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Research Snapshot: More research-based evidence needed in legislative discussions about childhood obesity in Minnesota

How our legislators make decisions depends on a variety of factors such as expert beliefs, constituents’ opinions, political principles and research-based evidence. And while we’d like to think more decisions are made utilizing research-based evidence, a new study by researchers at the School of Public Health and the Medical School at the University of Minnesota along with collaborators at the American Heart Association and the Public Health Law Center found only 41 percent of all formal legislative discussions over childhood obesity-related bills in Minnesota from 2007-2011 cited some form of research-based evidence.

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expert-perspectives

New sugar recommendations are bittersweet

What do sweet and sour chicken, fruit yogurt, and pasta sauces have in common? It may surprise you, but all of these pre-packaged foods typically contain more than your recommended daily amount of sugar.

According to new draft guidelines published by the World Health Organization (WHO), people should try and limit the amount of sugar they consume to 5 percent of their daily calorie intake. But if 5 percent is too difficult, the WHO has determined that to avoid weight gain and minimize risk of diseases like diabetes, absolutely no more than 10 percent of a person’s daily calorie intake should be made up of sugar.

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nutrition

Taking a deeper dive into the latest CDC obesity data

Given the intense volume of media coverage this week around the CDC’s latest report on obesity in the U.S., many in the public now know that obesity rates among children aged two to five have fallen over the last decade, a key takeaway from the report.

The media’s interpretation and coverage of that particular point has varied widely; some headlines celebrated the shift as a positive as others focused on the statistic as a lone bright spot among otherwise unchanging obesity rates. As is often the case, perusing multiple media stories – even around the same issue – can generate a feeling of “OK, what’s really going on?”

According to Simone French, Ph.D., a University of Minnesota epidemiologist and obesity prevention expert, a deeper dive into the study is critical for a thorough understanding of what the study actually tells us about obesity trends in the U.S. She points out that where some may see stalled obesity rates as a negative, the flat rates could actually be viewed as a sign of progress.

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expert-perspectives

Can Halloween happen without candy?

It’s almost Halloween, which means it’s time for dressing up, trick-or-treating, going to parties, and attending school gatherings – all events that involve candy.

It’s also a time when parents might feel caught in a dilemma. Healthy eating concerns seem to throw the fun out of fully experiencing Halloween. Yet at the same time, it’s a special celebration, not a daily event, and what is the harm in a minor candy overdose once a year?

According to Simone French, Ph.D., a School of Public Health Professor and the Director of the Obesity Prevention Center, a little candy one day a year is probably harmless, but more and more, parents are realizing that our candy-culture is not just a one-time holiday for kids. We live in a world where candy dresses up as fruit snacks and granola bars, tricking us into treating all year round.

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nutrition

Health Talk Recommends: Average American male’s body compared to bodies of men from other nations

The average American’s expanding waistline may be old news, but seeing what this really means in a line-up against four other countries is quite an eye opener.

For visual evidence, check out this visualization from artist Nickolay Lamm. In his representation, four average male bodies from four countries are put side by side. The result? America’s obesity epidemic is clearly visible. According to Lamm, the images, which recently ran in HuffingtonPost, were created in hopes of putting a mirror in front of the American people.

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nutrition

Health Talk Recommends: Sugar Love (A not so sweet story)

In a fascinating National Geographic feature appearing this month, writer Rich Cohen provides a look at just how sugar grew from crop to luxury spice to dietary staple. It’s an interesting read.

Cohen profiles how, in our early history, sugar’s popularity rose as empires expanded. As our exposure to sugar increased, the demand for access fueled European expansion as national leaders sought new territories possessing cane-friendly climates. In a sense, as humanity’s exposure to sugar grew, so did our appetite for the sweet stuff.

Cohen writes:

“Sugar was the oil of its day. The more you tasted, the more you wanted. In 1700 the average Englishman consumed 4 pounds a year. In 1800 the common man ate 18 pounds of sugar. In 1870 that same sweet-toothed bloke was eating 47 pounds annually. Was he satisfied? Of course not! By 1900 he was up to 100 pounds a year. In that span of 30 years, world production of cane and beet sugar exploded from 2.8 million tons a year to 13 million plus. Today the average American consumes 77 pounds of added sugar annually, or more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.”

From there, Cohen outlines how the body perceives sugar and why as our intake creeps upward, so does the danger to our body. He points out what many simply might not know: your body metabolizes glucose and fructose differently. And sadly, fructose is what gives table sugar (and most of your favorite snacks) their sweetness.

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