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Try our easy Thanksgiving feast November 3, 2004
Obesity: a result of family dynamics?
Fall Fruit Salad
Grab them while you can; pomegranates' peak season lasts only a few weeks.
Q. I recently heard about the Chinese herb luo han kuo being used as an immune booster. What other benefits might this herb offer?

Obesity: a result of family dynamics?

In the last 40 years, the percentage of American children considered obese has more than tripled, from 5 percent in the 1960s to 15.5 percent in 2000, a phenomenon often blamed on poor diet and physical inactivity. Now, researchers believe that overweight parents and highly emotional children may interact in ways that exacerbate the childhood obesity problem.

In a study published in the July issue of the The Journal of Pediatrics (vol. 145, no. 1), a group of researchers led by W. Stewart Agras, MD, examined the causes of obesity in 150 9-year-old Caucasian children. The researchers found that the biggest risk factor for childhood obesity was obese parents. Obese parents were often ignorant of the heath risks to overweight kids, unrealistic about the severity of their child's weight problem, and unwilling to see childhood obesity as needing treatment unless the child was the victim of teasing or is unable to perform normal physical activities.

Interestingly, Agras' team also found that highly emotional children are at greater risk of obesity if their outbursts revolved around food, because parents often gave into these kids' demands for unhealthy treats. This has been shown to be especially true in preschool-age children who persistently have tantrums where food is concerned. Their obesity rates are much higher than in children with calmer dispositions. The study suggests that parents should examine their children's weight with an objective eye and realize that any child with a body mass index at or above the 85th percentile is at risk of obesity. In addition, parents should look for ways other than food to calm or reward children, especially kids whose emotions run high.

—Corinne McKay

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Fall Fruit Salad

Serves 6 / Grab them while you can; pomegranates' peak season lasts only a few weeks. Picked ripe, the glossy red rind should be tight, smooth, and unbruised.

3 medium star fruit, sliced 1/4- to 1/8-inch thick

4 medium Mandarin oranges, peeled and sectioned

3 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Agave-Lime Dressing
1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 cup light agave nectar (can substitute honey)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  1. Prepare dressing in a tightly covered container and shake.
  2. Mix star fruit, Mandarin oranges, and kiwi. Toss with dressing. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.
PER SERVING: 96 cal, 5% fat cal, 1g fat, 0g sat fat, 0mg chol, 1g protein, 24g carb, 3g fiber, 4mg sodium

FUNctional Kitchen is provided by James Rouse, ND, the creator of Optimum Wellness and The Fit Kitchen, seen weekly on NBC's KUSA television news.

Join us at the Green Festival

A sweet leaf with health benefits

Q: I recently heard about the Chinese herb luo han kuo being used as an immune booster. What other benefits might this herb offer?

Luo han kuo (Momordica grosvenori, LHK) has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for at least 1,000 years to strengthen the immune system and treat respiratory problems-and with good reason. Researchers from the Yamagata University School of Medicine in Japan found in 2002 that LHK is rich in immune-boosting antioxidants. Because these antioxidants also fight free radical damage, other studies have concluded that LHK may help lower cholesterol by preventing LDL (bad) cholesterol oxidation.

But the Chinese don't simply see LHK as a medicine. The herb is naturally sweet -up to 200 times sweeter than sugar-yet it doesn't have the negative metabolic effects of sugar. Because it is low on the glycemic index and low in calories, LHK is gaining the attention of American food companies as a possible sugar substitute for both diabetics and dieters. That doesn't surprise William Young, LAc, PhD, founder of Young Life Holistic Healing in Flushing, New York, and an expert in TCM, who says that Chinese bakers often use LHK instead of sugar in cookies and cakes.

More recently, scientists have focused on LHK's anti-cancer properties. Several preliminary studies show that the glycosides responsible for the herb's sweetness also appear to inhibit tumor formation. Although it's too early to tell if this protective action will work in people at risk for cancer, LHK may indeed help you breathe easier this cold and flu season. Available as a tea or processed into bouillon-type cubes and granules, LHK can be found in most natural products stores.

This Q&A was written by Kim Erickson, an herbalist, health writer, and the author of Drop-Dead Gorgeous (Contemporary, 2002).

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