Monthly Archives: June 2011

Potato industry fights back after anti-chip study

Potato marketers resent a recent Harvard weight-loss study that encourages Americans to bag the spuds, but pistachio growers are nuts about the study’s findings, according to a story in USA Today.

The study, released last Thursday by the Harvard School of Public Health, linked eating potatoes with gaining weight. Yogurt and nuts, on the other hand, were associated with losing weight.

Western Pistachio, a pistachio growers association, has already started work on a new marketing campaign touting the findings. But the study is a cause for alarm to potato growers, as it faults even boiled and baked potatoes for people’s expanding waistlines — not just chips and fries.

But Katherine Tallmadge, author of Diet Simple, says taters shouldn’t bear all the blame.

“Usually when people are eating mashed potatoes, they’re eating big steaks right beside them,” she said. “And then not exercising.”

What’s more, Idaho Potato Commission President Frank Muir says one of the scientists who did the study —Walter Willett— had an anti-potato bias six years ago when he published a food pyramid on his website.

“He’s got potatoes right at the top with soft drinks,” Muir said.

But Willett says his previous studies had nothing to do with weight gain. And he notes the new study mirrors his earlier work showing potato starch is broken down very quickly into glucose.

“We do have a history of pointing out relationships with potatoes and diabetes risks — which in some sense is more dangerous,” he said.

One crisis PR expert said the Harvard researchers have wrongfully demonized potatoes.

“It’s just irresponsible on Harvard’s part,” says Gene Grabowski, senior vice president of Levick Strategic Communications, who was eating a bag of potato chips when reached at his office. “Whenever a study like this one comes out, it creates a real problem for an industry.

“The vegetable has done nothing wrong,” he said.

Still, some food marketers are responding:

Potatoes — The Idaho Potato Commission will launch a television marketing campaign with fitness guru Denise Austin beginning in September, that delivers “a real straightforward message: Potatoes are good for your heart,” Muir said.

“The American Heart Association has endorsed Idaho potatoes as a heart-healthy food.”

Austin could not be reached for comment, but Muir said she orders potatoes every time they dine together.

Yogurt — National Yogurt Association Executive Director Elise Cortina said the group was “delighted” to see the study. But she said it won’t change yogurt brands’ marketing plans, as the benefits of yogurt are already well known.

Nuts — While growers of almonds and other nuts are also excited about the study’s findings, the pistachio growers group is using it in a new marketing campaign involving partnerships with the USA Water Polo Team and Miss California.

“We’ve enlisted icons of both fitness and beauty to help educate people about the great nutritional findings about pistachios,” said Judy Hirigoyen, director of marketing for Western Pistachio.

“You don’t hear so much about pistachios,” she said. “Well that’s about to stop — they’re coming out of their shell.”


Even diet sodas will add weight

Scientists will not rest until they’ve sucked the fun out of even your tamest vices, and now they’ve set their sights on diet sodas, according to the Jezebel website.

Two new studies found that diet drinks and artificial sweeteners increase people’s waistlines and increase their risk of diabetes. The new research was presented last week at an American Diabetes Association conference.

The first study by doctors at the University of Texas-San Antonio analyzed data from 474 subjects in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging, or SALSA. The two-decade study includes elderly Mexican Americans and European Americas.

From ScienceDaily: Measures of height, weight, waist circumference and diet soda intake were recorded at SALSA enrollment and at three follow-up exams that took place over the next decade. The average follow-up time was 9.5 years.

The researchers compared long-term change in waist circumference for diet soda users versus non-users in all follow-up periods. The results were adjusted for waist circumference, diabetes status, leisure-time physical activity level, neighborhood of residence, age and smoking status at the beginning of each interval, as well as sex, ethnicity and years of education.

Diet soft drink users, as a group, experienced 70 percent greater increases in waist circumference compared with non-users. Frequent users, who said they consumed two or more diet sodas a day, experienced waist circumference increases that were 500 percent greater than those of non-users.

Abdominal fat is a risk factor for several conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The researchers say this finding shows that national campaigns against sugary drinks should emphasize that replacing them with diet soft drinks won’t necessarily make you healthier.

The report didn’t weigh in on whether a raging Diet Coke addition is preferable to a regular Coke addiction, but it didn’t note that the artificial sweetener aspartame is also bad news if you’re concerned about diabetes.

Get an energy boost from nutrient-packed foods

The kids are home and rambunctious. Work has not slowed down one bit. Whatever happened to the dog days of summer?

If you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up, don’t reach for a bowl of ice cream or a caffeinated energy drink. Instead, go for foods that are packed with nutrients, says author Ellie Krieger, a registered dietitian and host of The Food Network’s Healthy Appetite.

“Research shows that when we feel sluggish and sort of foggy-headed, the foods that can pull us out of that are high in protein and low in concentrated carbohydrates” such as sugar or white bread, she said.

Sugary foods can cause blood sugar to spike briefly, then plunge, leaving you tired and hungry. The goal, Krieger said, is to keep blood sugar levels even. Eating for energy is “eating consistent meals, and not huge meals. A lot of people don’t eat all day, then have a big meal at night. That’s the opposite of eating for energy.”

Ellie Krieger, a registered dietitian and cookbook author, doesn’t obsess over numbers, whether calories or carbs.
“I don’t count anything,’’ she said.
Instead, she advises focusing on “four or five high-energy snacks’’ with the emphasis on “healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables and whole grains — but it can’t be a bowl of pasta with a teensy bit of cheese.’’
She highlighted five foods to pack extra energy into your day:

Filling, high in protein and fat-free, shrimp can be added to a bowl of gazpacho or served in shrimp cocktail for an elegant snack or lunch.


For an energy blast, said Krieger, “I would pick a handful of almonds. That would give me protein, healthy fat, minerals. That’s going to keep me more alert than something starchy.’’

Other options: almond butter on whole wheat toast.

Packed with calcium, vitamins C, B6, K and much more, it has a “lot of nutrients and not a lot of calories,’’ she said. A cup of kale, which can be eaten raw or cooked, has 34 calories.

Hard-boiled egg:
A quick and easy protein source, “I love just a hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit as a snack,’’ she said. Or add a sliced egg to salad to bolster it with protein. “Choosing foods high in protein and lower in carbohydrates is going to help you keep your energy up.’’

Jim White, a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association, recommends eating five mini-meals a day.

“Two snacks, mid-morning and mid-afternoon, are vital,” he said, and be sure to include protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain foods, which break down slowly and provide steady energy.

His snack suggestions include whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheese, celery and natural peanut butter, hummus and baby carrots, or fruit with Greek yogurt, which White said is more protein-packed than conventional yogurt and “is really a power food.”

Energy drinks, he says, “give you that spike, but it doesn’t work to keep you going during the week. I see a lot of people spike up and crash hard.”

Other tips: Get enough sleep and drink lots of fluids, White said.

“The biggest thing is being hydrated — 2 percent to 3 percent dehydration can significantly affect energy.”

Water, low-calorie drinks and summer fruits such as watermelon can help “hydrate you to be at ultimate peak,” he said.

Dietitian Joy Dubost, also an ADA spokeswoman, says exercise is “a natural energy booster … it lifts your mood,” she said. “You feel better and have more energy.”

And don’t forget breakfast.

“A lot of people skip breakfast or have an energy drink or coffee in the morning and think that will do it,” she said.

Not so. After a long night of sleep, “you’re going to be running low and have got to refuel. Breakfast in the morning is critical.”

Start the day with whole-grain cereal or bread, fruit or eggs, along with a calcium source, such as soy or low-fat milk, she says. And don’t be afraid to sample unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, especially during summer, when fresh produce is readily available.

U.S. drivers more likely to develop ‘left side’ skin cancer

Cruising with the windows down and the wind in their hair is how many people like to drive. But that open feeling could be costly, according to a story in USA Today.

New research suggests that people in the USA are more likely to develop skin cancer, such as melanoma and merkel cell carcinoma, on the left side of their bodies. Driving may be to blame, because the left arm receives more UV, said researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle, who analyzed cancer cases in a government database

They found that when skin cancer occurred on one side of the body, 52 percent of melanoma cases and 53 percent of merkel cell carcinomas were on the left side. On the upper arms, 55 percent of merkel cell cases developed on the left side.

The study, published online in April by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, provided the strongest evidence to date of a left-side bias in skin cancer cases in the USA.

The National Cancer Institute said that in 2010 more than 68,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma, and 8,700 people died from the disease.

Other research supports the idea that sun exposure while driving can contribute to cancer. In countries where people drive on the opposite side of the road, the right arm gets more sun exposure.

A 1986 study cited by the researchers found that Australian men were more likely to show precancerous growths on the right side of their bodies.

Even so, car windows do offer some protection, blocking most UVB rays, an intense form of UV that often causes sunburns.

“The reality is that any of the glass in the car will get out most of the bad UV,” said study co-author Paul Nghiem. He added that UVA rays, though less intense than UVB rays, penetrate glass and can still cause damage to the skin over time.

Nghiem said that for most people who drive with their side window closed, there is no reason to apply sunscreen before driving. But for drivers prone to skin cancer who spend large amounts of time driving, sunscreen may be “prudent,” the study said.

CDC report finds gay, lesbian and bisexual students at greater risk for unhealthy, unsafe behaviors

Students who report being gay, lesbian or bisexual and students who report having sexual contact only with persons of the same sex or both sexes are more likely than heterosexual students and students who report having sexual contact only with the opposite sex to engage in unhealthy risk behaviors such as tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use, sexual risk behaviors, suicidal behaviors, and violence, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This report should be a wake-up call for families, schools and communities that we need to do a much better job of supporting these young people,” said Howell Wechsler, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health. “Any effort to promote adolescent health and safety must take into account the additional stressors these youth experience because of their sexual orientation, such as stigma, discrimination, and victimization.

“We are very concerned that these students face such dramatic disparities for so many different health risks.”

The report represents the first time that the federal government has conducted an analysis of such magnitude across a wide array of states, large urban school districts, and risk behaviors. Researchers analyzed data from Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted during 2001–2009 in seven states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin — and six large urban school districts — Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, San Diego, and San Francisco.

The sites collected data on high school students’ sexual identity (heterosexual, gay or lesbian, bisexual, or unsure), sex of sexual contacts (sexual contact with the opposite sex only, with the same sex only, or with both sexes), or both.

The study, “Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9–12 in Selected Sites –Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, United States, 2001–2009,” was published as a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summary.

Findings across 76 health risks in the following 10 categories are highlighted:

— Behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries (e.g., rarely or never wore a seat belt)

— Behaviors that contribute to violence (e.g., did not go to school because of safety concerns)

— Behaviors related to attempted suicide (e.g., made a suicide plan)

— Tobacco use (e.g., ever smoked cigarettes)

— Alcohol use (e.g., binge drinking)

— Other drug use (e.g., current marijuana use)

— Sexual behaviors (e.g., condom use)

— Dietary behaviors (e.g., ate vegetables 3 or more times per day)

— Physical activity and sedentary behaviors (e.g., physically active at least 60 minutes per day for 7 days)

— Weight management (e.g., did not eat for 24 hours or more to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight)

Across the sites that assessed sexual identity, gay or lesbian students had higher prevalence rates for 49 percent to 90 percent of all health risks measured. Specifically, gay or lesbian students had higher rates for seven of the 10 health risk categories (behaviors that contribute to violence, behaviors related to attempted suicide, tobacco use, alcohol use, other drug use, sexual behaviors, and weight management).

Similarly, bisexual students had higher prevalence rates for 57 percent to 86 percent of all health risks measured.

They also had higher rates for eight of the 10 health risk categories (behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries, behaviors that contribute to violence, behaviors related to attempted suicide, tobacco use, alcohol use, other drug use, sexual behaviors, and weight management).

National, state, and local YRBSs are conducted every two years among high school students throughout the United States. The surveys monitor health risk behaviors, including unintentional injuries and violence; tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use; sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection; unhealthy dietary behaviors; and physical inactivity.

The surveys also monitor the prevalence of obesity and asthma. Interested states and large urban school districts may add questions to measure sexual identity and the sex of sexual contacts.

Youth Risk Behavior Survey results are available at

Teen childbearing in state cost taxpayers more than $177 million in ’08

Teen childbearing in Kentucky cost taxpayers at least $177 million in 2008, according to an updated analysis from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Of these costs, 42 percent were federal costs and 58 percent were state and local costs. For the nation overall, teen childbearing costs taxpayers $10.9 billion.

Most of the public sector costs of teen childbearing are associated with negative consequences for the children of teen mothers, during both their childhood and their young adult years.

Annual taxpayer costs associated with children born to teen mothers include public health care, such as Medicaid, child welfare, and, among those children who have reached adolescence and young adulthood, increased rates of incarceration, and lost tax revenue due to decreased earnings and spending.

Between 1991 and 2008 there have been 145,030 teen births in Kentucky, costing taxpayers a total of $3.8 billion. These public sector costs would have been higher had it not been for the substantial declines in teen childbearing over that same period.

Kentucky has seen a 19 percent decline in the teen birth rate between 1991 and 2008. The impressive strides made in reducing teen childbearing in Kentucky saved taxpayers an estimated $106 million in 2008 alone, compared to what they would have paid if rates had not fallen.

Summer can relieve stress

The summer comes a whole new set of stressors. Follow these simple tips from wellness coach and “Yen Path” author Jenny Gallagher to stay relaxed and happy during the summer:

1) Don’t over extend yourself.

2) Don’t worry about what other people think. You cannot control what other people thinks so don’t waste time worrying about it.

3) Eat fresh foods. Now is the perfect time to lose a few pounds if you want to. It’s warm outside and therefore heavy foods are not as appealing. Stay away from processed and fast foods because they are high in sodium.

4) Hydrate. When your body does not have enough water and it is much easier to become dehydrated when it’s warm outside.

5) Move. There are lots of excuses during the winter when it comes to exercising but the opposite is true now.  You don’t need the gym and it’s not dark at 4 pm.  So get outside, even if it’s for a leisurely walk.

6) Spring clean those thoughts. You can de-clutter the mind. Your thoughts are your choice. It just takes practice.