Never in our country’s history was it more important to teach our children, who are now suffering epidemic rates of obesity, to eat fruits and vegetables every day.
But what if your kids think broccoli, bananas, beans, and other healthy fare are, well, “yucch”?
Turn “YUCCH” Into “Like”
You can actually turn “yucch” into “like,” discovered researchers at University College London.* They randomly assigned kids ages two to six and their parents into one of three groups.
In the first group, parents offered their child every day for two weeks a taste of a vegetable that the child had previously rated as “low” on the “like” scale.
In the second group, the parents received just general information about how important vegetables are for kids.
The third group (the control) group received no guidance at all.
After two weeks, the kids who were exposed daily to the vegetable actually increased their consumption of the food. They also increased their ranking of the vegetable, significantly. That didn’t happen in the other two groups.
In fact, among some of the daily veggie eaters, reported the scientists, the previously “untouchable” veggie had actually become a favorite food. And some parents noted that their children had grown to enjoy the daily tastings because they had “made food more fun.”
Yes, that old saying, “Try it, you’ll like it,” has a whole lot of truth!
* Appetite, 2003; 40:155.
Phoenix, AZ, March 3, 2006 – In a study presented today at the American Heart Association’s annual conference on Cardiovascular Disease, Epidemiology and Prevention, UCLA researchers reported that diet and exercise helped overweight children improve not only traditional risk factors for heart disease, like cholesterol, but also newly discovered risk factors produced by fat cells.
For the first time ever, researchers tracked beneficial changes in what they termed “novel” risk factors – chemicals that fat tissue churns out, called adipocyte-derived factors, that are directly linked with the growth of fatty streaks, or plaque build-up, in the coronary arteries.
“We’ve known for a long time that obesity is related to the development of heart disease, but we really didn’t know why. That’s partly because for years scientists thought fat tissue was dormant, just a storage tank for excess calories. Now we know it’s actually an endocrine organ, a very active factory that pumps out chemicals that stimulate the growth of plaque,” commented lead investigator Dr. James Barnard at UCLA Department of Physiological Science.
The scientists measured pre and post blood samples of overweight and obese youngsters, ages 9 to 15, participating in a two-week family program at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Aventura, Florida.
The kids were at Pritikin with their parents to learn how eat nutritiously (lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and moderate amounts of lean protein) and make physical fitness an enjoyable part of their lives.
After just two weeks of following the Pritikin Program, traditional risk factors for heart disease plummeted. Total cholesterol fell on average 21 percent, LDL “bad” cholesterol dropped 25%, and insulin levels fell 30 percent. The scientists also tracked dramatic improvements in fat-tissue-derived risk factors, such as leptin, which fell 57 percent, and TNFa, which dropped 43 percent.
Barnard and his team at UCLA were motivated to conduct their study because of research published in AHA’s journal Circulation in 2002 – autopsy studies of nearly 3,000 people aged 15 to 34 who had died of external causes like car accidents. The autopsies revealed that plaque build-up in the arteries begins as early as the teenage years, and the fatter the teenager, the more advanced the disease.
“Leaders nationwide, including Bill Clinton, are talking about the childhood obesity epidemic, but I’ve heard many parents say, ‘Well, being overweight is not such a big deal.’ Our new research shows that childhood obesity is very problematic. Fat tissue produces chemicals that we now know are directly correlated with the development of heart disease. Obese children are going to end up with heart disease far earlier in life – in their 30s and 40s, maybe even earlier,” cautions Dr. Barnard.
The good news, he emphasizes, is that lifestyle changes like those taught at the Pritikin Longevity Center can induce beneficial results, and in a very short period of time, just two weeks. What’s more, the kids didn’t need to lose a lot of weight before reaping remarkable rewards for their hearts.
“It’s a hopeful message for both kids and adults,” says Barnard. “Even if weight loss happens slowly, getting healthy happens very quickly.”
The Pritikin Family Program, held every summer since 2002 at the Pritikin Longevity Center, is lead by Pritikin’s physicians, dietitians, and exercise physiologists. “Our goal is teaching families how fun and rewarding healthy living can be,” says Director of Nutrition Jeffrey Novick, MS, RD. Activities including kid-friendly cooking classes, noncompetitive exercise classes, field trips to mall food courts to learn how to make good choices, tennis lessons, and afternoons at the beach.
Effect of a Short-Term Diet and Exercise Intervention in Children on Novel Risk Factors for Atherosclerosis.
R. James Barnard, Andrew K. Chen and Anna Jane Eliseo
Department of Physiological Science, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095
BACKGROUND:Autopsy studies indicate that atherosclerosis development begins as early as the first decade of life in humans. Consequently, lifestyle changes may mitigate the development and progression of atherogenesis early in life.
PURPOSE:To study a young population without documented atherosclerosis in order to determine the effects of a structured diet and exercise program on novel risk factors associated with the development of atherosclerosis.
METHODS:Boys and girls of varying levels of fitness and adiposity (n=20, age 13±0.5 years, BMI 30.9±2.0) were placed on a high-fiber, low-fat, low-cholesterol diet at the Pritikin 2-week residential program where food was provided ad libitum and daily aerobic exercise was performed for up to 2.5 hrs. Fasting serum levels of insulin, 8-isoprostane PGF2a (8-iso-PGF2a), and adipocyte-derived factors including adiponectin, leptin, TNFa and IL-6 were determined by sensitive enzyme immunoassays. Additionally, fasting lipid profiles and glucose levels were measured using automated enzymatic procedures.
RESULTS:After the 2-week program, significant decreases in BMI (29.7±1.9 vs. 30.9±2.0, p<0.01), total cholesterol (125±6.4 vs. 158±7.8 mg/dL, p<0.01), LDL-C (67.1±5.7 vs. 89.2±7.6 mg/dL, p<0.01, total cholesterol: HDL-C ratio (3.22±0.25 vs. 3.95±0.31, p<0.01), and triglycerides (82.0±7.7 vs. 134±15 mg/dL, p<0.01) were observed. Reductions in insulin (17.0±1.6 vs. 24.8±3.0 µIU/mL, p<0.01) and 8-iso-PGF2? (8.25±3.3 vs. 44.6±11 pg/mL, p<0.01) were observed in conjunction with decrements in leptin (11.89±4.06 vs 27.04±8.0 ng/mL, p<0.01), TNFa (1.3±0.2 vs 2.28±0.33 pg/mL, p<0.01) and IL-6 (1.07±0.11 vs 2.44±0.19 pg/mL, p<0.01). Adiponectin increased from 5.73±0.42 to 7.78±0.79 mg/mL, p<0.01.
CONCLUSION:A rigorous diet and exercise regimen can induce beneficial changes in novel risk factors for atherosclerosis, even in young individuals without documented atherosclerotic disease. Adipocyte-derived risk factors were altered with minimal weight loss while the subjects remained over-weight or obese.