Wellness Weekly: A Snapshot of the Top News in Wellness

Policy and Politics
An overview of relevant policy, regulatory, and political events

The FDA finally released their final menu labeling guidance this week. The labeling rules, originally part of the Affordable Care Act, have been very controversial, and were opposed by industry groups like the American Pizza Community and the National Association of Convenience Stores. Restaurants and other stores that sell ready-to-eat foods will need to post calorie contents on the menu; the pizza lobby argued that the variations in crust and toppings make posting calorie counts on the menu a challenge, and asked instead to post calorie counts online. Stores will have one year to comply with the new regulations.  

Billionaires Michael Bloomberg and John and Laura Arnold are backing the Philadelphia soda tax, helping fund a $825,000 campaign that is running ads in support of the tax (and in opposition to “big soda”). Meanwhile, a poll by the Philadelphia Citizen found that 59% of the city’s residents are in favor of the tax.

The FDA has banned the sale of e-cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, and pipe tobacco to anyone under 18. Recent surveys have shown that e-cigarette “vaping” is growing in popularity among teens -- about 2.5 million high school or middle school vape at least once a month. The new rules take effect in 90 days.

Children and Youth
Keeping the K-12 population fit and eating well

High potassium diets may do more than low-salt diets to protect against future high blood pressure, according to a new study. The research found that, over the course of the 10 year study, those who ate diets rich in potassium had lower blood pressure than those who did not. Consumption of sodium was not correlated to blood pressure.

A new report predicts that wearable use in classrooms will increase by 46% annually over the next four years. This includes fitness devices like smartwatches and fitness trackers.

A new study suggests that bodily changes in adolescent girls lead many to drop out of sports or to stop exercising. Three fourths of respondents expressed at least one concern regarding breasts and sports, and only 10% regularly wore a sports bra during exercise.   

New Insights
Studies, new research, healthy nutrition and habits

The New York Times profiles contestants of The Biggest Loser, nearly all of whom regained substantial amounts of weight after appearing on the show. Research based on the contestants suggests that slowing metabolisms seem to play a major role in regaining weight. 

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation weighed in on why employers should “ban the box” that asks about criminal history, arguing that helping people reintegrate into their communities is an important health issue. Nearly half of people with criminal records report no income even several years after their release; lack of income makes it hard to afford healthy foods, healthy living arrangements, and other health-related expenses.

Nestle is supporting the FDA’s sodium standards; while a few other companies (including Mars) have also come out in support, the Grocery Manufacturers Association still opposes the voluntary sodium reduction targets, arguing that the science behind them is unclear.

The New York Times is launching a food delivery service, providing meal kits that include all of the ingredients to make various recipes highlighted on their website.

Innovative Models, Med Tech and Wearables

Nokia purchased French wearable maker Withings for $191 million. Withings produces smartwatches, fitness trackers, baby monitors, and other health gadgets.

On a recent earnings call, Fitbit’s CEO hinted that the company may move into regulated clinical devices (e.g., more sophisticated, accurate devices regulated by the FDA that can be used for medical purposes).

Natural Products, Sustainability, and Environment

Quaker Oats is facing a class action lawsuit over trace amounts of glyphosate, the chemical in Roundup, that was found in the oatmeal. The lawsuit argues that the oatmeal is falsely marketed as “100% natural”, given the presence of the chemical.

7-Eleven announced that it will sell only cage-free eggs by 2025. 

Moms Across America, an advocacy group that covers issues of hunger, food quality, and other topics, was in DC this week pushing the EPA to revoke the license for use of glyphosate (found in Roundup). Their petition currently has nearly 90,000 supporters.

Chicken breeders and companies like Whole Foods are looking for ways to slow chicken growth, believing that consumers will pay more for chickens that are grown more humanely (the typical commercial chicken today now grows twice as big, twice as fast as birds 50 years ago).

Philanthropy and Grants

Kaiser Permanente is launching a new campaign around bike helmet usage, arguing that helmets should be “the new seatbelt”. May 4 is National Bike to School Day. During the month of May, Kaiser will work with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and others to encourage bicyclists to wear helmets.

Inside Philanthropy explores the growing philanthropic efforts to curb food waste, particularly citing the Rockefeller Foundation’s program, YieldWise.

The NIH began making the first round of grants under the Obama Administration’s Precision Medicine Initiative -- a “participant-engaged, data-driven research effort at the intersection of human biology, behavior, genetics, environment, data science, and computation.” More than 40 private sector organizations are also making commitments, including grantmakers like the Broad Foundation and Gates Foundation, as well as a number of health companies like Pfizer and Genentech, and tech companies like Intel and Microsoft.