Wellness Weekly: A Snapshot of the Top News in Wellness

Policy and Politics

An overview of relevant policy, regulatory, and political events

On Wednesday, the Board of Commissioners for Cook County, IL voted to repeal the County’s $0.01 per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The tax will remain in effect until December 1, which is the day after the Board’s deadline to develop a plan to fill the $200 million budget hole that the tax previously filled.

Also on Wednesday, Congress passed a bill introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to establish a National Clinical Care Commission consisting of researchers, clinicians, and public health experts around the care and prevention of diabetes. The goal of the bill is to improve diabetes education, care, and health outcomes. The legislation now goes to the President’s desk.

Reps. John Faso (R-NY) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) (along with about 20 other cosponsors) recently introduced the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act, which seeks to strengthen oversight of organic products imported into the U.S. The bill would authorize between $15 million and $24 million in funding for the National Organic Program to increase oversight and enforcement, and would require bodies like ports and brokers to become organic certified to ensure that products they handle meet requirements to use the label.

Hours after signing an executive order to allow for lower-cost, lower-coverage association health plans, President Trump announced that he plans to eliminate subsidies to health insurance companies that have helped low-income Americans pay for out-of-pocket health care expenses. The administration claims that the payments are not legal due to a lack of formal authorization by Congress.

 

Children and Youth

Keeping the K-12 population fit and eating well

The Urban School Food Alliance, a coalition of school districts that use combined purchasing power to provide quality food at a low cost while being socially responsible, added three new school districts. Clark County Public Schools, the School District of Philadelphia, and Baltimore City Public Schools join the previous seven schools. The expansion increases the Alliance’s reach to serve 3.6 million students total and increases its collective purchasing power to nearly $735 million per year for food and food supplies.

A new study in The Lancet estimated that 124 million children and youth globally between ages 5 and 19 were considered obese, up from 11 million in 1975. The obesity rates in high-income countries have plateaued in recent years, but the lead author notes that these levels remain “unacceptably high.” In conjunction with the release of this study, the World Health Organization published the “Ending Childhood Obesity Implementation Plan” to support countries in combatting childhood and adolescent obesity.

A new study found that fatty diets may increase the risk of relapse in children with multiple sclerosis, but vegetable-rich diets may reduce the risk by as much as half.

A recent study found that fostering a happy, positive mood during mealtime encourages preschoolers to eat one more serving of fruit, vegetables, or soy-based protein. The results also suggest that involving the children in grocery shopping as well as meal planning and preparation helps generate a positive eating atmosphere.

At the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the new Laboratory for Active Kids and Families is studying the effect of exercise on children and pregnant women. While study participants use fitness machines in the laboratory, researchers will measure balance, ability to produce energy, strength, endurance, and more.

Researchers suggest that policies targeting the sales, price, packaging, and visibility of energy drinks could help to reduce its consumption among young adults. Prior research has linked energy drinks to health conditions, such as headaches, sleep problems, anxiety, and nausea.

 

New Insights

Studies, new research, healthy nutrition and habits

A CDC study of small food stores in Ohio found that the most common “healthy” options provided were canned vegetables, fruit juice, and diet sodas, while fewer than 10% offered lean meat or fresh produce. A majority of advertisements in and around the stores were for unhealthy practices, like alcohol or smoking, and only about 5% promoted health-related behaviors like getting a flu shot.

New research challenges the link between increased risks of cholesterol imbalance, cardiovascular disease, or type 2 diabetes and higher intake of eggs. The study suggests that there is little to no correlation between egg consumption and type 2 diabetes and that high egg consumption -- 1 to 3 eggs per day -- did not have adverse effects on cholesterol compared to low egg consumption.

Increased sugar intake may lead to harmfully high levels of fat in the blood and the liver in men, suggests a new study. The study found that the negative effects of a high-sugar diet affected both men with a particular liver disease, as well as men who were considered healthy and had low levels of fat around their liver at the start of the study.

Research by the World Obesity Federation estimates that by 2025, the global cost for health care will include an additional $1.2 trillion per year as a result of obesity and that there will be 2.7 billion people who are considered overweight or obese. The study found that the U.S. is on track to paying a higher share than other countries with costs projected to be $555 billion per year by 2025. The expenditures would go toward increased costs of care for obesity-related health issues. 

A new study found that families who participated in a 12-week online step-tracking competitionincreased their daily step count by an average of 1,661 steps in comparison to the control group. More research will be done to assess whether the game could impact participants’ weight loss or health conditions, such as diabetes.

 

Innovative Models, Med Tech, and Wearables

The Wall Street Journal reports that gyms across the country are now selling preservative-free, prepared meals to their members in order to emphasize the importance of maintaining an exercise routine as well as a healthy diet. At most gyms, the meals range in price from $8 to $14, are ordered and delivered ahead of time, and then stored in an onsite refrigerator. (The Wall Street Journal, subscription required) 

According to Fast Companyintermittent fasting -- also known as “biohacking” and involves fasting on certain days or for the majority of a day -- is a trend that has fueled the development of apps and startups catering to individuals who follow this diet. One writer offers up a personal account of his experience.

Swiss researchers introduced an edible and biodegradable robot, made entirely of gelatin and glycerin materials. Though flavorless, every aspect can be digested, paving a way for the use of robots inside the body in the future.

 

Philanthropic Updates and Grants

The Salad Bars to Schools project, which provides salad bars in schools to promote healthy habits, is accepting grant applications. The initiative, founded by Chef Ann Foundation, National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, United Fresh Start Foundation, and Whole Foods Market, was launched in 2010 in support of Michelle Obama's Let’s Move! campaign. To date, Salad Bars to Schools has donated more than 5,000 salad bars and served over 2.5 million students.  

The National Recreation and Parks Association, the Urban Land Institute, the Trust for Public land, and mayors of more than 130 cities launched the “10-Minute Walk” initiative on Tuesday. The campaign seeks to ensure that all American live within a half-mile (or 10-minute walk) of a public park or green space. The efforts include encouraging the construction of new parks and working with schools to allow the public to use their playgrounds or athletic facilities.

The NFL, in partnership with the American Cancer Society, will expand their Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign to also include colorectal and cervical cancer. Money raised through the new initiative -- “Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer” -- will go toward screenings for these multiple cancers and outreach efforts, especially in underserved communities.

Sesame Workshop, makers of “Sesame Street,” and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are partnering to launch an initiative dedicated to helping children cope with traumatic experiences. The initiative will focus on providing coping strategies for children and tools for adults to help prepare for traumatic experiences in an effort to reduce the lasting effects of childhood trauma. 

 

Other

Blue Apron launched a new podcast, “Why We Eat What We Eat,” which will explore the anthropological background of the latest food trends in America.

“Fit vacations” -- that offer healthier food options and fitness activities -- are a new trend among Millennial travelers, suggests a Hotels.com study.

Bulletproof Labs in California is helping individuals “hack” their brain and body through technologies in early stages of research that focus on recovery, the immune system, cellular health, and cognitive performance.