Archive for May 28th, 2009

A License to Indulge

May 28th, 2009 | No Comments | Source: J. Consumer Research

Fast-food chains and vending machines offer more healthful food items than ever these days, and sales are up. Sales of burgers, fries and assorted junk food, that is.

ToheckwiththesaladGavan Fitzsimons may have figured out why. The Duke professor and his team concluded that simply seeing a salad on the menu empowers some consumers to select less healthy foods.

The scientists dubbed the phenomenon, “vicarious goal fulfillment.”

It seems that people can convince themselves a nutrition goal has been achieved by taking some small action, like considering a salad, without actually ordering it.
Fitzsimons’ team used a pre-test to identify people with particularly high levels of self-control regarding food choices. On the pre-test, they had consistently avoided French fries, the least healthy item on a test menu.

The team then asked subjects to select a food item from one of 2 pictorial menus. One menu offered up strictly junk: fries, chicken nuggets, and a baked potato with the fixins. The other menu had the same 3 items and a side salad.
Subjects shown the latter menu rarely chose the salad and went for the fries—the least healthy menu option—more frequently than those shown the salad-less menu.

The fascinating work appears in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“The presence of a salad on the menu has a liberating effect on people who value healthy choices,” Fitzsimons explained to BurrillReport.

“Simply seeing, and perhaps briefly considering, the healthy option fulfills their need to make healthy choices, freeing (them) to give in to temptation and make an unhealthy choice.”
The team concluded that schools and other establishments that are serious about promoting healthy behaviors better start deleting junk food from the menu altogether.



The Regulation of Tobacco

May 28th, 2009 | No Comments | Source: Washington Post

Last week, a Senate committee began fast tracking its version of a bill to regulate tobacco.

squashedThe bill’s sponsors, California Democrat Henry Waxman and Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy say they’ve got a filibuster-proof majority that supports it, and the Big O, who has been known to take a drag or 2, said he intends to sign it.

The legislation would permit the FDA to regulate the manufacturing and marketing of tobacco, a product used by 20% of Americans, killing a third of them.

“If this happens, and if the FDA uses its powers, it will be an enormous public health achievement,” said Matthew Meyers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The regulation will force the $89 billion tobacco industry to disclose the ingredients in its cancer-producers, and would allow the FDA to ban the most deadly chemicals contained in or produced by smoking cigarettes.

The bill will enable the FDA to cut nicotine levels in the smokes, perhaps to a point where the nasty leaf isn’t addictive, and require tobacco producers to increase warning label size from 30% to 50% of the carton package. 

Tobacco producers would also be prohibited from using terms like “light,” “mild,” and “low” unless they could prove the product was less harmful than the regular stuff. 

Remarkably, Altria supports the bill. It believes FDA approval will help it sell new products that are less deadly. The tobacco giant recently acquired US Smokeless Tobacco and is introducing a new line of, get this, spit-free smokeless tobacco products.

North Carolina Republican Richard Burr has vowed to fight the bill on behalf of his state’s stakeholders, RJ Reynolds and Lorillard. His alternative promotes reduced-risk tobacco products, which sounds like an oxymoron to us.

In Q1, 2009 alone, Altria spent $4.29 million to state its case regarding the bill, according to federal lobbying records. RJ Reynolds chipped in $1.59 million in the same period, and Lorillard paid $850,000.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids scraped together $157,000 and some coupons for free meals at KFC to lobby for its position.



Eating Disorders Balloon

May 28th, 2009 | No Comments | Source: AHRQ, Amednews

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is reporting an 18% increase in hospitalization rates for eating disorders between 1999 and 2006, and that’s not the whole story.

notaprettypictureAlthough women between the ages of 19 and 30 are still the most commonly affected group, hospitalization rates are growing faster in demographic categories not usually considered to be at risk.

In particular, hospitalizations for children younger than 12 grew 119% over the same period, while admissions among males rose 37%. Hospitalizations for people between the ages of 45 and 55 grew 48%.

“Many people in my field are seeing younger and younger people appearing more severely ill, and we’re seeing more atypical patients,” David Rosen told AMedNews. Rosen is a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of Michigan.

The study, based on data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, revealed there were 28,155 hospitalizations for eating disorders in 2006.

The incidence of more serious diagnoses also increased during the study period. Patients discharged with cardiac dysrhythmias jumped from 650 to 1,462, for example. The number of patients that sustained acute renal or liver failure increased from 99 to 216.

Mortality remained stable at 0.6%.

Some believe the trend may be explained by improved awareness and diagnostic acumen, but others worry it may be collateral damage from the effort to stem the obesity epidemic.

“BMI testing or weighing of kids may wind up triggering something even worse,” warned Edward Tyson, medical director of Austin’s Cedar Springs Eating Disorder Treatment Center.

“I have a lot of patients who start out wanting to get healthy, but they don’t keep things in balance with exercise and food. Eating disorders are all about being out of balance.”



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