Study Finds Obese Children Could Face Heart Disease
Obese children show signs of inflammation that might increase their risk of future heart problems, the Wall Street Journal reports. In a new study, researchers measured the level of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation used to assess heart disease risk, in more than 16,000 children and teens. Among obese children ages 3 to 5, almost 30 percent showed raised levels of CRP, compared with 17 percent of children who were a healthy weight, the Journal reports. In teens ages 15 to 17, researchers observed elevated CRP levels in 60 percent of the obese group, while only 18 percent of those with a healthy weight had similar levels. Further study is needed to confirm a link between childhood obesity and later heart disease; the current study did not follow children into adulthood.
Air Pollution: It's Not Just Your Lungs That Suffer
A growing body of research is shedding light on the ways that air pollutants affect the health of the American public. Indeed, the Environmental Protection Agency highlighted this concern in December when, after reviewing the evidence, it ruled that greenhouse gases are detrimental to human health, particularly because they can aggravate asthma and other respiratory illnesses and can produce longer, more intense heat waves that endanger the poor, sick, and elderly. But it's not just lungs that suffer, U.S. News's Sarah Baldauf writes.
To be sure, clean-air advocates have worked to improve the nation's air quality, and the health risks that a particular individual might face directly from breathing polluted air are low. But research consistently is finding that, when spread out over a given population—be it residents of a certain city or those with a particular disease—the quality of the air has a very significant impact on public health. Read more.
Guiding Stars Food Label Program Seems to Boost Sales of Healthful Foods
In the last couple of years, supermarkets and manufacturers have launched a number of programs aimed at helping shoppers make more healthful decisions when purchasing food. The Food and Drug Administration has even gotten involved, vowing to come up with a single set of nutritional criteria for food makers' front-of-the-pack labels, U.S. News's Katherine Hobson writes. The open question about all of these efforts is whether they'll actually work, both to increase purchases of more nutritious foods and, ultimately, to bring down rates of obesity and related diseases.
A study published earlier this month suggests one system is headed in the right direction, at least as far as sales go. Grocery store chain Hannaford Bros., which operates in New York and New England, implemented its Guiding Stars program in September 2006. The program assesses every food item in the supermarket and, on a shelf label, assigns it between zero and three stars, depending on its levels of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, added sugars, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and whole grains. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that in the chain's 168 stores, the percentage of items purchased that rated at least one star rose from 24.50 percent before the program's introduction to 24.98 percent and then 25.89 percent in the subsequent two years. The author of the study says the increase is significant. Read more.
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