Wellness Weekly: A Snapshot of the Top News in Wellness

Policy and Politics

An overview of relevant policy, regulatory, and political events

The FDA announced that it will push the compliance deadline for food manufacturers to use the new Nutrition Facts and Supplements Facts label from July 27, 2018 to January 1, 2020. Companies that make less than $10 million in annual food sales will also have an extra year, until January 1, 2021, to comply. The new labels require manufacturers to list added sugars and make calorie counts and serving sizes more visible to consumers.

President Trump is considering signing an executive order on welfare initiatives that POLITICOreports could potentially affect SNAP. The current draft order does not target specific programs, but calls for a “high-level review” of all federal agency programs.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Eric Hargan as the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, the second highest position in the agency. Hargan was most recently a lawyer in Chicago and served on President Trump’s transition team for HHS. Previously, Hargan served in the HHS under the George W. Bush administration.

The announcement came just days after Secretary Price’s resignation last Friday. Don J. Wright, who served as the HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion under Price, was named Acting Secretary of HHS.

First Lady Melania Trump recently held her first event in the White House Kitchen Garden, created by former first lady Michelle Obama 2009. During last week’s event, the First Lady hosted 10 children from a local Boys & Girls Club in the garden to plant and harvest vegetables. (The Washington Post, subscription required)

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs proposed a rule that would standardize quality medical care for beneficiaries, regardless of geographic location, through a telehealth program. By preempting state licensure, registration, and certification restriction, the proposed rule would make it easier for VA providers to administer care through the teleheath program. The VA is currently receiving comments on the proposed rule until November 1, 2017.


Children and Youth

Keeping the K-12 population fit and eating well

Oklahoma’s State Department of Education reported a 14% increase in participation in their federally funded summer food program. The program served 1.6 million free meals to children at nearly 700 different locations between May and August. The Department has set a goal to increase the number of summer meals served by 30% by 2025.

Related, the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s recently submitted plan for complying with recently implemented federal education law (the Every Student Succeeds Act) establishes a goal to increase the number of students in the state that receive free meals by more than 200%. Combatting student hunger is a key initiative as part of the state’s strategy to close the achievement gap between students from lower income and higher income families.

Last week, the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture announced that, under federal law, Puerto Rican students attending schools in Florida after being displaced by Hurricane Maria are eligible to receive free meals through the National School Lunch Program.

An app called “Sit With Us” aims to create more inclusive communities in schools by allowing students to organize lunch meetups so that they are never sitting alone in the cafeteria. The app was created by teenager after she experienced bullying while in middle school.


New Insights

Studies, new research, healthy nutrition and habits

84% of adults believe that the government should require nutrition information labels for products sold in grocery stores, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. 64% of those polled also expressed that they want similar requirements at restaurants. Only 13% of adults “always” read the nutrition facts panel, and 60% reported that they wanted more information about sugar, calories, salt, and fat content in food products.

A recently published study found that adults who are obese but considered healthy based on cholesterol and blood pressure will end up costing society more money. As a result of the risk of developing obesity-related diseases and chronic conditions, as well as lost productivity from disability or time off work, these individuals can cost anywhere between $17,000 and $36,000.

Patients with type 2 diabetes are more likely to have lower blood sugar levels if they consume carbohydrates last during a meal, according to new research. The study, in which participants ate the same exact meal three different ways, found that blood sugar was reduced by nearly half when carbohydrates were consumed at the end of a meal compared to at the beginning.

New research from the UK found that consuming only plant-based milk, such as soy milk or almond milk, could increase the risk of iodine deficiency. Researchers found that these milk alternatives have concentrations of iodine that were only 2% of that found in cow’s milk, and recommend supplementing iodine when consuming milk alternatives.

A new study indicates that New York City’s policies and interventions targeting risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) beginning in 2002 may have had a measurable impact. Researchers found that the rates of CVD in New York City declined much more rapidly between 2002-2011 compared to the period of 1990-2001. A similar observation was not observed in the overall U.S. population, suggesting that New York City’s initiatives may have played an influential role.

According to new CDC data, the rate of obesity-related cancers in the U.S. increased by 7%between 2005 and 2014. While the overall rate of new cancer diagnoses has decreased since the 1990s, obesity-related cancers comprised 40% of all cancer diagnoses in 2014.

A recent study concluded that exercising for one hour a week could lower the long-term risk of developing depression by 44%. Researchers observed the benefit in both men and women, and at all intensity levels. However, the study found that exercising beyond one hour a week did not further decrease the risk of developing depression. 

A review of several studies found that night shift workers have a higher risk of developing abdominal obesity. The researchers also found that permanent night shift workers exhibited a higher risk for being overweight or obese compared to rotating night shift workers.


Innovative Models, Med Tech, and Wearables

report from Rock Health found that 2017 is the largest funding year to date for digital health companies, with $4.7 billion raised so far. Within this year, the amount of deals raised by women-led companies increased from 11% at the half-year mark to 16% in the third quarter alone. 

Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet’s company focused on urban innovation, launched a new startup called Cityblock with the goal of connecting low-income communities to health resources. Cityblock aims to provide a “personalized care team,” consisting of doctors, coaches, tech tools, nudges, and a health plan to low-income Americans, and the company is hoping to work with insurance companies to offer these services for free for those with insurance. Cityblock plans to launch its services to members in early 2018.

WIRED reports that despite Fitbit’s flaws and inaccuracies in tracking data, researchers and scientists have increasingly used Fitbit data to study a number health conditions, ranging from sleep apnea to cancer. Since 2012, there have been 457 studies using Fitbit data, nearly half of which have been published in 2017. 

Scientists in Zurich have developed a new edible technology that will monitor the freshness of food. This biodegradable sensor can wirelessly monitor the temperature of foods that need to maintain certain temperatures as they travel through the supply chain.

Amazon is joining the restaurant delivery industry by way of partnership with Olo, a company that provides digital ordering and pay technology, covering 200 restaurant brands with nearly 40,000 restaurants in the U.S. Since 2015, Amazon Restaurants’ delivery service has been expanding across the country, but has been utilized primarily by smaller businesses. The new partnership could mean that food from chains like Chipotle and Wingstop could be delivered through the service.


Philanthropic Updates and Grants

The USDA announced its Request for Applications for the FY 2018 Farm to School Grant program. There are three grants available: a planning grant and a training grant, with awards ranging from $20,000-$50,000, and an implementation grant, with awards ranging from $50,000-$100,000. Applicants are required to providing at least one-quarter of the cost of the total project in matching funds. The deadline to submit a proposal is December 8.

José Andrés, a DC-based chef has been leading efforts to cook and donate food to peopleaffected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Through his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, meals have been distributed in San Juan and surrounding areas using food trucks and any available transportation. Their goal is to serve at least 100,000 meals a day.



As part of its “Planet Fat” series on the causes and consequences of increasing obesity rates globally, The New York Times covered KFC’s entry into Ghana. The series also features one correspondent’s personal experience with fast food in West Africa. (The New York Times, subscription required)

A California-based startup is charging people $8,000 to join a controversial trial where they will receive blood plasma transfusions from young donors between the ages of 16 and 25 to combat the effects of aging. (New Scientist, subscription required)

On Tuesday, the FDA issued a warning letter to a bakery in Massachusetts for listing “love” as an ingredient in its granola.