October 2014 | Hotlunch.com | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 6, Issue 10]

Could Obese Teens Be at a Risk for Colon Cancer Later?

You probably already know that being obese puts a person at a risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. But obesity also raises the risk for certain types of cancer, including cancers of the breast, kidney, pancreas and the colon.

The association between obesity and colon cancer is stronger for men than for women, but the timing of obesity with risk isn’t clear. Recently some Harvard researchers wanted to dig deeper to see if young men who were obese were more likely to get cancer of the colon or rectum later on in life.

Obesity in teens linked to cancer risk later

This news story published on the Chicago Tribune website describes the new study and it’s findings. The study team found that males who were obese between the ages of 16 and 20 were twice as likely to develop colon or rectal cancer later on in life.

The study doesn’t prove that obesity causes the cancer, but it does show there’s a relationship. It could be the obesity itself or could be due to the foods the participants ate or some other factors altogether.

Still, the study adds more evidence to the idea that eating a healthier diet and managing weight at every age is important.
Happy Family Meals at Home May Mean Healthier Weight for Kids

So, I started with a news story on obesity and how it might increase the risk of colon cancer for boys later on. So I think the next news story should be about a study that offers one possible solution.

There’s plenty of research on the benefits of eating family meals at home. Kids who eat more family meals at home tend to do better at school and be at a healthier weight. A recent study from the University of Minnesota suggests that family meals with a positive atmosphere might help fight childhood obesity.

Calm, positive family meals may help keep kids slim

This HealthyDay news story I found on Philly.com describes the study. Basically, researchers asked families to record their family dinners with iPads. The study team was interested in things like where the families ate their meals and what the overall feeling was during the meal.

They found that overweight kids were more likely to eat in living or family rooms instead of the kitchen or dining room; had, on average, shorter meal times; and ate their meals in a negative emotional atmosphere.

The message? Be kind and calm at mealtime.

What to do at home:

  • Use mealtime to encourage the kids, not grump about their grades.
  • Eat in the kitchen or dining room – there’s a better connection when you sit around a table.
  • Slow down – this can be tough on those busy days when dinner is forced in between soccer practice and a band concert, but try to avoid a ‘rushed’ feeling.
How Do Energy Drinks Impact a Kid's Sleep and Mood?

Energy drinks are big – you’ve probably seen kids stumble into school with their cans of Red Bull, Monster or some other caffeine-laden sugary drink. There have been a few studies that have looked at the dangers of energy drink consumption and the jury’s still out. There does seem to be some correlation with risk taking alcohol use and caffeine overdose.

But what else can happen?  I don’t think we know for sure…

Children's national physician looks at effects of energy drinks and caffeine consumption on sleep, mood, and performance in children

This short news story from Medical News Today describes a call for more research. Dr. Judith Owens is a pediatric sleep expert, and she’s recently published an article that looks at how caffeine might affect sleep.  It looks like most of the available research has been done with caffeine levels below what kids normally take in with energy drinks.

So – the message here is to talk to kids about their caffeine use.

What to do at School:

  • Talk about caffeine – what it does and how it works.
  • Explain why caffeine should be cut off by early afternoon. Otherwise it might keep kids from getting a good night’s sleep.
  • Suggest healthier morning beverages – low-fat milk, water, or 100 % fruit and vegetable juice.
Coffee Lovers -- Maybe It's in Their Genes

As long as we’re on the subject of caffeine, I want to show you a story about a potential coffee-drinking gene. Do you ever wonder why one person loves coffee but gags at the thought of tea or energy drinks?

Scientists suggest that genetics may be partly to blame for your desire to have that extra cup (or two) of coffee every morning.

Some people are born java junkies, study suggests

This news story from HealthDay describes new findings in genetic research. Scientists have linked six genes to the amount of coffee a person drinks every day. Maybe this means that you might respond differently to a cup of coffee compared to your friends.

The findings might explain, at least in part, why some people prefer coffee or tea or energy drinks.
Chain Restaurants Cutting Calories

I’ve been complaining about the giant-sized portions and calorie-laden meals at chain restaurants for years. The idea has been bigger is better and I guess that’s what patrons want.

But maybe the desire to cut calories is catching on with the big chain restaurants. Maybe it’s because a few cities have required calorie counts on menus. I don’t know why – but I think it’s a good thing.

Not as good as eating a fresh, healthy meal at home, but a step in the right direction.

Biggest chain restaurants are voluntarily cutting calories

This news story from Washington Post describes a study that was done by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. After looking at near 20,000 menu items from 66 of the top 100 chain restaurants, they discovered that new items had about 60 calories less than previous offerings. That’s a decrease of about 12 percent.

What to do at restaurant:

  • Keep an eye on portion size – these newer menu items might still be high in calories, fat, sugar and/or sodium.
  • Don’t load up on bread. This can be difficult – you’re hungry and the bread is so delicious. But each piece is going to add at least 75 calories to your total intake. Save your appetite for the meal.
  • Take half of it home. Portion sizes are still pretty large, so eat half and ask to have the remainder wrapped up. It’ll make a nice lunch the next day.
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Health Benefits of Green Tea

Every superfood list needs a healthy beverage or two, and green tea is usually at the top of the list. Green tea is rich in antioxidants that may offer health benefits and has no calories (unless you add lots of milk and sugar).

Green tea frequently makes the cancer-preventing super foods lists due to the anti-cancer effects of green tea and green tea extracts found in laboratory research. It contains antioxidants called catechins that may slow down the growth of cancer cells. In laboratory studies, catechins stop free radical damage to cells and reduce the number and sizes of tumors. The most commonly studied catechins, called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), may cause cancer cells to die, rather than grow and spread.

But it's important to go beyond petri dishes, test tubes and lab animals - to really be a superfood, some human research is necessary. In research involving people, two large studies found that people who drank more tea were at a lower risk of developing certain cancers, while another study showed no correlation between green tea consumption and the incidence of cancer.

The research isn't conclusive anyway, because other dietary and lifestyle factors can affect the outcomes of these studies. Clinical research involving randomized control trials is needed to determine whether or not green tea can really prevent cancer.

Whether green tea prevents cancer or not, it still may be good for you because the antioxidants may help to protect your cells from free radical damage, and some studies indicate green tea may boost weight loss - at least a little bit.

Green tea and black tea both come from the same plant called Camellia sinensis. Black tea is made when the leaves are allowed to ferment. Green tea leaves are steamed or heated immediately after picking to prevent fermentation. Since they're harvested and processed more quickly, they contain more of the polyphenols than black tea leaves. Both types of tea contain caffeine, but not as much as a cup of coffee. You can usually find decaffeinated forms of green tea if you prefer.
More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

Your daily sandwich may be chewing up nearly 50% of your sodium allowance

Fetal Exposure to Plastics Chemical Tied to Breathing Ills in Kids

Energy drinks cause insomnia and nervousness in athletes

Early, frequent antibiotic use linked to childhood obesity

About Shereen Jegtvig

Shereen Jegtvig is a health and nutrition writer with two decades of experience counseling people on nutrition and diet. She has a master’s degree in human nutrition and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Shereen writes about nutrition for the large website About.com (http://nutrition.about.com), is co-author of Superfoods for Dummies (http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470445394.html) and Clinical Anatomy for Dummies (http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118116437.html). She also teaches Evidence Based Nutrition to nutrition graduate students at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.