OnCentral | Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

Additional menu symbols could help diners know when to slow down, stop

Researchers added traffic light symbols that represented calorie ranges to menus that already contained calorie counts, and found that the symbols appeared to help reduce calorie consumption, whether or not the diner was particularly health-conscious.
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Think of it like the Red Light/Green Light game – except with food, and more at stake than being named champion of the playground.

A new study suggests that adding traffic light symbols (or something like them) to restaurant menus appears to be an effective way to get people to heed calorie recommendations.

The research, which was published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, conducted its experiment in a full-service restaurant, where patrons received one of three menus:

  • Some with no information about food's caloric content.
  • Some with calorie counts next to each item, per the federal government's proposed rule under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Some with calorie counts and a symbol – in this case, a traffic signal – where red, yellow and green "lights" indicate different calorie count ranges, from high to low.


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Postpartum depression and the new pope's lung: In health news today

Pope Francis, pictured above just after being elected on Wednesday, had a lung removed as a teen due to infection. Forbes notes that people living with one lung are generally able lives that are as active and healthy as their two-lunged counterparts – assuming they stay healthy in other ways.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

In today's health news:

While radiation can be an effective breast cancer treatment, it comes with side effects to the heart. ABCNews.com says the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients being treated for breast cancer rose by about 7 percent per unit of radiation exposure to the heart. Researchers said health providers ought to "consider cardiac dose and cardiac risk factors as well as tumor control" when considering whether to use radiation therapy in breast cancer patients.

As many as one in seven women experiences postpartum depression, which comes after having a baby, says a new study. NPR reports that among women who were monitored for one year after giving birth, more than one in five were depressed – some to the point of having suicidal thoughts.

Federal health officials recommend that children get at least an hour of physical activity every day, but that often doesn't happen. A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine tries to help by outlining specific ways kids can change that, including walking or biking to school and after-school programs.


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SoCal Olympians mentor LA students to encourage fitness, health

A class of fifth graders prepares for their physical fitness exam.
Grant Slater/KPCC

While Olympians fight for the gold medal at prestigious international events, California kids are working to pass their own mandated fitness tests at schools throughout the state. These two groups come together in a program called Ready, Set, Gold!

The mentoring system brings together Olympians and Paralympians with Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students to encourage kids to be healthy and physically active. It also helps prepare them for the California Fitnessgram, a standardized test that evaluates the physical fitness of 5th, 7th and 9th graders.

David Brinton is an Olympic cyclist who has been participating in the Ready, Set, Gold! program for five years. Earlier this month, he was at Hooper Avenue Elementary in South L.A. to cheer on students as they took their Fitnessgram test.


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Kids who drink sugary beverages also eat more – and usually not in a healthy way

Sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda, are "primarily responsible" for increased calorie consumption among the children who drink them, says a new study.

The reputation of sugary drinks was already far from sterling. New York City's mayor just tried banning them, after all.

And now new research adds to growing evidence that the beverages go hand-in-hand with obesity.

Sugar's ties to obesity are nothing new. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says people should reduce the amount of added sugars they eat, noting that they "contribute an average of 16 percent of the total calories in American diets." Those are empty calories, says the USDA: They're "consumed in excessive amounts … without contributing importantly to the overall nutrient adequacy of the diet."

But sugar alone doesn't satisfy hunger, so people need to "also eat foods with sufficient dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals" on top of that, which often puts them over recommended calorie limits.


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Job burnout's effect on the heart and prom dress shopping with Dad: In health news today

People with bad cases of job burnout may be increasing their risk of coronary heart disease by up to 79 percent, said a new study.
Christian Guthier/Flickr Creative Commons

Smokers who want to quit may feel like they're between a rock and a hard place when it comes to heart health, since cutting the habit often leads to weight gain, and obesity, like smoking, isn't good for the heart. But the BBC reports on a new study that says it's better to quit and gain weight than to keep smoking, and that those potential extra pounds don't cancel out the "positive effect" dropping the habit has on a former smoker's cardiovascular health.

More than half of all teenagers and young adults know someone who's been a victim of dating violence or sexual assault, says a new survey – and more than half of them say they'd find it difficult to intervene. HealthDay adds that four in 10 say they wouldn't know what to do if they witnessed a crime like that.

Does your job have you feeling burned out? Not only is that miserable, but new research appearing in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine says it could present a considerable risk to your heart. The study's lead author called the results "alarming," noting that the most burnt-out workers saw their risk of coronary heart disease rise by nearly 80 percent.


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