Tuesday, March 16, 2010

MA: Support grows for limiting junk food in schools

There seems to be an epidemic of this nonsense but it will achieve nothing positive. Asking that its effectiveness be tested first is too much to ask, of course. Leftists just KNOW

A bill that would ban the sale of sugary drinks and junk food in school vending machines and school stores is gaining momentum in the Legislature, as Massachusetts combats a troubling rise in childhood obesity rates.

The Massachusetts legislation contains school nutrition guidelines from a 2007 report by the Institute of Medicine. Here are some recommended standards for what snacks and beverages should contain:

* No more than 35 percent of total calories from fat.

* Less than 10 percent of total calories from saturated fats.

* Zero trans fat.

* No more than 35 percent of calories from total sugars per portion as packaged. (Exceptions include fruits and 100-percent fruit juices without added sugars, vegetables and 100-percent vegetable juices without added sugars, and unflavored nonfat and low-fat milk and yogurt.)

* 200 calories or less per portion as packaged.

* A sodium content limit of 200 mg or less per portion as packaged.

* Foods and beverages are caffeine-free, with the exception of trace amounts of naturally occurring caffeine-related substances.

The House passed it in January, after nearly a decade of debate on similar bills that went nowhere. Now, Senate President Therese Murray has thrown her support behind the effort and is optimistic that members will embrace it in a scheduled Senate vote today.

“We haven’t heard anything negative from members,’’ Murray said in an interview. “Obviously, everyone is very alarmed about the high level of diabetes and obesity rates. It’s a crisis.’’

The bill is one of two the Senate will debate today that aim to foster a healthier learning environment for students. The other legislation sets out to prevent bullying at school and on the Internet.

Legislators say they are motivated by a string of reports in recent years that have revealed the magnitude of the childhood obesity problem. In Massachusetts, 1 in 3 school children was overweight or obese in 2008, up from 1 in 4 two years earlier, according to a report by the Massachusetts Health Council, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group.

“This is not the only piece of the puzzle to solve childhood obesity, but it’s a significant step forward,’’ said Representative Peter J. Koutoujian, a Waltham Democrat who has been trying to rid school vending machines of unhealthy foods for nearly a decade.

The legislation is the latest push by the state to combat childhood obesity, a top priority of Governor Deval Patrick. Public schools, complying with a new public health mandate, began measuring and weighing first-, fourth-, seventh-, and 10th-graders last fall so they can calculate their body mass index, a standard measurement used to analyze whether someone weighs too much or too little.

President Obama is urging Congress, as it overhauls the Childhood Nutrition Act, to set nutritional standards for food and beverage items sold outside lunch and breakfast programs.

Many Massachusetts school districts — such as Boston, Cohasset, and Lawrence — have taken the lead in replacing junk food in vending machines with more nutritional offerings, such as pretzels, rice cakes, and soy nuts. The movement prompted some education groups to question the need for a state law.

“I defy you to walk into a public school with a Coke machine that sells soda,’’ said Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts School Committee Association, which contends that school districts do not need additional state regulations. “School districts have made the changes. They’ve done what’s best for kids.’’

But public health specialists, many school food service directors, and some legislators say the state needs to step in to ensure the consistency of nutritional standards from one school to another and to force those schools that have been lax to shape up...

More here

Baldies rule! Hair loss 'almost halves the risk of prostate cancer'

If one were to follow the usual logic of epidemiologists, this would lead to a recommendation that men should regularly pull their hair out

It's one thing men under 30 don't want to see in the mirror - the glint of an emerging bald patch. But research suggests those who, like Prince William, are facing a future with less hair should stop fretting at that retreating hairline. Men who start going bald at a young age are up to 45 per cent less likely to fall victim to prostate cancer later in life, scientists have found.

Although half of all men suffer significant hair loss by the age of 50, an American team has linked the high levels of testosterone in those who go bald earlier to a lower risk of tumours. The scientists studied 2,000 men aged between 40 and 47, half of whom had suffered prostate cancer. They compared the rate of tumours in those who remembered their hair thinning by the age of 30 with those who did not suffer hair loss. Men who had started to develop bald spots on the top of their heads as well as receding hairlines had the least risk of cancer.

Hair loss is a source of concern for many young men, with surveys showing nearly half think going bald makes them feel old and less attractive while three out of four have selfesteem problems.

The positive findings published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology will be controversial because previous smaller studies have suggested hair loss increases the risk of cancer. Most baldness is caused when hair follicles, the tiny sacs in the scalp from which hair grows, become exposed to too much dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.

This is a chemical produced by the male hormone testosterone. If there is too much DHT circulating in the blood, the follicles shrink, so the hair becomes thinner and grows for less time than normal. Experts believe men with high levels of testosterone are more likely to lose their hair, especially if baldness already runs in the family.

Those diagnosed with prostate cancer are often given drugs to reduce testosterone levels because the hormone can accelerate the growth of some tumours once they develop. But the latest research suggests being exposed to high levels of testosterone from a young age might actually help to protect against the disease. 'At first, the findings were surprising,' said Professor Jonathan Wright, an expert in prostate cancer at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. 'But we found that early onset baldness was associated with a 29 per cent to 45 per cent reduction in their relative risk of prostate cancer.'

Dr Helen Rippon, head of research management at The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: 'If these results are correct, they could be useful in providing us with a greater understanding of how testosterone behaves in the body and how it can affect different tissues.'


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