Genes may have a strong influence over whether kids develop an eating disorder marked by extremely limited food choices, a new study finds. The study focused on a condition called avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). It’s a relatively new diagnosis that describes people who severely limit the types or quantity of food they eat — but not over body image concerns or a quest for thinness. Instead, food is the center of the issue. People with ARFID may have a strong aversion to various tastes, smells or textures, have little appetite, or may fear choking, vomiting or suffering an allergic reaction if they eat an unfamiliar food (often based on a past experience). Studies suggest it affects 1% to 5% of the population. Yet researchers still know little about the causes. The new study suggests genetic vulnerability plays a major role. Looking at data on nearly 17,000 pairs of twins, Swedish researchers found that genes seemed to explain 79% of the risk of having ARFID. “This strongly suggests that genetic studies have huge potential to help us understand the biological pathways underlying ARFID,” said lead researcher Lisa Dinkler of the Karolinska Institute’s Center for Eating Disorders Innovation in Stockholm. An eating disorders specialist not involved in the study agreed. The findings help affirm that there are biological processes underlying ARFID, said Kamryn Eddy, co-director…  read on >  read on >

American schoolchildren could be getting school lunches that have less sugar and salt in the future, thanks to new nutrition standards announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday. These are the first school lunch program updates since 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. What’s different this time is a limit on added sugars, starting in the 2025-2026 school year. Limits would at first target high-sugar foods, including sweetened cereals, yogurts and flavored milks. By fall 2027, added sugars must be less than 10% of total calories a week for school breakfasts and lunches. Sugary grain foods like muffins or doughnuts can’t be served more than twice a week at breakfast. Another example is that an 8-ounce container of chocolate milk must contain no more than 10 grams of sugar under the revised rules. Some popular flavored milks contain twice that amount. “Many children aren’t getting the nutrition they need, and diet-related diseases are on the rise. Research shows school meals are the healthiest meals in a day for most kids, proving that they are an important tool for giving kids access to the nutrition they need for a bright future,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an agency news release. Vilsack said the agency’s goal is to get school guidelines to align with U.S. dietary guidelines for the nearly 30 million…  read on >  read on >

People with health conditions like type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome may have been advised about the value of an insulin-resistance diet. But this way of eating can benefit most people interested in balancing blood sugars, whether that’s to help treat or prevent chronic conditions, or just to gain more energy and better mood control. “An ‘insulin-resistant diet’ is a diet or eating plan that supports balanced blood sugars in the body,” explained Rahaf Al Bochi, a registered dietitian and owner of Olive Tree Nutrition in Duluth, Ga. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream enter into cells, explained Al Bochi, who is also a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “When cells don’t respond to insulin anymore, they are ‘insulin resistant’ and blood sugars can rise,” she said. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) explains it this way: Some people build up a tolerance to insulin, requiring more to get muscle, fat and liver cells to take up glucose. It can be chronic or temporary, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Why this develops is not clear, but reasons can include genes, age, inflammation, other physiological stress and some medications. Lifestyle, too, such as being inactive or overweight can play a role. A recent study of hibernating bears may eventually improve understanding about…  read on >  read on >

Americans who live near a “food swamp” may have a higher risk of suffering a stroke, a preliminary study finds. A number of studies have looked at the health consequences of living in a so-called food desert — areas with few grocery stores or other options for buying fresh food. Food swamps are different: The term was coined to describe communities where fast food restaurants, convenience stores and other junk-food purveyors heavily outweigh healthier options like grocery stores and farmers’ markets. The new study looked at whether Americans’ stroke risk varies based on how far their county of residence veers into food swamp territory. It turned out it did: Among nearly 18,000 adults age 50 and older, those living in U.S. counties high on the food swamp scale had a 13% higher risk of suffering a stroke, compared to those in areas with more healthy options. Many factors affect stroke risk, and it is hard to separate the importance of food swamps from those other variables, said lead researcher Dr. Dixon Yang, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. In fact, he said, the food swamp issue is intertwined with other factors in those communities. People living there may have lower incomes, little time or places for exercise, or less access to health care, for example. But food swamps…  read on >  read on >

Fizzy sodas, microwaveable meals and packaged cookies are convenient for people on the go, but these folks might not go as far as they’d like if that’s all they eat. Ultra-processed foods appear to increase the risk of developing and dying from a variety of cancers, a new large-scale study says. Every 10% increase of these foods in your diet increases your overall risk of cancer by 2% and your risk of a cancer-related death by 6%, researchers reported Jan. 31 in eClinical Medicine. The risk is even higher for specific cancers, particularly those that primarily affect women. For example, every 10% increase in a woman’s consumption of ultra-processed foods makes her 19% more likely to develop and 30% more likely to die from ovarian cancer, the investigators found. The researchers describe ultra-processed foods as “industrial formulations made by assembling industrially derived food substances and food additives through a sequence of extensive industrial processes.” Industrially derived ingredients include things like high-glucose corn syrup, modified starch, protein isolates, emulsifiers, stabilizers and preservatives, the study authors said. “Our bodies may not react the same way to these ultra-processed ingredients and additives as they do to fresh and nutritious minimally processed foods,” lead researcher Kiara Chang, a research fellow with Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, said in a college news release. “However, ultra-processed foods are everywhere…  read on >  read on >

Dave Conway had a heart attack in 2018. He was only 30. The Clintonville, Ohio, resident had been experiencing fatigue and shortness of breath, finally going to the emergency room with what he thought was pneumonia. Instead, he learned he’d had a “widowmaker” heart attack and a 100% blockage in a major artery. “I thought people who had heart attacks or heart disease were older people who drink and smoke a lot and weigh much more than I did,” Conway said. “Recovery has been really tough, but I’m willing to do whatever my doctors tell me is needed to keep my heart safe in the future,” he said in an Ohio State University news release. Stories like Conway’s are becoming more common, with studies showing heart attacks and stroke are on the rise among Americans younger than 40. Certain healthy habits can help prevent heart problems — but getting younger adults to accept their risks remains an obstacle. “It is alarming that younger people don’t feel that they’re at risk for heart disease, but it’s not surprising,” said Dr. Laxmi Mehta, director of preventative cardiology and women’s cardiovascular health at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “Most young people think heart disease only happens in old people, but that’s not the case,” Mehta said in the release. The medical center surveyed 2,000 Americans, finding that…  read on >  read on >