Infographic: The World’s Top 50 Influencers

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Source: Visual Capitalist

Time to Shift from “Food Security” to “Nutrition Security” to Increase Health & Well-Being

In the 1960s, a national focus on hunger was essential to address major problems of undernutrition after World War II. In the 1990s, the nation shifted away from hunger toward “food insecurity” to better capture and address the challenges of food access and affordability. Now, a new Viewpoint article argues that today’s health and equity challenges call for the U.S. to shift from “food insecurity” to “nutrition insecurity” in order to catalyze appropriate focus and policies on access not just to food but to healthy, nourishing food.

The Viewpoint, by Dariush Mozaffarian of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University, Sheila Fleischhacker of Georgetown Law School, and José Andrés of World Central Kitchen, was published online in JAMA.

The concept of food security focuses on access to and affordability of food that is safe, nutritious, and consistent with personal preferences. In reality, however, the “nutritious” part often has been overlooked or lost in national policies and solutions, with resulting emphasis on quantity, rather than quality, of food, say the authors.

“Food is essential both for life and human dignity. Every day, I see hunger, but the hunger I see is not only for calories but for nourishing meals. With a new focus on nutrition security, we embrace a solution that nourishes people, instead of filling them with food but leaving them hungry,” said Chef José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen.

The authors define nutrition security as having consistent access to and availability and affordability of foods and beverages that promote well-being, while preventing — and, if needed, treating — disease. Nutrition security provides a more inclusive view that recognizes that foods must nourish all people.

“‘Nutrition security’ incorporates all the aims of food security but with additional emphasis on the need for wholesome, healthful foods and drinks for all. COVID-19 has made clear that Americans who are most likely to be hungry are also at highest risk of diet-related diseases including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and many cancers – a harsh legacy of inequities and structural racism in our nation. A new focus on nutrition security for all Americans will help crystallize and catalyze real solutions that provide not only food but also well-being for everyone,” said first author Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University.

“It’s the right time for this evolution,” said Sheila Fleischhacker, adjunct professor at Georgetown Law School, who has drafted food, nutrition and health legislation and campaign positions at the local, state, tribal and federal levels. “By prioritizing nutrition security, we bring together historically siloed areas – hunger and nutrition – which must be tackled together to effectively address our modern challenges of diet-related diseases and disparities in clinical care, government food and food assistance policies, public health investments, and national research.”

“The current approach is not sufficient,” the authors write, and “traditionally marginalized minority groups as well as people living in rural and lower-income counties are most likely to experience disparities in nutrition quality, food insecurity, and corresponding diet-related diseases.”

Source: Tuffs University

The Secret to Good Health Is No Secret. So Why Is It so Hard to Achieve?

It ought to be a no-brainer, so to speak: Research has pinpointed seven ways people can achieve ideal heart and brain health. And – bonus – if Americans did those things, they also could help prevent many other chronic illnesses.

But most people don’t, at least not consistently. What’s stopping them?

“Most of these steps require a great deal of self-regulation and self-control,” said Dolores Albarracin, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It’s not just getting one thing done, like going to get a vaccine, where you can do it and forget about it for a year.”

Volumes of research point to at least seven behaviors, called Life’s Simple 7, that can dramatically lower the burden of heart disease, stroke and dementia. Not smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range have the potential to collectively wipe out a vast majority of heart disease and stroke and prevent or delay a significant number of dementias.

Failing to take these steps increases the risk for chronic illness of all types. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 in 10 adults in the United States have at least one chronic illness, while 4 in 10 have two or more. In addition to illnesses of the heart and brain, these include cancer, lung disease, kidney disease and diabetes.

“If it were simple, heart disease event rates would be down by 80% since roughly 80% of heart disease is preventable,” as are 80% of strokes, said Dr. Roger Blumenthal, the Kenneth Jay Pollin Professor of Cardiology and director of the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Baltimore. Blumenthal is co-author of a joint report by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Part of the problem, said Blumenthal, is the pace of modern life and the number of responsibilities people already are juggling.

“It’s hard for people to stay motivated in the society in which we live and to make time for things like exercise,” he said. “We have to repackage all the knowledge we have and put it into actionable, shorter messages and provide resources that motivate people.”

Blumenthal recommends breaking down goals into smaller actions that feel achievable. For example, if finding large blocks of time to exercise seems too hard, he advises people to weave 10-minute exercise breaks throughout their day.

Likewise, with weight loss. “Ask yourself where you can cut out 300-400 calories a day. Decrease portion sizes. Slow down your pace of eating.”

People often have greater success with taking medication to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, Blumenthal said.

“It’s easier for people to take a pill after they’ve brushed their teeth in the morning than making the sustained efforts and setting aside 20-minute sessions for brisk activities or exercising more control over dietary choices.”

But even that isn’t always simple.

Inadequate health insurance or lack of access to care can make it difficult for people to take medications regularly, said Dr. Tracy Madsen, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. These inequities are most prevalent among those from marginalized racial and ethnic groups who often bear the biggest burden of disease.

“Across the United States, Black and Hispanic communities are dealing with a disproportionate burden of economic instability,” she said, which has been heightened by the pandemic. “People who lose their jobs and then their insurance have no way to pay for needed medications.”

They also may face other inequities, such as a lack of easy access to recreational space or convenient, affordable places to buy healthy foods.

Another big reason people struggle is many steps toward better health involve cutting out, or cutting back, pleasurable activities, Albarracin said.

“You’re not asking people to simply incorporate a new habit, you’re also asking them to fight something that has been quite rewarding in the past,” she said. “We eat yummy foods because they are yummy.”

Albarracin led a study published in Health Psychology Review that analyzed 150 research reports about healthy behavior change. It found people were more likely to succeed in making changes if they stuck to one of two similar actions – focusing on things they needed to do or things they needed to stop doing – but not both.

“The way our psychological makeup works is we tend to be in action mode or inaction mode,” she said. “Exercising more and eating more vegetables are both actions moving in the same direction, versus exercising more and eating less fat, which is one positive thing and one negative thing.”

It’s also easier for people to make changes in two associated activities, she said. For example, people who smoke may do so when they are drinking alcohol. In that case, it’s easier to quit doing both than just one, because one triggers the other.

Changing behavior can require reframing thinking and goals, Albarracin said.

“There are ways to use questions to stop yourself. If you’re at a restaurant and the server brings a tray of desserts and asks you which one you want, ask yourself instead if you should be eating dessert at all. Introduce the idea of ‘no’ being an answer.”

Another skill is to make lists of things to stop doing instead of things to do, she said. “We need to start learning how to reframe our goals. We are used to thinking in terms of being rewarded for what we do, not what we don’t do.”

In the end, making structural changes can be more effective than solely relying on willpower. For example, “if I have to walk to work, that’s going to introduce more exercise into my life and will be much more successful than betting on willpower,” Albarracin said. “Sometimes you have to outsmart yourself by removing some of your choices.”

Source: American Heart Association

Men Worldwide Have Shorter Life Spans Than Women

Why are men over 50 around the world 60% more likely than women to die early?

Two big reasons are higher rates of smoking and heart disease, according to a large new study.

The findings are based on an analysis of data from more than 179,000 people in 28 countries. Fifty-five percent were women.

Researchers examined how socioeconomic (education, wealth), lifestyle (smoking, alcohol consumption), health (heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression) and social (having a spouse, living alone) factors might contribute to the higher risk of premature death in men.

The findings were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Lead researcher Yu-Tzu Wu, of King’s College London, and co-authors said many studies have examined the impact of social, behavioral and biological factors on male-female differences in death rates, but few have investigated potential international variations.

“Different cultural traditions, historical contexts, and economic and societal development may influence gender experiences in different countries, and thus variably affect the health status of men and women,” Wu and colleagues said in a journal news release.

They said those differences can lead to different life experiences for men and women and variation in the death gap across countries.

Their findings are consistent with other research about life expectancy and death rates.

The diversity of sex differences in death rates across countries may indicate the “substantial impact” of gender — socially constructed roles of men, women and gender-diverse people — “in addition to biological sex, and the crucial contributions of smoking may also vary across different populations,” the authors wrote.

Public health policies should account for sex- and gender-based differences and how social and cultural factors affect health, the researchers suggested.

Source: HealthDay

High Emotional Intelligence Can Help to Identify Fake News

People with high levels of emotional intelligence are less likely to be susceptible to ‘fake news’, according to research at the University of Strathclyde.

The study invited participants to read a series of news items on social media and to ascertain whether they were real or fictitious, briefly describing the reasons for their answers. They were also asked to complete a test to determine their levels of emotional intelligence (EQ or emotional quotient) and were asked a number of questions when considering the veracity of each news item.

Researchers found that those who identified the types of news correctly were most likely to score highly in the EQ tests. There was a similar correlation between correct identification and educational attainment.

The study, by researchers in Strathclyde’s School of Psychological Sciences & Health and School of Government & Public Policy, has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Dr Tony Anderson, Senior Teaching Fellow in Psychology at Strathclyde and partner in the research, said: “Fake news on social media is now a matter of considerable public and governmental concern. Research on dealing with this issue is still in its infancy but recent studies have started to focus on the psychological factors which might make some individuals less susceptible to fake news.

“We assessed whether people were better able to disregard the emotionally charged content of such items and better equipped to assess the veracity of the information. We found that, while distinguishing real news content from fake was challenging, on average participants were more likely to make the correct decision than not.

“Previous research has shown that people can be trained to enhance their own EQ levels. This should help them to discern with a greater degree of accuracy which news is reliable and which is misleading.”

Participants were presented with real and fabricated news stories on issues including health, crime, wealth inequality and the environment. Fictitious items featured aspects including emotive language, brief information and a lack of attributed sources.

Comments from people who incorrectly believed fabricated stories were real included: “I have personal experience of this”; “My kids are in this position so I completely get this”; “The graph shows it all” and “The commenter on the post has the same thoughts as me.” Those who correctly identified fictitious stories made comments including: “There is emotive/condescending language in the blurb”; “Fearmongering article with no data”; “The source is not an official scientific or governmental source” and “Comes across as more of a rant.”

Source: The University of Strathclyde