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In the last thirty years childhood obesity has more than doubled among U.S. children (ages 6–11) and quadrupled in adolescents (ages 12–19), putting American youth at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke as they grow older. Because September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, here are two new studies spotlighting the importance of promoting good nutrition and lifestyle habits—plus several links to smart and simple tips for raising healthy kids!
Little Couch Potatoes Grow Up to Be Big Couch Potatoes
Researchers at University College London recently wrapped up a decades-long study in which they found that children who spend a lot of time sitting in front of the TV tend to become adults who spend a lot of time sitting in front of the TV—a behavior known to contribute to obesity and obesity-related disease. After monitoring the viewing habits of more than 9,800 participants, they found that nearly 83 percent of 40-year-olds who watch more than three hours of TV daily had similar habits at age 10. This prompted experts to stress the importance of teaching kids about the benefits of physical activity for a healthy weight and overall wellness.
Learning to Like Certain Foods Starts Early
A new series of nutritional studies suggests childhood eating habits form during infancy, and parents should be aware that taste preferences for certain foods can take root even before little ones start walking. The combined results of more than 10 studies, published this month in the journal Pediatrics, show that eating patterns are set early in life—making it even more important for parents to promote healthy foods sooner rather than later. They recommend getting babies interested in fruit and vegetables by late infancy (between 10 and 12 months) and encourage parents to keep trying even when kids spit out certain foods, as repeated exposure often increases acceptance.
Parents and family members can check out our previous blogs for tips and advice on children’s health and nutrition:
- Back-to-School Basics for Kids: 5 Tips for a Healthier, Happier Year
- Kids & Diabetes Study, Plus 4 Tips for Parents
- 5 Super Benefits of Probiotics for Kids
- S. Kids Not Getting Enough Essential Fatty Acids
- Kids, Teens and Vitamin D
Nearly 30 million Americans are living with diabetes, but new research suggests we may be able to reduce that number simply by changing the way we eat. In a joint review conducted by Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard School of Public Health, researchers found that diet and nutrition play a critical role in the prevention and control of type 2 diabetes. (Type 2 is the most common form of the disease, in which the body doesn’t use insulin properly and blood sugar levels are higher than normal.)
In particular, patients who followed a Mediterranean-style diet rich in healthy fats from fish, olive oil and avocado (along with leafy green vegetables, low-sugar fruits, plain Greek yogurt and nuts) had a lower risk of developing diabetes, even when they didn’t restrict caloric intake or lose any weight. This was in contrast to participants who followed a strictly low-fat diet, which typically includes more refined carbohydrates known to stimulate insulin secretion.
Indeed, new research confirms that diet quality—especially the type of fats and carbohydrates consumed—is intrinsically connected to healthy blood sugar, metabolism and fat storage. Evidence of this was seen in overweight patients who had been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes; when they switched to a Mediterranean diet they had less need for blood sugar-lowering medication compared with those following a low-fat diet.
According to study author and Harvard professor Dr. Osama Hamdy, “We undertook this review because we believe that most of the current dietary guidelines for patients with diabetes do not reflect recent evidence. Nutrition can be used as a medicine to prevent and control diabetes in a very effective way.” Whether you have type 2 diabetes or simply want to maintain optimal health, here are 5 simple tips for improving your diet quality:
- Eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits.
- Eliminate sugar, refined carbohydrates and grains.
- Eat healthy fats such as Omega-3 (fish oil), Omega-9 (olive oil), and medium-chain triglyceride saturated fat (coconut oil); reduce your intake of unhealthy Omega-6 fats (mostly vegetable oil).
- Eat at least 12 portions of lean protein daily.
- Eat fermented foods, which contain beneficial bacteria.