Category Archives: Nutrition

Want to lose weight? Train the brain, not the body


ScaleBy Laurel Mellin, University of California, San Francisco

Despite massive government, medical and individual efforts to win the war on obesity, 71 percent of Americans are overweight.

The average adult is 24 pounds heavier today than in 1960. Our growing girth adds some US$200 billion per year to our health care expenditure, amounting to a severe health crisis.

Drug research has not yielded a pill that helps people lose weight and keep it off. Traditional approaches such as diet and exercise can work short-term, but people almost inevitably regain the weight. Randomized controlled trials of weight loss surgery have shown some improvements in diabetes but not in mortality, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

If there is ever to be a “pill” – a solution to weight – it will be changing the brain, particularly the primitive areas of the brain, the “emotional brain” or mammalian and reptilian brain. These areas house circuits that control stress and our stress-fueled emotions, thoughts and behaviors.

These circuits can be rewired in humans so by changing them, we have a chance to address the root cause of stress-related problems, including obesity. While some overweight and obesity are caused by genetic make-up, more and more research is indicating that stress plays a big role in weight gain. Many people under stress turn to food for comfort.

My colleagues and I set out to develop a neuroscience-based approach to weight management and dealing with the common excesses we all face, through emotional brain training.

The idea was to use neuroscience-based tools to change the brain so that the whole range of common excesses would fade. The method has shown promising results. Continue reading


How to eat healthy: Start with a plan

SNAP cooking class with Nutrition Educator Golda Simon

SNAP cooking class with Nutrition Educator Golda Simon

By Keith Seinfeld
Public Health – Seattle & King County

People may eat poorly for a variety of reasons, including busy and stressful lives or lack of cooking skills.

Tight budgets may add to the problem, especially if you haven’t learned tricks for stretching food dollars.

For example, what if nobody ever showed you …

  • the value of planning meals ahead for a full week?
  • how to select the healthiest and most affordable option from the shelf?
  • how to cook easy and economical dishes?

To close that skills gap, a team of nutrition educators are bringing a new series of cooking classes to people enrolled in Washington’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as Basic Food or Food Stamps. Continue reading


Pediatricians offer a ‘medical home’ for your child


Pediatricians Know Children’s Medical History Well and Provide Comprehensive Care

McCabe_Liana_2014Guest column by Liana McCabe, MD
Contributing writer

As the mother of two young children and a pediatrician, I understand and appreciate how challenging it can be to coordinate health care for a child, especially for parents who also work outside the home or have other responsibilities. To make caring for children and their families easier, we strive to provide comprehensive pediatric services and have our office be your child’s ‘medical home.’

Your pediatrician can do it for you

Aided by an electronic medical record, which includes your child’s allergies, medical history and immunization records, a pediatrician is able to provide the most informed, safe and effective treatment options, unlike a clinic that may not be able to easily obtain your child’s personal health information.

Consistency is also key to proper health care

The importance of a long-term relationship with a pediatrician from the newborn years until adulthood – both for the patient and for the parent who is looking for guidance in navigating the sometimes challenging world of parenting – cannot be understated.

With every visit, phone call or secure email, the pediatrician is learning about your child’s health care needs, enabling the physician to make decisions with complete knowledge and information. This is why children’s health care is ideally delivered or coordinated through the child’s ‘medical home,’ the office of the primary-care pediatrician.

Pediatricians provide comprehensive care

Continue reading


Eating peanuts early reduces risk of peanut allergy, study

Photo courtesy of Prathyush Thomas under Free Art License

Photo courtesy of Prathyush Thomas under Free Art License

Benefits of peanut allergy prevention strategy persist after one-year peanut avoidance

From the National Institutes of Health

The benefits of regularly consuming peanut-containing foods early in life to prevent the development of peanut allergy persist even after stopping peanut consumption for one year, new clinical trial findings show.

The trial, called LEAP-On, was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and conducted by the NIAID-funded Immune Tolerance Network (ITN). T

he results were published online March 4 in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Los Angeles.

The LEAP-On study is an extension of the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study. LEAP showed that regular peanut consumption begun in infancy and continued until 5 years of age led to an 81 percent reduction in development of peanut allergy in infants deemed at high risk because they already had severe eczema, egg allergy or both.

At the end of LEAP, participants who enrolled in LEAP-On were instructed to avoid peanut consumption for one year to help investigators determine whether continuous peanut consumption is required to maintain protection against development of peanut allergy.

After the avoidance period, peanut allergy prevalence was determined, as it was in LEAP, by an oral food challenge. Only 4.8 percent of the children who had regularly consumed peanut-containing foods during LEAP were allergic to peanut following the year of peanut avoidance.

In comparison, the prevalence of peanut allergy was 18.6 percent among those who had avoided peanut throughout LEAP and LEAP-On. Continue reading


Use small plates to lose weight, study


From the Cornell University Food & Brand Lab

Small plates can help us lose weight when we self-serve

There are small easy steps that we can take to tackle the burgeoning problem of obesity. One of those solutions is surprisingly simple: use smaller plates.

There have been over 50 studies examining whether or not smaller plates help in reducing consumption. Despite all these studies, there is surprisingly little consensus on the effect of smaller plates. Some find that smaller plates help reduce consumption, but others do not.
New research published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research examines all these prior research projects together and finds that overall, smaller plates can help reduce consumption under specific conditions.

The researchers collated 56 previous research studies examining the effect of smaller plates on consumption. The various studies examined whether smaller plates reduce consumption for a wide variety of conditions:

  • Food type (snackfoods, popcorn, ice-cream, breakfast cereal, rice, vegetables, fruit, etc.),
  • Plate-type (bowls vs. plates, serving platter vs plate from which the food is consumed),
  • Portion-size (fixed amount of food served, amount varied in line with the plate-size, or self-served portions),
  • Setting (consumers invited to a food laboratory vs unaware consumers in natural settings such as a buffet).

Combining all the studies showed that halving the plate size led to a 30% reduction in amount of food consumed on average. In the case of plates, reducing the diameter by 30% halves the area of the plate and reduces consumption by 30%. Continue reading


NIH’s offers online weigh-loss personal trainer

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 9.48.10 AM

To use the NIH Body Weight Planner, just enter your weight, sex, age, height, and physical activities during work and leisure. Then enter a target date for reaching your goal weight. You can also add details like percent body fat and metabolic rate. The Planner will then calculate your personal calorie and physical activity targets to achieve your goal and maintain it over time.

From the National Institutes of Health

It’s always a good time to resolve to eat better, be more active, and lose weight. For the more than 2 out of 3 Americans who are either overweight or obese, there’s now a free, research-based tool to help you reach your goals: the NIH Body Weight Planner.

“A lot of people want to change their lifestyle to lose weight and improve their overall health but really don’t know what it takes,” says Dr. Kevin Hall, a senior NIH researcher who created the Planner. “The Body Weight Planner is the first tool of its kind. It uses specific information about the diet and physical activity changes that are needed to help people reach and stay at their goal weight over time.”

Keeping your body at a healthy weight may help you lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer that can result from being overweight or obese.

To use the NIH Body Weight Planner, just enter your weight, sex, age, height, and physical activities during work and leisure. Then enter a target date for reaching your goal weight. You can also add details like percent body fat and metabolic rate. The Planner will then calculate your personal calorie and physical activity targets to achieve your goal and maintain it over time.

“In the past, people have relied on simple rules of thumb, such as cutting 500 calories per day to lose 1 pound of body weight per week,” Hall says. “It turns out that this rule overestimates how much weight people actually lose.” The NIH Body Weight Planner uses technology based on years of scientific research to accurately calculate how your body adjusts to changes in your eating habits and physical activity.

NIH recently partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to add the NIH Planner to the USDA SuperTracker icon food and activity tool.

The NIH Body Weight Planner “has changed my life,” says one user. “At 280 pounds, I decided to make a change. I used the Body Weight Planner and set a goal to reach 220 pounds in 180 days. I tracked my calories, dropped weight, and hit the 220 goal. My doctor was really happy.”

Hall says the Body Weight Planner is compatible with most Web and mobile browsers. NIH is also working to develop mobile apps for tracking your body weight and physical activity, and for assessing how well you stick to your plan over time. This will help you change your plan or goals as needed.

Try the NIH Body Weight Planner  to take charge of your weight and your health. Be sure to talk with your health care provider about setting realistic and healthy weight goals.

NIH News in Health, January 2016


Health analyst scans obesity treatments from drugs to devices and heads back to gym


ScaleBy WBUR/CommonHealth

The journal JAMA Internal Medicine is just out with an up-to-date analysis of options for treating obesity, accompanied by editor Fiona Clement’s vivid personal account of her own struggles with weight.

The conclusion she draws from the latest data: “After much thought and brutal honesty with myself, I would not pursue any of the interventions; the risks outweigh the benefit,” she writes. “I’m off to the gym.”


Incentive worth $550 fails to move obese workers to lose weight



By Michelle Andrews

Promising workers lower health insurance premiums for losing weight did nothing to help them take off the pounds, a recent study found.

At the end of a year, obese workers had lost less than 1.5 pounds on average, statistically no different than the minute average gain of a tenth of a pound for workers who weren’t offered a financial incentive to lose weight.

“Our study highlights some of the weaknesses” of workplace wellness programs, said Dr. Mitesh Patel, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and the study’s lead author.

The study, published this month in the journal Health Affairs, reported the results of a year-long randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of financial incentives to encourage weight loss among 197 obese employees of the University of Pennsylvania health system.

Participants were asked to lose 5 percent of their weight. Each was assigned to one of four study groups. The control group wasn’t offered any financial rewards. The three other groups were offered an incentive valued at $550.

One group was told they would begin receiving health insurance premium discounts on a bi-weekly basis immediately after reaching their weight loss goal, while another was told they would receive bi-weekly premium adjustments the following year if they reached their goal.

The final group was eligible for a daily lottery payment if they met their daily weight loss goal and weighed in the previous day.

At year’s end, no group had met the 5 percent weight-loss target. Participants’ average weight was virtually unchanged, whether or not they had a financial incentive to lose pounds. Nineteen percent of participants did meet the 5 percent target, but they weren’t concentrated in any particular group. Continue reading


New dietary guidelines call for limits on sugar, red meat


Sugar Lauri Andler (Phantom)There’s new diet advice out Thursday from the federal government. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which are updated every five years, serve as the government’s official advice on what we should be eating.

New this year: a recommendation to limit sugar to no more than 10 percent of daily calories.

The guidelines also call for a shift to alternative sources of protein such as seafood, nuts and beans.


Hands off that frozen pizza! Docs advise customers as they shop

Lisa Tamura discusses her shopping habits with Phil Cecchini, a family doctor who works for St. Joseph Hoag Health in Orange County.  Cecchini spent the afternoon advising shoppers on what foods to buy and what to avoid at the Ralphs supermarket in Laguna Hills, California, on Thursday,  November 12, 2015 (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

Lisa Tamura discusses her shopping habits with Phil Cecchini, a family doctor who works for St. Joseph Hoag Health in Orange County. Cecchini spent the afternoon advising shoppers on what foods to buy and what to avoid at the Ralphs supermarket in Laguna Hills, California, on Thursday, November 12, 2015 (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

By Anna Gorman

When Lisa Tamura goes to the grocery store, she usually picks up a few frozen pizzas for the nights she doesn’t want to cook.

But on a recent Thursday afternoon at the Ralphs supermarket in Laguna Hills, California, she strolled right by the frozen food and headed straight to the fruits and vegetables.

Grocery stores are an ideal place to teach people that they can become healthier by making small dietary changes and eating in moderation.

That’s because she had some help from the ultimate personal shopper – a family doctor named Phil Cecchini.

“What do you like to eat?” he asked.

“Bad food,” she responded, laughing.

Cecchini, who works for St. Joseph Hoag Health in Orange County, spent the afternoon advising shoppers on what foods to buy – and what to avoid.

“If you stick with the periphery, you are probably doing okay,” Cecchini told Tamura, who recently moved from Hawaii to California. “You are avoiding all the pre-packaged, processed foods.”

Hospitals and health clinics around the country are increasing their efforts to promote exercise and healthy eating. They’re offering yoga and cooking classes, sponsoring farmers’ markets and writing prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables. Continue reading


Guidelines boost diabetes screening for overweight adults


glucose-monitorBy Michelle Andrews

More people who are overweight or obese may get screened for diabetes under new guidelines released this week by a panel of prevention experts.

Those whose blood sugar is higher than normal now can be referred to nutrition and exercise counseling without paying anything out of pocket for it.

“Obesity and overweight have been risk factors all along for diabetes,” says Dr. Wanda Filer, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “But we haven’t had guidelines that actually said, ‘Screen those folks.’” Continue reading


Help for the holidays: 5 tips to keep your diabetes in control


uncooked-turkey-in-potFrom the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The holidays only come once a year, but they last for weeks—from Thanksgiving all the way to New Year’s Day. Temptations go with the season, from treats at work to food-filled family celebrations to edible gifts.

If you have diabetes, you’re already familiar with managing what you eat to keep your blood sugar levels on target. Use these tips for a little extra help staying on track during this most wonderful—and challenging—time of the year.

1. Stick to your plan: Stay on your regular food, activity, and medication schedule as much as possible. Don’t skip meals to save up for a feast, and if you have a sweet treat, cut back on other carbs like potatoes and bread during the meal. If you slip up, get right back on track at your next meal.

2. Stay in control: It’s easier to do if you:

  • Eat more slowly.
  • Start with soup or vegetables to tame your appetite.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, which can open the gateway to overeating.

3. Fit in favorites: Savor a few special treats you can’t get any other time of year.

4. Stay active: Physical activity can help make up for eating more than usual, and it helps you deal with the stress of the season.

5. Get enough sleep: Too little sleep makes it harder to control your blood sugar, and it makes you hungry.

And keep in mind what the season is really about: celebrating traditions and connecting with the people you care about. When you focus more on family and fun, you’re likely to focus less on food. Plan ahead to enjoy the holiday season and take care of your health while you do.

For more information go to:

CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation

National Diabetes Education Program

Eat Right, Be Active, Stay Healthy

Tips for Safe Travels

CDC Diabetes on Facebook

@CDCDiabetes on Twitter



Citing cost to taxpayers, cities and states tackle obesity


ScaleBy Teresa Wiltz

More than 35 percent of Arkansas adults are obese, making it the heaviest state in the nation.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson looked at those numbers and saw two problems: an increased risk of all sorts of health challenges, and an increased burden on taxpayers.

Armed with data about the devastating effects of obesity, Hutchinson, a Republican, last month launched a 10-year plan to combat the problem in his state, from tightening nutritional standards in schools to creating more walkable communities and improving access to affordable, healthy foods.

“I’m a conservative,” Hutchinson said. “I’m concerned about tax dollars as well as good health. There’s a consequence to the taxpayer because of bad health habits.”

Arkansas isn’t the only state to take on obesity this year. Governors in New York, Georgia and Tennessee have all announced plans to combat high rates of obesity among their citizens.

Nationwide, a third of all adults—78 million—are obese, up nearly 50 percent since 1990, according to Health Intelligence, a health data analysis site.

The top 10 heaviest states are in the South and the Midwest, according to a new report by the State of Obesity, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health, an advocacy and research group based in Washington, D.C.sln_obesitytable

Cities and states have a vested interest in tackling the issue. Obesity, defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher, is a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., and can cause a host of chronic health issues, from diabetes to high blood pressure to cancer.  Continue reading