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New National Academies Report Proposes WIC Changes

WIC, shorthand for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, is one of the largest nutrition programs in the United States. In 2000, the WIC program served about half of all US infants and about a quarter of children aged 1 through 4 years, along with many of their mothers. The packages have remained largely unchanged because the US Department of Agriculture initiated the program 30 years ago.


The new report from the National Academies proposes a number of changes to the WIC nutrition assistance program. It encourages participants to consume more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and it promotes breast-feeding, among other goals. If implemented, these revisions would be the most substantial changes to the mix of foods offered through WIC-more than any others since the supplemental nutrition program for low-income women, infants, and children was launched in 1974. The recommendations also are the first effort to apply the new dietary guidelines for Americans to a national food program. The study was sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture. Kudos to Nutrition Today Editorial Board member Suzanne P. Murphy, chair of the committee and research professor, from the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, University of Hawaii.


The Top 10 Food Trends of 2005

Food trends, once primed to focus on families, are reshaping as Baby-boomers become empty-nesters, and health-related products are booming worldwide, according to this month's issue of Food Technology magazine and its cover story, Top 10 Global Food Trends. Health became a key driver to the world's food marketplace in 2004. Do-it-yourself doctoring also is one of 10 major trends shaping today's consumer choices, according to the article. The Top 10 Food Trends are:


1. Quick Fix. Time to prepare food is still at a minimum, so a limited number of side dishes are prepared with entrees and ease of preparation is a major factor in eating at home.


2. Drive-and-Go. Take-out service at full-service restaurants is growing, and the combination of stress with a sense of entitlement is leading consumers' drive for more upscale foods.


3. Inherently Healthy. More people are eating more fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and yogurts.


4. Fancy. The premium foods market is projected to grow to nearly $100 billion before 2010. Wine and liqueurs are finding their way into crackers and drinks, and products for cocktails are hot.


5. Farm-friendly. Foods deemed to be closer to the farm are capturing consumers' dollars.


6. Layered Flavors. Layering flavors is sending sales of food such as cheeses, condiments, and ethnic foods soaring. Exotic fruit flavors such as starfruit, dragonfruit, and Kaffir lime continue to grow.


7. Grazing. Seven million vending machines are in the United States with 100 million daily customers and more healthy fare to choose from. The low-carb snack category is falling, but smaller portion sizes are gaining and gourmet snack selections are strong. Health-oriented fun kid snacks will be well received.


8. Low-, No-, and Reduced. With low-carb interest waning, consumers are returning to watching their fat and calorie intake. Low-fat tops the many health claims consumers now seek out.


9. Do-it-yourself Doctoring. Shoppers are trying to manage or treat conditions through diet. Whey peptides are playing a role in Europe in beverages formulated to reduce blood pressure. IFT's new Functional Foods Expert Report details the promise bioactive components in new products can have on health (see


10. Global Gangbusters. Convenience and ready-meals are accelerating worldwide. Fresh, chilled, ready-to-eat products are emerging domestically and dominate the United Kingdom, commanding 25% of the food market, excluding beverages. More flexible packaging (eg, pouches) is appearing. A majority of Southeast Asians eat take-out foods at least once a week, even more than Americans.



Orthorexia Nervosa: Does This Disorder Deserve Recognition?

A name has been given to an alarming new eating trend linked to the health industry's growing emphasis on the importance of getting the daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.


Orthorexia nervosa, a term coined by American physician Dr Steven Bratman, author of the book Health Food Junkies, refers to an unhealthy fixation with the health value and purity of food. In December 2003, American health fanatic Kate Finn, one of the first people to be diagnosed with orthorexia, died from heart failure brought on by suspected orthorexia-induced starvation.


While not yet an officially recognized disorder in the psychiatric literature, the disorder is similar to other serious dietary diagnoses such as anorexia nervosa. According to Dr Bratman, obsession with healthy food can progress to the point where it crowds out other interests and even becomes physically dangerous and orthorexia takes on the dimensions of a true eating disorder, like anorexia nervosa or bulimia.


But the so-called orthorexics are obsessed with food quality rather than with their body image, often avoiding caffeine, preservatives, salt, and sugar in their diet. While it is perfectly normal for people to change what they eat to improve their health or lose weight, orthorexics take the concern too far until it becomes a pathological obsession. Sufferers avoid most foods, can experience severe weight loss, and often become socially isolated as they refuse to eat the same everyday meals as friends and family.


Gastric Bypass Patients Fare Better as Program's Experience Increases

Risk of serious complications and death following gastric bypass surgery for morbid obesity may be reduced substantially when the surgery is performed at high-volume centers and the surgeons have reached the 100 case experience level, according to an article in the April issue of Archives of Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.


The number of surgical procedures for morbid obesity has increased by 644% in the last decade, according to background information in the article. Scott A. Shikora, MD, of Tufts-New England Medical Center, Boston, and colleagues analyzed the medical records of 750 consecutive morbidly obese patients who underwent laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery to evaluate the role of experience and patient volume in reducing the rate of complications in patients undergoing this type of surgery. Eighty-five percent of the patients were women, with a mean age of 41 years. Their body mass index (BMI, calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters) ranged from 32 to 86 (a BMI greater than 29.9 is considered obese) with an average BMI of 47.


The overall complication rate was 15% with a death rate of 0.3%, according to the authors. In contrast, for the first 100 cases, the overall complication rate was 26% with a death rate of 1%. This complication rate decreased to approximately 13% and was stable for the next 650 patients. Major complications also decreased after the first 100 cases. The duration of the operation also decreased. Overall mean operating time was 138 minutes, with a range of 65 to 310 minutes. It decreased from an average of 212 minutes for the first 100 cases to 132 for the next 650 and 105 minutes (with a range of 65-200 minutes) for the last 100 cases. These findings are supported by other published studies, the authors note.


Source: Arch Surg. 2005;140:362-367.


Obesity Grows Among the Affluent

Once considered primarily a problem of the poor, obesity is growing fastest among those making more than $60,000 a year, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association's Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.


Researchers compared data collected in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys in 1971-1974 and 2001-2002. It included data from Americans aged 20 years and older in 5 surveys and defined obesity as a BMI, derived from a formula that accounts for height and weight, of 30 or above. Researchers used a mobile van to reach the neighborhoods to measure individuals' heights and weights.


Family income was adjusted to US $2000 and was divided into income quartiles of below $25,000, $25,000 to $39,999, $40,000 to $60,000, and above $60,000. The same income categories were used for both surveys.


They found that the highest income category, above $60,000, had the greatest increase (276%) in obesity prevalence from about 10% in 1971-1974 to 27% in 2001-2002. Obesity prevalence in those making less than $25,000 was 23% in 1971-1974 and 33% in 2001-2002, an increase of 144%. For those earning between $25,000 and $39,999, the prevalence was 16.1% in 1971-1974 and 31.3% in 2001-2002, a 194% increase. For those earning between $40,000 and $60,000, the increase was about 209%. According to the researchers, the inverse relationship between income and obesity seen in earlier studies has eroded and obesity prevalence now is similar across all income categories, with obesity prevalence in the highest income group rapidly approaching that of the lowest income group.


Source: American Heart Association.