Health Buzz: Obesity Rates Dropping Among Low-Income Children

7 ways to help a loved one grieve; making sense of the FDA's new gluten-free labeling law


Several States Saw Downward Trends in the Obesity Rates of Low-Income Preschoolers

For a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, researchers analyzed data of roughly 12 million children, ages 2 to 4, from low-income families. Spanning from 2008 to 2011, the data covers kids in 40 American states and the District of Columbia, as well as in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. When researchers calculated the prevalence of obesity in these children on a state level, it turns out that 19 of the states and territories saw significant downward trends over those few years. The Virgin Islands saw the biggest drop in the prevalence of obesity, from 13.6 percent in 2008 to 11 percent in 2011. Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey and South Dakota also saw downward trends in obesity that were greater than or equal to 1 percentage point. Additionally, 21 states and Puerto Rico saw no major decrease or uptick in childhood obesity, while three states – Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee – saw significant increases.

As many parents can attest, when children are between 2 and 4 years old – the age group studied for this report – they often show fear of trying new foods. And unfortunately, these scary foods include healthy ones like vegetables. Teaching a child to not just eat, but to actually like healthy foods can go a long way to keep him from becoming an obesity statistic. Jennifer Orlet Fisher, director of the Family Eating Laboratory at Temple University's Center for Obesity Research and Education in Philadelphia, shares tips for getting kids to like healthy foods in this article.

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    7 Ways to Help a Loved One Grieve

    With sympathy. My condolences. I'm so sorry for your loss. Your friend's sister dies, and these are the polished little phrases Hallmark suggests you offer her – someone whose world has been tied up, battered and rolled off a cliff. What do you say? How can you possibly comfort her?

    "The truth is no one can truly 'comfort' the survivor of a recent death," says Megen Duffy, an emergency department nurse who pens the blog "Not Nurse Ratched." Duffy has consoled strangers whose loved ones recently died in unexpected, often violent ways and concludes that, "One can merely be present, or not, according to the person's wishes."

    But what does it mean to "be present?" It's a phrase used by most of this article's experts, who range from mental health professionals to funeral directors to hospice care consultants. In the first minutes and hours after a patient's death, at the hospital, Duffy shows her presence by offering to fulfill the personal needs of the surviving family. Some mourners need coffee and a telephone; some need an exhaustive run-down of the events leading up to the death; some need to see the body. Duffy is there to assist with all these tasks. [Read more: 7 Ways to Help a Loved One Grieve]

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    • Making Sense of the FDA's New Gluten-Free Labeling Law

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, at long last, has issued a formal rule regulating use of the term "gluten-free" on foods and beverages, writes U.S. News blogger Tamara Duker Freuman. When the news was announced last Friday, collective sighs of "finally!" came from all corners of the gluten-free universe. The FDA regulation limits the use of the "gluten-free" claim to foods and beverages that contain fewer than 20 parts per million (or, 20 ppm) of gluten – which translates into less than two-hundreths of a gram of gluten per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of the food.

      Industry experts and consumer advocacy groups have generally lauded the final rule. Some have objected that even 20 ppm of gluten may pose a risk for a minority of extra-sensitive individuals with celiac disease – though available research data don't necessarily support this position.

      Indeed, the FDA's decision was in part a pragmatic one based on the limitations of available analytical testing methods – currently available tests cannot reliably detect gluten at lower levels – as well as concern that too strict a standard would reduce the ability of food companies to legally label their products gluten-free and therefore reduce consumer choice. Of note, the 20 ppm level is aligned with existing gluten-free labeling standards in Europe and Canada. [Read more: Making Sense of the FDA's New Gluten-Free Labeling Law]