HEADLINES / TRENDS l STATS l RESEARCH l MEDIA l PEOPLE

June 2012

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MyPlate at One Year

It was last year at this time that the US Department of Agriculture introduced MyPlate, the icon that replaced the food pyramid. The idea: Simplify the USDA’s graphical approach to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans because many consumers found the pyramid confusing.

How is MyPlate doing? The USDA, while acknowledging that one year isn’t a long time to change people’s eating behaviors, is pleased nevertheless. “We found an engaging, familiar symbol, the plate,” says Robert Post, PhD, deputy director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. “We have a simple icon supported by a robust educational initiative.”

The heart of that educational effort is www.ChooseMyPlate.gov and SuperTracker, which helps people create personalized nutrition and exercise plans. Post says the site has 34,000 million page views and almost 700,000 regular SuperTracker users, and that the agency anticipates developing a MyPlate mobile app.

MyPlate has company; other groups have issued icons designed to promote a healthier approach to eating. One such group is Oldways (www.oldwayspt.org), which focuses on “traditional foods and heritage diets” through pyramids that cover Mediterranean, Asian, Latin and African foodways (plus a pyramid for vegetarians). Oldways president Sara Baer-Sinnott says MyPlate is better than the old USDA pyramid, adding, “Any tool like this is accompanied by education, which I think they’re
working really hard at.”

Oldways emphasizes whole grains in its pyramids. But Baer-Sinnott notes the while the USDA promotes that half the grains be whole, “the word used on MyPlate just says ‘grains.’” What’s more, “you can’t really cook without healthy oils,” which don’t appear on MyPlate, and “‘dairy’ in
a glass to the side implies a glass of milk and not everyone needs a glass of milk.”

Others don’t believe the switch to MyPlate will help at all. “The shape of the icon is irrelevant,” says Michele Simon, JD, MPH, a public health lawyer who blogs at Appetite for Profit (www.appetiteforprofit.com) and has written a book of the same name (Nation Books). Simon says the USDA has two tasks, health promotion and support of the US food industry, and “the latter mission tends to trump the former. We should be asking, ‘What does it take to shift our agricultural policies to support a health food system?’”

Post says education can help drive such a shift by convincing people to eat better. “Over time, when food demands change, we anticipate that changes in agricultural policy will occur,” he explains.
What can’t be determined after a year is how successful MyPlate will be at driving change in a country where more than a third of all adults are already obese. “We’re in a crisis and it’s only going to get worse,” says Simon. “It’s about changing our whole mindset of what food is.”

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Resveratrol Relative May

Inhibit Fat Cells

In their efforts to stem the obesity epidemic, researchers are studying cellular processes that lead
to excess body fat. Now one study team has discovered that piceatannol, a relative of the resveratrol in red wine, may interfere with the ability of fat cells to develop.

Scientists at Purdue University found that this compound alters the genetics of baby fat cells, known as preadipocytes, which keeps them from maturing and accumulating fat.

Study results have been reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Like its more famous cousin, piceatannol is found in red wine and grapes. It is also present in Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), a source of supplemental resveratrol.

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Stand Up for a Longer Life

Need a reason to step away from your computer for a minute? Consider this: People who sit for 11 or more hours a day are 40% more likely to die over the following three years—even if they are physically active otherwise.

An Australian research team, writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine, came to that conclusion after analyzing data from that country’s 45 and Up Study, an ongoing investigation into healthy aging. The information on health status, habits and other factors came from more than 222,000 people.

The researchers found a sharp increase in mortality risk after 11 hours of total daily sitting, but say
that spending even 8 to 11 hours in a seat raised a person’s risk of dying by 15% compared with people who sit fewer than four hours a day.

Not only do many people sit down all day at work, but the researchers note that the average adult spends 90% of his or her lesiure time seated.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 40% of all Americans don’t exercise at all, while another 31% don’t get the recommended 30 minutes a day, five days a week of moderate exercise.

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Quote

“It’s not luck, it’s not fairy dust, it’s not good genes.
It’s killing myself for an hour and a half
five days a week, but what I get
out of it is relative to what I put into it.
That’s what I try to do in all areas of my life.”

—Gwyneth Paltrow
on how she keeps her shape with exercise.

 

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