FYI from the NHLBI Index

September 2005: Vol. 6, Issue 2
Feature Articles

HHS Launches NHLBI-Developed Childhood Obesity Prevention Program

Vitamin E: No "Magic Bullet"

HHS Launches NHLBI-Developed Childhood Obesity Prevention Program

On June 1st, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced the launch of We Can!, Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition, a national education program developed by the NHLBI and supported by 3 other NIH Institutes that encourages healthy eating and increased physical activity.

The science-based We Can! program helps parents teach their children to eat a sufficient amount of a variety of fruits and vegetables per day; choose small portions at home and at restaurants; eat fewer high-fat foods and energy-dense foods that are low in nutrient value; substitute water or fat-free or low-fat milk for sweetened beverages such as sodas; engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week; and reduce time spent in front of televisions, computers, and the like to no more than two hours per day.

New evidence suggests that teaching children and their parents how to make lifestyle changes like the ones proposed in We Can! can have an impact. Results of the NHLBI-supported Dietary Intervention Study in Children (DISC) show that children ages 8 to 10 who were enrolled in a behaviorally oriented nutrition education program with their parents and were taught to follow a diet low in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol reported switching from calorie-dense and high-fat foods to foods that were lower in saturated fat, total fat, and dietary cholesterol. The children in the program adopted better dietary habits over several years compared with their peers who received only general nutritional information.

The DISC findings provide an insight into real-world eating behavior and document the challenges of trying to eat a healthy diet in a fast-paced world. For example, the study confirmed a long-suspected phenomenon of modern society: approximately one-third of the total daily calories consumed by children came from snack foods, desserts, and pizza.

“DISC demonstrates that children and their families can learn to enjoy healthy foods and to be selective about their food choices – habits that will hopefully stay with them throughout their lives,” said NHLBI Director Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D. “The study also showed that children and their families need the right tools to help them make positive lifestyle changes.”

We Can! materials include a parents’ handbook available in Spanish or English. For more information, visit We Can! or call toll-free 866-35-WE CAN (866-359-3226).

Modified 9/20/05
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Vitamin E: No “Magic Bullet”

Vitamin E supplements do not protect healthy women from cardiovascular disease or cancer, according to the latest results from the Women’s Health Study (WHS). In recent years, a great deal of public and scientific interest has been focused on the potential of antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin E to reduce the risk of developing two of the most common causes of illness and death. However, the WHS, which randomly assigned women to receive vitamin E or a placebo and followed them for 10 years, found no effect of vitamin E supplementation on heart attacks, strokes, or total deaths. Moreover, trial participants who received vitamin E showed no reduction in rates of breast, lung, colon, or other cancers, or in cancer-related deaths. Earlier results from the WHS, reported in 1999, had revealed no benefit from another antioxidant vitamin, beta-carotene, in preventing cardiovascular disease or cancer.

In commenting on the cardiovascular disease findings, Dr. Nabel said, “This landmark trial has given women and their physicians important health information. We can now say that despite their initial promise, vitamin E supplements do not prevent heart attack and stroke. Instead, women should focus on well-proven means of heart disease prevention, including leading a healthy lifestyle and controlling risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”

Modified 9/20/05
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