Category Archives: Nutrition

More than one in three US adults is obese, study

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burger-and-friesBy Alana Pockros
KHN

The U.S.’s high obesity rate and its relationship to other chronic diseases is not new information to most public health scientists and physicians, but a new analysis suggests that prevention strategies exist that could counter this trend if they were pursued as a public health priority.

A rearch letter published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine reported updated results from an earlier study highlighting the burden of chronic conditions associated with body mass index. The new findings use the most recent data available on obesity – from 2007 to 2012 – from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, or NHANES.

In the US, early 40 percent of men and 30 percent of women are overweight, nearly 35 percent of men and 37 percent of women are obese.

.NHANES includes data for individuals 25 years or older and excludes pregnant women. “Overweight” and “obese” were classified by patients’ body mass indexes (BMIs).

Before the release of this study, the most recent examination of nation’s obesity and chronic disease burden was based on information from nearly 20 years ago, when researchers concluded that the prevalence of obesity-related health problems “emphasizes the need for concerted efforts to prevent and treat obesity” rather than just the other health conditions.

In the new analysis, the researchers found that nearly 40 percent of men and 30 percent of women were overweight, while nearly 35 percent of men and 37 percent of women were considered obese.

Comparing this data with statistics from the earlier study, the researchers concluded that overweight and obesity rates in the U.S. have increased over the past two decades.

The greatest increase in the proportion of individuals with BMI’s greater than 40, the highest obesity class, was among black women. Continue reading

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Nudging students to make healthier choices

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applesBy Tara Bostock
Public Health – Seattle and King County

It turns out that encouraging students to make healthier choices in the lunchroom can be accomplished affordably and without a major overhaul of the cafeteria.

Research shows that small changes like making the salad bar the highlight of the lunchroom, displaying fruit in attractive baskets, or placing healthy foods by the cash register can influence what students select to eat.

In Washington State, the Kent School District is leading the way by changing their cafeterias to

How the Kent School District is bringing behavioral economics principles to their lunchrooms.

encourage students to pick healthier foods. With the help of funding from the Community Transformation Grant, the District partnered with the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs to run a pilot program reaching over 6,000 students in six secondary school cafeterias.

The goal: to increase the number of students choosing healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, white milk, or healthy entrées. And the District saw positive changes.

How does behavioral economics work in the lunchroom?

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Paying Medicaid enrollees to get check ups, quit smoking and low weight: Will It pay off?

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wellness-incentive-570By Phil Galewitz
KHN

When Bruce Hodgins went to the doctor for a checkup in Sioux City, Iowa, he was asked to complete a lengthy survey to gauge his health risks.

In return for filling it out, he saved a $10 monthly premium for his Medicaid coverage.

In Las Cruces, N.M., Isabel Juarez had her eyes tested, her teeth cleaned and recorded how many steps she walked with a pedometer.

In exchange, she received a $100 gift card from Medicaid to help her buy health care products including mouthwash, vitamins, soap and toothpaste.

Taking a cue from workplace wellness programs, Iowa and New Mexico are among more than a dozen states offering incentives to Medicaid beneficiaries to get them to make healthier decisions — and potentially save money for the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.

The stakes are huge because Medicaid enrollees are more likely to engage in unhealthy practices, such as smoking, and are less likely to get preventive care, studies show. Continue reading

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Kids’ fast food consumption on the decline | Reuters

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Fast FoodBetween 2003 and 2010, the number of U.S. kids eating fast food on any given day went down, and the calories from some types of fast foods have declined as well, according to a new study.

According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, in 2003, almost 39 percent of U.S. kids ate fast food on a given day, which dropped to less than 33 percent by the 2009-2010 survey.

via Kids’ fast food consumption on the decline | Reuters.

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FDA finds little evidence of antibiotics in milk – AP

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Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

In response to concerns, the agency in 2012 took samples of raw milk from the farms and tested them for 31 drugs, almost all of them antibiotics.

Results released by the agency Thursday show that less than 1 percent of the total samples showed illegal drug residue.

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

via News from The Associated Press.

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Both High and Low Intensity Exercise Benefit Weight, Waist –Doctors Lounge

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Running shoes full shotFor people who are obese and sedentary, any exercise can help trim abdominal fat, but it may take a bit more effort to get other health benefits, a new study suggests. The findings were published in the March 3 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

via Both High and Low Intensity Exercise Benefit Weight, Waist –Doctors Lounge.

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Coffee may not be bad for you but jury’s still out about whether it’s good for you – The Washington Post

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Photo by Jean Scheijen

The reality is that there’s a growing body of research that supports the idea that coffee, in reasonable amounts, may not be as bad for you as people once thought. Brewed coffee, for instance, has been found to contain a tremendous amount of good-for-you antioxidants. In fact, the nation’s top nutrition panel earlier this year weighed in on coffee for the first time in its history, saying that “strong evidence” shows it is “not associated with increased long-term health risks among healthy individuals.”

The key words here are “healthy individuals.” Due to its high caffeine content, brewed coffee may always be a source of insomnia, irritability, acid reflux and other negative side effects for others, especially those with underlying conditions, such as anxiety disorder or heart disease. More importantly, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to make the leap between coffee not being bad for you and coffee being the cause of better health. [Photo by Jean Scheijen]

via Coffee may not be bad for you but jury’s still out about whether it’s good for you – The Washington Post.

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Few seniors benefiting from Medicare obesity counseling

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ScaleBy Sarah Varney
KHN

VISALIA, Calif. — In the farming town of Exeter, deep in California’s Central Valley, Anne Roberson walks a quarter mile down the road each day to her mailbox. Her walk and housekeeping chores are the 68-year-old’s only exercise, and her weight has remained stubbornly over 200 pounds for some time now.

“You get to a certain point in your life and you say, ‘What’s the use?’”

For older adults, being mildly overweight causes little harm, physicians say. But too much weight is especially hazardous for an aging body: Obesity increases inflammation, exacerbates bone and muscle loss and significantly raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Dr. Mylene Middleton Rucker, a primary care physician in Visalia, Calif., is using the new obesity counseling benefit with her patients, but many doctors aren’t aware of it yet. (Sarah Varney/KHN)

Dr. Mylene Middleton Rucker, a primary care physician in Visalia, Calif., is using the new obesity counseling benefit with her patients, but many doctors aren’t aware of it yet. (Sarah Varney/KHN)

To help the 13 million obese seniors in the U.S., the Affordable Care Act included a new Medicare benefit offering face-to-face weight-loss counseling in primary care doctors’ offices.

Doctors are paid to provide the service, which is free to obese patients , with no co-pay. But only 50,000 seniors participated in 2013, the latest year for which data is available.

“We think it’s the perfect storm of several factors,” says Dr. Scott Kahan, an obesity medicine specialist at George Washington University.

Kahan says obese patients and doctors aren’t aware of the benefit, and doctors who want to intervene are often reluctant to do so. It’s a touchy subject to bring up, and some hold outmoded beliefs about weight problems and the elderly. Continue reading

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The ABCs of heart health

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HeartBy: Janet Wright, MD, Executive Director, Million Hearts

Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States. Heart disease is responsible for 1 of every 4 deaths in the country.

For some groups, such as African Americans, the burden is even greater.

As a nation, we can—and must—change these numbers.

The good news is that heart disease and stroke can be prevented, and February—American Heart Month—is a great time to refresh your memory on the small but important actions you can take.

The national Million Hearts® initiative is working to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. How can you reduce your risk? One way is to know your ABCS:

A: Ask your health care provider about taking Aspirin. Continue reading

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Many insurers do not cover drugs approved weight-loss drugs

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ScaleBy Michelle Andrews
KNH

In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new anti-obesity drug, Saxenda, the fourth prescription drug the agency has given the green light to fight obesity since 2012.

But even though two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese — and many may need help sticking to New Year’s weight-loss resolutions — there’s a good chance their insurer won’t cover Saxenda or other anti-obesity drugs.

The health benefits of using anti-obesity drugs to lose weight—improvements in blood sugar and risk factors for heart disease, among other things—may not be immediately apparent.

“For things that are preventive in the long term, it makes plan sponsors think about their strategy,” says Dr. Steve Miller, the chief medical officer at Express Scripts, which manages the prescription drug benefits for thousands of companies. Companies with high turnover, for example, are less likely to cover the drugs, he says.

“Most health plans will cover things that have an immediate impact in that plan year,” Miller says.

Miller estimates that about a third of companies don’t cover anti-obesity drugs at all, a third cover all FDA-approved weight-loss drugs, and a third cover approved drugs, but with restrictions to limit their use. The Medicare prescription drug program specifically excludes coverage of anti-obesity drugs.

Part of the reluctance by Medicare and private insurers to cover weight-loss drugs stems from serious safety problems with diet drugs in the past, including the withdrawal in 1997 of fenfluramine, part of the fen-phen diet drug combination that was found to damage heart valves. Continue reading

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Beware of products promising miracle weight loss – FDA

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A Consumer Update from the US Food and Drug AdministrationScale

“This year, I’m going to lose some weight.”

If you find yourself making this common New Year’s resolution, know this: many so-called “miracle” weight loss supplements and foods (including teas and coffees) don’t live up to their claims.

Worse, they can cause serious harm, say FDA regulators.

The agency has found hundreds of products that are marketed as dietary supplements but actually contain hidden active ingredients (components that make a medicine effective against a specific illness) contained in prescription drugs, unsafe ingredients that were in drugs that have been removed from the market, or compounds that have not been adequately studied in humans.

“When the product contains a drug or other ingredient which is not listed as an ingredient we become especially concerned about the safety of the product,” says James P. Smith, M.D., an acting deputy director in FDA’s Office of Drug Evaluation.

Tainted products

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Obesity Costs Evident at the State Level | Brookings Institution

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Nearly 14 percent of Washington state’s Medicaid and nearly 8 percent of its Medicare spending goes to treat conditions caused by obesity.

At the state-level, a substantial share —between 6 percent and 20 percent—of Medicaid spending goes to adult obesity-related expenditures. In 2006, Oregon (18.8 percent), Arizona (17.0 percent) and Colorado (16.2 percent) saw the highest shares, while Kansas (6.5 percent), Virginia (6.8 percent) and North Dakota (7.5 percent) devoted the smallest shares of Medicaid spending to obesity-related expenditures.

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 8.19.49 PM

On a state-by-state basis, Medicare spending due to obesity was substantial, too, with shares varying from 5.2 percent to 10.2 percent in 2004.

The highest percent of obesity-attributable spending was found in Ohio (10.2 percent), Michigan (10.0 percent) and West Virginia (9.9 percent), while the lowest was in Hawaii (5.2 percent), Arizona (6.2 percent), and New Mexico (6.6 percent).

via Obesity Costs Evident at the State Level | Brookings Institution.

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