Nutrition News: Kids and Veggie Heros, Probiotics and Weight Loss, Losing Belly Fat

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This is a job for Veggie-Man!

As parents know, it can be tough to get kids to eat their greens. But a new study indicates that the methods marketers employ to sell junk food to kids can be used to compel them to eat fruits and vegetables. For the study, elementary-school kids were divvied into groups that either received no intervention, had banners featuring vegetable superheroes posted near their cafeteria salad bars, were shown (really rather cute) TV cartoons depicting those same veggie superhero characters, or were shown both the TV cartoons and the banners.

The TV segments alone barely budged veggie consumption, but the banners increased it by 90.5 percent. And when kids were shown both the banners and the TV ads, their veggie intake shot up by 239.2 percent. “It’s possible to use marketing techniques to do some good things,” study author David R. Just, of Cornell University, told The New York Times.

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Probiotics and weight loss

Can consuming probiotics — healthy bacteria that can be found in yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and other fermented foods, as well as in supplement form — help you lose weight and lower your body mass index? A new research review has concluded that it can. Researchers at Taizhou People’s Hospital in Taizhou, China, surveyed evidence from 25 studies and determined that consumption of probiotics may help reduce body weight and BMI. Further, they found, overweight adults and those who take more than one type of probiotic for eight weeks or more lose the most weight. Sounds intriguing, but before you start shopping for probiotics, check out these helpful tips.

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To ditch belly fat, diet does it

Raise your hand if you yearn to shed the extra fat around your midsection. Lots of hands out there! The BBC set out to determine the best way to lose belly fat. Recruiting 35 volunteers, researchers divided them four groups. The members of Group 1 were told to stick with their usual diet but were given step counters and exercises to increase activity. Group 2 was tasked with doing sit-ups. Group 3 was told to drink three glasses of milk per day. Participants in Group 4 — “the diet group” — were told to reduce their portion size and eliminate between-meal snacking and were supported by a dietitian.

After six weeks, Group 1 was healthier but hadn’t lost any belly fat. Those in Group 2 were neither lighter nor healthier, but had trimmed almost an inch from their waistlines. Group 3 lost no weight and showed no sign of improved health. Group 4 — “the diet group” — was deemed the “clear winner,” having lost an average of 8.2 pounds apiece and 2 inches off their waistlines and showing signs of improved health overall.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer.