TAG: "Nutrition"

Does a junk food diet make you lazy?


UCLA psychology study offers answer.

Aaron Blaisdell, UCLA

A new UCLA psychology study provides evidence that being overweight makes people tired and sedentary — not the other way around.

Life scientists led by UCLA’s Aaron Blaisdell placed 32 female rats on one of two diets for six months. The first, a standard rat’s diet, consisted of relatively unprocessed foods like ground corn and fish meal. The ingredients in the second were highly processed, of lower quality and included substantially more sugar — a proxy for a junk food diet.

After just three months, the researchers observed a significant difference in the amount of weight the rats had gained, with the 16 on the junk food diet having become noticeably fatter.

“One diet led to obesity, the other didn’t,” said Blaisdell, a professor of psychology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science and a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute.

The experiments the researchers performed, Blaisdell said, also suggest that fatigue may result from a junk food diet.

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UCLA hospitals serve up antibiotic-free beef, chicken


New menu additions further medical center’s focus on healthier eating.

UCLA Health System's Patricia Oliver and Chef Gabriel Gomez with antibiotic-free menu items

Patients, staff and visitors to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica can now enjoy a healthier version of the traditional burger-and-fries lunch. The hospitals’ menus now include burgers made from antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef and herb roasted potatoes, as well as antibiotic-free chicken breasts.

With the changes, the hospitals are helping lead the trend toward serving healthier, antibiotic-free meats.

This move is in line with other initiatives instituted recently by the health system to promote a healthier community, including banning fried foods, offering “meatless Mondays,” and using biodegradable utensils and plates.

The menu enhancements were spurred in part by concern about bacteria’s growing resistance to antibiotics. According to Dr. Daniel Uslan, an assistant clinical professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, an overuse of antibiotics in cows, chickens and other food-producing animals has helped make bacteria resistant to commonly used antibiotics, which in turn has led to more antibiotic-resistant infections in humans.

“With the effectiveness of key antibiotics dwindling, bacterial resistance presents a major public health challenge,” said Uslan, who also is director of the antimicrobial stewardship program at the UCLA Health System. “It’s critical that we reduce unnecessary antibiotic use in agriculture and support appropriate antibiotic use by clinicians and patients.”

According to the Food and Drug Administration, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used for food-producing animals. There is a growing public health concern that the antibiotics are being used mostly to promote faster growth in otherwise healthy animals and to compensate for unsanitary and overcrowded living conditions.

Meanwhile, the health care community is increasingly instituting policies to help combat antibiotic resistance in patient care and to minimize exposure to unnecessary antibiotics as part of broader environmental sustainability plans, including in food service.

“We are excited about this new initiative,” said Dr. David Feinberg, president of the UCLA Health System and CEO of the UCLA Hospital System. “Serving antibiotic-free beef and chicken is another way for us to do our part and support our vision of a healthier community.”

The UCLA Health System has been recognized nationally for its efforts to promote wellness and sustainability, receiving awards in 2013 from Practice Greenhealth and Health Care Without Harm for offering more vegetarian menu options, increasing its use of composting, reducing food waste, launching energy- and water-conservation programs, and other initiatives; and it participates in national campaigns including the Healthier Hospitals Initiative. The health system’s adoption of antibiotic-free beef and chicken complements University of California system-wide sustainability policies.

“We serve more than 3.4 million meals annually between our two hospitals and are always looking for ways to enhance and improve our services,” said Patricia Oliver, UCLA Health System’s director of nutrition services. Oliver also is the Los Angeles area coordinator for the Healthy Food in Health Care program, through which more than 30 local hospitals and 128 hospitals state-wide leverage their combined health expertise and purchasing power to promote healthier food systems.

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Recipes for healthier diets


UC’s nutrition education programs promote better eating habits among children.

A monster is helping elementary school kids overcome one of their perennial fears: eating their vegetables.

University of California Cooperative Extension nutrition educator Marc Sanchez brings the fearsome beast with him on school visits to classrooms in Merced and Stanislaus counties.

“Let me introduce to you the Green Monster,” Sanchez says to a classroom of second-graders at Yamato Colony Elementary School in Livingston. “Is anybody scared?”

“Noooo,” the kids roar in defiance of the beast.

Sanchez borrows from TV’s “Fear Factor” challenges and uses his youthful energy to entice the kids to conquer the Green Monster — a spinach smoothie made tasty with bananas, grapes and pineapples — and embrace a healthy drink made with foods they normally dread.

The school visits are just one of the ways UC researchers, educators and cooperative extension representatives across the state are encouraging children and their families to eat healthier. They also are introducing them to fresh produce, doing cooking demonstrations and helping school districts prepare healthier meals.

About 17 percent of American children and adolescents are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the last 30 years, obesity rates have more than doubled for children ages 6 to 11 and tripled for adolescents ages 12 to 19. It’s an ominous statistic that could be improved if children ate more fruits and veggies.

UC’s nutrition education programs try to promote better eating habits by connecting schools to local farms and farmers. Known as farm-to-school programs, students learn about where their food comes from and how it’s grown — and in the process, learn to eat a balanced diet. Often, the children then become the conduit that brings healthier eating to the whole family.

UC is on the forefront of these programs,” said Theresa Spezzano, UC Cooperative Extension director for Stanislaus and Merced counties and a nutrition, family and consumer science adviser. “The majority of the work is in some sort of school-based program.”

Nutrition education from UC reaches children, families and classrooms in nearly every part of the state.

Cooperative Extension, part of UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, runs two federal programs for low-income families in California — the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and the CalFresh Nutrition Education Program. Together they reach more than 180,000 people.

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Using formula in hospitals deters breastfeeding


Mothers who planned to breastfeed did so far less when their babies received formula.

Caroline Chantry, UC Davis

When mothers feed their newborns formula in the hospital, they are less likely to fully breastfeed their babies in the second month of life and more likely to quit breastfeeding early, even if they had hoped to breastfeed longer, UC Davis researchers have found.

“We are a step closer to showing that giving formula in the hospital can cause problems by reducing how much women breastfeed later,” says Caroline Chantry, lead author and professor of clinical pediatrics at UC Davis Medical Center. “Despite being highly motivated to breastfeed their babies, in-hospital formula use limits this important practice. Given the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby, this is a public health issue.”

“In-Hospital Formula Use Shortens Breastfeeding Duration” was published online in The Journal of Pediatrics today (Feb. 14). The study only included women who intended to exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least a week, meaning they did not plan to use formula in the hospital.

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Students learn by doing good


Global children’s oral health, nutrition program helps stem tooth decay around the world.

Global Children's Oral Health and Nutrition ProgramEvery year since 2010, Dr. Karen Sokal-Gutierrez, Dr. Susan Ivey and a group of students have taken toothbrushes, toothpaste, and a big pink and white model of teeth to Latin America and, since 2011, Asia. There, they teach communities about nutrition and oral health. The Global Children’s Oral Health and Nutrition Program was created to stem the epidemic rise in tooth decay in developing countries around the world. Sokal-Gutierrez is an associate clinical professor and Ivey an associate adjunct professor in the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Both teach in the UC Berkeley-UC San Francisco Joint Medical Program.

The program began in El Salvador in 2003, where Sokal-Gutierrez noticed a trend in tooth decay of children up to 6 years old. Since then, the program has expanded to Nepal, India, Vietnam, Ecuador and Peru. Sokal-Gutierrez and Ivey estimate that the program has served about 10,000 children and their parents since its inception. But the Children’s Oral Health and Nutrition Program has also made another big impact, this time on the UC Berkeley campus: bringing transformative experiences to students launching their careers in public health, medicine and dentistry.

“How can we do our best to improve the health of children, and how can we do our best to mentor the students and give them this good hands-on opportunity?” asks Sokal-Gutierrez. “I’m always trying to pay attention to both of those things.”

In the decade since it began, nearly 200 volunteers have participated in the program. Most are UC Berkeley undergraduates who plan to pursue careers in public health, medicine, and dentistry. They also include graduate students and professionals from the fields of medicine, dentistry and public health. Additionally, Sokal-Gutierrez and Ivey often seek out students whose families emigrated from countries where this program might be needed. It offers a chance for students to connect abstract concepts to real-world scenarios, take on positions of leadership, and be mentors in medicine and public health.

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Nutrition influences metabolism through circadian rhythms


Reprogramming of liver “clock” may contribute to metabolic disorders, UC Irvine study finds.

Paolo Sassone-Corsi, UC Irvine

Paolo Sassone-Corsi, UC Irvine

A high-fat diet affects the molecular mechanism controlling the internal body clock that regulates metabolic functions in the liver, UC Irvine scientists have found. Disruption of these circadian rhythms may contribute to metabolic distress ailments, such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.

There’s good news, though. The researchers also discovered that returning to a balanced, low-fat diet normalized the rhythms. This study reveals that the circadian clock is able to reprogram itself depending on a diet’s nutritional content – which could lead to the identification of novel pharmacological targets for controlled diets.

UC Irvine’s Paolo Sassone-Corsi, the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Chemistry and one of the world’s leading researchers on the genetics of circadian rhythms, led the study, which appears in Cell.

Circadian rhythms of 24 hours govern fundamental physiological functions in virtually all organisms. The circadian clocks are intrinsic time-tracking systems in our bodies that anticipate environmental changes and adapt themselves to the appropriate time of day. Changes to these rhythms can profoundly influence human health. Up to 15 percent of people’s genes are regulated by the day-night pattern of circadian rhythms, including those involved with metabolic pathways in the liver.

A high-fat diet reprograms the liver clock through two main mechanisms. One blocks normal cycles by impeding the clock regulator genes called CLOCK:BMAL1. The other initiates a new program of oscillations by activating genes that normally do not oscillate, principally through a factor called PPAR-gamma. Previously implicated in inflammatory responses and the formation of fatty tissue, this factor oscillates with a high-fat diet.

It’s noteworthy, Sassone-Corsi said, that this reprogramming takes place independent of the state of obesity; rather, it’s solely dependent upon caloric intake – showing the remarkable adaptability of the circadian clock.

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Minorities’ health would benefit most from beverage sugar tax


UCSF research team concludes that tax would result in lower rates of diabetes, heart disease.

Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, UC San Francisco

Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, UC San Francisco

Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages is likely to decrease consumption, resulting in lower rates of diabetes and heart disease, and these health benefits are expected to be greatest for the low-income, Hispanic and African-American Californians who are at highest risk of diabetes, according to a new analysis led by researchers at UC San Francisco.

Over the course of the next decade, lowered incidence of these diseases would save over half a billion dollars in medical costs, concluded the research team, which includes members from Oregon State University and the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

The researchers previously modeled the national health effects of a penny-per-ounce tax over the course of 10 years and found that it would reduce consumption among adults by 15 percent, modestly lower the prevalence of diabetes and obesity and prevent tens of thousands of coronary heart events, strokes and premature deaths. The new study considered a range of reductions in sugary beverage consumption among Californians.

In the new study, assuming a decline of 10 to 20 percent in the consumption of soda and other sugary beverages from the tax, researchers concluded that new cases of diabetes and coronary heart disease would drop statewide, and those health benefits would be greatest in poor and minority communities. The analysis, published Dec. 11 in the online journal PLOS ONE, predicted that overall, one in 20,000 Californians would avoid diabetes. This estimate would double for Hispanics and poor Californians and triple for African Americans.

”Poor and minority communities in California and nationally have very high rates of diabetes, a chronic condition with potentially devastating health complications,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, M.D., Ph.D., UCSF professor of medicine and director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. “Although many steps are needed to reverse the rising diabetes trends in the state, our study suggests that efforts to curb sugary beverage consumption can have a significant positive impact, particularly in those most likely to be affected.”

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UCLA helping change the way a community eats, one store at a time


Euclid Market is latest store to be transformed.

Transformation of Euclid Market's exterior

Transformation of Euclid Market's exterior

Big chain grocery stores, farmers markets and other sources of healthy foods are usually in short supply in low-income communities. Public health experts refer to these areas as “food swamps” for their lack of available nutritious foods.

One such area is in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles, where fast food reigns and meals are frequently purchased at corner markets. These small stores tend to be rundown, uninviting and focused on selling the bane of healthy eating — junk food.

At noon on Saturday, Dec. 14, the UCLA–USC Center for Population Health and Health Disparities (CPHHD) and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health will join with local community members in Boyle Heights to celebrate the grand reopening of the neighborhood’s Euclid Market, which has been transformed into the opposite of what most corner markets are.

Instead of drab, there is fresh paint. Instead of the prominent placement of junk food and beer, the front of the store now highlights healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, bottled water and nutritious snacks.

The Euclid Market is the third store in the East Los Angeles–Boyle Heights area to undergo a CPHHD-supported transformation. The first opened in November 2011, the second in February 2012.

The latest conversion, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health and led by the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, is part of a collaborative strategy with community members to change eating habits and reduce disease risk among the area’s dominant Latino population, which is plagued by high rates of obesity-related chronic diseases. Obesity stands as one of the nation’s most significant public health problems.

“Both of the existing transformed stores in the East L.A. area are reporting increased profits and greater foot traffic, so that’s good news for the small business owner,” said Alex Ortega, the director of the CPHHD and a professor of public health at the Fielding School.

“But it’s even better news for the people in those areas because having access to nutritious food that’s convenient to buy will help folks change their bad eating habits,” he added. “The goal, of course, is to see improvements in the overall health of our underserved communities.”

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Unhappy meals?


Majority of very young children in California eat fast food at least once a week.

UCLA Center for Health Policy ResearchA surprisingly large percentage of very young children in California, including 70 percent of Latino children, eat fast food regularly, according to a new policy brief by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The study found that 60 percent of all children between the ages of 2 and 5 had eaten fast food at least once in the previous week.

The majority of the state’s young children also do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, with only 57 percent of parents reporting that their child ate at least five fruit and vegetable servings the previous day.

“A weekly happy meal is an unhappy solution, especially for toddlers,” said Susan Holtby, the study’s lead author and a senior researcher at the Public Health Institute. ”Hard-working, busy parents need support to make healthy food selections for their kids.”

The new study used data from several cycles of the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) to examine dietary behaviors of very young children, including their consumption of fast food, sugar-sweetened beverages, fruits and vegetables, and to gauge how much influence parents have over what their children eat.

The study’s authors found that in both 2007 and 2009, about two-thirds of children between the ages of 2 and 5 ate at least one fast food meal during the previous week, and 29 percent ate two or more. About 10 percent of children in this age group ate three or more fast food meals the previous week.

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You are what you eat


Low-fat diet changes prostate cancer tissue.

William Aronson, UCLA

William Aronson, UCLA

Men with prostate cancer who ate a low-fat diet and took fish oil supplements had lower levels of pro-inflammatory substances in their blood and a lower cell cycle progression score — a measure used to predict cancer recurrence — than men who ate a typical Western diet, UCLA researchers found.

The findings are important because lowering the cell cycle progression (CCP) score may help prevent prostate cancers from becoming more aggressive, said lead study author William Aronson, a clinical professor of urology at UCLA and chief of urologic oncology at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“We found that CCP scores were significantly lower in the prostate cancer of men who consumed the low-fat fish oil diet, as compared to men who followed a higher-fat Western diet,” Aronson said. “We also found that men on the low-fat fish oil diet had reduced blood levels of pro-inflammatory substances that have been associated with cancer.”

The study appears in the early online edition of Cancer Prevention Research, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

This study is a follow-up to a 2011 study by Aronson and his team that found that compared to a traditional, high-fat Western diet, a low-fat diet with fish oil supplements eaten for four to six weeks prior to prostate removal slowed the growth of cancer cells in human prostate cancer tissue.

That short-term study also found that the men on the low-fat fish oil diet were able to change the composition of their cell membranes in both the healthy cells and the cancer cells in the prostate. They had increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and decreased levels of the more pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids from corn oil in their cell membranes, which may directly affect the biology of the cells, Aronson said.

“These studies are showing that in men with prostate cancer, you really are what you eat,” Aronson said. “The studies suggest that by altering the diet, we may favorably affect the biology of prostate cancer.”

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UC Davis to lead program to develop safer chickens for Africa


USAID program to develop disease-resistant, heat-tolerant chickens.

The program's goal is to dramatically increase chicken production among Africa’s rural households and small farms, advancing food security, human nutrition and personal livelihoods.

The program's goal is to dramatically increase chicken production among Africa’s rural households and small farms, advancing food security, human nutrition and personal livelihoods.

A new program that will identify genes crucial for breeding chickens that can tolerate hot climates and resist infectious diseases — specifically the devastating Newcastle disease — has been launched under the leadership of the University of California, Davis.

The global economic impact of virulent Newcastle disease is enormous. The project is particularly important for Africa, where infectious diseases annually cause approximately 750 million poultry deaths. Newcastle disease, a global threat to food security, first appeared in 1950 in the United States. In 2002 it resulted in the death of 4 million birds at more than 2,600 California locations and cost $160 million to eradicate.

The new effort, called the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Genomics to Improve Poultry, aims to dramatically increase chicken production among Africa’s rural households and small farms, advancing food security, human nutrition and personal livelihoods. The innovation lab recently was established with a $6 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

Huaijun Zhou, principal investigator for the program and an associate professor of animal science in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis, noted that disease resistance is one of the most economically important traits for poultry production but also challenging to achieve through genetic selection and traditional breeding alone.

“We are thrilled by the opportunity to apply cutting-edge technology and advanced genomics to solve this problem in poor, developing countries,” said Zhou, whose research focuses on the relationship between genetics and the immune system.

“Developing a chicken that can survive Newcastle disease outbreaks is critical to increase poultry, meat and egg production in Africa and in other regions of the world,” said David Bunn, director of the new innovation lab. “Increasing the production of chickens and eggs can have a dramatic impact on the livelihoods of poor rural communities.”

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New study finds spike in sugary drink consumption among California teens


Sugary beverage consumption has dropped in children under 12, but “teens are in trouble.”

Still bubbling overWhile consumption of soda and other sugary drinks among young children in California is starting to decline, a new study released today shows an alarming 8 percent spike among adolescents, the biggest consumers of these beverages.

Based on interviews with more than 40,000 California households conducted by the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the study, “Still Bubbling Over: California Adolescents Drinking More Soda and Other Sugar-Sweetened Beverages,” provides a comprehensive look at youth (2- to 17-year-olds) consumption of sugary drinks, charting consumption patterns from 2005–07 to 2011–12 .

The study, which also provides county-by-county youth consumption rates, was produced collaboratively by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

The most encouraging finding was the dramatic drop in the proportion of young children drinking sugary beverages daily over the seven-year period. Only 19 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds drink a sugary beverage daily, a 30 percent decline from the 2005–07 reporting period. Among 6- to 11-year-olds, 32 percent were daily consumers in 2011–12, representing a 26 percent drop since 2005–07.

Of greatest concern, however, is the significant rise among the biggest consumers of sugary drinks — adolescents (12- to 17-year-olds). Today, a full 65 percent of California adolescents drink sugary beverages daily, an 8 percent climb since 2005–07. And while the study’s authors point out that roughly the same proportion of these youth are drinking soda, 23 percent more are consuming energy and sports drinks every day.

“California has made real progress in reducing the consumption of sugary beverages among young children,” said Susan Babey, Ph.D., the report’s lead author. “But teens are in trouble. Soda or sports drinks should be an occasional treat, not a daily habit. If this trend isn’t reversed, there may be costly consequences for teens, their families and the health care system in the form of increased obesity and diabetes.”

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UC Davis: Investigating liver cancer disparities

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