TIME Diet/Nutrition

Why Kids Who Eat Junk Food Early Prefer It Later in Life

Half-eaten pizza , Buffalo wings and sodas
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Early exposure can influence children to prefer those same foods growing up

Children tend to develop poor dietary habits during their first year that stick with them for the rest of their lives, according to a new study, notably those in lower income families.

“Dietary patterns are harder to change later if you ignore the first year, a critical period for the development of taste preferences and the establishment of eating habits,” lead author Xiaozhong Wen, an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said in a statement.

Parents from lower income brackets and education levels tend to feed their children formula milk rather than breastfeed in a baby’s first six months, the researchers wrote in Pediatrics after looking at the eating patterns of more than 1,500 infants at six and 12 months old. After the breastfeeding period, those same parents often feed their children foods that are higher in sugar and fat — like candy, ice cream and fries. Alternatively, parents with higher income and better education tend to follow dietary guidelines recommended by doctors.

These habits have repercussions later in life, the study finds, as early exposure to certain types of food can influence children to prefer those same foods as they grow up.

“This is both an opportunity and a challenge,” added Wen. “We have an opportunity to start making dietary changes at the very beginning of life.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

4 Real Things To Fear On Halloween

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Beware these Halloween health risks

While a good scare has surprising health benefits, Halloween arrives with some health risks. Kids dressed as zombies and teenagers in masks don’t scare you? Here are the real health hazards to fear come Halloween night.

Excessive Candy Consumption

Halloween is the high point of the year for the millions of Americans who love candy. Americans are expected to spend $2.5 billion on candy this Halloween, according to the National Confectioners Association. That money goes straight to the trick-or-treating bags of millions of kids, who collect an average of 3,500 to 7,000 calories on Halloween night, according to University of Alabama at Birmingham public health professor Donna Arnett. It’s hard to say how much of children eat, but the average 13-year-old boy would need to walk more than 100 miles to burn off those candy calories.

Pedestrian Traffic

Halloween is the deadliest day of the year for young pedestrians, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A child pedestrian is four times more likely to die on Halloween than any other day. Many more are injured. Child safety advocate Janette Fennell suggests trick-or-treating in groups and taping reflective tape to costumes to stay safe on the road. As always, pedestrians should cross streets at corners and look carefully before walking.

Drunk Driving

Holidays are often the riskiest days to be on the road, and Halloween is no exception. The last time the holiday fell on a weekend, in 2011, 74 people died in drunk driving incidents, compared to about 27 people on an average day. Because Halloween falls on a Friday this year, your chances of encountering a drunk driver on the road may be especially high. That may not be reason enough to avoid the roads entirely, but watch for drivers that seem out of control. Of course, don’t drink if you need to drive yourself.

Marijuana Candy

It may sound far-fetched, but law enforcement officials in Colorado are warning parents to look out for candy that may be laced with marijuana. So-called edibles are legal in the state for adults over age 21, but local officials fear that young kids may wind up with some of the substance in their trick-or-treat bags. Marijuana-laced candy appears and tastes like other candy, so Denver police recommend that parents toss any candy that isn’t clearly packaged from a recognizable brand.

MORE: This Is What Pot Does To The Teenage Brain

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s Another Reason to Try the Mediterranean Diet

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Bring on the nuts and veggies

The Mediterranean diet, high in vegetables, nuts and healthy fats like olive oil, has once again proven itself worthy of our plates.

People who maintained a version of the Mediterranean diet had a 50% lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease and a 42% lower risk of rapid kidney function decline, according to a new study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Over about seven years, researchers scored 900 participants’ diets on a scale based on how closely their eating habits resembled the Mediterranean diet. They found that every one-point increase in Mediterranean diet score was linked to a 17% decrease in their likelihood of developing chronic kidney disease—a disease that afflicts around 20 million Americans.

Though the researchers are not entirely certain why the Mediterranean diet is successful in warding off kidney disease, they believe it might have to do with the diet’s effects on inflammation in the kidney cells and the lining inside the heart and blood vessels. Past research has shown that the Mediterranean diet has positive effects on inflammation and blood pressure, which in turn benefits the kidneys.

The Mediterranean diet has been shown consistently to benefit the body; studies suggest it can keep you healthy in old age, ward off memory loss, fight diabetes, and lower risk of heart attacks, stroke, and childhood asthma. Of course, no diet is a cure-all, especially if it’s not accompanied by other healthy behaviors like exercising, drinking in moderation, and avoiding smoking. Still, the Mediterranean diet is certainly a good place to start.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Eat Shrimp?

Welcome to Should I Eat This?—our weekly poll of five experts who answer nutrition questions that gnaw at you.

should i eat shrimp
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

5/5 experts say yes.

The lure of garlicky sautéed shrimp is hard to resist, and if you’re having these five experts over for dinner, there’s no need to try. Shrimp fans abound in this group.

“Shrimp is a rich source of lean protein; a 3-ounce serving provides nearly 20 grams of protein,” says cookbook author Tina Ruggiero, a registered dietitian. They’re also one of the most concentrated vehicles for selenium, a nutrient that may help fight cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and thyroid disease—that same 3-ounce serving fulfills about 45% of your daily requirement. And 3/5 experts give the crustacean’s high omega-3 content a thumbs up.

Make sure, however, to check the sodium content on your shrimp package. They’re natural sources of sodium, so avoid the extra salt dump that sometimes comes with food processing.

Is shrimp’s high cholesterol tally—107 mg per 3-ounce serving—worth your worry? Cardiologist Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, doesn’t think so. “There’s very little evidence that dietary cholesterol influences most people’s risk of heart disease,” he says.

But there is a huge caveat, a strong one shared by many members of the shrimp dinner party of experts: Keep things American.

That’s not about being patriotic. Most shrimp Americans eat comes from Asia, but shrimp produced in the U.S. are generally held to stricter environmental standards. Plus, seafood sales can be rife with fraud: a new report from Oceana tested 143 shrimp products across America and found that 30% of shrimp were misrepresented. It’s a rampant practice: “Although 95% of the shrimp consumed in the U.S. is imported, less than 10% of that is imported shrimp is inspected for adulteration such as antibiotics,” says Jeffrey Lotz, PhD, professor and chair of the department of coastal sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi.

MORE: There Are Antibiotics In Your Fish

The fisherman and author Paul Greenberg is also a shimp-phile, though with some important caveats. “Biologically speaking, shrimp should be an unqualified yes—they grow fast enough on the farm to produce two crops a year and are fertile enough in the wild to quickly rebuild after the fishing season closes,” he says. “But careless farming has caused the destruction of thousands of acres of tropical mangrove forest and careless fishing can result in many more pounds of accidentally caught ‘bycatch’ species killed than actual shrimp harvested. Both farming and fishing can be improved to reduce collateral damage. At the very least we could eat all that bycatch instead of letting it go to waste.”

It’s possible to evaluate your shrimp based on ecological factors, but you have to look beyond the nutrition facts label to get the whole story on shrimp, says Dustin Moss, director of the Shrimp Research Department at the Oceanic Institute of Hawaii Pacific University. Check out the certifications printed on bags, and see how your shrimp stacks up through the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, which weighs criteria like poor farm management, bycatch loads and illegal fishing.

So there you have it: eat more shrimp, along with the other selenium-filled sea creatures dragged up with ‘em. Serving up seafood ceviche is the ecologically responsible—and healthy—thing to do.

TIME food and drink

30% of U.S. Shrimp Is Misrepresented, Study Says

Shrimp
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Labels like "wild" and "Gulf" are often inaccurate

Shrimp may be America’s most popular seafood, but that doesn’t mean we know much about the crustaceans on our plates.

A new study by Oceana, a marine conservation advocacy group, finds that 30% of shrimp products are misrepresented — either mislabeled as the wrong species, called or implied to be “wild” when in fact it was farmed, or mixed in a bag with various species. In one instance, the researchers found an aquarium species not meant for human consumption that was mixed in with frozen wild shrimp.

Misrepresentation varied by region; in Portland, Ore., where shrimp are especially popular, only 5% were labeled in a misleading way. In New York City, of the grocery stores that were visited for the study, 67% sold shrimp that was misrepresented.

The issue stems in part from a lack of general information available when purchasing these products, the researchers said. In many cases, retailers and restaurants don’t offer information about the shrimp’s species or country of origin, or whether it was farmed or caught in the world. Oceana argues that improving traceability of seafood would help decrease label fraud and enable consumers to make sustainable choices.

TIME Heart Disease

A Gut Bacteria Compound Is Linked To Heart Failure

Most Americans know that diet and heart health are connected, but a new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looks at a surprising reason as to why.

When your food gets to your stomach, your gut bacteria get to work. And when those bacteria digest carnitine, which is almost exclusively found in red meat, and choline, found in high-fat dairy products and egg yolks, they produce a metabolite called trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO. That’s bad news for your heart, because earlier animal research found that TMAO helps transport cholesterol to the arteries, where it forms dangerous plaques that can lead to heart disease.

Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, department chair of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, and his team measured the blood levels of TMAO in 720 stable patients with heart failure and followed them over five years, wondering if TMAO would help predict who would be in better shape—and who would be still alive.

It did. TMAO levels predicted mortality rates “very strikingly” over the five-year period: More TMAO in the blood meant a 3.4-fold increased risk of mortality—even after adjusting for all the traditional risk factors, Hazen says.

“It suggests that we’ve now learned a new link in the cause [of heart failure],” Hazen says. “It suggests that the impact of dietary manipulation and changes in gut microbe composition may be a way to impact the development and the adverse prognosis in heart failure.”

TMAO research is still fairly new. Just last year in a study of 2,595 people, Hazen’s team found that meat eaters had higher levels of carnitine and greater risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack than their vegan and vegetarian peers.

Still, Hazen doesn’t think it’s necessary for everyone to stop eating meat altogether. “What we are now trying to do is come up with a therapy that will prevent formation of TMAO, and hopefully prevent the development of cardiac disease…and the development of heart failure in its adverse prognosis,” Hazen says.

“I like kind of joking around, I’m hoping to come up with the pill that allows me to keep eating steak.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Milk Might Not Save Your Bones, Study Says

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Sugars in milk may lead to aging

The bone-strengthening powers of milk have been claimed over and over again in advertisements, pop culture and around the dinner table. But a new study published in the BMJ suggests that the truism may not be true. High milk intake, the study found, doesn’t appear to protect against bone fracture and in fact may lead to increased mortality.

Researchers looked at questionnaires from more than 100,000 people in Sweden on their dairy consumption habits. The study, which followed up with many of the participants after 11 to 20 years, found that high milk intake was associated with higher mortality in both men and women, as well as higher bone fracture in women.

“Our results may question the validity of recommendations to consume high amounts of milk to prevent fragility fractures,” the study says. However, the authors stress that the study is merely observational and not meant to draw causal conclusions.

One possible explanation the authors give for the results is that high levels of the sugars lactose and galactose in milk may cause bones to undergo changes—like inflammation—that resemble aging, leading to the fractures. In animals, supplementing with galactose has been shown to increase aging processes like inflammation and oxidative stress. Data from the study showing a correlation between reduced fractures and low-lactose milk consumption further supports this claim.

More research is needed, of course. “As milk features in many dietary guidelines and both hip fractures and cardiovascular disease are relatively common among older people, improving the evidence base for dietary recommendations could have substantial benefits for everyone,” wrote Mary Schooling, PhD, a professor at the City University of New York, in an accompanying BMJ editorial.

Read next: Here’s Another Reason to Try the Mediterranean Diet

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Best Fat-Burning Breakfasts

blueberry oat pancakes
Jennifer Causey—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Nutrient-packed meals that'll keep you full until lunch

You know that eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism. But did you realize that certain a.m. choices can crank up your fat-burning even more?

The key: eating a breakfast that’s high in Resistant Starch (RS). Found in foods like bananas and oats, RS actually signals your body to use fat for energy.

Start your day skinny with these fat-burning meals from Health’s book, The CarbLovers Diet.

Blueberry Oat Pancakes with Maple Yogurt

Resistant Starch: 4.6g
Ingredients: Old-fashioned rolled oats, low-fat cottage cheese, eggs, vanilla extract, blueberries, cooking spray, Greek-style low-fat yogurt, maple syrup
Calories: 410
Watch the video: Blueberry Oat Pancakes with Maple Yogurt
Try this recipe: Blueberry Oat Pancakes with Maple Yogurt

Banana and Almond Butter Toast

Resistant Starch: 5.6g
Ingredients: Almond butter, rye bread, banana
Calories: 280
Watch the video: Banana & Almond Butter Toast
Try this recipe: Banana and Almond Butter Toast

Breakfast Barley with Banana and Sunflower Seeds

Resistant Starch: 7.6g
Ingredients: Water, pearl barley, banana, sunflower seeds, honey
Calories: 410
Try this recipe: Breakfast Barley with Banana and Sunflower Seeds

In a Rush?

Reach for a Resistant Starch-packed banana and one of these on-the-go options—you’ll still get the healthy carbs and calories you need to start your day in slim-down mode!

Order to go!
• Panera Bread Strawberry and Granola Parfait: 310 calories
• Dunkin’ Donuts Ham, Egg White, and Cheese Sandwich on a Wheat English Muffin: 300 calories
• Jamba Juice Coldbuster Smoothie (16 ounces): 250 calories

Keep a stash in your kitchen:
• Aunt Millie’s Whole-Grain Blueberry Muffins: 170 calories
• Kashi TLC Pumpkin Spice Flax Crunchy Granola Bar: 170 calories
• Amy’s Kitchen Breakfast Burrito: 270 calories

Insider secret

Choose a banana that’s tinged with a little green for even more Resistant Starch. Once the fruit ripens, the starches in it turn to sugar, and the amount of Resistant Starch it contains drops.

An underripe banana has 12.5 grams of RS (enough to take care of the minimum 10 grams of RS daily that’s recommended in The CarbLovers Diet); a ripe one has 4.7 grams.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

More from Health.com:

13 Comfort Foods That Burn Fat

The 20 Best Foods for Breakfast

11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Rise of Celiac Disease Still Stumps Scientists

What You Need to Know About Gluten
Soren Hald—Getty Images

This is your gut on gluten

Two new studies in the New England Journal of Medicine rocked the world of celiac research, both proving that scientists have a ways to go in their understanding of celiac disease, which affects about 1% of the population, whether they know it or not.

One Italian study wondered if the age at which gluten is introduced into the diet could affect a person’s likelihood of developing the autoimmune disease—so they kept gluten away from newborns for a year. To the shock of the researchers, delaying exposure to gluten didn’t make a difference in the long run. In some cases it delayed the onset of the disease, but it didn’t stop people from developing the disease, for which there is no cure.

The second study, of almost 1,000 children, introduced small amounts of gluten into the diets of breastfeeding infants to see if that fostered a gluten tolerance later on in those who were genetically predisposed to celiac disease. No such luck for them, either. Though both studies were excellently designed and executed, says Joseph A. Murray, MD, professor of medicine and gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, each was “a spectacular failure.”

What is it about gluten that causes so many people to double over in pain? How could the innocent, ancient act of breaking bread be so problematic for some?

It’s a question researchers are actively trying to answer. “I think of celiac disease now as a public health issue,” Murray says. He’s been researching the bread protein for more than 20 years and has seen the incidence of celiac disease rise dramatically; celiac is more than four times as common as it was 50 years ago, according to his research, which was published in the journal Gastroenterology. Even though awareness and testing methods have dramatically improved, they can’t alone account for all of that increase, he says.

About 1% of Americans have celiac disease, and it’s especially common among Caucasians. There’s a strong genetic component, but it’s still unclear why some people get it and other people don’t. It seems to affect people of all ages, even if they’ve eaten wheat for decades. And you can’t blame an increased consumption of the stuff; USDA data shows we’re not eating more of it.

Something else in the environment must be culpable, and theories abound about possible factors, from Cesarean sections to the overuse of antibiotics and the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests that as our environment has become cleaner, our immune system has less to do and so turns on itself—and maybe particular foods like gluten—as a distraction.

Or maybe there’s something different about gluten itself. The wheat seed hasn’t changed all that much, but the way we process and prepare gluten products has, Murray says. “There have been some small studies looking at old forms of bread-making…that have suggested it’s not as immunogenic, it doesn’t drive the immune response as strongly as more modern grain or bread preparations,” Murray says.

A small 2007 study found that sourdough bread, when fermented with bacteria, nearly eliminates gluten—but we need much more research before the truly allergic should be reaching for a slice of the stuff.

Dr. Alessio Fasano, MD, director of the Center for Celiac Research and chief of the division of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at Mass General Hospital for Children, was a co-author of that recent study about breast-feeding and timing of gluten introduction. He says he found the “major, unpredictable results shocking. The lesson learned from these studies is that there is something other than gluten in the environment that can eventually tilt these people from tolerant to the immune response in gluten to developing celiac disease,” he says.

He suspects it may come down to how the modern, hyper-processed diet has influenced the makeup of our gut bacteria. “These bacteria eat whatever we eat,” Fasano says. “We’ve been radically changing our lifestyle, particularly the way that we eat, too fast for our genes to adapt.” Fasano hopes to explore the microbiome in his next study, in which he says he’ll follow kids from birth and search for a signature in their microbiome that predicts the activation of their gluten-averse genes, which leads to a child developing celiac disease. The hope, then, is that a probiotic or prebiotic intervention will bring the troubled guts back from “belligerent to friendly.”

“That would be the holy grail of preventive medicine,” he says.

Read next: ‘Gluten Free’ Label Now Actually Means Gluten Free

TIME Diet/Nutrition

This Free App Knows Exactly What’s in Your Food

Woman typing on mobile phone
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A new food database three years in the making is trying to change the way you eat.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) today launched EWG’s Food Scores: Rate Your Plate. The website rates more than 80,000 packaged foods from 1,500 brands, with criteria like nutrition, ingredient concerns, food additives, and how processed the product is. And a free app offers on-demand info at the smartphone scan of a barcode.

Some databases only consider nutrition information found on the label. But this one offers a more in-depth view of what’s in our food—from contaminants like BPA in canned foods, mercury in seafood, antibiotics in meat, arsenic in rice and pesticide residues in produce, to food additives, like preservatives, artificial and natural flavors and colors, low-calorie sweeteners and fat replacers.

More positive scores were given to foods higher in protein, fiber, omega-3s, and minimal processing—foods “closer to what you might find in your kitchen than what you might find in a chemical plant,” said Ken Cook, EWG’s president and cofounder, in a statement.

Each product falls somewhere on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the best possible score and 10 being the worst. Only 18% of the products fell into what EWG called the “green zone,” while 57% were in the yellow-to-orange range and 25% were at the very bottom.

A full 58% of products tested contained added sugar, and 46% had natural or artificial flavors—the components of which are considered proprietary and don’t have to be disclosed. Organic packaged foods had an average of 9 ingredients, while convention foods had an average of 14.

“In many cases what we see on offer in in aisle after aisle of the supermarket doesn’t really qualify, in our view, almost as food,” said Cook. “It’s a series of packaged products that convey salt, sugar and other ingredients that often have very little to do with nourishment and everything to do with exactly what Americans want to avoid.”

The highly searchable database also includes an interactive calculator, which spits out personalized nutrition values based on your age, sex and life stage, and lets you sort products by whichever scary additive you’re concerned about this week. Want to know what’s really lurking in that cheese-dusted foodstuff on sale at the supermarket? You can play with your food here.

Read next: 5 Best Fitness Trackers for Around $50

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