Field Notes


School Obesity Programs May Promote
Worrisome Behaviors in Kids 

A new report from the C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health examines the possible association between school-based childhood obesity prevention programs and an increase in eating disorders among young children and adolescents.

The poll asked parents about obesity prevention programs in their children’s schools and about food-related behaviors and activity that may be worrisome.

Overall, 82% of parents of children aged 6 to 14 reported at least one school-based childhood obesity intervention program taking place in their child’s school. Among these programs are nutrition education, limits on sweets or junk food in the classroom, height and weight measurements, and incentives for physical activity.

Additionally, 7% of parents reported that their children have been made to feel bad at school about what or how much they were eating.

This same group of parents was also asked about their children’s eating behaviors.

Thirty percent of parents of 6- to 14-year-olds reported at least one behavior in their children that could be associated with the development of an eating disorder. These behaviors include inappropriate dieting, excessive worry about fat in foods, being preoccupied with food content or labels, refusing family meals, and having too much physical activity.

“The issue of childhood obesity is a serious problem. In order to intervene in what seems like an epidemic of childhood obesity, everyone needs to be involved,” says David Rosen, MD, MPH, a clinical professor of pediatrics, internal medicine, and psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School and chief of teenage and young adult medicine in the department of pediatrics.

However, Rosen says, “When obesity interventions are put in place without understanding how they work and what the risks are, there can be unintended consequences. Well-intentioned efforts can go awry when children misinterpret the information they’re given.

“Many of these behaviors are often dismissed as a phase,” Rosen says, “But given what we know about the association of these behaviors with the development of eating disorders and knowing that eating disorders are increasing in prevalence, they should be taken very seriously.”

Parents that report incentive programs at their children’s school to increase physical activity are more likely to say their children are too physically active (11%) compared with parents who don’t report incentives for physical activity at their child’s school (4%). Otherwise, the poll didn’t find an association between school-based obesity prevention programs and other worrisome eating behaviors among children.

The fact that 30% of parents reported at least one worrisome eating behavior in their children is concerning.

“It’s much better and safer for parents to respond to worrisome eating behaviors early, even if there turns out to be no problem, than to wait until there’s obviously a big problem,” Rosen says. “It’s much easier to prevent an eating disorder than it is to treat an eating disorder.”

Source: University of Michigan Health System


How to Avoid a Broken Heart

Joseph Libonati, PhD, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, answers questions about how exercise betters your heart health. Libonati is a cardiac physiology expert who focuses on heart health and hypertension.

Exactly how does exercise benefit the heart?
One way exercise benefits the heart is by decreasing its workload. Exercise improves the ratio between the heart’s demand for oxygen and its supply through the coronary arteries. With exercise, the heart gets stronger because it gets bigger and is able to pump more efficiently.

Exercise allows your heart to push out a greater volume of blood with every beat, and it does so at a lower heart rate. It also improves blood flow to the heart by improving the heart’s ability to have its coronary blood vessels dilate. These changes in parallel improve both the supply and demand of the heart.

How does exercise lower high blood pressure?
Exercise helps lower high blood pressure by improving your blood vessels’ ability to dilate, decreasing the pressure on those vessels. Exercise also improves your blood sugar levels and makes you leaner, which allows your heart to pump blood at lower pressures and makes your heart work less.

What exercise is best for the heart?
Using large muscle mass repetitively is best for heart health. Think about the acronym FIT (Frequency, Intensity, Time). That’s the general recipe for exercise for a healthy heart.

For frequency, you should exercise five days per week. Find something you like so you are more likely to stick with it. For intensity, you should do the talk test. If you can hold a normal conversation with little breathing trouble while exercising, this is the right intensity. For time, you should exercise 30 to 60 minutes each day, and it doesn’t have to be all at once. The important factor is that you do as much physical activity as you can throughout the day.

Why is exercise important as we age?
Exercise is important to maintaining healthy bones and muscles. As we age, we start to have smaller muscles and weaker bones. Activities that maintain muscles and bone mass help people age with a greater ability to function.

Resistance training or weight training is a good way to maintain bone mass, so making this type of exercise part of your daily routine is important into your 40s and beyond. Also, maintaining muscle mass helps the body’s metabolism and can reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Source: University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing