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Added sugars may affect heart health risk factors in children
Last week I shared a meta-analysis that concluded that higher levels of sugar intake in an adult's diet were "strongly associated with higher triglycerides, total as well as LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), and blood pressure." While that study was interested in total sugars and not strictly added sugars, this week's study suggests that those effects are not limited to adults.

How Much Exercise Are Your Kids Getting, Really?
It's important for kids to develop healthy eating and exercise habits so that those habits persist into adulthood. Yet more and more children are becoming overweight and obese, which can cause diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other chronic conditions long before they stop needing a pediatrician.

Maintenance First!
It's sad, but usually true: most people who lose weight eventually gain at least some of it back - and all too many gain back more than they lost. As you might expect, preventing that bounce-back and helping people to maintain their weight loss is becoming an important part of research into overweight and obesity.


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Healthy parents, healthy kids

A family of four enjoying a meal together

Experts in pediatrics have identified four important activity and dietary recommendations for children's health. They are: Total fat intake of less than 30% of caloric intake per day; 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity; watching television (including video games and the like) for less than two hours per day; and eating at least five servings per day of fruits and vegetables. We know from multiple sources that most kids don't meet all of those recommendations, but studying the way those deficiencies relate to each other and group together can help guide public health professionals in creating ways to help kids improve.

Beginning in 2001, researchers in San Diego, California recruited 770 adolescents between the ages of 11 and 15 (and their parents) through their primary-care doctors (Am J Prev Med 2007;32(2);124-130). To measure the children's physical activity, they were provided accelerometers, small electronic devices worn around the waist that measure the wearer's amount of physical exertion. The children wore these devices for at least three days. Television watching and food intake was assessed via questionnaires. Their Body Mass Index was calculated using weight and height, and those children over the 85th percentile for their age were considered for the purposes of the study to be overweight. Finally, the parents' health behaviors were also assessed: they were asked about their diets, whether they smoked, how much they exercised, and other, demographic information.

The bad news is that only 2% of all the children in the study met all four of the guidelines. In fact, over half of all the children did not meet the requirement of 60 minutes per day of physical activity. Boys were more likely than girls to limit their television to under two hours per day. Less than one third of children met the requirements for the amount of fat in their diet, and only about 12% ate enough fruits and vegetables. Over three-quarters of kids failed to meet at least two of the recommendations.

The good news, however, is that the parents' positive health behaviors, specifically not smoking, avoiding fatty foods, and eating enough fruits and vegetables, appeared to be positively linked to their children's positive health behaviors. In short: Parents whose lifestyle was more healthy tended to have similar kids.

What this means for you

It isn't just your health you're protecting when you're active and eat healthfully. Even if you don't have children yourself, the children in your life will benefit by your positive example.

First posted: February 21, 2007