Saturday, September 25, 2010

Effect of Family Meals on Obesity Varies by Race (?)

One wonders why "research" as worthless as this was ever done. "The study didn't look at what children were eating or how much they consumed". WHAT you eat and HOW MUCH you eat has no relevance? Did the authors contemplate that blacks, Hispanics and whites might have characteristically different diets or that the parents in different groups might set different examples in how much they ate? Is there a difference between eating lots of fried chicken and lots of tacos, for instance? Do black parents "pig out" more than white parents do?

I guess that political correctness means that I am not supposed to mention that sort of thing but diet is an obvious uncontrolled variable that renders the meaning of the findings moot. Journal article here

Eating family meals may help fight obesity in white children, but it doesn't seem to benefit black children much, and could even raise Hispanic boys' obesity risk, new research shows.

The study, in nearly 17,000 U.S. children, didn't look at what children were eating or how much they consumed. "I think that's a topic for future research, to figure out just what's going on at the dinner table," Brandi Y. Rollins of The Pennsylvania State University in University Park, who helped conduct the research, told Reuters Health.

She and her colleagues report their findings in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Several well-publicized studies have shown that frequent family dinners may promote healthy weight and even reduce risky behaviors like drinking and smoking among adolescents and teens. But to date, Rollins said, there has been just one study of how family meals affect obesity risk in younger children. There's also evidence, she added, that family meals may be more beneficial to white teens than to black or Hispanic adolescents.

To investigate whether race, gender and household education level might influence the protective effects of family meals, Rollins and her team looked at data from the 2003 National Survey of Children's Health. The study included 16,770 boys and girls 6 to 11 years old, 72% f whom were non-Hispanic whites.

Forty-three percent of the white children were overweight or obese, compared to 60% of Hispanic children and 63% of non-Hispanic black children. White and black children ate about five meals a week with their families, on average, while Hispanic children averaged six family meals a week.

Non-Hispanic white kids who ate family meals every day were one-third less likely to be obese than white children who ate family meals twice a week or less. But there was no relationship between family meal frequency and overweight or obesity among black girls. For black boys, the risk of being overweight or obese decreased slightly as family meals per week increased.

For Hispanic boys who either lived in a single parent household or lived in less educated households (meaning the most-educated family member had not gone past high school), eating more family meals actually increased the risk of being overweight or obese.

There was no relationship, though, between family meal frequency and excess weight for Hispanic girls living with one parent or in less educated households, or for Hispanic boys and girls living in two-parent or more highly educated households.

"It is possible that parents within these ethnic populations used different child-feeding practices with their male and female children; previous research has shown this to be the case in other ethnic groups," Rollins and her team write. They note that one study found non-Hispanic white parents placed more food within reach for boys than for girls.

Another study found that Hispanic families were more likely than other ethnic groups to buy fast food for family dinners, the researchers add. "These family meals may not be the healthiest family meals," Rollins said.

Yet another possible explanation, she added, is that because black and Hispanic children are at higher risk of obesity than white kids, encouraging them to sit down to family dinners more often may simply not be enough.

The results suggest "that just telling people to have family meals isn't enough -- focusing also on what they're having during these family meals is just as important," Rollins said.


Food Fascists riding high in Boston

Do they really think thast they can force people to lose weight? It's tilting at windmills

First, it was smoking in restaurants and bars. Then, artery-clogging trans fat in fast food joints and bakeries. Now, Boston health regulators have their crosshairs fixed on soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages sold in city buildings.

Concerned about the girth of employees and visitors to government agencies, Boston officials are weighing — gingerly — whether to restrict or even prohibit the sale of calorie-laden refreshments on city-owned property.

The city has convened influential health, education, and housing leaders to develop a policy that aims to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. While discussions are ongoing, Bill Walczak, head of a community health center and a member of the city’s panel, said, “Somebody has to take a stand, and if it isn’t the government and health care institutions leading the way to a healthier lifestyle, who’s going to do it?’’

There are precedents: San Francisco’s mayor earlier this year issued an executive order banning sale of sugary drinks, and New York has imposed rules governing the mix of beverages in city vending machines to favor water.

In both cases, politicians and health authorities cited the link between soft drinks and the nation’s bulging waistline: From the mid-1970s to 2000, the average American’s daily calorie load attributed to sugary drinks rose from 70 to 190, one study reported. And Harvard researchers found that women who consume more than two of the beverages a day have an almost 40 percent higher risk of heart disease than women who largely forgo them.

Boston’s earlier prohibitions on workplace smoking and trans fat arrived at a time when public sentiment had already shifted. But Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s top health official acknowledged in an interview that restricting the availability of sodas, which are already banned from the city’s school, could engender greater resistance than previous public health causes.

“I think we’re going to run into a big issue of people saying, ‘Why would you take away our sodas, why are you interfering with what we’re eating and drinking?’ ’’ said Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “Unlike tobacco that is always harmful and if a person is smoking in the workplace it harms other people, I think people will look at sugar-sweetened beverages differently.’’

Ferrer said no policy has been drafted, but it appears inevitable that some measure will be adopted. The city promised when it received a $12.5 million federal stimulus grant to combat obesity and tobacco that it would “decrease consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages through counter-advertising and policy change,’’ according to a city document.

Unions representing city workers either said they were unaware of the discussions or did not return phone calls seeking comment. Firefighters declined to comment at a South End firehouse where a hulking blue Pepsi machine offers a dozen options, most containing sugar. Revenue from the machines is used by firefighters to help pay for coffee, utensils, and other dining supplies, said Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald.Continued...

Employees at City Hall were similarly reticent. The City Hall Deli on the eighth floor stocks a variety of soft drinks, as does the City Hall Coffee Stop in the bowels of the building. “I think everything has its place,’’ said the manager of the Coffee Stop, John Moreira. “We’ve got healthy and we’ve got junk.’’

The coolers there offer bureaucrats an array of choices: V8 and Diet Coke, Nesquik and apple juice, full-sugar sodas and designer iced tea. Water is the biggest seller, and diet sodas outsell the full-sugar varieties.

Banning the sale of unhealthy drinks would not necessarily stop workers from indulging, Moreira said. “They won’t get mad,’’ he said. “They’ll just bring it from home, or run across the street to CVS.’’

The trade group representing the biggest producers and distributors of soft drinks, including Coca-Cola and Pepsi, argues that it is unfair to demonize sodas when attempting to address a health condition as complex as obesity.

“The American Beverage Association and its member companies completely agree that obesity is a very serious public health challenge that we need to face,’’ association spokesman Chris Gindlesperger said. “Outright bans, they do nothing to teach people about balance and moderation. It’s overly simplistic and inaccurate to target one product or one ingredient when it comes to obesity.’’

But Walczak has already embraced a soft-drink prohibition at the Codman Square Health Center, where he is chief executive.

The nutrition club at the charter school located in the clinic demanded that the drinks be banished, as well as junk food once peddled in vending machines.

Walczak recalled that, in the 1980s, social workers at the health center smoked while counseling patients. “It would be considered bizarre to see someone smoking in a health care institution today,’’ he said. “We see this as the beginning of the food revolution.’’

Similar restrictions are being considered by other medical centers, as well. A tiny hospital in the Berkshires earlier this year banned sugary soft drinks and sports drinks. Now, one of the state’s biggest hospitals, Brigham and Women’s, is creating a task force to evaluate what strategies it should adopt to discourage soda drinking.

In an experiment at the hospital reported in a medical journal in June, researchers found that boosting the price of sugary soft drinks while keeping the cost of a diet soda steady yielded lower sales of the high-calorie drinks.

“With smoking, we’re talking about yea or nay, yes or no, there’s no median in there,’’ said Kathy McManus, the Brigham’s nutrition director. “When you’re talking about sugar-sweetened beverages, there is more of a continuum, so how to best reduce and then eliminate — there’s all sorts of potential strategies to be discussed.’’


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