Members of Congress heard about the country's obesity problem and ways to combat it through nutrition programs during a recent subcommittee hearing.
The House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry held a field hearing August 5 in Lincoln, NE, receiving testimony from dietitians, medical and healthcare professionals, and academic and nonprofit representatives about approaches to address obesity, chronic illness, nutrition, wellness, and prevention practices.
"With more than two-thirds of American adults either overweight or obese, poor nutrition negatively impacts the quality of life for too many Americans," said Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA), chair of the subcommittee, according to a statement. "Obesity-related health spending has doubled in the past decade to reach a high of $147 billion in 2008. We must act swiftly to create a healthier nation and lower costs, and today's hearing was an excellent opportunity to move in this direction. By studying innovative approaches that are working in communities across America, we can learn how to better combat this problem and lower the burden of healthcare costs we all share."
Amy Lazarus Yaroch, PhD, executive director of The Center for Human Nutrition in Omaha, gave an outline of the problem and its effect. "Obesity, which has steadily been on the rise over the past 30 years, is associated with several debilitating chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and many of the major cancers," Lazarus Yaroch told the subcommittee. "Most cases of childhood obesity develop because of an imbalance in energy input and output, a phenomenon that is sustained by our 'obesogenic' environment. A healthy diet which is characterized by an increased intake of fruits and vegetables is linked with a decreased risk of obesity and chronic diseases, but unfortunately, fruit and vegetable intake is still not adequate, and most of the population does not consume the recommended five or more servings per day."
Lazarus Yaroch urged a systems-level, three-pronged approach to deal with the problem. It's known that people have been genetically programmed at an early age to desire fatty and sugary foods, and so, she said, "we need to engage the individual to help provide them with the knowledge and tools to make healthier choices." Next, the system needs to provide a supportive environment where healthy eating choices are low-cost and easily accessible, she said.
"Finally, we need to have local, state, and federal policies in place to ensure that the communities in which people live, work, and play are indeed healthy communities," Lazarus Yaroch suggested.
Pam Edwards, president-elect and director of the Nebraska Dietetic Association and assistant director of University Dining Services at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, talked about some successful programs she's seen, particularly those involving locally grown products.
"Fresh, locally grown foods have a positive impact on wellness due to students eating more healthfully," Edwards said, according to a transcript of her remarks. "Why? Because it tastes good and replaces higher-calorie foods."
Edwards said her university has a program known as Good. Fresh. Local. (GFL). It's a residence hall dining and catering program that began in 2005 with the goals of promoting the value of Nebraska foods; teaching students about sustainable agriculture and the positive effect it can have on the environment, local economy, and communities; and opening new distribution opportunities for local farmers and producers in the world of university dining service.
Examples of local foods served in the program include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, pasture-raised ground beef and poultry, free-range eggs, organic oat flakes, natural pork, walnuts and pecans, homemade whole-grain bread products, cheese, jams, honey, and dressings. Today, the program includes approximately 75 Nebraska farmers/producers and manufacturers, up from 25 when the program began, Edwards said.
"Students have connected with local foods, as evidenced by an average of 35% increased attendance when GFL meals are served. There has also been a marked expanded interest in eating fresh fruits and vegetables," Edwards said. "When students are asked why they are willing to try the various local fruits and vegetables, the simple response is 'They just taste good.'"
When fruit and vegetables taste good, Edwards said, their consumption increases, positively affecting health and wellness. An overarching goal of the program is to have college students incorporate healthful nutrition practices so when they graduate they will gravitate to wellness and away from obesity and development of chronic diseases, Edwards said.
Visit http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/statements.html to view more testimony from the hearing.
"Nutrition to fight obesity pushed at hearing.(Anti-obesity news)." Nutrition Week 24 Aug. 2009: 3. Academic OneFile. Web. 5 Nov. 2009.
Gale Document Number:A207282471
Disclaimer:This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.
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