Health & Fitness (205)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some of the nation's largest food companies have cut calories in their products by more than 6.4 trillion, according to a new study.
The study sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found between 2007 and 2012 the companies reduced their products' calories by the equivalent of around 78 calories per person per day. The total is more than four times the amount those companies had pledged to cut by next year.
Seventy-eight calories would be about the same as an average cookie or a medium apple, and the federal government estimates an average daily diet at around 2,000 calories. The study said the calories cut averaged out to 78 calories per day for the entire U.S. population.
The 2010 pledge taken by 16 companies - including General Mills Inc., Campbell Soup Co., ConAgra Foods Inc., Kraft Foods Inc., Kellogg Co., Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Hershey Co. - was to cut 1 trillion calories by 2012 and 1.5 trillion calories by 2015.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation signed on to hold the companies accountable, and that group hired researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to painstakingly count the calories in almost every single packaged item in the grocery store. To do that, the UNC researchers used the store-based scanner data of hundreds of thousands of foods, commercial databases and nutrition facts panels to calculate exactly how many calories the companies were selling.
The researchers aren't yet releasing the entire study, but they said Thursday that the companies have exceeded their own goals by a wide margin.
Dr. James Marks, director of the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said the group is pleased with the results but the companies "must sustain that reduction, as they've pledged to do, and other food companies should follow their lead."
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a nonpartisan philanthropic and research organization that works to improve the nation's health.
Even though the companies that made the commitment represent most of the nation's most well-known food companies, they sold only around a third of all packaged foods and beverages at the beginning of the study. Missing are many off-label brands sold under the names of retailers, and it's unknown whether those products have changed.
It is also unclear how the reduction in calories translates into consumers' diets. When the companies made the pledge in 2010, they said one way they would try and reduce calories would be to change portion sizes in an attempt to persuade consumers to eat less. The companies also said that they would develop new lower-calorie options and change existing products so they have fewer calories.
Evidence of those efforts are visible on any grocery store shelf. Many products now come in lower calorie versions, are baked instead of fried, or sold in miniature as well as larger versions.
Marks says he believes that companies' efforts to package smaller servings - 100 calorie packs of popular snacks, for example - and smaller cans of sugary drinks may have contributed to the reduction in calories. He says the main contributors most likely were the public's increasing willingness to buy healthier foods and companies responding to those consumers.
The companies involved are all part of an industry coalition of food businesses called the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation that has organized to help reduce obesity. The foundation pledged to reduce the calories as part of an agreement with a group of nonprofit organizations and made the 2010 announcement as part of first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign to combat childhood obesity.
Lisa Gable of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation says the study's findings "exceeded our expectations."
She said the companies achieved the goal by coming together and also competing to make new lower-calorie foods. Market studies have shown that many of the healthier foods have outperformed other products, she said.
"This is a very significant shift in the marketplace," Gable said.
Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter: HTTP://TWITTER.COM/MCJALONICK
CHICAGO (AP) -- Young teens aren't exactly embracing the government's Let's Move mantra, the latest fitness data suggest.
Only 1 in 4 U.S. kids aged 12 to 15 meet the recommendations - an hour or more of moderate to vigorous activity every day.
The results are based on about 800 kids who self-reported their activity levels and had physical exams as part of the 2012 National Youth Fitness Survey.
Government researchers won't call the results disappointing, but lead author Tala Fakhouri of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, "There's always room for improvement."
The CDC released partial results Wednesday from the fitness survey, which involved kids aged 3 to 15. Other results from the same survey are pending and include fitness data based on more objective measures including treadmill tests.
Fakhouri said the nationally representative results provide useful information for initiatives that aim to increase kids' fitness, including the Let's Move anti-obesity campaign launched by first lady Michelle Obama in 2010.
Kids in the survey reported on which physical activities they did most frequently outside of school gym class - basketball for boys and running for girls.
While few met guidelines established in 2008 for activity that raises the heart rate and makes you breathe harder, most said they did at least an hour of exercise at that level during the previous week. Overall, about 25 percent said they got an hour of that kind of exercise every day
Obese kids were less active than normal-weight girls and boys. Overweight girls were slightly less active than normal-weight girls, but levels were similar among overweight and normal-weight boys.
"It's definitely very concerning to see that our kids are engaging in such a limited amount of physical activity each day when we are still battling" an obesity epidemic, said Dr. Stephen Pont, an Austin, Texas, pediatrician and chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' section on obesity.
Data suggest obesity may have decreased slightly among some kids but the overall rate for children aged 2 to 19 is 17 percent, or about 12.5 million obese kids.
Pont said schools can do more to help by not cutting recess and giving kids more time for physical activity. He said research suggests kids who get physical education at school may do better academically.
Recent national data on kids' fitness levels is limited. A 2009-10 CDC survey involving kids ages 6 to 11 found about 70 percent met the physical activity guidelines, although levels dropped off among older kids in that age group. The results came from parents, who may be inclined to over-report how active their kids are because of "social desirability," the researchers said.
AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner can be reached atHTTP://WWW.TWITTER.COM/LINDSEYTANNER
CHICAGO (AP) -- Anti-smoking measures have saved roughly 8 million U.S. lives since a landmark 1964 report linking smoking and disease, a study estimates, yet the nation's top disease detective says dozens of other countries do a better job on several efforts to cut tobacco use.
The study and comments were published online Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This week's issue commemorates the 50th anniversary of the surgeon general report credited with raising alarms about the dangers of smoking.
In one study, researchers used national health surveys and death rates to calculate how many deaths might have occurred since 1964 if Americans' smoking habits and related deaths had continued at a pace in place before the report.
More than 42 percent of U.S. adults smoked in years preceding the report; that rate has dropped to about 18 percent.
The researchers say their calculation - 8 million deaths - equals lives saved thanks to anti-smoking efforts.
Their report also says tobacco controls have contributed substantially to increases in U.S. life expectancy. For example, life expectancy for 40-year-olds has increased by more than five years since 1964; tobacco control accounts for about 30 percent of that gain, the report says.
The conclusions are just estimates, not hard evidence, but lead author Theodore Holford, a biostatistics professor at Yale University's school of public health, said the numbers "are pretty striking."
Yet smoking remains a stubborn problem and heart disease, cancer, lung ailments and stroke - all often linked with smoking - are the nation's top four leading causes of death.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says about 443,000 Americans still die prematurely each year from smoking-related causes.
"Tobacco is, quite simply, in a league of its own in terms of the sheer numbers and varieties of ways it kills and maims people," Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC's director, wrote in a JAMA commentary.
Frieden said the United States lags behind many other countries in adopting measures proven to reduce tobacco use, including graphic health warning labels on cigarettes, high tobacco taxes and widespread bans on tobacco advertising.
"Images of smoking in movies, television and on the Internet remain common; and cigarettes continue to be far too affordable in nearly all parts of the country," Frieden wrote.
Frieden cited data showing 32 countries have done better at raising tobacco taxes, and at least 30 have adopted stronger cigarette warning labels. These include Australia, Brazil, Canada and Uruguay, and research has suggested that gruesome labels can help persuade smokers to quit.
Tobacco companies have fought U.S. efforts to adopt similar labeling and an appeals court last year blocked a Food and Drug Administration mandate for stronger labels.
Other articles and studies in the journal show:
-Smoking declined an average 25 percent among men in 187 countries from 1980-2012, and by 42 percent among women. Because of population growth, the number of smokers worldwide has increased and rates remain high in many countries. More than half of men smoke in Russia, Indonesia and Armenia, and more than 1 in 4 women smoke in Chile, France and Greece.
-Smoking rates among U.S. registered nurses dropped to 7 percent in 2010-11, from 11 percent in 2003, and remained low among doctors, at just below 2 percent. The rate was 25 percent among licensed practical nurses, who have less advanced education than registered nurses.
-Drugs including nicotine patches, Chantix and Zyban, work better than dummy treatments at helping smokers quit at least temporarily but many often resume after a year.
-Electronic cigarettes may help some smokers quit but conclusive research is needed and their long-term safety is unknown. Users inhale nicotine vapor from the battery-operated devices and they could lead to nicotine addiction among nonsmokers, according to a review article.
AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner can be reached atHTTP://WWW.TWITTER.COM/LINDSEYTANNER
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has refused a group of doctors' request to block implementation of the nation's new health care law.
Chief Justice John Roberts turned away without comment Monday an emergency stay request from the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. and the Alliance for Natural Health USA.
They asked the chief justice Friday to temporarily block the law, saying Congress had passed it incorrectly by starting it in the Senate instead of the House. Revenue-raising bills are supposed to originate in the lower chamber. They also wanted blocked doctor registration requirements they say will make it harder for independent non-Medicare physicians to treat Medicare-eligible patients.
Still pending is a decision on a temporary block on the law's contraceptive coverage requirements, which was challenged by a group of nuns.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Acting with a court order, the family of a 13-year-old California girl declared brain dead after a tonsillectomy has had her taken from a California hospital to be cared for elsewhere, the family's attorney says.
Jahi McMath was moved by a critical care team while attached to a ventilator but without a feeding tube, Christopher Dolan told The Associated Press.
She left from Children's Hospital of Oakland in a private ambulance shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday, Dolan said. Her destination was not immediately disclosed.
"It was a very tense situation," said Dolan. "Everybody played by the rules."
David Durand, the hospital's Chief of Pediatrics, said the girl was released to the coroner. The coroner then released her into the custody of her mother, Nailah Winkfield, as per court order, Durand said in an email.
On Friday Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo said Jahi could be transferred under an agreement with Children's Hospital and the girl's mother will be held accountable for developments that could include Jahi going into cardiac arrest.
The Alameda County coroner's office issued a death certificate for the girl Friday but said the document is incomplete because no cause of death has been determined pending an autopsy.
"They may have issued one but we don't have it. We don't think she's dead," Dolan said. "We got all the necessary legal paperwork in order to get Jahi out of there." He said the deal to move the girl came together Sunday.
A court injunction prohibiting Children's Hospital from removing the ventilator that has kept Jahi's heart pumping since her Dec. 9 surgery expires at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Dolan wouldn't specify where the girl was taken but he said "they are going to care for her, respect her and love her. And they're going to call her Jahi, not `the body.'"
He told reporters at his office in San Francisco late Sunday that the girl will be getting a feeding tube before she is transferred to a permanent facility.
Dolan asked for privacy for the caregivers because the issue has raised such strong emotions.
"It's brought out the best in people and the worst in people," he said. "We've had people make threats from around the country. It's sad people act that way, so for Jahi's safety and for those around her, we will not be saying where she went or where she is."
The girl's uncle, Omari Seeley, told reporters that "we're very grateful. We're very proud. We want to thank everyone who supported us, everyone who stood in our corner, everyone who prayed for us, everyone who donated to make this possible. Without you guys, none of this would be possible."
After spending weeks in a very public and tense fight with the hospital, Jahi's family does not plan to disclose any more about their plans for her continued care until she is resettled, her uncle, Omari Sealey, told reporters on Friday.
The hospital has argued since before Christmas that Jahi's brain death means she is legally dead and she should be disconnected from the ventilator. It also has refused to fit her with a feeding tube or a breathing tube that would help stabilize her during a move, saying it was unethical to perform medical procedures on a dead person.
Hospital spokesman Sam Singer said officials were not informed where the girl was being taken.
"We hope that the family finds peace in this very, very tragic story," he said.
Winkfield, refusing to believe her daughter is dead as long as her heart is beating, has gone to court to stop the machine from being disconnected. She has wanted to transfer Jahi to another facility and hoped to force Children's Hospital either to insert the tubes or to allow an outside doctor to do the procedures.
Grillo on Friday rejected the family's move to have the hospital insert the tubes, noting the girl could be moved with the ventilator and intravenous fluid lines she has now. He also refused to compel the hospital to permit an outside doctor perform the procedures on its premises.
Dolan said Friday the family has located an unaffiliated physician to put in the tubes and that an outpatient clinic in New York that treats people with traumatic brain injures has expressed willingness to care for Jahi.
Jahi went into cardiac arrest while recovering from surgery to remove her tonsils, adenoids and uvula along with bony structures from her nose and throat and palate tissue. Three doctors have declared the girl brain dead based on exams and tests showing no blood flow or electrical activity in either her cerebrum or the brain stem that controls breathing.
Multiple outside doctors and bioethicists observing the case have confirmed that a patient in that condition meets the legal criteria for death and has no chance of recovering.
The judge earlier this week ordered Children's Hospital to keep Jahi on the ventilator until Jan. 7 at 5 p.m. He said Friday that he would dissolve the injunction as soon as Winkfield assumes custody of her daughter's body.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- A man who allegedly stole human brain samples from a medical history museum was arrested after a California man who bought some of the tissue online alerted authorities.
David Charles, 21, was arrested Dec. 16 after investigators were tipped off by a San Diego man who became suspicious about six jars of brain tissue he'd bought on eBay for $600.
Charles faces theft and other charges. It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney.
Marion County court documents allege Charles broke into the Indiana Medical History Museum several times over the past year and stole jars of preserved human tissues, including brain samples, from long-dead psychiatric patients.
The museum is on the grounds of a former state psychiatric hospital, Central State Hospital, which closed in 1994. The museum's director said the tissues are from autopsies spanning from roughly the 1890s to the 1940s.
"A museum's mission is to hold these materials as cultural and scientific objects in the public interest. To have that disturbed - to have that broken - is extraordinarily disturbing to those of us in the museum field," the museum's executive director, Mary Ellen Hennessey Nottage, told The Indianapolis Star (HTTP://INDY.ST/1BBGS2U ).
Indianapolis police had investigated several break-ins at the museum's storage facility before the San Diego man helped lead police to Charles. That man called the Indianapolis museum after noticing labels on the containers that he bought on eBay, court documents state.
Indianapolis police detectives traced the transactions and eventually spoke to the seller. Police said that seller had obtained the brain matter from Charles.
Charles was arrested during a police sting after the eBay middleman arranged a meeting in a parking lot. Court documents state that the day before his arrest, Charles had stolen 60 jars of human tissue from the museum.
Nottage, who said she's grateful much of the stolen material has been returned. She also said she spoke to the San Diego man who bought the six jars.
"He just said he liked to collect odd things," she told The Star.
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, HTTP://WWW.INDYSTAR.COM
MIAMI (AP) -- The so-called "young invincibles" are so important to the success of the Affordable Care Act that supporters and detractors are spending millions to reach them with racy ads, social media campaigns and celebrity endorsements. The president is even (gasp) asking their mothers to help convince them to sign up for insurance.
The federal government and states running their own exchanges have launched marketing efforts for this crucial demographic of healthy young adults, but it's unclear if the messages are getting through.
Eric Fisher, a 28-year-old from Salt Lake City, said he still hasn't seen any of the social media campaigns - one of which targets Utah residents with images of people snowboarding and rock climbing.
He tried to sign up online when the federal marketplace first launched but couldn't because of the long wait times and other website glitches. He said he'll try again at some point. He added that the historic health care overhaul isn't a topic he and his friends spend much time talking about.
"It's not like a coffee table conversation," Fisher said.
According to a recent Harvard survey, many of Fisher's peers are undecided.
A poll by Harvard's Institute of Politics shows about 40 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 are on the fence about whether to sign up, with the rest split fairly evenly between those likely to enroll and those who probably won't.
The survey of 2,000 young adults was conducted from Oct. 30 to Nov. 11, after the first month of enrollment on the health care exchanges and when sign-up problems were at their peak.
Consisting of healthy college students and twenty-somethings, the so-called "young invincible" demographic is the holy grail of the Affordable Care Act. Insurers need their participation to offset the costs of covering older, sicker Americans. If enough young people decide not to buy insurance through state or federal marketplaces, it could throw off the market's equilibrium and cause insurance rates to rise dramatically the following year.
Federal officials haven't released detailed demographic information on who's enrolled so far, so it's not clear how many young people have signed up.
Ad campaigns in many states are courting undecided young adults. In Colorado, a nonprofit group created a series of provocative "got insurance?" ads. One features a blonde standing next to a life-sized cut-out of celebrity heartthrob Ryan Gosling with the caption, "Hey girl, you're excited about easy access to birth control and I'm excited about getting to know you. She got insurance." Another touting "Brosurance" encourages men doing a keg stand not to tap into their beer money to cover medical bills. When the exchange launched, models wearing nothing but underwear and "Get Covered" signs passed out fliers in downtown Denver.
Arizona and Utah ads targeting weekend warriors and other athletes note the risks of getting hurt without health insurance.
Shmuel Johnson, who works in Los Angeles at a small sound studio, hasn't seen any ads or perused the state's health exchange.
"There's this elitist attitude that (politicians) think they know what's better for us than ourselves and that's part of why I take issue with this. I'm being forced to do something that's not necessarily in my best interest," said Johnson, a 31-year-old who's never had insurance. "I don't need insurance, man. I'm healthy."
He'll wait until March to enroll and says he'll select the cheapest, lowest-level of coverage available simply to avoid the fine. Experts expect many young adults, like Johnson, to wait until March.
In 2012, 18 million 19 to 34-year-olds lacked insurance - or 27 percent of all people in that age group, according to U.S. census data.
The Obama administration is making the rounds on college campuses to encourage people to sign up and has enlisted celebrities including Lady Gaga and Kerry Washington in its Get Covered social media campaign. Jennifer Hudson and Olivia Wilde were featured in skits pushing the Affordable Care Act on the humor website FunnyorDie.com. In the latest push, an Obama impersonator encourages young adults to tell their friends to get covered in an online rap.
The president himself recently told a group of mothers visiting the Oval Office that: "Moms can tell young people who think they're invincible that they're not and prod them to at least get information."
California state exchange officials even tried to persuade women to pay the first month's premium as a Christmas gift to their adult children and grandchildren.
Experts say engaging young invincibles requires a nuanced touch. They prefer to talk with their peers about pragmatic things they can do to impact the world, but aren't interested in ideological debates, said Morley Winograd, author of 3 books on millenials, including "Millenial Momentum."
But the cost of coverage will play the biggest role, experts say.
More than 3 million young adults have health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act because they remained on their parents' health insurance, according to the feds. The law extended the age that children can stay on their parents' plan to 26.
Joshua Benson stayed on his parents' insurance until he turned 26 last year. After that, Benson, who had his pancreas removed and needs daily insulin for his Type 1 diabetes, struggled to find coverage. He was either denied or quoted $2,000 monthly premiums, said the South Florida resident, who works part-time as a grocery store cashier.
He recently enrolled in a platinum plan with no deductible that costs him $170 a month and even covers his endocrinologist. The federal government kicks in another $200 a month.
Benson says he was amused by the Funnyordie.com skits, but said many other ads "are focusing more on getting our attention than actually giving us any valid information."
On the other side of the aisle, groups that oppose the health overhaul such as Generation Opportunity are spreading their message at college tailgate parties. The organization gained a following after disturbing-by-design social media videos featuring a creepy Uncle Sam popping up at gynecological and proctology exams went viral. The tagline urged young adults to keep big government out of their personal health decisions.
The group's recent tailgate party at the University of Miami had all the markings of the South Beach club scene: hired glossy-haired models handing out swag, free alcohol and a sea of sweaty twenty-somethings bumping and grinding to a live DJ.
Mette Jensen, a 22-year-old student, says she supports "Obamacare" even though she signed a petition against it.
"Well, why not. I love free stuff."
Follow Kelli Kennedy on Twitter at WWW.TWITTER.COM/KKENNEDYAP
Associated Press writers Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City, Utah and Gillian Flaccus from Los Angeles contributed to this report.