HEADLINES / TRENDS l STATS l RESEARCH l MEDIA l PEOPLE

March 2011

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Produce Rx for Healthier Kids

It’s a novel tactic to get children to eat their vegetables: Tell them it’s what the doctor ordered. Three Massachusetts health centers are giving low-income families coupons towards the purchase of fresh produce. The hope is that kids will lay off burgers and fries, and increase their consumption of fresh green beans and tomatoes.

The “prescription” coupons, valued at one dollar a day per family member, are redeemable at farmer’s markets. One of the first states to promote farmer’s markets as hubs of preventative health, Massachusetts originally issued coupons to pregnant and breast-feeding women in the 1980s. Now similar nutrition programs are found in 36 states.

“The ‘veggie prescriptions’ are an innovative approach to improving the diets of nutritionally at-risk families,” says Scott Soares, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. “This program is important from a disease prevention perspective, and should translate into reduced healthcare costs.” It’s estimated that childhood obesity costs $14.1 billion annually in direct health expenses. Among adults, it costs $147 billion to treat obesity-related illness (Health Affairs 3/10).

While small, the Massachusetts program is considered a model. According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity has tripled over the past 30 years and puts kids at greater risk for high cholesterol and blood pressure, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and poor self-esteem. Overweight children are also more likely to become overweight or obese adults.

The program is off to a promising start. “About 200 people participated in the program this past and first year,” says Jeff Cole, executive director of the Massachusetts Federation of Farmers Markets and a partner in the veggie prescription effort. “More are expected to participate this coming season.”

 

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Fish Oil for Ailing Hearts?

People who suffer from heart failure, in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, may find that taking fish oil improves their response to treatment.

Researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine conducted a study involving 133 patients whose heart failure was controlled by medication. Some of the participants took 2 grams of fish oil daily; the others took a placebo. Heart function improved by 10.4% in the fish oil group, compared with 5% among the placebo takers. The hospitalization rate among the fish
oil group was significantly lower—6% compared with 30%.

The study results were published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. According to the American Heart Association, 5.7 million people have heart failure.

 

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Magnesium May Lower Diabetes Risk

One sign that someone may be developing diabetes is insulin resistance, in which the body’s cells stop responding to the hormone that controls blood sugar. Now a study suggests that taking magnesium supplements can decrease insulin resistance and help reduce the risk of diabetes development among overweight people.

Scientists in Germany gave either magnesium supplements or lookalike pills to 52 insulin-resistant, overweight volunteers for six months. Blood sugar levels improved by about 7% among the supplement takers, who also experienced improvements in blood pressure. Results were
published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.


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CALENDAR

National Colorectal
Cancer Awareness Month

March 2011

THE IDEA: To increase screening for colorectal cancer,
the third most common type, and awareness that this
disease is largely treatable with early detection

SPONSORED BY: Prevent Cancer Foundation

ACTIVITIES: Appearances by the Prevent Cancer Super
Colon, a walk-through educational display; Dialogue for
Action, a national conference that will take place in
Baltimore March 23-25

CONTACT: www.preventcancer.org, 800-227-2732

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QUOTE

For me, first, it’s finding quiet in my life–
and I do that through yoga and meditation.

—Mariel Hemingway

 

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Bouncing Back

It is a paradox that mental health experts have long tried to solve: Why do some children emerge triumphant from backgrounds filled with abuse or chaos while others, leading less challenging lives, grow into unhappy adults?

For French psychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik, it’s a personal question—he lost his parents to the concentration camps when he was five years old. After spending years working with children traumatized by abuse, war and other evils, he found that resilience—the ability to gracefully roll with life’s punches—makes all the difference.

In Resilience, (Tarcher/Penguin), Cyrulnik argues that this trait is within the reach of anyone who is willing to take on the daunting task of understanding both themselves and those who abused them. “Resilience means more than the ability to resist,” he says. “It also means learning how to live.”

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