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Gene May Make Kids Crave Junk Food

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10 -- Some people may be genetically driven to seek out more calorie-dense foods, a new study suggests. In the Dec. 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, British researchers report that children with a particular gene variant tend to eat more energy-dense foods, which means food with more calories per weight. However, the researchers didn't find any difference in metabolism between kids with the gene change and those without it. "What [this study] effectively shows is that people with the relevant variants on the gene have a trait which may lead them to eat more unhealthy, fattening foods," study senior author Colin Palmer, chairman of pharmacogenomics in the Biomedical Research Institute at the University of Dundee, said in a news release. "I would stress that this is a trait, and not an absolute occurrence." Dr. Goutham Rao, clinical director of the weight management and wellness center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh at the University of Pitt ...

Fast Heart Rate Warns of Obesity, Diabetes

THURSDAY, Dec. 11 -- A too-fast heartbeat in early adulthood is a warning sign for increased risk of cardiovascular problems decades later on, a Japanese study suggests. The study of 614 residents of a rural farming community in southwestern Japan found that a heart rate greater than 80 beats a minute during a first examination in 1979 predicted the development of obesity and diabetes, which contribute to heart problems. The findings, from Kurume University School of Medicine, were published online Dec. 11 in the American Journal of Hypertension. A fast heart rate is a signal from the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the autonomic nervous system, which is the body's automatic pilot that governs instinctive responses, explained Mercedes Carnethon, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. She found the same rapid heartbeat association in a group of Americans she studied. "If someone has a consistently fast heart ...

New Food Pyramid Is Aimed at Kids

SATURDAY, Dec. 13 -- A new federal government food pyramid for preschoolers may help parents deal with picky eating problems, especially as youngsters are introduced to new kinds of foods during Christmas meals. The MyPyramid for Preschoolers interactive Web site ( offers individualized nutrition guidance to meet the needs of children aged 2 to 5, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP). "This is a great tool for all parents of preschoolers but particularly those of finicky eaters. It's loaded with great ideas and suggestions for families so they can help their kids eat a more varied and nutritious diet. What I find most useful is how to talk with kids about what to eat and tips on how to have fun with food around the dinner table," CNPP executive director Brian Wansink said in an USDA news release. Among the MyPyramid for Preschoolers tips to help parents deal with finicky eaters: * Set reasonable ...