Wellness Weekly: A Snapshot of the Top News in Wellness

Policy and Politics

An overview of relevant policy, regulatory, and political events

The Trump administration has reversed a 2011 policy that encourages national parks to stop selling bottled water in an effort to reduce plastic waste. Since 2011, 23 national parks have implemented restrictions on bottled water sales and encouraged park-goers to use tap water and refillable bottles. Critics of the policy stated that other beverages, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, were still sold in plastic, glass, canned, and cardboard packaging, revealing a flaw in the policy’s intent to reduce waste.

This month, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced legislation designed to address food deserts and increase access to fresh and healthy food in low-income and rural communities. Under the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act (HFAAA), businesses and nonprofits would be able to earn tax credits and grants by meeting certain qualifications, such as constructing a new store in an area considered to be a food desert.


Children and Youth

Keeping the K-12 population fit and eating well

Students in the rural Appalachian region offered alternative food and beverage options as a result of Smart Snacks in School standards under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act did not significantly change their diet, recent findings show. Researchers did find a decrease in consumption of 1% or nonfat flavored milk in school after implementation of the standards.

At Green Street Academy, a charter school in Baltimore, students are learning how to grow fruits and vegetables using tabletop greenhouses controlled by computer programs. The class weaves in lessons in basic computer programming, food systems, and agriculture, and culminates in an “Iron Chef”-style cooking program.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released new recommendations on Monday that could lead to more children being diagnosed with high blood pressure. The new guidelines update blood pressure tables, align with guidelines for adults, and recommend that blood pressure is monitored for 24 hours to make an accurate diagnosis.

study published this week found that children ages 7 to 13 with a higher-than-average body mass index (BMI) were more likely to experience a stroke before they turned 55. The researchers suggest that the results offer more evidence for helping children maintain a healthy weight.


New Insights

Studies, new research, healthy nutrition and habits

A Commonwealth Fund report found that fewer black and Hispanic adults are skipping health care visits in the years following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Researchers found that 17% of black Americans avoided getting care because of cost in 2015, compared to 21% in 2013. Hispanic adults also showed a similar trend with 22% avoiding care due to cost in 2015, compared to 27% in 2013.

study published this week reports that food manufacturers that use “silent” reformulation -- the practice of lowering the calories of a product without noting it on the label -- may support healthier eating by  reducing the amount of calories customers purchase. The practice also resulted in minor losses to the retailer’s revenue. 

According to a new study, once-a-year counseling could help increase the amount of physical activity in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Researchers found that workers who spend most of their time standing while working were twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared with workers in occupations that involve predominantly sitting.

Practicing mindfulness when drinking coffee -- by taking time to savor the drink and its flavor -- can help coffee drinkers who typically add sugar to their coffee reduce the amount of sugar they use or eliminate it altogether. On the other hand, researchers found that coffee drinkers enjoyed the beverage less when they tried to give up sugar cold-turkey or when they gradually reduced the amount of sugar in their drink.

Walnuts may help reduce appetite, according to a recently published study. Researchers discovered that drinking a walnut smoothie activated a part of the brain involved in appetite and impulse control. The study was, however, funded in part by the California Walnut Commission.

New research suggests that “smart” pill bottles -- digital devices that remind people to take their pills -- may be ineffective in changing behavior. The study authors concluded that the digital “nudge” used in the study was not powerful enough, and manufacturers of these devices are incorporating other methods such as text message reminders or cash incentives.


Innovative Models, Med Tech, and Wearables

Following the completion of Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods on Monday, Amazon reported that it will begin lowering prices of best-selling products (including avocados, eggs, salmon, and almond butter) at Whole Foods stores. Amazon also plans to begin selling Whole Foods private-label products on Amazon.com and install Amazon lockers, which allow customers to pick up items they purchase online, at select Whole Foods stores.

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer launched Hemocraft, a modified version of the popular video game Minecraft, along with a wearable wristband that is designed to help people living with hemophilia manage their condition.

The Grace Communications Foundation, a nonprofit that raises awareness about food sustainability issues, launched “The Seasonal Food Guide,” a new app developed in consultation from scientists that informs users on which foods are in season wherever they are.

Memphis Meats, the “clean meat” startup founded by Kimbal Musk, raised $17 million in Series A funding, putting its total fundraising at $22 million to date. Investors included Cargill, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and research institutions. The company will use the funding to further develop its lab-grown meat for consumers. 

AbleTo, a digital platform that connects people to licensed coaches and therapists through their employers and health plans, raised $36.6 million in a Series D funding round led by Bain Capital Ventures. The company aims to support individuals with chronic conditions that may be associated with underlying behavioral health issues.

Walmart recently opened an outpost of Grown, an organic fast food restaurant founded by retired NBA player Ray Allen, in one of its Orlando, FL locations. Unlike the chain restaurants commonly found in Walmart stores, Grown focuses on healthy, organic, and locally sourced food including avocado toast and gluten-free french toast sticks.

On Tuesday, IBM announced that it is working with a consortium of food businesses to advance the use of blockchain to improve food safety. The consortium includes Dole, Kroger, Tyson Foods, Walmart, Unilever, Nestle, McCormick and Company, and Golden State Foods, and will work to identify how blockchain can benefit the overall food ecosystem and supply chain.

CB Insights reports that fitness tech startups are securing record-high amounts in deals this year. With the popularity of startups like ClassPass, fitness tech has seen $2.4 billion in disclosed equity funding since 2013, and has seen $585 million in investments this year alone.

Coastal Roots, a produce stand in the San Diego, CA area, is letting its customers pay what they can for their organic produce. The ultimate goal of the farm stand is to provide healthy options to the local community, for whom cost is often a deterrent to purchasing fresh produce. Last year, Coastal Roots sold around 11,000 pounds of produce and offered $6000 in discounts.

The CDC approved Fruit Street Health, a telemedicine company, to use live video feed to deliverthe National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). The option of video learning will increase access to the DPP for those without means to travel to traditional in-person courses.


Philanthropic Updates and Grants

This week marked the launch of the Minnesota Vikings Foundation, supported by an initial investment of $1 million from the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the Wilf Family Foundation. The organization will focus its charitable giving on youth well-being by promoting health and education initiatives.

In other NFL giving news, the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee awarded a $100,000 grantto Project SUCCESS for a new learning center, which will provide a space for students to complete courses for school credit and earn certifications in subjects including health, wellness, and physical education.

Now through Aug. 30, eligible schools, government agencies and nonprofit organizations can apply to receive a $1,000 grant from Target to support youth soccer.  Grant funds can help cover player registration fees, field equipment and gear, and professional development for volunteer coaches.



In The Washington Post, author Sophie Egan describes her experience receiving a personalized diet plan based on her DNA.

Bloomberg reports on the growing “anti-sugar” trend.