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Newsbites: March 9

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Recall last week when Prince Charles bad mouthed McDonald's. As I'm sure you had predicted there's been some backlash against Chuck. But not from McDonald's so much as from the British media. Various British newspapers told the Prince to "Burger Off" and pointed out the Prince's own organic line of Duchy's Original Cornish pastries have more fat, calories and sodium than a Big Mac. So is the pot calling the kettle black?

On a related note since we're talking about fast food, a new bill has been introduced to Congress that would require the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to extend and update nutrition guidelines to include all foods sold outside of the school meal program. This would include anything sold in vending machines, student stores and a la carte lines. Currently, USDA really only sets nutrition standards for full meals sold in the cafeteria. Schools can pretty much sell whatever they want anywhere else on campus; candy, fast food, chips, sweets, full sugar beverages calories and so on. Of course districts can decide at the local level to pass policies that restrict the sale of these less nutritious items (i.e. LAUSD); some have done so while many have not.

The bill is of course a reaction to the childhood obesity epidemic. If it ends up passing, this could mean sweeping changes across the country in all of our schools. What are your thoughts? (FYI Senator Tom Harkin (D) Iowa introduced the bill and it is supported by Senator Richard Luger (R) Indiana.)

And here's some news that will certainly provide more ammo for Harkin's school nutrition bill. Non-diet full calorie sugary beverages are associated with higher calorie intake and weight gain. No duh! But having the science to back it up makes it more compelling. A review of 88 studies found strong evidence linking sugary drinks and weight gain. The review also found that milk and fruit intake seems to go down with consumption of these beverages. And if that's not enough bad news, the authors of this study go so far as to say there is “the possibility that soft drinks increase hunger, decrease satiety or simply calibrate people to a high level of sweetness that generalizes to preferences in other foods,”. That translates to it's not just the calories in the drinks that are the problem, they seem to spark us to eat more. Yee gads. The study will be published in the April issue of the American Journal of Public Health. To learn more and read the news release click here.

On a more positive note I'll end with some uplifting news. Basketball star Shaquille O'Neal is getting on the fight-childhood-obesity wagon too. He's shooting a reality show down in Florida where he runs a weight loss program for kids. Apparently in the show, Shaq will also hit the political scene lobbying politicians for better school nutrition. No word on when the 6 episode show will air. Stay tuned!

That's the news, have a pleasant fruit and veggie filled weekend.
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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