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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 61, Issue 3, 2007

Issue cover


Food insecurity may be linked to childhood obesity in low-income Mexican-American families

The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between past and current maternal food insecurity and child-feeding practices among low-income Mexican-American families. Participants in the study were mother-child pairs enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The findings suggest that low-income Mexican-American mothers who are currently experiencing food insecurity were more likely to worry that their children were eating too much food and tended to offer smaller portion sizes to their children than mothers not currently experiencing food insecurity. Mothers who were overweight were more than twice as likely to have overweight children than mothers who were not overweight.

Preventing obesity: What should we eat?

To curb the escalating rates of obesity in California and across the nation, it is imperative to identify dietary behaviors that prevent excessive weight gain. Reports in the press are often conflicting and more often confuse than clarify the issue of what people should eat to prevent obesity. We recently conducted a comprehensive review of the literature published between 1992 and 2003 on the dietary determinants of obesity in children and adults. We examined secular trend data, mechanistic research, observational studies and prevention trials. We found that the dietary factors related to increased obesity were high intakes of dietary fat, sweetened beverages and restaurant-prepared foods, and the increased likelihood of skipping breakfast. Factors most likely to protect against obesity were the higher consumption of dietary fiber, fruits and vegetables, calcium and dairy products.

Overweight and obesity are associated with decreased magnesium intake in people with asthma

Asthma is a serious health problem that is more prevalent among low income persons. Low dietary intake of protective nutrients, such as magnesium (Mg), and high intake of energy that results in overweight and obesity has the potential to increase the risk of asthma and worsen asthma symptoms. This study of people with asthma and healthy controls showed that total body Mg stores were negatively related to increasing weight as measured by body mass index (BMI). In all BMI groups the mean recommend dietary goal for Mg was below recommended levels. Replacing low Mg foods with high Mg foods may be a practical, low cost way to help reduce the risk of obesity and low Mg status in people with asthma, especially at risk low income groups.

UCCE helps community coalitions reduce childhood overweight

In 2001, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition specialists with the Center for Weight and Health introduced the Children and Weight: What Communities Can Do About It project, with the goal of reducing the prevalence of pediatric overweight. This project was designed to facilitate the formation of community coalitions, and to educate and empower them to improve or create environments that foster healthy lifestyles in children and their families at the local level. The project has been implemented in 13 California counties and by groups across the country. The “Spectrum of Prevention” is featured as a way to address the problem of pediatric overweight from multiple levels, ranging from educating individuals and providers to advocating for systemic and environmental change. Shasta CAN in Shasta County, the Solano County Children and Weight Coalition and the Kern County Childhood Overweight Coalition are presented as models of how coalitions can creatively plan and implement activities across the spectrum.

Local diffusion networks act as pathways?to sustainable agriculture in the Sacramento River Valley

Greater sustainability is one of the main goals of agricultural and natural resource policy in California and worldwide. “Diffusion networks,” which consist mainly of connections among producers, local outreach and education agencies and agricultural organizations, provide critical pathways for achieving sustainability. We analyzed the role of diffusion networks in the context of agricultural water-quality management in the Sacramento River Valley. Data from a survey of more than 1,200 agricultural producers demonstrates the role of diffusion networks in increasing satisfaction with environmental policies, participation in water-quality management programs and the implementation of sustainable agricultural practices.

New late-season navel orange varieties evaluated for quality characteristics

New early- and late-maturing navel orange varieties have expanded the navel orange season for California’s domestic and export fresh-fruit market. For 5 years, we evaluated the fruit-quality characteristics of purported late-season varieties imported from Australia to determine whether they have any advantages over Lane Late, the first late-season navel orange imported from Australia and grown in California. Of the six varieties evaluated, Autumn Gold, Barnfield, Chislet, Powell and Lane Late had late-maturing characteristics, but none of these varieties stood out as having the latest maturing fruit for all traits associated with maturity at all nine locations studied. For certain locations, sample dates and years, there were significant differences among the varieties for quality traits associated with maturity, such as solids-to-acid ratio, percentage acidity and puncture resistance, but these differences varied depending upon location.