs from injury. Weak bones break easily. They cause pain and interrupt everyday activities.

Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a disease characterized by low bone mass. It makes bones weak and more likely to break – especially the bones of the hip, spine, and wrist.

The disease is a major public health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans, 68 percent of whom are women. Every year, 1.5 million Americans suffer a fracture because of weak bones, mostly in the wrists, spine, and hips.

Osteoporosis is called a silent disease because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People typically do not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, twist, or fall results in a fracture (broken bone). Many people are unaware of the link between a broken bone and osteoporosis.

While white women over the age of 50 are at highest risk for osteoporosis, women and men of every age and ethnicity should be concerned about bone health.

If you are older than 65, have broken a bone after age 50, have relatives with a broken bone, have certain medical conditions (for example, hyperthyroidism or arthritis), or take certain prescription medications (such as thyroid medicine or glucocorticoids), you may be at higher risk for osteoporosis. Talk to your health care provider and find out if you need a bone density test.

osteoporosis

Diagram showing a healthy spine versus a spine showing signs of osteoporosis. Click on the image to view larger.

Some steps you can take to help prevent osteoporosis and fractures:

  • Be physically active every day to keep your bones strong. Weight-bearing physical activity causes new bone tissue to form, which makes bones stronger.
  • Eat a healthy diet, including calcium and vitamin D, which are critical for good bone health.
  • Know that smoking and heavy alcohol use reduce your bone mass and increase your risk for broken bones.
  • Reduce your risk of falling with physical activity to make you stronger and to improve your balance and coordination (making you less likely to fall).
  • Make your home safe by removing things you can trip over (like small rugs and stepstools), using non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower, and installing bright light bulbs to make it easier to see.
  • Ask a health care provider to review your prescription and over-the-counter medicine because some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can make you less alert, slower to react, and can lead to a fall.
for more information: www.niams.nih.gov
NIH and You
Milk matters is a public health education campaign that promotes calcium consumption among tweens and teens, especially between the ages of 11 to 15, a time of critical bone growth. Bones grow fastest during the tween and teen years, and adequate calcium intake during these years helps prevent osteoporosis later in life. But, studies show that most tweens and teens are not getting enough of it in their diets. Fewer than one in ten girls and only one in four boys ages 9 to 13 are at or above their adequate intake of calcium. Although the consequences of low calcium consumption may not be visible in childhood, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development recognizes lack of calcium during the critical years of bone development can have a serious effect on the health of young people later in life.

 
for more information: www.nichd.nih.gov/milk

 

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Schools Are Getting Healthier, says CDC

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school-busBy Marissa Evans

Nowadays, the hub for developing healthy habits isn’t just the gym or home. For kids, at least, it’s increasingly their schools, according to a study released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

School districts across the country are demonstrating a range of improvements in terms of nutrition, exercise and tobacco policies.

For instance, after years of efforts to phase out junk food like candy and chips, the percentage of school districts that prohibited such food in vending machines increased from 29.8 percent in 2006 to 43.4 percent in 2012, according to the CDC’s 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study.

Also, slightly more than half of school districts – up from about 35 percent in 2000 — made information available to families on the nutrition and caloric content of foods available to students.

“Schools play a critical role in the health and well-being of our youth,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, in the news release. “Good news for students and parents — more students have access to healthy food, better physical fitness activities through initiatives such as ‘Let’s Move,’ and campuses that are completely tobacco free.”

Since 2000, the number of school districts that require elementary schools to teach physical education increased. In addition, the number of districts entering into agreements with local YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs or local parks and recreation departments went up, according to the study.

Meanwhile, the percentage of districts with policies that prohibited all tobacco use during any school-related activity increased from 46.7 percent in 2000 to 67.5 percent in 2012.

The CDC study is a periodic, national survey that examines key components of school health at the state, district, school, and classroom level, including health education; physical education and activity; health services; mental health and social services; nutrition services; healthy and safe school environment; faculty and staff health promotion; and family and community involvement.

This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Obesity across states – infographic

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By Michael Ollove
Stateline Staff Writer

After three decades of weight gains, adult obesity rates remained flat in the last year in every state except Arkansas.

Louisiana and Mississippi had the highest obesity rates – more than 34 percent of the adult population in both states was obese — while Colorado had the lowest rate at just over 20 percent.

The report, titled “F As In Fat,” found the poorer and less educated the population, the higher the rate of obesity.

08_16_fat_MAP

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Stateline is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Center on the States that provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.

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What is gluten-free?

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An FDA Consumer Update

White Bread by Ricardo PerinaPeople with celiac disease can now have confidence in the meaning of a “gluten-free” label on foods.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a final rule that defines what characteristics a food has to have to bear a label that proclaims it “gluten- free.” The rule also holds foods labeled “without gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “no gluten” to the same standard.

This rule has been eagerly awaited by advocates for people with celiac disease, who face potentially life-threatening illnesses if they eat the gluten found in breads, cakes, cereals, pastas and many other foods.

As one of the criteria for using the claim “gluten-free,” FDA is setting a gluten limit of less than 20 ppm (parts per million) in foods that carry this label.

This is the lowest level that can be consistently detected in foods using valid scientific analytical tools. Also, most people with celiac disease can tolerate foods with very small amounts of gluten.

This level is consistent with those set by other countries and international bodies that set food safety standards.

“This standard ‘gluten-free’ definition will eliminate uncertainty about how food producers label their products and will assure people with celiac disease that foods labeled ‘gluten-free’ meet a clear standard established and enforced by FDA,” says Michael R. Taylor, J.D., deputy FDA commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

Andrea Levario, executive director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance, notes that there is no cure for celiac disease and the only way to manage the disease is dietary—not eating gluten. Without a legal definition of “gluten-free,” these consumers could never really be sure if their body would tolerate a food with that label, she adds.

“This is a tool that has been desperately needed,” Levario says. “It keeps food safe for this population, gives them the tools they need to manage their health, and obviously has long-term benefits for them.”

“Without proper food labeling regulation, celiac patients cannot know what the words ‘gluten free’ mean when they see them on a food label,” says Allessio Fasano, M.D., director of the Center for Celiac Research at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, visiting professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and member of the American Celiac Disease Alliance.

What Is Gluten?

Gluten means the proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, barley, and crossbreeds of these grains.

As many as 3 million people in the United States have celiac disease. It occurs when the body’s natural defense system reacts to gluten by attacking the lining of the small intestine.

Without a healthy intestinal lining, the body cannot absorb the nutrients it needs. Delayed growth and nutrient deficiencies can result and may lead to conditions such as anemia (a lower than normal number of red blood cells) and osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. Other serious health problems may include diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disease and intestinal cancers.

Before the rule there were no federal standards or definitions for the food industry to use in labeling products “gluten-free.” An estimated 5 percent of foods currently labeled “gluten-free” contain 20 ppm or more of gluten.

How Does FDA Define ‘Gluten-Free’?

In addition to limiting the unavoidable presence of gluten to less than 20 ppm, FDA will allow manufacturers to label a food “gluten-free” if the food does not contain any of the following:

  1. an ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains
  2. an ingredient derived from these grains and that has not been processed to remove gluten
  3. an ingredient derived from these grains and that has been processed to remove gluten, if it results in the food containing 20 or more parts per million (ppm) gluten

Foods such as bottled spring water, fruits and vegetables, and eggs can also be labeled “gluten-free” if they inherently don’t have any gluten.

The regulation will be published Aug. 5, 2013 in the Federal Register, and manufacturers have one year from the publication date to bring their labels into compliance.

Taylor says he believes many foods labeled “gluten free” may be able to meet the new federal definition already. However, he adds, “We encourage the food industry to come into compliance with the rule as soon as possible.”

Under the new rule, a food label that bears the claim “gluten-free,” as well as the claims “free of gluten,” “without gluten,” and “no gluten,” but fails to meet the requirements of the rule would be considered misbranded and subject to regulatory action by FDA.

Those who need to know with certainty that a food is gluten-free are heralding the arrival of this definition. “This is a huge victory for people with celiac disease,” says Levario. “In fact, that’s the understatement of the year.”

Says Taylor, “FDA’s ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people make food choices with confidence.”

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

August 2, 2013

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