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CAT | Heart Health

bag-of-chipsFor the first time in history, experts tell us the next generation of U.S. children will not live longer than their parents, in part because of the nationwide prevalence of obesity. Two-thirds of American adults and a third of our children and adolescents are overweight or obese, contributing to a rise in heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes—but recently more than a dozen major food companies took a step in the right direction.

As part of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, 16 food and beverage manufacturers including Campbell Soup Co., Kraft Foods Inc., Nestlé USA, Coca-Cola and Pepsi pledged to remove 1.5 trillion calories from the market by 2015, and in fact they’ve already cut 6.4 trillion calories (mainly from sugary beverages, cereals and snacks).

The reduction in calories works out to about 80 fewer calories per person every day, according to Shu Wen Ng, an assistant professor of nutrition with the University of North Carolina and one of the researchers involved with analyzing the companies’ efforts. But, she and other experts point out that healthy weight management goes beyond just counting calories, and that more focus should be placed on evaluating the quality of those calories.

Because studies have shown a balanced gut (meaning the right amount of good bacteria vs. harmful bacteria) supports weight loss and long-term weight management, it is important to eat foods that promote that balance. Here are three simple ways to get started!

  • Eat more healthy fats, especially those high in Omega-3
  • Eat “living foods” every day to help increase your good gut bacteria (fermented foods, non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits)
  • Eat plenty of protein at every meal and snack

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child-with-inhalerSmokers are not the only ones affected by the health risks of cigarette smoking. According the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke is classified as a “known human carcinogen” and is responsible for more than 42,000 deaths every year. Now, results of a new study show that infants and children who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of developing allergic disease in adolescence and well into their teen years.

The 16-year study was conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and involved nearly 4,000 children. Parents were asked about their smoking and lifestyle habits during and after pregnancy, and the children were monitored for symptoms of asthma, allergies and other conditions.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke in the womb had a 45% higher risk of developing asthma by the time they were 16 years old. Those exposed as infants or in adolescence had a 23% higher risk of developing asthma and were 18% more likely to develop allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal passages due to allergens). In addition, they had a 26% higher risk of developing eczema (red, itchy skin).

While the link between secondhand smoke exposure and allergic diseases in children is not a new one, this was among the first studies to show that the risk continues through adolescence and into the teenage years. Fetal exposure to secondhand smoke has also been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage, birth defects and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

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