Health Buzz: Autism Rates Reach New High

Popular kids’ drinks to avoid; surprisingly unhealthy restaurant meals

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U.S. Autism Rates Reach New High

Autism is more common than previously thought: 1 in 88 children in the United States has it, health officials said Thursday. That's a 23 percent increase from the 1 in 110 rate reported three years ago. The increase is likely due to better recognition of cases, thanks to wide screening and more advanced diagnosis. Autism is now twice as common as the government said it was five years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It affects about 1 million U.S. children and teens. "Early detection is associated with better outcomes," CDC director Thomas Frieden told CNN. "The earlier kids are detected, the earlier they could get services, and the less impairment they'll have on their learning and in their lives on a long-term basis is our best understanding."

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  • Popular Kids' Drinks to Avoid

    As childhood obesity rates continue to balloon, sugary beverages are emerging as a prime culprit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sweetened beverages are the largest source of empty carbs, in the form of added sugars, in children's diets, and the extra calories are helping to expand young waistlines.

    Even among adults, sugary drinks have been linked to not-so-sweet effects that include weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and heart problems. A recent study in the journal Circulation suggests that men who drink 12 or more ounces of a sugar-sweetened beverage a day are 20 percent more likely to develop heart disease than men are who abstain. Most Americans—including kids—get too much sugar. The AHA recommends that men get a total of no more than 36 grams of sugar a day, the equivalent of 9 teaspoons, and that women get no more than two-thirds that much. Children are advised to limit their sugar intake to 12 grams a day, or 3 teaspoons. During 2001 to 2004, however, children ages 4 to 8 consumed 21 teaspoons per day on average.

    While Debbie Beauvais, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, doesn't think sugary beverages should be singled out as causing childhood obesity, she does recommend that kids—and adults—opt instead for water, milk, or small portions of 100 percent juice. Low-fat and fat-free milk are rich in calcium, and pure juice, she says, offers lots of nutrients. [Read more: Popular Kids' Drinks to Avoid]

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    • Surprisingly Unhealthy Restaurant Meals

      Everyone knows that trademark fast food like Whoppers and Big Macs doesn't fit comfortably under a "diet" label. But sit-down family chains have eye-opening menu entries, too, that can supply as much or more fat or salt as anything dished out at a drive-thru window. Here's a look at some of America's favorite family restaurants—and one juice joint—and their surprisingly unhealthy offerings.

      Boston Market. You may think grabbing a Boston Market salad in lieu of rotisserie chicken is the healthier choice. Think again. Its chicken Caesar salad has 660 calories and 43 grams of fat—slightly more than what's in the half-chicken á la carte. The salad also has 1,590 mg of salt, approaching the 2,300 mg per day the government recommends you stay below, and exceeding the 1,500-mg limit for anyone who is 51 or older, African-American, or has hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

      Olive Garden. "When you're here, you're family," goes the Olive Garden pitch, but you might think twice about feeding your family this much fat. The government urges adults to ingest no more than 20 to 35 percent of daily calories from fat. That equates to a max of 44 to 78 grams of total fat per day if you're on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. Olive Garden's fettuccini Alfredo has a whopping 1,220 calories, 75 grams of fat, and 1,350 mg of salt—the caloric equivalent of two Big Macs and an order of small fries—and that's before the all-you-can-eat breadsticks, which have 150 calories each. Even without the creamy Alfredo sauce, the restaurant's dishes can be packed with calories, salt, and fat. The chicken and shrimp carbonara has 1,440 calories, 88 grams of fat, and 3,000 mg of salt, while the chicken parmigiana has 1,090 calories, 49 grams of fat, and 3,380 mg of salt, for example. [Read more: Surprisingly Unhealthy Restaurant Meals]