Health Buzz: Cartoons Make Snacks Taste Better

Some prostate cancers OK without surgery; fructose may lead fat cells to multiply.

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Cartoons Make Snacks Taste Better

Sure, snacks with Scooby Doo or Shrek on the package appeal to kids, but can they make foods tastier? A new study in the journal Pediatrics found that children preferred the taste of foods with cartoon packaging over those without characters on the label, ABC News reports. Researchers asked 40 children ages 4 to 6 to taste-test two samples of graham crackers, carrots, and gummies, all identical except that one package had a cartoon and one didn't. More than half the kids preferred the taste of cartoon-packaged gummies over gummy snacks with plain packaging, and 85 percent said they would rather eat the cartoon kind; 55 percent said crackers with cartoons tasted better than crackers without. The characters had a bit less sway when it came to carrots, however. That finding implies that cartoons are better at selling foods high in sugar, lead author Christina Roberto told ABC News.

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  • Some Prostate Cancers OK Without Surgery

    Men with low-risk, localized prostate cancer may be better off without treatment, new research suggests. Watching to see if the cancer spreads is a fine approach, according to a Swedish study of nearly 7,000 patients published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. After 10 years of surveillance, researchers said that less than 3 percent of men who didn't receive treatment were at risk of dying of the disease, HealthDay reports.

    In November, U.S. News contributor Ford Vox wrote about why it's important to keep an eye on men's PSA or prostate-specific antigen levels, which help indicate a man's risk of prostate cancer. Though healthcare commentators say that PSAs set off a cascade of overtreatment, endangering patients and tolerating wasteful medicine—urologists still encourage men of any age who expect to live at least another 10 years to think hard about getting a PSA test, Vox wrote.

    "The key change is how we react to abnormal tests and to a cancer diagnosis, which is generally less aggressively for some men than in the past," said Gerald Andriole, chief of urologic surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Andriole said that men shouldn't be afraid to get diagnosed; good urologists avoid overtreating less-dangerous cancers. Active surveillance or targeted attacks on very small tumors that spare healthy prostate tissue are both popular options. [Read more: The PSA Test: 7 Reasons It Still Matters.]

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    • Fructose May Lead Fat Cells to Multiply

      New laboratory findings suggest that fructose, a sugar common in junk food, may be helping to expand children's waistlines by encouraging their immature fat cells to divide and multiply faster, HealthDay reports. The study, done on cells taken from 32 children, found that cells exposed to fructose matured more quickly into visceral fat (belly fat) than those soaked in glucose, a sugar that provides fuel for cells. Keri Gans, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, told HealthDay that too much sugar of any type can help drive weight gain.

      In August, U.S. News contributor Sarah Baldauf wrote about foods surprisingly high in added sugar. Sugar bingeing is helping drive the uptick in metabolic changes in the American population, including the exploding obesity rate, Baldauf wrote. The average American rings up an average of 22.2 teaspoons, or 355 calories per day, of added sugars, mostly from sugar-sweetened beverages. But those who shun sweet-tasting drinks are not off the hook. On the list of foods with loads of added sugar: flavored popcorn, granola bars, and baked beans. [Read more: Foods Surprisingly High in Added Sugar.]

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