Lighter, Smarter, Truthier: Three Cheers for Progress

By Marilynn Preston

March 4, 2014 6 min read

Everything changes, and when I see three small but positive changes in the world of healthy lifestyle, the optimist in me has to make some noise:

OBESITY DROPPED 43 PERCENT AMONG YOUNG CHILDREN IN A DECADE, STUDY FINDS. There's been an astonishing fall in obesity rates among all 2-to-5-year-olds, according to a major federal health study released in February by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The scientists said they were surprised and delighted by the remarkable 43 percent drop. "One blossom doesn't make a spring," Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan told The New York Times' Sabrina Tavernise, but still, he feels that real progress is taking place.

"We've been trying to educate parents and families about healthy lifestyles, and maybe it's finally having an effect," says Dr. Ruth Loos, a professor of preventive medicine. She and many others who weigh the data are cautiously ecstatic that this landmark study is proof-positive that preschoolers are eating better and less.

We know that sales of soft drinks, including diet sodas, are noticeably down. We know parents are increasingly aware of the benefits of real food and increasingly alarmed at the toxic chemicals and additives in many processed foods.

And certainly, Michelle Obama's high-profile campaign is having a positive impact when it comes to getting kids to exercise more and eat smarter, preferably from organic gardens they're growing in small pots on their windowsills.

Sadly, older kids are not yet showing the same signs of success. Since 2003, the obesity rate for tweens and teens has remained flat. And the number of adults who are obese — more than one-third of American men and women — is still belt-busting.

But, focusing on the positive, this study is evidence the tide is turning. We see it in the increasing numbers of people who eat organic, buy local and avoid GMOs. We certainly see it in this whopping 43 percent drop in obesity rates for young kids.

Stay tuned for further developments, but in the mean time, be trendy. Cut back on sugar, eat more fruits and vegetables, and teach your 12-year-old how to cook.

GAME-CHANGING RESEARCH DOUBTS THE VALUE OF MAMMOGRAMS. It's been called one of the "largest and most meticulous studies of mammography ever done." As reported in the British Medical Journal, it involved 90,000 women over a 25-year period, and the results were clear: Mammograms do not reduce breast cancer deaths. Researchers concluded that there is no advantage to finding a breast cancer when it's too small to feel by hand.

For many people, this doesn't come as good news. It's actually disturbing. It shakes up the conventional wisdom that the 37 million mammograms done in the U.S. every year have value.

The research is conclusive: Mammograms are, all things considered, useless and in some cases, even harmful. The accumulation of radiation, over time, can actually cause a breast cancer. Many cancers, it turns out, grow slowly, or not at all, and may disappear on their own. Mammograms lead to over-diagnosis and overtreatment, and bottom line, do not save lives.

What does? Early detection of a growth, as felt by your own hand or someone else's. Wrong beliefs about mammograms gave us a false sense of security. Personally, I'm looking to thermography as a useful and safe technology for detecting suspicious heat patterns in the breast. But that's another column.

NEWLY DESIGNED FOOD LABELS ON THE WAY. For the first time in 20 years, the Food and Drug Administration is proposing a major overhaul of those confusing ant scribblings pasted on the side of every box and bottle in the supermarket.

Wait! This dramatic redesign is more exciting than it looks. If the FDA has its way, and doesn't succumb to pressures from Big Food, the nutrition fact labels will be more truthful. Calorie counts will be in LARGE type. Portion sizes will reflect reality. (A 20-ounce bottle of soda will be counted as one serving, rather than the current 2.5 servings.) Manufacturers will have to reveal "added sugars," something they don't like to do, because processing adds reckless amounts of sugar to everything. Improved labeling will make it easier to be a conscious consumer.

This is how change happens. Slowly, slowly. This is how cigarette smoking was snuffed out and toxic trans fats melted away. Dear Reader, be patient and stay engaged.

ENERGY EXPRESS-O! IS LIFE GETTING EASIER OR HARDER? "Choose to be optimistic, it feels better." —the Dalai Lama

Marilynn Preston — healthy lifestyle coach and Emmy-winning producer — is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website,, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to [email protected] She also produces EnExTV, a digital reincarnation of her award-winning TV series about sports, fitness and adventure, for kids of all ages, at and To find out more about Preston and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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