vending machine, junk food, obesity

Study Links Parents’ Stress with Kids’ Weight

Stressed out parents are more likely to have obese kids, according to a new study to be published in next month’s edition of the journal Pediatrics.  “When you add things up you can get something that’s called a stressor pile-up,” says Dr. Elizabeth Prout Parks of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  “So you may be able to deal with one thing that’s stressing you, but when there’s five things stressing you, you’re behavior changes more.” 

The conclusions were drawn by crunching the numbers contained in an existing survey of thousands of households in southeastern Pennsylvania. 

The stressors can include everything from finances to relationships.  While further research is needed to uncover specific reasons for the link between parents’ stress and kids’ weight, Dr. Parks made an educated guess for Radio PA.  “For example if [stress] is leading you to have decreased sleep or increased demands upon your time; then that’s going to make you less likely to want to cook, less likely to want to go grocery shopping and more likely to consume fast foods.”     

In fact, the study also finds that parents who perceive themselves to be stressed are more likely to have children who eat fast food more than two times per week. 

Dr. Parks, a physician nutrition specialist at CHOP, doesn’t want to make already stressed parents feel bad – she wants to make public health officials aware of this issue.

Bike Ride Raises Obesity Awareness

The “Capitol to Capitol – ONE Ride” took 30-bicyclists and more than a dozen volunteers from the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg to the US Capitol in Washington DC this week.  “Yesterday my legs were pretty sore,” Kim Razzano said of the 155-mile trek.  But the president of the Pennsylvania State Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (PSAHPERD) expects to be back on her bike this weekend.

PSAHPERD has been planning the ride for a year now, all to raise awareness of the childhood obesity issue and to promote healthy living among our youth.  Razzano wants policymakers to understand the need for quality health and physical education programs in schools.  “Kids do not have the ammunition needed to fight our society’s way of living, which is really promoting obesity,” she explained in an interview with Radio PA.

Mother Nature kept the skies dry and the humidity down for the three-day ONE ride, which refers to PSAHPERD’s 2012 theme: “All for One – That’s how we roll.”  Razzano says the best part of the ride was the camaraderie of the riders & volunteers, and their arrival as ONE in Washington DC.

While the ride may be over, the group is still raising money.  “We’re trying to raise $10,000 to donate to the Pennsylvania affiliate of the American Heart Association, which will be earmarked for educational programs that combat childhood obesity and promote lifelong wellness.”  Razzano thinks that small amount of money can make a big impact for a first-year ride.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 17% of all children and adolescent are overweight in the United States.

Spring is Here, Allergy Season Too

Six Pennsylvania cities made the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s list of the 100 worst places to live with spring allergies. 

The good news is that you’ll have to look a little further down the list to find the Pennsylvania locales; the bad news is that it’s going to be a difficult spring for allergy sufferers, no matter where they live. 

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Vice President Mike Tringale says the extremely mild winter has given way to an allergy season that started earlier.  “An earlier season means the trees bloom and pollinate earlier, they bloom and pollinate longer, and they bloom and pollinate with greater ferocity.” 

Tringale says the best way to be prepared is to get properly diagnosed, talk to your doctor about over-the-count medications and consider nasal rinsing to clear out those sinuses. 

The spring allergy rankings were based on cities’ pollen scores, per capita use of allergy medicines and density of board certified allergists.  Philadelphia is the first Pennsylvania city to appear on the 2012 list, in the 30th position.  It’s followed by Pittsburgh (33), Allentown (41), Scranton (44), Harrisburg (61) and Lancaster (75).

High Heels

The High Risk of High Heels

Long-term, repeated use of high heels can cause problems from the hip down to the foot, according to Geisinger Medical Center podiatrist David Troutman, and he says studies continue to reinforce that fact. 

For instance, a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Physiology finds that high heels strained the calf muscle, even when the subjects were no longer wearing them.  “If they would take their heels off and work out, they were more susceptible to strains and sprains because their foot was still functioning that,” Troutman says.  “So that was the real interesting key to this study.” 

The new study examined women who wore a significant heel at least 40-hours a week for two years. 

“Wearing a high heel shoe once in a while is not terrible, but I think it’s the more repeated, chronic use of it where people get in trouble,” Troutman says. 

He recommends that women limit the height of their heels to two inches, and to alternate high heels with more sensible shoes.  “I think the more that you can alternate, wear a little bit better shoe here and there, you’re going to be fine.”

New App Helps Find the “Caffeine Zone”

Craving another cup of coffee to get you through the day?  Not sure if it’s the right move?  Thanks to Penn State researchers, there’s an app for that.  The “Caffeine Zone 2” iPhone app helps people monitor their caffeine consumption relative to adjustable thresholds. 

Those thresholds include a minimum level for optimal cognitive performance, a ceiling to tell you when to rein in the caffeine to avoid the jitters or illness, and a low threshold to ensure elevated caffeine levels don’t keep you up at night.  Once you input your caffeine consumption, the Caffeine Zone 2 app turns it all into an easy to read graph. 

Penn State professor of information sciences & technology Frank Ritter says proper caffeine balance can be important, but staying in the caffeine zone can be difficult.  “A little bit’s good, and there’s some optimal amount.  “But if you keep going it doesn’t get better, it gets worse instead.”  Mathematically, it’s called an inverted u-shaped curve. 

Dr. Ritter teamed up with assistant professor of computer science and engineering Martin Yeh to develop the new app.  It’s currently only available for iPhone users.  There’s a free version with advertisements.  To get the ad-free version, it will cost you 99-cents.

Don’t Indulge, Imagine

A little imagination may be all it takes to resist those holiday treats, according to research out of Carnegie Mellon University.  Assistant Professor of Marketing Carey Morewedge tells us decades of research shows that ignoring your cravings won’t work.  So he set up a series of experiments that went in the opposite direction.

“When people think about eating a food repeatedly, in the same manner as they would actually think while eating the food, it seems to habituate them to the food,” professor Morewedge says.  “In other words it decreases their appetite for that food.” 

Morewedge ran five experiments with about 1,000 participants, which asked them to imagine eating various foods or doing various tasks.  He found that only people who imagined eating more of the food, subsequently ate less of it.  “For example, people who imagined eating 30 M&M’s ate fewer M&M’s than people who imagined eating three.” 

Morewedge stresses that this habituation technique will only work if you imagine eating the food that you’re about to eat.  He adds that it’s untested when it comes to eating a variety of foods at the same time – so you’re on your own at the Christmas buffet. 

More research on habituation is in the works, and Morewedge hopes to branch out and look at its impact on addictive substances like nicotine.