“We have solid evidence that keeping intake of (added) sugars to less than 10 percent of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay,” Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s nutrition department, said in a statement.
For 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.
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]
The researchers placed employees of the auto-insurance firm GEICO who had type 2 diabetes and a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or above on a low-fat, low-glycemic, high-fiber vegan diet.
The employee cafeteria menu featured vegetable hummus sandwiches, seasonal leafy green salads, black bean chili and various fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals during the study period.
The authors report that study participants lost an average of 10 lb and experienced a 13-point drop in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, as well as improved blood sugar control.
By Sarah Varney
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.
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
By: 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
By Michelle Andrews
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
A Consumer Update from the US Food and Drug Administration
“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.
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.
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).
From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Raw milk can carry harmful germs that can make you very sick or kill you. If you’re thinking about drinking raw milk because you believe it has health benefits, consider other options.
Developing a healthy lifestyle requires you to make many decisions. One step you might be thinking about is adding raw milk to your diet. Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized (heating to a specific temperature for a set amount of time to kill harmful germs). Germs include bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Making milk safe
Milk and products made from milk need minimal processing, called pasteurization. This process includes:
- Heating the milk briefly (for example, heating it to 161°F for about 15 seconds)
- Rapidly cooling the milk
- Practicing sanitary handling
- Storing milk in clean, closed containers at 40°F or below
While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all.
Remember, you cannot look at, smell, or taste a bottle of raw milk and tell if it’s safe to drink.
Risks of drinking raw milk
Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make you very sick or even kill you. While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all. Getting sick from raw milk can mean many days of diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting. Less commonly, it can mean kidney failure, paralysis, chronic disorders, and even death.
From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The average annual number of outbreaks due to drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk have more than quadrupled – from an average of three outbreaks per year during 1993-2006 to 13 per year during 2007-2012. Overall, there were 81 outbreaks in 26 states from 2007 to 2012.
As more states have allowed the legal sale of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk-associated outbreaks.The outbreaks, which accounted for about 5 percent of all food-borne outbreaks with a known food source, sickened nearly 1,000 people and sent 73 to the hospital. More than 80 percent of the outbreaks occurred in states where selling raw milk was legal.
As more states have allowed the legal sale of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk-associated outbreaks.
By Julie Rovner
If you get health insurance at work, chances are you have some sort of wellness plan, too.
But so far there’s no real evidence as to whether these plans work.
One thing we do know is that wellness is particularly popular with employers right now, as they seek ways to slow the rise of health spending. These initiatives can range from urging workers to use the stairs all the way to requiring comprehensive health screenings.
The 2014 survey of employers by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 98 percent of large employers and 73 percent of smaller employers offer at least one wellness program. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of KFF.)
What makes wellness plans so popular?
It really is part of their strategy to help employees be healthy, productive, and engaged,” says Maria Ghazal, vice president and counsel at the Business Roundtable, whose members are CEOs of large firms. “And it’s really part of their strategy to be successful companies.”
And there’s another reason wellness has gotten so pervasive, said health consultant Al Lewis. It’s a big industry. Continue reading
By Michelle Andrews
Do it or else. Increasingly, that’s the approach taken by employers who are offering financial incentives for workers to take part in wellness programs that incorporate screenings that measure blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index, among other things.
The controversial programs are under fire from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed suit against Honeywell International in October charging, among other things, that the company’s wellness program isn’t voluntary.
In the wellness program, employees and their spouses are asked to get blood drawn to test their cholesterol, glucose and nicotine use, as well as have their body mass index and blood pressure measured.
Honeywell, based in Morristown, N.J., recently got a reprieve when a federal district court judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the company from proceeding with its wellness program incentives next year.
But the issue is far from resolved, and the EEOC is continuing its investigations. Meanwhile, business leaders are criticizing the EEOC action, including a recent letter from the Business Roundtable to administration officials expressing “strong disappointment” in the agency’s actions.
In the Honeywell wellness program, employees and their spouses are asked to get blood drawn to test their cholesterol, glucose and nicotine use, as well as have their body mass index and blood pressure measured.
If an employee refuses, he’s subject to a $500 surcharge on health insurance and could lose up to $1,500 in Honeywell contributions to his health savings account.
He and his spouse are also each subject to a $1,000 tobacco surcharge. That means the worker and his spouse could face a combined $4,000 in potential financial penalties. Continue reading
From the US Food and Drug Administration
How Many Calories? Look at the Menu!
When you eat in a restaurant, do you generally know how many calories you’re consuming? The answer is most likely, “no,” according to research findings examined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The good news is that FDA is now taking an important step to provide consumers with more information to help them make more informed choices about the food they eat away from home.
FDA has issued two final rules requiring that calories be listed on certain menus in chain restaurants and other places selling restaurant-type food and on certain vending machines.
“Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home,” says FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “These final rules will give consumers more information when they are dining out and help them lead healthier lives.”
The goal is to provide consumers with more information in a consistent, easy-to-understand way. Continue reading
By Lisa Aliferis
KHN and the Washington Post
Dean Schillinger is a primary-care physician at San Francisco General Hospital. He first came to the city in 1990 at the peak of the AIDS epidemic. “At that point, one out of every two patients we admitted was a young man dying of AIDS,” he says.
Today, that same ward is filled with diabetes patients.
“I feel like we are with diabetes where we were in 1990 with the AIDS epidemic,” Schillinger said. “The ward is overwhelmed with diabetes — they’re getting their limbs amputated, they’re on dialysis. And these are young people. They are suffering the ravages of diabetes in the prime of their lives. We’re at the point where we need a public health response to it.”
Schillinger and other researchers at the University of California at San Francisco are setting up a project called Sugar Science, to spell out the health dangers of too much added sugar in our diets.
The project aimed at consumers includes a user-friendly Web site and materials such as television commercials that public health officials can use for outreach. Health departments from San Francisco to New York City have agreed to participate.