Archive for the ‘our kids and their weight issues’ Category

Exercise counts most for kids

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

thumbs up on this activity

In a previous post I mentioned former neighbors whose two boys had to run around outside for an hour a day (and they did spend most of that hour literally running), before they got any “screen time.” I thought that was admirable and noted both kids were slender.

Now I found an article in the February 15, 2102 issue of JAMA that confirms the wisdom of the approach my friends took toward this issue. A sextet of authors from the UK, Norway, Sweden and Canada published results for the International Children’s Accelerometry Database Collaborators (ICAD).

First I had to make sure what accelerometry meant in this context. The dictionary definition was only somewhat useful. It obviously refers to a gadget for measuring acceleration, but when I returned to a prior study  of 1,862 British children aged 9 or 10 published in 2009 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, I learned it’s a very expensive and sophisticated gadget. My wife has a step counter that our local hospital seniors’ organization, the Aspen Club, gave her free. The device used in the large-scale research project, sold by a Florida firm, does lots more than just count steps. Among other thing it also monitors how much energy you expend and what your activity intensity has been. Of course the current model I found online costs $1,249, but there is a volume discount.

That earlier study concluded we need to get our youngsters really moving in order to “curb the growing obesity epidemic.”

The current paper offers a more nuanced viewpoint. It has a daunting title: “Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity and Sedentary Time and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Children and Adolescents.”  The study looked at exercise levels and screen time in over 20,000 kids ages 4 to 18. Overall those who got more exercise improved all the risk factors measured: waist size, blood pressure, insulin levels, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol.

thumbs down on this one

Once levels of physical activity were factored in, sedentary time seemed relatively unimportant. But a smaller group, 6413 kids, was followed  for a little over two years and neither screen time nor exercise seemed important in changes in waist size, while kids who, at the start of the various studies, had bigger bellies, also had them later. I’d bet most of those were quite TV-addicted, since the paper warns that activity (or lack of activity actually) is often a clue to snacking and soft drinks.

I may show the short form of this paper to the principal of the nearby grade school I’ve mentioned previously. All those kids, starting in kindergarden, have a one-hour exercise period mostly spent running. I think it’s a school-district-wide program and just confirms what to me is common sense.

Lots of our youngsters are spending their days sitting in front of a screen of some sort instead of playing active games outdoors. Even in the age group followed in the recent article, a quarter of the kids were at least overweight; 7% were already obese. The average time for active play was a half an hour a day and the average for screen time was close to six hours a day.

I doubt we can totally reverse those numbers, but it’s a good idea.

The very high-priced spread

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

This obese teenager could be headed for trouble

I’ve been concerned about our burgeoning problem of excessive weight, so when the Journal of the American Medical Association for February 1, 2012 arrived, I was intrigued by the variety of articles touching on the subject. Let me start with a disclaimer: I have no clear-cut special competence, no magic bullet for preventing or treating obesity in our children. I do think it’s a major threat to the upcoming generations here and elsewhere in the world. I am also very aware that its opposite numbers, hunger and even starvation, threaten whole populations around the globe.

But my own background, both as a physician and as someone who has successfully fought weight issues (I weighed 218 in 1969 and 148 this morning), has made me concentrate on the American epidemic of eating to excess as a major area of my interest.

The first article dealt with kids and adolescents. A group of CDC researchers reported an update on obesity in American kids, giving data from 199 to 2010. The newest statistics show nearly ten percent of our infants and toddlers are obese and close to 17% of our kids ages two to nineteen. As the kids got older, more boys than girls were obese in this survey with over 4,000 participants.

Then there was an article titled “Weight Loss Stratagies for Adolescents,” based on a Boston Children’s Hospital Conference roughly a year ago. The MD, PhD Harvard Professor of pediatrics who discussed the issue began with the case history of a particular obese girl, a fourteen-year-old who was five foot six and weighed nearly 250 pounds (giving her a body mass index,BMI, of 40). Her adoptive parents were overweight themselves, but had to learn to “back off” in their attempts to control her diet. There is some early data that suggests that parents can help by providing health food choices in the home and facilitating enjoyable physical activity throughout the day (versus a fixed “exercise time).

I had seen an example of that with some former neighbors whose boys, in order to have their one hour of “screen time,” had to be outside playing for several hours at a time. Both youngsters were lean.

One critical point to be made is avoiding focusing on obese kids only. A large Danish study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in December, 2007,  followed over a quarter million children born in the 1930 to 1976 time period. Denmark established a national civil register of “vital statistics” in 1968 and enrolled everyone in the country, giving them a unique number, ironically termed their CPR number. Although that had nothing to do, I gather, with cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which is what I think CPR means, the study did look at risk factors for coronary heart disease.

When your heart's on fire, it may not be from love

The results are impressive and threatening: every one point increase in BMI across the spectrum was associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease. A child didn’t have to be fat to be at risk later on. One calculation estimated that a 13-year-old boy weighing 25 pounds more than the average had a one-third increase in the likelihood of having a heart attack before the age of sixty.

It’s time to start helping our kids live leaner and longer, healthier lives.

 

What sweetener do you use: Part 5; Fructose effects

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

A good place to start researching

I basically knew what happens when we ingest glucose, (eating it or drinking it depending on whether it’s in solid or liquid form, e.g frosting versus sweetened tea) : it goes through the liver and heads off to muscle and other body parts where insulin activity is responsible for energy use. But I wanted to compare its effects to those of fructose. First I found an old article (1986 vintage) in the American Journal of Physiology (AJP), hardly a bedside reading item for me these days, but one I used to proofread for as a research fellow. That, once I translated it into English that I could understand, changed my mind a bit.

Glucose does lead to an increase in insulin levels and an increase in carbohydrate breakdown, while lipid (fat) breakdown slows down. The net result is a considerable bump in energy use. ‘So far, so good,’ I thought. But a comparable amount of fructose resulted in a much smaller increase of insulin, yet considerably more carb breakdown and even less fat breakdown. So even more energy was used. That I hadn’t expected, but this study was a one-time experiment with seventeen healthy folk followed for a few hours.

So my next question, and I thought this one was far more important, was what happen longterm?

Let’s look at animal research first. A group from Princeton published an article online in a journal called Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior in February 2010. Tha basic conclusion from these scientists contradicted what I had read elsewhere, but made sense. They concluded all sweetener calories are not equal– after feeding rats standard foods and adding either table sugar-sweetened water or HFCS-sweetened water. Even if the HFCS water was less sweet overall, the rats gained more weight. Long-term feeding experiments showed rats fed HFCS developed many of the signs of the “metabolic syndrome.” weight gain, fat deposition in the belly and abnormal blood levels of trigclycerides.

So fructose was being metabolized to form fat, while glucose was being used as it normally is. That brought their thoughts back to why fructose in HFCS is different from that in table sugar. According to this research group, HFCS contains free, unbound fructose while that found in table sugar is always tied to a glucose molecule. Their concept is that table sugar fructose has to go through an additional chemical process, freeing it from glucose, before it can be used by the body.

So why should we care what makes rats fatter?

But here's our real target

I found a long article in The Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI), the other research magazine my boss (and I) reviewed potential articles for in 1970 to 1972. Here people who who overweight or obese to begin with were fed either glucose- or fructose-containing liquids for ten weeks.

And the results were similar. Those getting fructose had more belly fat develop. I think translates to more chance of heart disease  and other long term complications.

The evidence is gradually adding up; I think HFCS is something to be avoided. Let’s feed our kids and ourselves more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods.

What sweeteners do you use? Part 4: HFCS and mercury

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

A safer place for mercury

In my last post I mentioned that fructose metabolism appears to be more complex than I learned in medical school. Of course that was in 1962-1966 and a lot has changed in medical knowledge in the forty-five plus years since then. We all know that fructose, in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is added to many processed foods and sweetened drinks; the question being debated is, “Is that bad for us?”

I’ve been reading a variety of articles from the medical literature and some popular websites on the subject and not all scientists, physicians and dietitians agree on the answer. I previously mentioned a Mayo Clinic online article that stresses the need to cut our added-sugar intake, both table sugar and HFCS, and mentions that research on HFCS isn’t yet at the point to implicate it as worse for you than other added sweeteners.

There’s also an article by Jennifer Goldstein from Prevention magazine that I found on the msnbc website. I’m not sure of her science background (she’s now the Beauty Director for the magazine). Nonetheless, her article is reasonably well-balanced, if you read between the lines. The over-all conclusion is that anti-HFCS evidence is slim. She quotes an NYC-based nutritionist as saying the calories in HFCS and table sugar, gram for gram, are equal, but mentions several reports that have shown HFCS samples may contain mercury… in small amounts.

But you don't want it here, or in your food

Mercury is a neurotoxin, a substance which can damage the brain, especially the developing brain of a fetus or infant. Even “small amounts” are considered dangerous for babies in the womb. We have all heard of its presence in fish, but mercury in HFCS was new to me. I’m about three years behind, it appears. I found a Washington Post article from January, 2009 which mentioned two studies examining this issue.

At that time, in spite of industry denials, nearly half of HFCS samples tested contained mercury as did almost a third of processed food and beverage products. The researchers writing on this  enormously significant problem noted that HFCS had been made using chemicals produced in industrial plants clinging to an outmoded, 19th century method

A now-retired FDA scientist, Renee Dufault, headed a study in 2009 showing low levels of mercury in all the processed foods she and colleagues tested (and none in organic foods) and then had their results verified by two independent labs. She then says the FDA’s head of their Food Additives section told her to quit her HFCS studies. She quit the FDA instead and published her results. A physician-headed team at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a non-profit watchdog, repeated her studies using commercial beverages and foods. Their twenty-plus-page paper is worth reading.

By the middle of December, 2010, the HFCS industry had gotten the message. But until all HFCS made in the United States is mercury-free I’m going to avoid it.

Do our kids have a bleak future?

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

As close to a salad as he'll get

I’m taking a break today from my series of posts on greenhouse gases, alternative energy source, volcanoes and global warming. All of those will affect the generations to come and those now growing up, but I want to re-examine another side of their issues. This morning I read two articles and one newspaper report on the heart health prospects for our American kids (and, by extension, kids elsewhere in the developed/rapidly developing world). The initial article came from a section of the Wall Street Journal I hadn’t gotten around to reading yesterday and was about to recycle. Then I saw a title that caught my eye, “Kids’ Hearth Health Is Faulted.”

I found a CDC website with an explanation of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, NHANES. This is a continuation of a US Public Health Service effort started 40 years ago and is updated annually. Medically-trained interviewers may well come to your town and even to your front door someday. The data they obtain is used in many ways (I’ll paste in a website that leads you to some comments on NHANES as well as to a link to a video).

Now a portion of the survey/study looked at 5,450 kids between 12 and 19, finding they were a long ways from matching the American Heart Association’s (AHA) seven criteria for idea cardiovascular health (see 2nd link below to Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s article on the subject). The adult health measures, known as Life’s Simple 7, are: 1). Never smoked or quit more than a year ago; 2). Body Mass Index (a measure of height versus weight) <25; 3). Physical activity on a weekly basis for 75 minutes (vigorously) or 150 minutes (moderate intensity).; 4). a healthy diet (four or more components meeting AHA guidelines); 5). total cholesterol <200 mg/dL; 6). blood pressure (BP) <120/80; and fasting blood glucose (AKA blood sugar) <100 mg/dL. The original article was published in the journal Circulation January 20, 2010 and is available free online. The metrics are slightly different for kids.

So where do our kids stack up? If you exclude eating a healthy diet, only 16.4% of boys and 11.3% of girls meet the standards for the other six criteria; if you include diet, none of them do. They don’t eat four to five servings of fruits and vegetables a day; they also don’t get enough whole-grains or fish and they consume far to much salt and sugar-sweetened drinks. Only one fifth of them even eat “fairly well.”

drop that hamburger and run for an hour

Many of then also don’t exercise on a daily basis for at least sixty minutes (50% of the boys do and 40% of the girls). More than a third are overweight or obese.

There’s some hope: a just-published article in the New England Journal of Medicine, examining the data from four studies following 6328 kids, found that those who do manage to lose weight had lower risk for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, abnormal lipids and carotid artery disease.

So I’m heading to the health club and will read the 2010 Circulation tome on an exercise bike.

Thus far my one biologic grandson, about to be 12,  is physically active and slender. I’ll encourage him to stay that way and the non-biologic grandkids to follow his example.

More on this subject to come.

Check out these articles:

Survey Results and Products from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

AHA Defines “Ideal” Cardiovascular Health

 

Early cholesterol testing now recommended

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

We're seeing more obese kids

With our sweeping epidemic of childhood obesity ( current estimates say over one-sixth of American kids are obese, three times the prevalence rate seen thirty years ago), it’s time to take some additional steps. On Friday 11, 2011, sweeping new guidelines for childhood lipid testing were espoused by both the NIH’s Nation Heart Lung and Blood Institute and The American Academy of Pediatrics. I found these, of all places, not on the websites of the two august bodies, but on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, an NPR article and in the Los Angeles Times.

The actual article in the journal Pediatrics, won’t be out for two more days and should find a fair amount of opposition. Previous position papers by the AAP and the US Preventive Services Task Force have either suggested lipid studies be done in focused groups (eg. family history of heart disease or lipid disorders) or, if universally, no earlier than age 20. The CDC (actually the acronym has changed since it’s now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), in a 2010 report, commented that a single elevated LDL cholesterol reading in a child may be found to be normal in subsequent testing.

The current recommendation panel, headed by Dr. Stephen R. Daniels, an MD, PhD who is Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, is quick to avoid any suggestion of widespread statin use for children found to have high levels of “bad cholesterol,” LDLs over 190 milligrams per deciliter. Another panel member, Dr. Elaine M. Urbana, director of preventive cardiology at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, was quoted as saying, “This documents on the fact that this generation may be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”

So go back to the facts: one-third of US kids are overweight and about 12.5 million of them are actually obese. Even here in Colorado, the thinnest state in the nation, I see some of those kids every day. We’re not just talking about high schoolers; some of these fat kids are as young as two.

What’s missing is a balanced diet with emphasis on fruits and vegetables and a reasonable amount of daily exercise.

earlier blood tests may let them live longer

Daniels comments, “…the atherosclerosis process really begins early in life.” he also said, “Heart disease is the number one killer in our society…people who are able to maintain a low risk through childhood and early adulthood have a lower risk (of dying from coronary artery disease).”

From my perspective, it’s our responsibility as parents and grandparents, to help prevent childhood obesity, the accompanying risk of later type 2 diabetes and the huge risk of early heart disease. I filled out a health history form yesterday and noted my mother had a heart attack at age 74 (she lived ’till 90), but ignored my father’s need for an artery unclogging procedure shortly before his 90th birthday. That may be something I can put off by eating well and exercising, but that’s not the focus here.

I never want to see a child or grandchild die of a heart attack in their 50s or 40s or 30s or 20s.

So blood tests between ages 9 and 11 and again between 17 and 21 make sense.

 

 

Should the kids be in the middle? It may depend on the kid’s middle

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

This is not the example you should set

Wall Street Journal headline caught my eye, “Obesity Fuels Custody Fights.” It noted that childhood obesity is frequently being used by one parent or the other as grounds for custody changes with accusations concerning poor diets and lack of exercise flying back and forth.

That led me to a July 13, 201 article in The Journal of the American Medical Association (henceforth JAMA), “State Intervention in Life-Threatening Childhood Obesity.”

We’re not talking about mildly overweight kids here; in 2009 a 555-pound fourteen-yer-old boy, living in one of the southeastern states, was taken  by court order from his mother and placed into foster care. She in turn was charged with criminal neglect as the Department of Social Services for that state felt they must intervene or the boy would be at considerable risk for major obesity-related problems, especially diabetes type 2. I found a photo online of the boy and my jaw dropped.

The JAMA article notes “even relatively mild parenting deficiencies” can contribute to a child’s weight problems: having junk food in the home, frequently taking the kids to fast food restaurants, failing to model an active lifestyle.The CDC estimates `17% of America’s kids and teens are obese (we’re not just talking mildly overweight); that’s 12.5 million kids at risk. The two Boston authors who wrote in JAMA quote a study showing 2 million of those obese kids are grossly obese with a BMI at or beyond the 99th percentile for their age (a very small percentage of those grossly obese kids, it turns out, may have a genetic abnormality; in those rare cases, the parents aren’t to blame).

What can we do about this horrendous problem? Well, there are a variety of “bariatric” operations available in pediatric surgery programs; in dire cases state legal action may be

this makes more sense

necessary. But I liked what I saw the other day walking Yoda, our nine-year-old Tibetan terrier, on his morning constitutional (he gets an evening walk as well, which means either my wife or I or both get some extra exercise).

We came near the elementary school near us and there was a long line of kids, punctuated by an occasional teacher, running past. We stopped to watch, realized these were kindergarden and/or first grade kids, and finally had an opportunity to ask one of the teachers what was going on.

“It’s a new program we’ve started in the Poudre School District,” she said. “We keep the kids moving for thirty minutes. They can run and most do, or twirl around and walk the field next to the school, but they’ve got to keep moving.”

The conclusion in the JAMA article was stark, but offered a road to resolution. The authors noted, “An increasing proportion of US children are so severely obese as to be at immediate risk for life-threatening complication including type 2 diabetes.” They mentioned the pediatric weight loss surgical programs and state protective services, but finished with our need to decrease the need for those options through beefing up the social infrastructure and policies to improve both kids’ diets and guide them toward more physical activity.

Those solutions may work.

A better school lunch: Greeley in the New York Times Breaking News

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

It's time for a better school lunch

I was reading the NYT breaking news on my Kindle this morning, when to my surprise I saw an article, “Schools Restore Fresh Cooking to the Cafeteria,” on school lunches in Greeley, Colorado. We live 20-25 miles northwest of Greeley and I’d never thought of the city as being a hotbed of innovation.

At a tad under 93,000 inhabitants, Greeley is mid-sized at best, but 60% of its 19,500 students qualify for lower-priced or free meals, so they have decided those meals will be healthy ones.They’re not alone in this endeavor. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has a campaign whose motto is,”Foods served in schools should promote the health of all children.” Their 2008 school lunch report card ranked twenty school districts across the nation with letter grades from A to F.

Here’s that URL: http://www.healthyschoollunches.org/reports/report2008_intro.cfm

At the top with A’s were schools in Montogomery County, MD, Omaha, NE, and Pinellas County, FL, I was pleased that my grandson Jordi’s schools in Fairfax County, VA got an A-.  At the bottom were schools in two areas of Louisiana. I bet Greeley will climb up the list in the next few years.

So what’s their plan? Like many Colorado schools, they’ve participated in Cooks for America, a group that runs a chef’s boot camp for school cooks  Here’s what that organization’s website says: “Distinguishing the Cook for America® approach from that of countless other school food reform projects is its emphasis on holistic, systemic change through the creation of a school foodservice work force that is both capable of preparing healthy scratch-cooked meals from whole, fresh foods, and empowered and motivated to do so.”

Greeley schools will be cooking from scratch, roughly three-fourths of the time at the start of this school year according to the NYT article, and aim to reach 100% in the 2012-2013 time frame. They’ll be using fresh ingredients, avoiding chemicals (e.g., their bean burritos will have 12 ingredients this year versus 35 last year).

Although Colorado has the lowest obesity rate in the nation, Weld County, where Greeley is located, had rates growing faster than much of the state. So the numbers were crunched with amazing results: cooking from scratch will actually save money. A large foundation grant helped with construction and new equipment and the old central kitchen was renovated, so the budget for staff was actually reduced.

Chenically-colored macaroni and cheese

The district hired an experienced executive chef who trained at the Culinary Institute of America (the other CIA) and worked in high-end restaurants. He hopes his concepts for healthy cooking will wend their way back to the districts homes. One of his innovative ideas is to replace the chemically-colored commercial macaroni and cheese with a version whose familiar yellow will come from the Indian spice turmeric. His salad dressing will have no sugar and only a quarter of the sodium that’s been present in the factory-made variety.

My hat’s off to Greeley.

 

Will this work and is it safe?

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

The ultrasound said 9 pounds

I’m still digesting Taubes’s work with mixed feelings, but his concept that insulin is central in the obesity epidemic took on a new meaning today. I was reading the “Health & Wellness” section of The Wall Street Journal and came across an article titled “Programming a Fetus for a Healthier Life.” I was intrigued and read further, finding the U.K. government is backing a research effort in the realm of “fetal programming,” changing the uterine environment during pregnancy in an attempt to better a child’s health for the better in later years.

This is new turf for me and normally not an area I would have written about; in this case, however, the experiment, thus far only in its early stages, hopes to prevent obesity.

The underlying concept is the work of Dr. David J. P. Barker, who published a theory in 1997 termed the “thrifty phenotype,” saying that in poor nutritional conditions, a pregnant woman can modify the development of her unborn child such that it will be prepared to survive in a resource-limited environment. The extension of this says reduced fetal growth is associated with a number of later-life chronic conditions.

Barker is now both Professor of Epidemiology at an English university and Professor in the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University. In 1995 his theory was renamed as the Barker hypothesis by the British Medical Journal. Now it’s being applied in a very different setting.

a model of human insulin

The study is attempting to enroll obese pregnant women, 400 of them, in a trial of an oral agent called Metformin, normally utilized to treat type-2 diabetes, to lower their blood sugars, which tend to run higher than normal. The thought is that glucose is passed on to babies in utero and they then end up larger than normal birth weights and elevated insulin levels, setting the stage for lifelong obesity.

Dr. Jane Norman, a maternal-fetal health specialist at the University of Edinburgh is a lead investigator. A prominent US specialist, on the board of the 2,000-member Maternal-Fetal Medicine Society and not involved in the study, says he’d have no qualms about his patients joining the Metformin-taking moms-to-be.

I searched the literature and found the following

“Does metformin cause birth defects? Is it safe to take it during the first trimester?

Most studies suggest that metformin is not associated with an increased risk of birth defects. Some early trials suggested that the use of metformin during the first trimester was associated with an increased risk of birth defects. However, it is not clear whether these were caused by metformin or poor control of the mothers’ diabetes. More recent trials studying the safety of metformin during pregnancy, mostly when used to treat insulin resistance in women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), did not show an increased rate of birth defects or complications at birth.”

So the concept appears to be a reasonable test of whether the uterine environment can be safely altered with a drug to prevent obesity.

Wow!

The great potato war

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Time for a switch?

I was reading The Wall Street Journal this morning, starting as usual with the “Personal Journal section which headlined the story of a successful prolonged cardiac resuscitation: “96 minutes without a heartbeat.”But then the front page caught my eye with an article titled “Spuds, on the Verge of Being Expelled, Start a Food Fight in the Cafeteria.”

Searching back-files, I found recent discussions at the US Senate Agriculture’s Appropriations Subcommittee hearings. The Department of Agriculture plans to not allow money in the WIC program budget to be spent on white potatoes and not surprisingly senators from Maine and Idaho protested.

Medical articles I found stated that potatoes dominate our vegetable consumption, especially among adolescents who favor them fried. Another study, this one among young preschoolers, showed 70% of 2 to 3 year old kids eating some form of vegetables daily, with french fries and other fried potatoes being the most commonly consumed vegetables. An article in Nutrition Research from April 2011 stated that white potatoes, including French fries, did contribute “shortfall nutrients’ and, when consumed in moderate amounts, could form part of a healthful diet.

So what’s the rub? Well to begin with if you’re only eating French fries, or worse still baked potatoes with lots of cheese, butter and other toppings, you may not be eating any other vegetables and you’re getting a lot of “unhealthy diet” items.

Then there’s the question of which potato is better. The “Tufts University Health&Nutrition Letter” recommends trying sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, saying they have huge amounts of beta-carotene  (if you eat them, as I do, with the skin) and larger quantities of vitamin C, folate, calcium and manganese than their pale cousins.

The article in the WSJ that I started with mentions “Maine Potato Candy,” mashed white potatoes rolled in coconut and dipped in chocolate and even potato doughnuts, One school food-service director is quoted as regularly serving hash browns , mashed potatoes, “Maine fries,” a baked potato bar and even potato puffs for various school meals.

The proposed USDA guidelines, on the other hand, would limit starchy vegetables (not just white potatoes, but also corn, peas and lima beans) to no more than one cup per week. As expected the potato industry and their elected representatives launched a campaign to defend their product, even calling the white potato a “gateway vegetable” that can introduce kids to other vegetables.

The fracas apparently started when the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Science, recommended that WIC money shouldn’t be used to buy white potatoes. One food-service director, up in Caribou, Maine, said she tried serving sweet-potato fries, but her students “just don’t like them.” She’said to have noted they cost more and most of it goes in the trash.

I love sweet potatoes, but I started eating them early in life and I think that’s the key. If those two and three year-old kids get introduced to sweet potatoes, in whatever form, and then after a few years get baked sweet potatoes (without all the toppings…we use salsa), by the time they are teenagers they’ll eat them without any qualms.

Or so I think.