Pressuring kids to diet can backfire, damaging long-term health

(HealthDay)—Parents want the best for their children. Eat well. Get enough sleep. Exercise. But sometimes pressuring your teen to diet or lose weight may end up harming them, a new study suggests.

It found that parents who urge their kids to diet might actually be boosting their odds for obesity later in life. It’s also tied to an increased risk for eating disorders.

The phenomenon can even stretch across generations, said study lead author Jerica Berge, professor and vice chair for research in the department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota.

“This new study was conducted over many years, and we can see that these messages stay with someone longitudinally—someone who had [experienced] it now does that to their kid, passing it on, giving it to the next generation,” said Berge.

One expert who works with kids who battle eating disorders wasn’t surprised by the findings.

“We work with young people with serious eating disorders, and we work very closely with parents,” said Ana Ojeda, a clinical psychologist specializing in pediatric patients at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami.

“Some of our kids are hospitalized,” explained Ojeda, who wasn’t involved in the new study. “When you combine eating disorders with depression, anxiety or their own body image, it can lead to very bad consequences. We definitely do not encourage parents to make a foolish focus on a child’s weight. At certain developmental stages, it can be very damaging to self-esteem.”

In the study, Berge’s group looked at data from surveys completed by more than 1,100 adolescents from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area from 1998 to 1999. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed were girls.

The respondents then filled out follow-up surveys at five-year intervals beginning in 2003, until they entered their 30s.

By the third survey, more than 40% of young women and 27% of young men said they received encouragement from their mothers to diet to stay slim. About 20% of young females and 18% of young males said they’d gotten similar messages from their dads.

The study couldn’t prove a direct cause-and-effect, but parental pressure to get and stay slim was associated with poorer health in young adulthood, the study found. There seemed to be a cumulative effect on adult behaviors centered on weight, weight-related behaviors and psychosocial well-being, the Minneapolis team found.

For example, by the end of the study—15 years after the first questionnaires had been filled out—girls who’d been pressured to diet had a 49% higher odds of being an obese young adult compared to girls who hadn’t gotten that parental pressure. Boys who had a similar experience had a 13% higher odds of becoming obese young men, the researchers reported.

When it came to what the researchers called “extreme weight control behaviors,” parental pressure to diet boosted the odds for girls by 29% and for boys by 12%, Berge’s group found. Risks for binge eating, specifically, rose by 17% for girls and 39% for boys.

Messages about dieting from parents were also linked to a higher odds for poor self-esteem, body satisfaction and depression in young adulthood.

None of this means that parents who encourage dieting are trying to make their kids unhappy or unhealthy, Berge stressed.

“Parents are well-meaning and doing the best for their kids,” she said. “They want them to be as healthy as possible, but they often undermine themselves with the language they use, making a kid feel guilty or ashamed and much more less able to change, because they feel about bad about themselves internally.”

As Berge explained, there is a better way.

“If you say something about someone’s weight, it’s internalized as shaming, and it doesn’t lead to behavior change,” she said. “So, we’re trying to refocus people’s language on eating health. We relate it to something kids like to do. If your kid likes soccer, focus on the fact that eating right can help you run faster on the team. Whatever is of interest to your teen, hone in on that and tell them eating well is for that purpose, not focusing on weight.”

How can parents prevent their good intentions to keep from backfiring?

Rebecca Puhl is deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. Reviewing the findings, she agreed that “there are better ways for parents to communicate [about weight] with teens.”

First off, “what parents do is more powerful than what they say,” she stressed.

“Parents who create a home environment where healthier choices are easier to make—fruits and vegetables are available, minimizing junk food, modeling healthy behaviors themselves—are more likely to be effective, rather than telling your teen she or he needs to lose weight,” Puhl said.

Berge believes that it also helps families to focus on health and eating as a unit.

“Engage the family around it, rather than Mommy saying, ‘stop this,'” she said. “Have a good culture in the family around eating. Communicate in a way that promotes healthy eating, not blame.

“We need to be modeling what’s right for our own bodies,” Berge said. “And communicating to children that what’s far more important is their contribution and character than what they look like or the number on the scale.”

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Watch This Bodybuilder Work Out on Just 4 Hours of Sleep

Having a new baby can throw everything into chaos, and when you’re a bodybuilder whose life is built on regimented routine, adapting can be tough. Following the birth of his second child, fitness YouTuber Hudson White (a.k.a. one half of the Buff Dudes) decided to turn his newfound lack of sleep into a challenge, limiting himself to just four hours of shuteye each night for a week (compared to his usual eight to ten). Here’s how it affected his training.

Since he only had about 45 minutes to train each day, White made it count by focusing on supersets which kept his heart rate high. He also played it safe by making sure the weights weren’t too heavy, as he was drowsier than usual. Keeping the weights lighter and taking shorter rest times meant that he was ultimately able to complete his workout faster.

“When you only have a little time and you’re dealing with fatigue, you have to play it smart and you have to utilize your time” he says in the video, adding: “You may not feel like doing it at the beginning, but damn, you feel really good when you’re about to wrap up, because not only did you get it out of the way, but now you feel the power of that pump.”

Included in White’s “new dad” workout are:

In addition to dealing with constant feelings of fatigue, White notes that one of the main challenges he faced was fighting off the temptation to indulge in junk food in his sleep-deprived state. “You end up snacking a lot, it throws off your diet, and diet is a huge part of what keeps you in shape.” He used meal prep as a way of ensuring he kept his diet on track during the challenge.

Trying to stay on top of your fitness while juggling a whole other range of priorities on next to no sleep can be exhausting, but White finds consolation in the fact that carrying around a baby is a great workout in itself: “They’re the weights that keep getting bigger!”

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Raw milk: the benefits are unclear but the dangers are real

According to some of its online proponents, unpasteurised or “raw” milk can “heal the gut”, boost the immune system, prevent allergies, give you healthier skin and even contribute to bodybuilding. Perhaps more common is the idea that pasteurisation—the heating process used to kill harmful bacteria in milk—reduces the amount of vitamins and “good” bacteria in the drink, so raw milk is supposedly better for you. Recent media reports suggest this perception is creating a growing demand for raw milk that some farmers are happily responding to.

So what does the scientific evidence say? There’s some data to indicate pasteurisation can have a small effect on milk’s nutritional content. But drinking raw milk comes with the risk of contracting serious and potentially lethal infections.

Pasteurisation, named after scientist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), involves heating certain types of food and drink to about 72°C for a minimum of 15 seconds and then rapidly cooling them to 3°C. This process reduces the numbers of potentially harmful bacteria (pathogens) and other microorganisms that reduce the shelf life of the product.

A 2011 meta-analysis compared the results of 40 studies investigating the effects of pasteurisation on vitamin levels in milks. It showed pasteurisation did reduce the amount of vitamins B1, B2, C and folate in milk. But the authors also concluded that, apart from vitamin B2, levels of these vitamins were so low to begin with that milk wasn’t an important dietary source of them.

They also found some of the published scientific evidence suggested that raw milk may offer some protection from allergies. However, the numerous environmental factors involved in farming prevented any clear conclusions being made.

Another study from 2015 looked at how often 983 babies under 12 months suffered fevers and respiratory tract infections such as colds (as recorded by their parents). It compared those who were given raw milk and those who had UHT (ultra-high temperature processed) milk, which is heated to a much higher temperature (135°C) than in regular pasteurisation.

The authors concluded that drinking raw milk in the first year of life could reduce the risk of fevers and respiratory infections by about 30% compared to UHT milk. They stated that if a method could be found to remove pathogens from milk with only minimal processing, then this could have an enormous impact on babies’ health, given how common these infections are.

But it’s important to emphasise this isn’t the same as saying raw milk has protective powers for anyone who drinks it. It’s also worth considering that babies under 12 months are usually recommended breast milk or formula because they cannot obtain all the nutrients they need from any cow’s milk. Perhaps most importantly, such young infants are at particular risk from the pathogens in raw milk, which can threaten even healthy adults.

Harmful bacteria

The average human body contains around 39 trillion individual bacterial cells—more than the total number of human cells in the body. We need a mixture of microorganisms, perhaps commonly known as “good” bacteria, to fight off the bad ones.

Since microorganisms are found everywhere from the Antarctic to the bottom of the sea, it’s perhaps unsurprising that they are commonplace on the average dairy farm. Some harmful bacteria that have been associated with raw drinking milk include Mycobacterium bovis (the causative agent of bovine TB), Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria and the toxin-producing E. coli.

Research has shown drinking raw milk can lead to infections with these pathogens. In Colorado, US, in 2015, 12 people were infected with a drug-resistant strain of Campylobacter jejuni after drinking raw milk. Although no one died, one person was hospitalised and all had symptoms ranging from bloody diarrhoea to stomach cramps and headaches. Similarly, in Wales in 2017, 18 cases of Campylobacter infection were reported from people who had drunk raw milk.

Because of the dangers related to raw milk, its sale is often strictly regulated. For example, in most of the UK it can only be sold by registered producers who use approved production methods. Farms have to be inspected twice a year, and the milk has to be labelled with a health warning and tested four times a year for the presence of pathogens. But in Scotland, selling raw milk for drinking is prohibited entirely, as it is in [Canada] and Australia.

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