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Federal food program for children improves nutritional value of diets

Policy changes that mandated higher nutritional quality for a federal food program helped to improve the diets of children participating in the program, according to recent research in Pediatrics.

“The findings from the present analysis suggest that revisions to the [Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)] package in 2009 were associated with a significant improvement in diet quality among children participating in this program across the United States,” June M. Tester, MD, MPH, of the department of endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues wrote. “Using rigorous methods of dietary assessment and a nationally representative sample from [National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)], our study results are consistent with earlier findings from regional studies.”

The researchers studied 1,197 children, aged 2 to 4 years, from low-income households for the years before (2003-2008) and after (2011-2012) implementation of the new policy to improve nutritional standards of the WIC package. To determine Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2010) scores, the researchers conducted two 24-hour recall interviews with the caregiver most knowledgeable about the study participant’s diet. The researchers compared 719 WIC program participants with 478 nonparticipants to gauge changes in diet associated with the program.

Study results showed that HEI-2010 scores for participants increased from 52.4 at baseline to 58.3 after implementation of the healthy food standards. Nonparticipants showed smaller gains, improving from 50 to 52.4. The researchers wrote that WIC food package quality improvements were responsible for an adjusted average 3.7-point increase in HEI-2010 scores for WIC participants.

Tester and colleagues, however, noted that dietary improvements were not apparent for all food types included in the WIC package, mainly fruit consumption.

“The WIC package change included incentive for purchases of fruits as well, and a hypothesized outcome would also have been an increase in fruit consumption,” Tester and colleagues wrote. “However, WIC participants did not significantly increase their whole fruit component scores more than nonparticipants. A larger sample including a greater proportion of children after the policy change will be required to examine this trend more fully.” – by David Costill

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

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Diet Doc Announces Summer Slim Down Plans

Diet Doc Announces Summer Slim Down Plans

People throughout the country are beginning to enjoy warmer weather and sunnier skies. Many are concerned that they will not fit into their beach attire and are scrambling to find the best summer diet plan that will safely melt excess fat that has accumulated over the winter months. Diet Doc understands and has updated their medical weight loss programs to include their summer diet plans that deliver safe, healthy and fast weight loss just in time for sunny beach getaways.

Diet Doc’s summer diet plans are all-inclusive. They include appealing and easy to prepare meal plans that are customized to be specific to each patient’s personal needs and medical conditions. Their patients report feeling full and satisfied without fatigue and without feeling deprived. When they combine the meal plans with their pure, prescription hormone diet treatments, exclusive appetite suppressants, proprietary diet pills and powerful fat blockers and fat burners, excess fat that has comfortably burrowed itself in the belly, hips, thighs, underarms and buttocks over the cold winter months is targeted. Stored fat is forced into the bloodstream, quickly burned and flushed from the system resulting in the very quick and very noticeable loss of pounds and inches in these most challenging areas of the body.

Dieters who have tried every fad diet and advertised miracle weight loss cure with no success are encouraged to call the experts at Diet Doc to complete an online health evaluation and schedule a personal, no-cost doctor consultation. After a complete review and assessment of the system to identify hormonal imbalances, cellular toxicity or improperly functioning organs that may be causing weight gain and hindering its loss, a full, written doctor report details recommendations for the safest and fastest method to lose winter weight. And, for qualified clients who are more anxious to fit into their summer beachwear, Diet Doc may incorporate one or more of their powerful diet products that work flawlessly with the nutritionist-designed meal plans to reset and catapult the metabolism into fast fat burn mode without hunger, cravings, loss of energy or dieting headaches.

Diet Doc is a medical weight loss company who has earned national recognition, respect and trust by delivering diet plans that work safely to help people improve their long term health by losing excess fat. They work closely with each patient and monitor their progress throughout. Their staff is available on an unlimited basis and eager to answer questions, address concerns and lend their professional support and guidance. The company has helped over 97% of their patients reach and maintain their ideal weight and encourages those who are having difficulty losing 10-20 pounds, to those who must lose 100 pounds or more, to call today.

About the Company:
Diet Doc Weight Loss is the nation’s leader in medical, weight loss offering a full line of prescription medication, doctor, nurse and nutritional coaching support. For over a decade, Diet Doc has produced a sophisticated, doctor designed weight loss program that addresses each individual specific health need to promote fast, safe and long term weight loss.

Diet Doc Contact Information:
Providing care across the USA
San Diego, CA
(888) 934-4451

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Why every new mom needs physical therapy

After she gave birth to her son, Valerie Orsoni knew what to expect: a prescription from her doctor for 12 sessions of physical therapy to rehabilitate her pelvic floor muscles.

 “Even when you’re a little girl in France, your mom always tells you to stay stretched and to always tuck in your tummy and contract your abs. When you do that, naturally it leads to contracting the perineum,” Orsoni, 45,  the founder of Lebodychallenge.com, said.

After the birth of her son, now 19, Orsoni underwent biofeedback, a treatment that uses an electrode or probe inserted into the vagina to measure the strength of the pelvic floor muscles and to help ensure that Kegel exercises are done correctly.

Although she was prepared for it, Orsoni admits she was a little embarrassed. “At first, it’s pretty surprising. They’re putting something in your vagina,” she recalled.

Orsoni, who now lives in San Francisco, Calif., said postpartum rehabilitation is so important in fact that doctors in France won’t give women the green light to start exercising again without completing the two-to-three month program.

“The worst thing that you could do would be to go back to doing regular exercises after giving birth without doing perineum rehab,” she said.

Rehab for your pelvis and abs

After giving birth, it’s common for women to deal with issues like urinary incontinence, diastasis recti— a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle— and pelvic pain.

In fact, approximately 85 percent of women have pain the first time they have sex after childbirth and nearly a quarter of them still do at 18 months postpartum, a recent study in the journal BJOG found.

“Most moms are in pain after birth and they just figure it’s common and normal but there is treatment for it. They don’t have to live with it,” said Marianne Ryan, a physical therapist in New York City and author of “Baby Bod: Turn Flab to Fab in 12 Weeks Flat.”

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In France and other countries like the Netherlands and Australia, postpartum physical therapy is a common treatment to help women recover from the rigors of childbirth. Yet in the United States, women have a 6-week postpartum check-up and are told to resume their normal activities.  

“Not only do we do nothing in the U.S., but also if a woman goes to her physician, particularly her obstetrician, with these complaints after delivery it’s written off as ‘Well, you just had a baby,’” said Stephanie Prendergast, co-founder of The Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center in Los Angeles, Calif. and author of “Pelvic Pain Explained.”

“While that’s true, there are still musculoskeletal implications that come with both pregnancy, labor and delivery and of course, C-section,” she said.

Although they might be well-intentioned, OB-GYN’s are not trained to identify pelvic floor or abdominal problems like physical therapists are, Prendergast said.

Another issue is that although women are encouraged to do Kegel exercises, doing so can make perineal tears worse. What’s more, a study in the journal Female Pelvic Medicine Reconstructive Surgery found that 23 percent of women who said they knew how to do Kegel exercises did not do them correctly.

If problems are left untreated, over time they can lead to low-back pain and hip problems, urinary and bowel function issues such as urgency, frequency, burning, constipation, anal pain, and infection and pelvic organ prolapse, a condition in which the bladder, uterus or other organs descend into the vagina, Prendergast said.

What’s more, studies show that even if women feel fine after childbirth, it could take between 6 and 10 years until these issues become a problem.

How physical therapy can help

“In an ideal world, everybody should have an evaluation to identify what their particular issues are and get a specialized home program,” Prendergast said.  

A physical therapist can help identify impairments in the tissues, muscles, nerves and joints and evaluate the abdominal wall and the pelvic floor muscles to determine what has changed during pregnancy, labor and delivery.

Once the issues are identified, women are given an individualized program to help the muscles heal, improve urinary, bowel and sexual function as well as the overall stability of the pelvis so they can do things like pick up their babies, Prendergast said.  

Physical therapists can also help moms do daily tasks in a way that doesn’t put pressure on the abdominal muscles, or even teach them how to have a bowel movement without straining the pelvic floor muscles, Ryan said.

Biofeedback, the therapy Orsoni used, can help, especially for those women who have recently given birth and find it hard to pinpoint their pelvic floor muscles. It can also help identify a temporary neuropathy, or damage along the nerve that controls the muscles.

“They may need electrical stimulation to help those muscles fire if the nerve can’t direct the muscle to do so itself,” Prendergast said.

Caring for a new baby can leave little time for sleep, a shower or a workout, much less multiple physical therapy sessions. Yet experts agree it’s one of the best things women can do for their health, both right after childbirth and in the future.

“Women deserve treatment,” Ryan said. “Your body is not going to just magically snap back together.”

Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.


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Maine Med turns to plant-based dietary medicine to help stop problems before they start

Instruction in plant-based dietary medicine is one part of a new residency program launching in July at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Maine Med’s two-year program, which joins a growing group of teaching hospitals offering the specialty, offers doctors board certification in preventative medicine, a master’s degree in public health and extensive nutrition education.

This branch of medicine aims to prevent disease rather than treat it, and a core part of maintaining health involves eating the right food.

Dr. Craig Schneider, who as the head of Maine Med’s integrative medicine department will oversee the nutrition education, said the program will cover the basics of human nutrition plus offer instruction in the latest medical research around diet, including the growing body of studies that link plant-based diets and health.

The program won’t advocate a specific diet, Schneider said, but the weight of the current research is clear.

“The general gist is a (journalist/food advocate) Michael Pollan type approach: mostly plant-based foods that are minimally processed,” Schneider said.

The diets used in plant-based medical studies are typically vegetarian or vegan.

The Maine Med residency is one of 72 offered nationwide, according to the Washington, D.C.-based American College of Preventative Medicine. Each year the Maine Med program will accept two new residents who have already completed a residency in another specialty (such as internal medicine or surgery) and are committed to remaining in Maine after their residency ends.

“There’s been increased interest in preventative medicine residency programs,” said Paul Bonta, associate director of the American College of Preventive Medicine. “So we are seeing new programs starting up.”

The hospital is backing this program to further its commitment to improving the overall health of Mainers, according to Dr. Christina Holt, director of the new preventative medicine residency at Maine Med. The program is bolstered by almost $1 million in grant funding over the next three years from the national Health Resources and Services Administration.

Holt said most of the preventative medicine programs around the country have a particular focus. “Our program is focused on vulnerable populations and integrative medicine,” she said.

Maine Med has been teaching integrative medicine to residents in its family practice and other specialties for more than a decade, said Holt, who practices family medicine and is also board certified in preventative medicine.

“The integrative component of this program is really looking at expanding the thinking around nutrition,” she said. “The interest is so evidently there, even from the general population. People want to be able to influence their own health and well being.”

The term integrative medicine refers to a practice style that combines mainstream treatments (such as prescriptions and surgeries) with non-mainstream treatments (such as massage and dietary changes).

Observing that “the average med student gets around 20 hours of nutritional education in their whole career,” Dr. James Loomis, medical director of the all plant-based Barnard Medical Center in Washington, D.C., sees the increased interest in preventative medicine as a sign of positive change.

“I think we are starting to see a fairly significant grassroots movement where people are realizing there is another path than taking all these medicines,” he said.

The Barnard Medical Center offers rotations to medical students and residents interested in plant-based lifestyle medicine. This practice is designed to test whether or not prescribing plant-based diets and lifestyle changes is a viable business model. The nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which advocates for policy changes related to plant-based food and medicine, is backing the practice.

“We hope to make the economic case for lifestyle medicine and healthcare costs,” Loomis said. “We hope to go to employer groups and say, ‘Why are you paying all this money to fill people’s prescriptions when we have a program that can save you millions and your employees will be healthier and happier?’ ”

Back here in Maine, with a just few months before Maine Med’s first preventative medicine residents start, Holt and her team are putting the finishing touches on their program.

“We will help these graduates to have a bigger perspective,” Holt said. “We will help them know how to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

That’s a task that will require changes in the doctor’s office and in the policy-making halls of Augusta. It’s a task these new doctors will be well-equipped to tackle once they graduate.

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila





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Helping Consumers With Food Insecurity: What Services Are Available?

Helping Consumers With Food Insecurity: What Services Are Available?

Executive Briefing

by |
April 8, 2016

Athena Mandros

Athena Mandros

The social determinants of health have been getting a lot of attention recently, particularly in how they affect health outcomes and the move to value-based purchasing. For more on this, see –  Study: More Collaboration Aids Health Care For At-Risk Populations, Tending To The Social Determinants Of Health – Or Not, Hospitals’ Engagement In Population Health: Moving Past The Medicine And Into The Community, and How Can Physicians Use Data on Social Determinants of Health?

So what are those social determinants of health? They include all of the “conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks” (see Social Determinants of Health). This includes housing, food, crime prevention, transportation, social supports, education, and employment opportunities.

Although all of the social determinants of health are key, one of the most important areas of health is steady access to nutritional food, and much has been written about the links between diet and the many types of chronic conditions (see Exhaustion of Food Budgets at Month’s End and Hospital Admissions for Hypoglycemia and Food Insecurity And Health Outcomes). And some researchers have even gone so far as to suggest there is a link between mental health and diet, such as a relationship between what people eat and depression (How Nutritional Interventions Can Help Improve Mental Illnesses).

So if you have consumers that are experiencing food insecurity, what nutrition programs are available to address their needs? The federal government funds three key programs:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefits – This program provides a monthly electronic benefit transfer to purchase nearly any food item provided to families. Eligibility for the program is based on income (individuals must have gross monthly income below 130% of the FPL and net monthly income of less than 100% of the FPL).

Supplemental Foods Program for Women, Children, and Infants (WIC) – This program provides vouchers or electronic benefits to purchase specific food items included in an individual’s food package, such as infant formula, whole grains, or legumes. Eligibility is based on income and limited to children up to age five, infants up to age one, pregnant women, and post-partum women.

Child Nutrition Programs – This series of programs provide meals to children in grades k-12, children in child care facilities, and adults in day care programs. Depending on an individual’s income, the meal is either free or provided at a reduced price.

For more on the specific eligibility requirements for each of these programs – and a list of the specific benefits available for SNAP and WIC in each state, check out: What Services Are Available For Nutrition Assistance What Is U.S. Spending On Those Programs?: An OPEN MINDS Market Intelligence Report.

What is the annual spending on these programs? In FY2014, states and the federal government spent $104.2 billion on nutrition assistance programs. Since 2009, spending on nutrition assistance programs has increased by 31.9%; however, spending on nutrition assistance programs peaked in FY2014 at $109.1 billion. Whether this downward trend in spending continues past FY2014 remains to be seen.

SNAP, which in an entitlement program, is always funded by the federal government to meet the needs of all eligible individuals. It is the largest nutrition assistance program (and the largest U.S. non-health social service program) at $77.9 billion. WIC is a federal block grant, but states have never had to create waitlists for individuals in need of assistance. Spending on WIC totaled $20 billion in 2014.

Children Nutrition Programs are an entitled appropriation, meaning the U.S. Congress is expected to fund up to the level of need each year. Spending on child nutrition programs totaled $6.3 billion in 2014.


For a deeper dive into the numbers, be sure to check out our just-released report, What Services Are Available For Nutrition Assistance What Is U.S. Spending On Those Programs?: An OPEN MINDS Market Intelligence Report. The report answers a number of questions including:

  1. What Nutrition Assistance Programs Are Available For Consumers?
  2. What Are The Eligibility Criteria For SNAP What Is The U.S. Spending On The Program?
  3. What Are The Eligibility Criteria For WIC What Is The U.S. Spending On The Program?
  4. What Are The Eligibility Criteria For Child Nutrition Programs What Is The U.S. Spending On The Program?

And for a guide to other resources on addressing the social determinants of health, check out these other OPEN MINDS Market Intelligence Reports: How Are Permanent Supportive Housing Initiatives Funded?: An OPEN MINDS Market Intelligence Report; Which States Require Drug Testing For Recipients Of Public Assistance?: An OPEN MINDS Market Intelligence Report; and How Are States Using Medicaid To Fund Support Services For Supportive Housing?: An OPEN MINDS Market Intelligence Report.

By pairing exercise and nutrition, fitness studios are taking a holistic approach to health

Aliza Norcross has found a great recipe for Moroccan lentil soup, but it didn’t come from a foodie website. Her go-to source for dinner ideas these days is Barre3, the studio where she takes ballet-inspired exercise classes.

The fitness chain is building an online library of healthy recipes from certified nutritionists, chefs and food bloggers. Members have access to the full index of meal plans, though some recipes are available to everyone on the company’s blog.

“The tips and recipes are accessible and not too daunting,” said Norcross, who takes classes at Barre3’s new location on 14th Street in the District. “It’s not about counting calories, but finding balance.”

Fitness studios are taking a holistic approach to health with greater emphasis on nutrition. Some are compiling recipes to keep members from derailing their fitness goals with poor eating habits. Others are creating package deals that combine workout routines and custom diet plans designed by certified nutritionists.

But as more fitness centers dole out nutrition advice, registered dietitians and nutritionists recommend consumers check out their qualifications before taking heed.

Barre3’s recipe index. (Barre3)

“Nutrition can be a dangerous game,” said Jim White, a registered dietitian and owner of an eponymous chain of fitness studios in Virginia. “People have diabetes or heart conditions, and if we don’t promote the right foods, it could affect their health. It’s important that they work with professionals.”

Nutrition consultation is a standard feature of every gym membership at Jim White Fitness Nutrition Studios, where members can take part in nutrition boot camps, workshops and 90-day challenges.

White has even struck a partnership with 50 restaurants in the Hampton area to point out menu items that are healthy enough to be “Jim White-Approved.” The list of restaurants includes local eateries and national chains, such as Firehouse Subs and Moe’s Southwest Grill.

“Eating healthy is not the easiest thing, so we want to take away all of the barriers people have,” White said.

Clients who want more help can sign up for one of three dietary plans offered at White’s studios. Packages range from $299 to $529 a month and are covered by some health insurance plans, White said. The dietitians on staff provide a full assessment, checking for such things as food allergies, and then create a plan.

“Our biggest hurdle is educating clients about detoxes, Paleo diets or the latest trend and if it’s good for them or not,” White said. “There are great aspects of every diet out there, but with some modification, it could be a great approach for some people.”

If you are willing to spend the money, a dietitian from the studio will give your kitchen a makeover, ridding your pantry of junk and restocking it with healthier foods you select together on a trip to the supermarket. Staff members follow up with periodic visits as the plan progresses.

The team of nutritionists at Unite Fitness , a chain based out of Philadelphia, also treats clients to ongoing coaching.

“We know that sometimes it’s not so simple as to just tell somebody what to eat,” said Juliet Burgh, the studio’s nutrition director. “There are many reasons why somebody might be struggling with food, whether it be emotional attachments or body image disorders.”

Burgh and her team of nutritionists guide clients through a three-step process to tailor a program for their specific needs. After taking body measurements and discussing eating habits, the team creates individualized meal plans and provides ongoing coaching. The entire process, save for the periodic coaching, takes an average of six to eight weeks.

You don’t have to belong to Unite to take advantage of the service, though members receive a $50 discount that brings the cost down to $250, Burgh said. She said her team typically sees five clients a week.

“Ninety percent of results, as far as weight loss, fat loss, is going to come from nutrition,” she said. “You really are what you eat, so if you are eating the right foods that are fueling you, you’re going to have better cognitive function, feel energized and be more productive.”

Over at Barre3 on 14th Street, franchise owner Alicia Sokol said the company, based in Portland, Ore., encourages members to incorporate some form of fat, fiber and protein in every meal to stay satiated. There are a series of videos on the site teaching viewers how to prepare and cook food. Sokol also contributes some of her own recipes from her blog, Weekly Greens (weeklygreens.com).

“Our nutrition philosophy is pretty straightforward: Just eat whole foods — close-to-the-ground foods, foods in their natural states,” Sokol said. “It’s really about balance and trying to eat foods that are nourishing and give people energy.”

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More from The Washington Post:

Sweat equity: What’s behind the rise of intense boutique fitness programs?

If you’re going to make one change to improve your health, it should be one of these

What you get out of trendy fitness classes like barre and SoulCycle — and what you don’t

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