Leann Birch, distinguished professor of human development and family studies and director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State, is retiring effective Dec. 31 after 21 years at Penn State.
Many parents have a difficult time persuading their preschool-aged children to try vegetables, let alone eat them regularly. Food and nutrition researchers have found that by offering a dip flavored with spices, children were more likely to try vegetables -- including those they had previously rejected.
Leann Birch, distinguished professor of human development and family studies and professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State, and Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State, have received awards from the American Society for Nutrition.
Two Penn State faculty members, Dr. Barbara Rolls and Dr. Leann Birch, are the recipients of awards from the Obesity Society. The faculty members received their awards at the Obesity 2010, the Obesity Society's annual scientific meeting, held October 8-12, 2010, in San Diego, California.
The USDA's 2010 dietary guidelines report calls the obesity epidemic "the single greatest threat to public health in this century." Says Robert Gabbay, director of The Penn State Institute for Diabetes and Obesity, "As a society, we are just now starting to absorb the extent of this problem. The predictions for children are finally ringing the alarm bells. If we don't do something, our kids won't even have the life expectancy we have -- and the years they have may not be healthy ones. Our researchers are tackling things from the molecular level all the way to public health initiatives, with a shared goal of eradicating obesity and diabetes and helping those with these conditions live better."
Despite detailed nutrition labels, diet pills, and fitness clubs on every corner, our nation is getting heavier—and children are not exempt from this trend. "Over the past three decades, obesity has skyrocketed among American youth, says Leann Birch. "In fact, the number of obese children has doubled for preschoolers and adolescents and has tripled for children between the ages of 6 and 11."
Fixing a plate of animal crackers and a glass of milk for your little one to snack on while watching Dora the Explorer or Bob the Builder sounds harmless, doesn't it? After all, eating in front of the TV is part of our American lifestyle.
Bchild sits slumped in a chair at the dinner table, scowling at a plate of food. What parents do next, says Leann Birch, could mean the difference between that child having a healthy relationship with food or growing up to be a chronic dieter. And what Birch suggests they should do may be hard for the parents to swallow.
"A civilized life is impossible without salt."
—Pliny the Elder
How do we begin to capture a substance as basic to our lives and legends, as omnipresent, as simple and complex, as sustaining and lethal, prosaic, exalted, easy to overlook, and irreplaceable, as cheap, plain, powerful, savory, sharp, gritty, and pure as sodium chloride?
Sneak up behind it, maybe, and put some salt on its tail?