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Kristina Lewis, MD, MPH, SM

Despite a good run of over 50 years in the business, McDonald’s decided late in 2016 that the services of its friendly, funny clown, Ronald McDonald, were no longer required. The clown, it seems, had become a threat to public health. Why? Not because he was pushing trans fats on toddlers, selling sodas to six-year-olds, and hawking hamburgers to high-schoolers. Rather, this sudden call to action by McDonald’s execs was out of grave concern that Ronald might be.......scaring people (Gasp!!) After a series of creepy clown sightings across the United States last fall, it was felt that Ronald’s continued presence as a McDonald’s ambassador might be upsetting to children.

 
 
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Whatever your take on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Syrian refugee crisis, or the bailout of Wall Street, there is probably at least one area where we can (mostly) agree that the Obama Administration has earned high marks over the past 8 years – Obesity. Michelle Obama, with her “Let’s Move” campaign, has been a champion for healthful dietary choices and physical activity, with a strong focus on obesity prevention in children. As great as this has been for those of us who research, treat, or are generally passionate about obesity, the era is now coming to an end. Entering the heart of the 2016 presidential campaign, I often find myself wondering – how will Obama’s successor deal with this important issue? Will the nation’s current laser focus on health and wellness fade into the background as a new family, with new issues to promote, moves into the White House?

 
 
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by Kristina Lewis MD, MPH, SM


Beginning on December 1 in New York City, food items that are extremely high in sodium acquired a warning label. Specifically, any item that contains more than a full day’s worth of recommended sodium (>2300mg) will now have to be labeled with a somewhat innocuous image of a salt shaker, and the slightly less-subtle warning message: “High sodium intake can increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease and stroke”. 

 
 
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With the recent news that the FDA has demanded that trans fats –fats found in margarine, and in many processed foods as partially hydrogenated oil -- be removed from the US market within 3 years, I was afraid that my mother had been correct in telling me to limit my fat intake while I was growing up. As a teenager growing up in the 1970s, she was coming of age when the first set of dietary guidelines called for Americans to limit how much fat they ate.  This advice stuck with her through adulthood when she eventually became a mother and did her best to raise healthy kids.


 
 
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In 2014, Mexicans purchased 137 liters of soda per person – that’s more than 1 liter every 3 days. (Only three countries consume more soda per capita -- Argentina, the United States, and Chile). In 2012, sugary drinks accounted for an astounding 17% of total daily calories consumed among Mexican children and 19% among Mexican adults. Mexico also has the highest overweight and obesity rates in the world, coming in at 72% of its citizens as either overweight or obese, just above the US. In response, Mexico has aggressively implemented policies to address excessive sugary drink consumption and overweight/obesity. In January 2014, Mexican lawmakers implemented a tax of 1 peso (around 7 cents) per liter (about a 10% tax) on any non-dairy, non-alcohol drink with added sugar. Taxes like these are often referred to as “soda taxes” but usually cover more than just soda, as the Mexican tax does. They also passed a companion 8% tax on unhealthy snack food, covering “salty and other snacks, confectionery products, chocolate and products derived from cacao, puddings and flans, candy, peanut butter and hazelnut butter, ice cream, and popsicles.” 

 
 
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by Paul Werth
, MA

A growing body of research has uncovered unfair treatment of overweight employees when their work performance is being evaluated. Examples include lack of fairness in hiring decisions as well as promotion, predicted success, suitability, or performance evaluations. Interactions between overweight and gender salary inequities have also been uncovered. One study by Kennedy and Homant reported that weight stigma in the workplace may be stronger than stigma towards mental illness or past felony conviction.

 
 
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by Lauren Fiechtner, MD

Is it fair to fine parents if their child with obesity does not lose weight? Lawmakers in Puerto Rico have proposed a bill that would do just that. Under the proposed bill, teachers would identify children with obesity and refer them to a counselor who would develop a diet and exercise plan. If the child does not lose weight in 6 months, the families would be fined $500. If in a year success still eludes, then the fines could increase to $800.

 
 
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by Avik Chatterjee, MD

When I first met him, Mr. Smith had just moved into a motel room re-purposed as a homeless shelter, with his four children. He was anxious and distracted, his eyes darting from me to the door, to the children’s clothes folded up on the bed.

“This morning I had to get my kids to school, meet with my housing worker, figure out why MassHealth won’t accept my application, and to top it all off, I know my blood pressure and blood sugar are out of control. Doc, I won’t lie to you, life’s been so difficult this past year, I haven’t taken my medications at all.”


 
 
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by Jason Block, MD, MPH


This post will also be posted on the Eperspective blog from the Institute of Food Technologists.

The long-awaited final regulations for calorie labeling were released on December 1, 2014. These regulations come 4+ years after the law requiring them passed, as part of the Affordable Care Act. The regulatory verdict from the US Food and Drug Administration is clear: Calories will be everywhere. Nearly all chain food establishments that sell “restaurant-type food” and have 20 or more sites nationally will have to post calories on their menus. Despite early signals that some food establishments might be exempt, the final regulations state that fast-food restaurants, full-service restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores, movie theaters, bakeries, convenience stores, vending machine operators, and yes, bowling alleys must comply. Schools are pretty much the only entities that aren’t included. The regulations give establishments until December 2015 to post calories; vending machine operators have until December 2016.


 
 
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by
Jason Block, MD

I’m a rabid New Orleans Saints fan. Raised in Louisiana, I started going to games as a young child, joining my grandfather, dad, brother and others. I have reveled in their highs (in the last few years) and despaired in their lows (many, many over their history). I even went to the Super Bowl in 2010 when the Saints won.  Needless to say, I have a Drew Brees jersey and consider him to be one of the greats. He is a future Hall of Famer, a remarkable community asset, and a true leader. So what does Drew Brees have to do with the obesity epidemic? In one word: endorsements.