American Heart Association Issues Guidelines To Improve Kids Nutrition
In response to the increasing obesity rate among American children over the past 20 years, the American Heart Association has released guidelines for parents and doctors to help "improve kids' nutrition, activity levels and overall health," the Los Angeles Times reports. Published in the July 1 issue of Circulation, the guidelines are intended to serve as "lifestyle training" to help children prevent heart disease later in life. According to the AHA, parents should teach children that half the food on a "healthy plate" should be salad and vegetables, with starchy foods and protein sources accounting for the other half. In addition, only children younger than two years of age should drink whole milk. Parents also should encourage physical activity and set limits on television and video game usage. For doctors, the guidelines recommend monitoring cholesterol levels in children with a family history of cardiovascular health problems. Doctors also should monitor blood pressure in children older than three. Dr. Christine Williams, the lead author of the guidelines, said, "People know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans, but they don't fully realize that it's a silent process that begins in childhood" (Roan, Los Angeles Times, 7/8).
Meanwhile, growing portion sizes at U.S. restaurants have been blamed for the "bloating of America." The following are summaries of recent coverage of the trend.
Los Angeles Times: Health advocacy groups and nutritionists are criticizing the fast-food industry for serving larger portions, saying consumers "who are served more tend to eat more." Since the mid-1990s, the average restaurant plate size has increased 25%. At the same time, Americans have "gotten larger," the Times reports. While critics are urging Congress to mandate that restaurants publish the calorie counts of their servings, the industry has said obesity rates have risen because people are becoming less physically active (Ballon, Los Angeles Times, 7/6).
- New York Times: While exercise rates "hardly changed" between 1990 and 2000, per capita food consumption increased about 8% during the 1990s. The increases equate to an extra 140 pounds of food consumed per year per person. Researchers say increases in portion sizes, such as the "supersizing option" at fast-food restaurants, have contributed to obesity. In addition, the speed at which Americans eat may be a factor. By "wolf[ing] down" a meal, people may consume more than needed before the brain can signal them to stop eating (Winter, New York Times, 7/7).
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