This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, April 24, 2014

salad
In this week’s news: Mondays are the new January 1; “sad desk lunch” is no way to live; and salt gets a sprinkling of controversy.

T.G.I. … Monday?
New Year’s Day is notorious for being the time for all kinds of resolutions we know we’ll break (or simply ignore). Now, a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that we treat Monday like a weekly January first. Cue Twilight Zone music. When researchers looked at health-related Google queries from 2004 to 2012, they found a consistent spike on Mondays and Tuesdays, followed by a steady decline through the rest of the week — and finished off with a big plunge on Saturday. Enter the Monday Campaigns, an initiative put forth by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications. To date, they’ve been keeping the Internet abuzz with Meatless Monday, now practiced in 31 countries worldwide. But there’s more to come, say the seize-the-Monday folks. Expect to see campaigns like Monday 2000, which encourages people to balance out their daily calorie counts, and a child-friendly Kids Cook Monday.

Step. Away. From. Your. Desk.
Did you know that 65 percent of Americans eat lunch at their desks or don’t take a break? Or that people who eat at their desks tend to eat more calories and snacks than those who eat out? Probably. Or you could have guessed. But don’t let that stop you from watching the hilarious new video from James Hamblin, MD, The Atlantic’s online health editor: “Sad Desk Lunch: Is This How You Want to Die?” The title speaks for itself, and if you like the video, check out Buzzfeed’s take. They made “the most delightful MD ever” into a gif.

Cafeterias Get Much-Needed Lunch Money
In order to provide healthier meals, 88 percent of U.S. school districts are in need of at least one piece of kitchen equipment, and 50 percent require some kind of infrastructure change, according to a recent report from Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Last Friday, the USDA took a big step toward shrinking those numbers by awarding $25 million in grants for healthy upgrades. The money will be split evenly among state agencies, and within states, it will be divided according to highest need.

Passing the Salt (and the Disagreement)
Hypertension affects 67 million Americans, and two-thirds of the population over 60; it’s no wonder we’re looking at population-wide ways to solve the problem. Earlier this week, Thomas Farley, MD, the former Commissioner of Health in New York City, penned an op-ed about the problem that leaned heavily on a new British study claiming to have linked a lower salt intake to a significant decline in heart attack and stroke risk. Well-intentioned advice, to be sure. The problem? The study itself. As countless experts pointed out (many in a New York Times follow-up), the data couldn’t have told the researchers anything about what eating salt did to health. Not only was it not randomized (meaning there was no way to measure cause and effect), but it also didn’t compare salt intake with lower health risks in the same people (essentially, it compared apples to oranges). Meanwhile, the Institute of Medicine recently issued a report saying that there is no scientific reason for Americans to strive to consume less than the CDC’s recommended 2,300 mg of salt a day (1,500 for those especially prone to high blood pressure). And while a 2011 JAMA study found no connection between salt and hypertension or heart disease, they did find a link going the other way (less salt, higher risk).  Notably, the CDC remains cautious on the salt question — and there’s still really no reason to bathe food in the stuff. Foods like blueberry muffins can contain higher amounts than a serving of potato chips, Farley points out.

Sara Reistad-Long writes about science, wellness and lifestyle. She is the co-author of The Big New York Sandwich Book and can be followed on Twitter: @sarareistadlong

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