News from Shape Up America!
April 2005
Shape Up America! Newsletter


Visit to learn about the new Food Guide Pyramid. The new Pyramid emphasizes: Activity, Moderation, Personalization, Proportionality, Variety and Gradual Improvement. On this website you can learn about the food groups that deliver essential nutrition: Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Milk, Meat & Beans, and Oils. Check it out!

We receive many inquiries about foods and beverages sold in schools. Some nutritionists believe that with respect to beverages, only low-fat or skim milk (plain or chocolate-flavored) or water should be offered to school children. Others feel that 100% juice can also be offered, but juice can present a problem. Although 100% orange, grapefruit, tomato or vegetable juice offer significant quantities of valuable nutrients, other juices such as 100% grape juice or 100% apple juice do not. So consulting the Nutrition Facts label is a wise idea when making decisions about which beverages to stock.

In general, the goal is to discourage the consumption of foods and beverages of high energy (or calorie) density and minimal nutritional value -- but how do you figure this out? Some people define nutritional value in terms of energy density and micronutrient delivery. The goal here is to encourage the selection of foods that are a good source of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and fiber, but are of LOW energy density, that is they deliver fewer calories per serving.

How do you know if a food is a good source of micronutrients? You can use the Nutrition Facts label and apply the "5 - 20 Rule." If the Nutrition Facts label says that a food offers 5% or less of the daily value (DV) of a micronutrient, then that food IS NOT a good source of that micronutrient. On the other hand, if the label says the food offers 20% or more of the DV for a micronutrient, then the food IS a good source of that micronutrient.

How do you figure out the Energy Density or E.D. of a food? Dr. Barbara Rolls defines the E.D. of a food based on the "Nutrition Facts" label found on that food. E.D. is calculated as the calories in one serving divided by the weight (in grams) of that serving. If one food has an E.D. of 1.0 and another has an E.D. of 2.0, you will get twice as many calories from one serving of the second food. So the second food, with the higher E.D., is more energy (or calorie) dense. Since virtually all foods sold in vending machines will carry a Nutrition Facts label, the E.D. of those foods can easily be calculated and compared. Calculating the ED of foods sold in school vending machines would be a good math and nutrition exercise for school students.

In her book, Volumetrics, Dr. Rolls has described four categories of E.D.: Very Low E.D. is less than 0.6 Low E.D. is 0.6 to 1.5 Medium E.D. is 1.5 to 4.0 High E.D. is 4.0 to 9.0

Remember that even though you want to encourage consumption of foods with a lower E.D., some foods with a higher E.D. may turn out to be a good source of micronutrients. So you need to balance the results of the 5 - 20 Rule with the E.D. of a food before you make your final decision about a food.

Watching less TV can result in improved weight management if you routinely substitute even light activity for sitting in front of the tube. This is true for adults as well as children. TV TurnOff Week is April 25 through May 1. Please visit TVTURNOFF.ORG for more information and step by step instructions on how to organize TV TurnOff events in your community. You can also call 202-233-9220

Reduce TV and all recreational screen time (gameboys, computer games, video or DVD viewing, etc.) to less than 2 hours per day. Children age 3 and under should watch no TV or videos whatsoever.

You may think your eyes are pretty reliable when it comes to estimating how much food you've eaten, but a clever study by Brian Wansink [Obesity Research 2005; 13:93-100] shows you how easy it is to be fooled. Study subjects were asked to eat a bowl of soup, not realizing that as they ate their soup with a spoon, the bowl was imperceptibly filled, automatically replacing some of the soup as it was consumed. The unsuspecting subjects wound up eating 73% more soup from the trick bowls than control subjects eating from normal bowls. The overeaters were asked to rate how full they felt and the results showed they felt no more full than the control subjects who ate so much less soup!

Why is this study so important? Because of supersizing - this is a standard marketing technique in restaurants, movie theaters, donut shops and elsewhere. The size of portions has been increasing steadily over the past several decades, especially for foods offered outside the home. Since most of us eat or drink all of what is set before us, the result is habitual overconsumption - leading to obesity.

The lessons of this study: (1) Don't feel compelled to clean your plate (or empty your soup bowl). (2) Practice the Asian custom of always leaving some food on your plate at the end of a meal. (3) Eat slowly and mindfully - know that you must be vigilant to avoid overeating.

We were recently stuck traveling from 5 in the morning until 5 in the evening, without a break for a regular meal. On the final leg of the journey, a flight from Denver, CO to Newark, NJ, the flight attendants offered us the opportunity to spend $5 to purchase a "snack box". Because most of the foods in the box carried a nutrition label, we were able to determine that the snack box contained more than 1000 calories, which far exceeds what you would expect for an entire meal, much less a snack! Furthermore, if you use the "5 - 20 Rule" to evaluate the nutritional value of the various foods in the snack box, you learned that they delivered very little in the way of nutritional value. For those who are concerned about weight management, the airlines are certainly NOT a member of your support group. The Lesson: When you travel, be sure to plan ahead so that you are not in a position where you have to order a snack box to ward off hunger.

You may be following the controversy surrounding fitness versus fatness. One school of thought claims that physical fitness offsets the negative effects of obesity. They also argue that thin people who are unfit face a disease risk that is just as high as that associated with obesity. The other school of thought argues that the disease risks of fatness outweigh the benefits of fitness, and that the argument is beside the point since so few obese individuals are fit. In an ongoing study of more than 116,000 women between the ages of 30 to 55, Frank Hu and his colleagues took another look at this issue.

In this study, fatness was assessed by using the body mass index (BMI). They also examined the physical activity levels of these women over a 24 year period to see which is more important - fitness or fatness - in predicting premature death. What they found is that a higher BMI predicted a higher risk of death regardless of the level of physical activity. High levels of physical activity were found to have beneficial effects on health, but higher levels of physical activity did NOT eliminate the higher risk of premature death associated with obesity

After 24 years of studying these women, 10,282 deaths occurred. Here is how the data for the four groups of women stacked up:

Group 1 was The Standard Group: These lean (BMI <25), active (>3.5 hrs/week) women had the lowest risk of death, so this group is the standard for comparison purposes. Group 2: Lean, inactive women had a risk that was 50% higher than the Standard Group. Group 3: Obese (BMI>30), active women faced a nearly doubled risk of death compared to the Standard Group Group 4: Obese, inactive women faced the highest risk of all, which was nearly 2.5X greater than the risk of the Standard Group.

The Lesson: Both weight management and physical activity are important for good health and longevity. [Reference: Hu et al. New England J Medicine 2004; 351:2694-2703]

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