New York, Aug 31 (AP/UNB) — Red, yellow, green. It's a system for conveying the healthfulness of foods, and at the center of a debate about how to approach weight loss for children.
This month, the company formerly known as Weight Watchers provoked a backlash when it introduced a food tracking app for children as young as 8. The app uses a well-known traffic-light system to classify foods, giving children a weekly limit of 42 "reds," which include steak, peanut butter and chips.
Obesity is a growing public health issue that nobody is sure how to fix, and around one in five children in the U.S. is considered obese, up from one in seven in 2000. Childhood obesity often leads to adult obesity, and to higher risk for conditions including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Getting kids to eat well and exercise is crucial, but figuring out how to do that effectively is extremely difficult — and sensitive. For some, the app was a reminder of bad childhood experiences around weight and shame, in public and at home.
"I don't think we appreciate the bias and stigma that families struggling with weight face," said Dr. Stephanie Walsh, medical director of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. That can make it even more stressful for parents worried about their children's health, she said.
There is no easy answer for achieving a healthy weight, regardless of age. But when it comes to addressing the topic with children, pediatricians and dietitians say there are best practices to consider.
TALKING IT OUT
Parents may feel a conversation is not necessary, particularly with younger children, and that they can alter behavior by making lifestyle changes. But experts say a talk can be constructive, especially if the changes are going to be noticeable.
The key is to approach the subject with kindness and caring, and avoid blaming any of the child's behaviors. Children should also understand that any changes would be intended to make them feel better, and not about how they look.
As uncomfortable as addressing the issue may seem, failure to do so may make a child feel worse if they're being teased at school or feeling bad about themselves.
"In some ways, just to get it out there may be sort of a relief," said Tommy Tomlinson, an author who recounted his lifelong struggle with weight in "The Elephant in the Room."
Any adjustments to meals and activities should involve the entire family, so children don't feel singled out. This is tied to the belief that the most powerful way to help a child change their behavior is by setting an example.
Framing changes in a positive light is also key, Walsh said, whether that's suggesting new recipes to try together or asking about activities they might be interested in.
"Keep things upbeat," she said.
Then there is the matter of giving guidance on foods. Parents might not like the idea of directing children to a dieting company's app, especially since it gives older children the option to "upgrade" to a coaching service that costs $69 a month.
The company that now calls itself WW says the app is based on Stanford Children's Health's Weight Control Program, but views vary on the traffic-light system.
Dr. Sarah Hampl, a pediatrician specializing in weight management at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, said it can be an easy way to understand a complicated topic. Experts say the system can help adults eat better as well.
But Kaitlin Reid, a registered dietitian at UCLA, said it's a way of classifying foods as good and bad, which should be avoided. Seeing any foods as bad might result in feeling guilty whenever eating them.
WHAT TO AVOID
When Tomlinson was 11 or 12, he was taken to a doctor who gave him diet pills. Few health professionals would do that today, and there's broad agreement on other mistakes to avoid.
Using the word "diet," for example, could imply there's something wrong with the child, and that the changes are short-term.
Trying to scare children by warning them about potential medical problems isn't helpful either. And if parents are making broader lifestyle changes, they shouldn't feel the need to intervene or scold every time a child reaches for a sweet.
"Guilt and blame are not good motivators for change," said Stephen Pont, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Dell Medical School. By the same token, experts say parents should avoid making negative comments about their own bodies.
Regardless of whether parents see noticeable changes right away, Pont said, there are long-term benefits of instilling healthier habits in children.
London, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — The World Health Organization says there has been a "dramatic resurgence" of measles in Europe, in part fueled by vaccine refusals, with nearly 90,000 people sickened by the virus in the first half of 2019.
In a report issued Thursday, the U.N. health agency said the number of measles cases from January to June this year is double the number reported for the same period in 2018. Measles is among the world's most infectious diseases and is spread mostly by coughing, sneezing and close personal contact.
Although numerous European countries have introduced stronger vaccination policies, stubborn pockets of vaccine refusal have fueled epidemics across the continent. Last month, the German government proposed making measles immunization mandatory for children and employees at kindergartens and schools; there have been more than 400 cases of measles in Germany this year.
With more than 84,000 cases, Ukraine accounted for the vast majority of measles in Europe, followed by Kazakhstan and Georgia. In February, Ukraine's health ministry said eight people had died of measles.
An expert WHO committee said four countries — Albania, the Czech Republic, Greece and the U.K. — have now lost their status as having eliminated measles. Measles is preventable with two doses of the vaccine, but there is no effective treatment once people are infected.
"If high immunization coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily and some will tragically die," said Dr. Guenter Pfaff, chair of a WHO expert committee on measles in Europe.
In some developed countries, measles vaccination rates dropped sharply following the publication of a flawed study in the late 1990s that linked the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism. Health officials have struggled to debunk misperceptions about the vaccine's safety ever since.
"Misinformation about vaccines is as contagious and dangerous as the diseases it helps to spread," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement this week.
In 2017, WHO estimated about 110,000 people died from measles worldwide, mostly children under 5-years-old.
Salt Lake City, Aug 28 (AP/UNB) — Utah health officials say they are investigating 21 cases of a severe lung disease linked to vaping.
The state Department of Health announced the new number Monday, a jump from the five cases in teenagers and young adults reported last week.
The department says the cases stem from the use of a mix of nicotine and marijuana electronic cigarette products.
The symptoms of the disease include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.
The department advises that people who vape experience any of the symptoms that they should visit doctors.
Health officials say the first five people found with the disease were hospitalized.
Their conditions have improved after treatment.
Geneva, Aug 22 (AP/UNB) — The World Health Organization says the levels of microplastics in drinking water don't appear to be risky, but that research has been spotty and more is needed into their effects on the environment and health.
Microplastics are created when man-made materials break down into tiny particles smaller than about 5 millimeters (roughly one-fifth of an inch), although there is no strict scientific definition.
In a report published Wednesday, the U.N. health agency said the minuscule plastics are "ubiquitous in the environment" and have been found in drinking water, including both tap and bottled, most likely as the result of treatment and distribution systems.
"But just because we're ingesting them doesn't mean we have a risk to human health," said Bruce Gordon, WHO's coordinator of water, sanitation and hygiene. "The main conclusion is, I think, if you are a consumer drinking bottled water or tap water, you shouldn't necessarily be concerned."
Gordon acknowledged, however, that the available data is "weak" and that more research is needed. He also urged broader efforts to reduce plastic pollution.
The report is WHO's first review to investigate the potential human health risks of microplastics. It said people have inadvertently consumed microplastics and other particles in the environment for decades without sign of harm.
Andrew Mayes, a senior lecturer in chemistry at Britain's University of East Anglia who didn't participate in the WHO report, agreed that microplastics in water don't appear to be a health worry for now.
"But I wouldn't want people to go away with the idea that microplastics are no longer important," because they might be harming the environment, he said. He said stronger measures to reduce plastic are needed.
"We know that these types of materials cause stress to small organisms," he said. "They could be doing a lot of damage in unseen ways."
"Even if we stop (adding) plastic to the environment right now, microplastics will increase as larger pieces divide into smaller and smaller pieces," Mayes said, adding scientists have little understanding of the long-term consequences.
WHO called for further analysis of microplastics in the environment and their potential health significance.
Gordon said that although WHO would continue to monitor levels of microplastics in water, the higher priority is proven risks in drinking water like bacteria that cause typhoid and cholera.
"These are things that cause immediate illness and can kill a million people," he said.
Dhaka, Aug 21 (UNB) - Known for its aromatic flavour, tej patta or bay leaf is widely used as a culinary spice in Indian dishes. The herb, which is indigenous to the Mediterranean region, is full of essential nutrients and minerals like vitamins A and C as well as folic acid and also boasts of a variety of health benefits, reports The Indian Expess.
The nutrient-rich herb is considered to help prevent digestive troubles, protect the heart and even act as a stress buster. Even diabetics who consume this wonder herb are known to report improved insulin function. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Biochemical Nutrition, suggested that those with type 2 diabetes who consumed bay leaves had reported lower glucose levels and improved cholesterol profiles. The type 2 diabetes patients took capsules of 1, 2, or 3 grams of ground bay leaf per day for 30 days and a fourth group took a placebo. The three groups who consumed bay leaf had lower glucose levels and improved cholesterol profiles at the end of the trial.
The active component of bay leaves is a polyphenol, which helps control glucose levels. A health condition where the body experiences erratic rise and fall in blood sugar levels, diabetes is particularly widespread in India. According to one estimate, currently some 62 million Indians suffer from diabetes mellitus, which constitutes about seven per cent of the entire adult population of the country. According to Indian Heart Association, the number of diabetics in India will jump to 109 million people by 2035.
It is considered that one tablespoon serving provides about five calories, primarily in the form of carbohydrate. Micronutrients in bay leaves include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, iron, and calcium.
Additionally, bay leaves were also found to improve the lipid profile of patients.
How to use
Most people use dried, crumbled, or ground bay leaves. Since ground bay leaves are considered too strong, usually a whole leaf is used in dishes while cooking and later discarded at the time of eating.
A single bay leaf used in cooking is not likely to change the nutritional value of the dish being prepared. Usually, the leaf is removed from the dish before eating it. However, if crumbled bay leaves are consumed in a dish, you may gain a few nutritional benefits.
Diabetics are advised to consume tej patta along with their regular medication as well as follow other healthy diet and lifestyle regulations.