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Claims of vitamin-fortified, sugary foods hard to swallow

by Boston Children's Hospital staff on February 24, 2010

cerealboxWalking down the cereal aisle at the supermarket, it’s impossible to miss the declarations of health benefits prominently located on the fronts of the colorful boxes. The Nutrition Facts Panel—a valuable consumer resource that lists a product’s sugar, salt, fat and calorie content—is usually printed on the side of the box. But do parents searching for a healthful choice even bother to read the nutritional information when the front of the box suggests the product is made of “whole grain goodness” and “immune-boosting” vitamins?

Unfortunately many don’t and that’s a real problem, says David Ludwig, MD, PhD, in a commentary co-authored with Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). “We’ve arrived at the deplorable situation of Cocoa Krispies being marketed as a way to protect children from H1N1 flu, because it has a few added vitamins,” says Ludwig.

Consumers tend to believe claims on the front of packages, according to recent research, and perceive health statements to be endorsed by the government. But few health claims on food products have any basis in science at all. And unlike medications, food product labels don’t have to disclose their potential ill effects, such as obesity from high added sugar content. Full story »

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This week on Thrive: Jan. 11 – 15

by Boston Children's Hospital staff on January 17, 2010

Children’s research made the Huffington Post’s Top 10 Medical Research Trends to Watch in 2010. We find out exactly how dangerous secondhand smoke is to children. Are American destined to be obese? Two studies show how important a good night’s sleep for your children is. A gene for a devastating kidney disease is discovered. Do you know the dangers of leaving your child in the car alone? Dr. Rich responds to comments on his Call of Duty post. Have Americans finally hit an obesity plateau? The Flu Fighters invade Facebook. Children’s sends a team into Haiti and we offer advice on how to talk to your children about this devastating event.

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Health headlines: Psychotherapy, lung infections and tanning beds

by Boston Children's Hospital staff on January 16, 2010

Tanning bedOther stories we’ve been reading:

Are kids’ films getting better or worse about safety? New studies say that psychotherapy can help teen girls avoid obesity. Young hunters are more likely to incure treestand injuries.

You don’t need a large amount of lead to damage kids’ kidneys. Adult’s breathing troubles can start in childhood. There are more lung infections due to kids’ pneumonia vaccines.

One-fourth of all teen girls have been involved in violence. England wants to keep kids away from tanning beds. Breast feeding could lower your child’s risk of mental health problems.

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Are Americans destined to be obese?

by Kristin Cantu on January 12, 2010

Can't button pantsA new study co-authored by Children’s obesity expert David Ludwig, MD, PhD, says that the majority of obese Americans will not lose a significant amount of weight unless there are serious societal changes concerning food. The article, published in JAMA, takes a look at the science involved in caloric intake versus physical activity and suggests that fundamental changes in America’s food supply and social infrastructure must take place in order to successfully take on the obesity epidemic.

Read more of what Ludwig has to say on trans-fats, taxing soda and junk food advertisements for kids.

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This week on Thrive: Jan. 4 – 8

by Kristin Cantu on January 10, 2010

Here’s a quick look at what Thrive was up to last week.

Children’s obesity expert gives tips on how to change your eating habits for the better. Mark Alexander, MD explores the question of whether or not high school athletes should be screened for heart disease. Children’s injury prevention expert gives tips on how to avoid a winter sports injury. Claire McCarthy, MD lists great resolutions for your family to live by. Do later bedtimes increase risk of teenage suicide and depression? A group of doctors is pushing for routine circumcision. Our Mediatrician discusses teenage boys and first-person shooter video games.

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Health headlines: Iron fortified rice, teen weight-loss surgery and math skills

by Boston Children's Hospital staff on January 9, 2010

school childrenOther stories we’ve been reading:

The FDA warned Nestle that its health claims on Juicy Juice are against the law. New iron fortified rice reduces anemia. Using kitchen spoons to measure medicine raises risk of dosing errors. Does folic acid during the late stages of pregnancy lead to children with asthma?

Showing kids how fast they eat may help them shape up. When it comes to teen weight-loss surgery, timing is everything. Tiny frogs are causing giant stomach aches in kids. What’s the best way to offer your kids vegetables at dinner?

Kids’ vaccines are making holiday visits less infectious. California has turned up 10 autism clusters in neighborhoods with high concentrations of white, highly educated parents. Abused children are much more likely to develop migraines as adults. When it comes to math skills, gender differences are hard to find.

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Top pediatric health stories of 2009

by Claire McCarthy on December 29, 2009

McCarthyClaire_dsc0435From swine flu to obesity to dangerous plastics, many issues that affect children’s health garnered media attention in the year 2009. Here’s a rundown of the some of the biggest and most important stories:


This is the story that caught the most attention—for good reason. Not only is the H1N1 influenza virus very contagious, it appears to particularly affect young people. H1N1 caused more pediatric hospitalizations and deaths than we usually see with the seasonal influenza virus, which is very scary for parents (and pediatricians!). The virus led to countless school closings—sometimes to control the spread, and sometimes because there weren’t enough teachers left to teach! Full story »

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Despite promises, junk food still advertised to kids

by David Ludwig, MD, PhD on December 21, 2009

froot loopsChildren’s diet quality has declined to shocking levels, directly fueling the obesity epidemic. There are, of course, many forces affecting the eating habits of children today, such as the widespread availability of junk food, an under-funded school lunch program, and busy, stressed families. However, TV advertising to children has undoubtedly played a major role. Saturday morning children’s shows have seemingly become little more than a continuous food commercial, with beloved, iconic cartoon figures like SpongeBob peddling junk foods during programming as well as ads.

In response to the threat of governmental regulation and legal action, major food companies like Kellogg, General Mills, ConAgra and PepsiCo banded together in 2006 to create a voluntary advertising code of conduct. Called the “Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative,” this policy aimed to “change the landscape of child-directed advertising” by encouraging “Better-for-You” foods. Full story »