Wellness Weekly: A Snapshot of the Top News in Wellness

Policy and Politics

An overview of relevant policy, regulatory, and political events

This week, the FDA announced plans to push back the deadline for compliance with the updated Nutrition Facts panel.  The new panel includes a new line for added sugars in packaged food, along with the previous calories, fat, etc. The deadline was originally set for July 26, 2018, and a new deadline has not been announced. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups have asked that the deadline be pushed to 2021.

Oregon legislators introduced a transportation funding bill that includes a 3-5% sales tax on new adult bicycles that cost more than $500. If the bill passes, the tax would be implemented next year, and legislators report that it could bring in $509.1 million in state revenue in 2018. Legislators suggest -- but do not guarantee -- that the tax would go toward improving cycling infrastructure.

The Baltimore City Health Department launched a new program that offers local companies aWorkplace Wellness designation, in hopes it will encourage companies to provide healthier work environments. Companies that have received a “gold” label -- the highest designation -- include Under Armour, CareFirst, and the Baltimore Ravens.

On Tuesday, the American Medical Association (AMA) endorsed policy approaches to reduce the consumption of sugary beverages -- including imposing excise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, placing warning labels on packages of sugar-sweetened beverages, and restricting access to sugar-sweetened beverages in schools. The AMA also proposed a push for healthier food and drink options in hospitals and medical facilities, food banks, and through food assistance programs.

 

Children and Youth

Keeping the K-12 population fit and eating well

The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual Kids Count Data Book, which measures data on child well-being, education, health, and family and community. The states ranked highest for child well-being were concentrated in the Northeast or upper Midwest, while the lowest-ranked states were mainly in the South or Southwest. The 2017 report also found that the number of uninsured children in seven states fell by more than 50% between 2010 and 2015. 

Students from around the country participated in the Cooking Up Change competition run by the U.S. Department of Education to create healthy meals that meet current school lunch standards and cost less than $1.25 per person. The team from Orange County, CA, won the competition with a meal of chicken kashmir, peppino curry, and tropical kheer.

A recent New York Times article examined the link between effective school lunch programs and student achievement, and found that students with access to healthier and more flexible meal options were more likely to graduate and go on to college. However, the article suggests that rollbacks of Obama-era school lunch regulations may threaten schools’ ability to provide healthier meals.

Fifth graders in New Haven, Connecticut, will wear a Sqord electronic activity monitor all summer as part of the “Chomp ‘n Stomp to Your Best Fitness” program to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle. A University of New Haven professor will measure the effectiveness of the program and the device by looking at body composition (e.g., amount of fat, bone, water, and muscle), rather than simply height and weight.

A Danish study found that overweight adolescent boys could reduce their risk for type 2 diabetes if they achieved a healthy weight by adulthood. While results for adolescent girls were not available, the study raises the possibility that type 2 diabetes may be reversible if treated at an early enough age.

A new study suggests that children who drink plant-based milk alternatives (e.g., soy, almond, or rice) every day are on average 0.4 cm (0.15 in) shorter than their peers who drink cow’s milk. Researchers note that while plant-based milk provides many nutrients (like protein, calcium, magnesium, and potassium), children drinking only plant-based milks should also ensure they get enough protein from other sources.

 

New Insights

Studies, new research, healthy nutrition and habits

Harvard and Tufts University researchers suggest that taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages can likely pass in more cities, but are less optimistic that soda taxes will pass at the state or federal level. The researchers indicated three conditions that enabled eight U.S. cities to pass soda taxes: Democratic Party dominance in the city, external financial support for pro-tax advocates, and a political message that resonated with voters or City Council members (e.g., public health or city revenue). With about 40% of Americans living in Democratic-dominated U.S. jurisdictions, the researchers believe soda taxes may continue to spread.

New England Journal of Medicine study found that nearly 1 in 3 people around the world are considered either overweight or obese, and 1 in 10 are considered obese. Since 1980, the share of the population with obesity has doubled in more than 70 countries. Childhood obesity has also risen at a much faster rate compared to adult obesity.

A new study suggests that a national 10% fruit and vegetable subsidy would prevent more deaths from cardiovascular disease than a national 10% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The study also found that a 30% fruit and vegetable subsidy specifically for SNAP recipients would be the most effective strategy to reduce socioeconomic disparities compared to a national fruit and vegetable subsidy or sugar-sweetened beverage tax.

Using “physical activity calorie equivalent labeling” -- labels that suggest the amount of calories in a food can be burned off by completing a certain exercise for a specific duration -- could nudge college students to make healthier choices, according to a new study.

Whole wheat bread may not necessarily be healthier than white bread. Although popular belief is that white bread raises blood sugar to unhealthy levels compared to whole wheat bread, a new study found that on average, both types of bread elicited the same blood sugar response. However, researchers found that study participants may have reacted differently to each type of bread depending on the bacteria found in their gut.

For patients with type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests that a vegetarian diet is twice as effective for weight loss compared to a conventional anti-diabetic diet.

A recent study concluded that people who ate fried potatoes at least twice a week doubled their risk of dying early. Eating potatoes that have not been fried, however, did not have the same effect on the risk for premature death. The researchers caution that the study was observational and does not prove that eating fried potatoes caused premature death.

Health care experts have debated whether self-monitoring of blood sugar levels by type 2 diabetes patients was effective -- and a new study suggests that it is not. The study found that a group of patients who self-monitored their blood sugar levels were not better at controlling their diabetes compared to a group of patients who did not. The researchers suggest that the emergence of new technology to help diabetes patients manage their condition may prove ineffective.

To get people to eat more vegetables, labeling the vegetables with a tasty-sounding descriptionmay do the trick. A recent study found that 25% more participants chose to eat green beans labelled as “sweet sizzlin’ green beans and crispy shallots” than participants who chose green beans prepared the same way but instead labeled “green beans.” And as much as 41% more participants were likely to choose vegetables with the tasty description compared to descriptions emphasizing the health benefits of vegetables (e.g., “high-antioxidant beets”), which may be associated with less tasty food.

 

Innovative Models, Med Tech, and Wearables

Amazon has acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, expanding its footprint in the grocery market. Whole Foods’ co-founder John Mackey will continue to run the business.

In other Amazon news, the company plans to launch its own premium food label, and other private-label products, after the success of its batteries and baby wipes. Like Trader Joe’s, the company plans to launch unique and high-quality products that may be more difficult to find elsewhere.

The latest operating system for the Apple Watch, which will launch this fall, will feature a new fitness tool that syncs the watch to gym equipment. Apple suggests that the new feature called Gym Connect will enhance the data being collected through the watch. So far, Apple has partnered with Life Fitness, Cybex, Schwinn, Startrac, Technogym, and StairMaster who will develop equipment to support the new feature.

Vice Media launched a meal kit delivery service called “Munchies,” named after a video series it develops for social media networks. The five different meal kits were developed by Matty Matheson, a Toronto chef who hosts Viceland’s Dead Set on Life culinary travel show.

Some recently renovated Dollar General stores have begun to carry fresh produce as part of the company’s larger strategy to expand its perishable offerings. 

 

Clean Labels/Natural and Safe Products/Circular Economy   

New York City has earmarked $27.7 million to expand the use of brown trash bins around the city to collect and recycle food waste, a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The waste is taken to either composting facilities or anaerobic digestion facilities -- which turn organic material into “biogas” (primarily methane and carbon dioxide) that can later be used as natural gas or fuel for vehicles.

The Honest Company will pay $1.55 million to settle a nationwide class action lawsuit that accused the company of misleading consumers about the “natural” ingredients found in its laundry detergent and dish soap.

 

Philanthropic Updates and Grants

On June 17, Wal-Mart will hold a national Wellness Day event and offer free health screenings at more than 4,600 stores. The retailer has partnered with the American Diabetes Association to follow up by email with customers who have blood pressure and blood sugar test results that suggest a high risk for diabetes.

The USDA awarded Farm to School grants -- ranging from $14,500 to $100,000 -- to 65 projects focused on increasing the amount of local foods served in schools. Projects include creating new menu items, establishing a local food supply chain for schools, planting school gardens, offering taste test for children, and more.

Sweetgreen donated the proceeds made from Tuesday’s grand opening of its second store in Chicago to Growing Power, a local nonprofit dedicated to bring healthy food to low-income communities.

 

Other

According to a national survey, 7% of American adults believe chocolate milk is produced by brown cows.

People with dogs walk on average 22 minutes more per day compared to people without dogs, according to a new study.

Some Americans have been complaining about the “Trump 10” -- gaining weight due to the stress eating in the current political environment.