December 28, 2007
NIH Podcast Episode #0048
Balintfy: Welcome to episode 48 of NIH Research Radio with news about the ongoing medical research at the National Institutes of Health-the nation's medical research agency. I'm your new host Joe Balintfy. Coming up in this edition, we take a look back at some past features: One report from a year ago when the First Human Trial of Avian Flu Vaccine Began, and another from when Wally Akinso looked at a Publication Explaining the Science of Addiction. But first, a timely interview about helping parents help kids with healthy eating. That's next on NIH Research Radio.
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We Can! Eating Healthy for the Holidays
Balintfy: We’re talking to Dr. Karen Donato, she’s the Coordinator of the Obesity Education Initiative at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What exactly is “We Can!”?
Donato: “We Can!” stands for “Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition.” It’s a national education program from NIH, and its main focus is on helping parents and families maintain a healthy weight.
Balintfy: How successful has the We Can! program been so far?
Donato: Well, I think we have -- right now we have 450 community sites in over 44 states that are doing the program, and one program that’s been particularly successful is our site in Boston. Boston has been doing “We Can!” in a variety of schools with diverse audiences. They’re doing parent programs in the after school setting as well as programs for youth in the school setting, and they’ve been able to take the “We Can!” materials and actually implement them in these settings for Hispanics and African Americans. And they’ve been able to at least account for some changes in attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors of both the parents and youth who have really taken to these curriculum.
Balintfy: So Dr. Donato, what can “We Can!” teach families about how to eat and behave more healthfully this time of year?
Donato: Well, because the focus of “We Can!” is on the importance of maintaining healthy weight, we have a handbook for parents, we have programs for parents, and the essence of those programs is teaching them about energy balance. Energy balance, by maintaining an equal amount of calories in with the calories you burn up, you should be able to maintain a healthy weight. And so……some of the focus is on making sure that you choose foods that are lower in calories. And as you’re choosing foods that are lower in calories around the holidays, that means, you know, starting off with those foods that might fill you up but not provide you with lots of calories…
Another great tip, I think, is for parents to really encourage their children to have more fruits and more vegetables, instead of some of the high fat foods. So, during your holiday meal, you might want to pass on the butter, pass on the gravy, pass on the skin on the turkey, and instead, you know, go for the white meat, go for the carrots, go for the salads, go for the greens, instead of some of the high fat foods.
In addition, another tip is the beverages that one consumes over the holidays are pretty high in calories, often. Sodas, alcohol, we encourage that people be mindful of the calories that they may be consuming in their beverages and to choose water or unsweetened beverages. Even low fat or skim milk is a good option for children rather than some of the sweetened beverages.
Another thing to be mindful of is the portion size. At the holidays we have heaps and mounds of foods that are offered to us, either at home or when we go to parties, but to make sure that you’re mindful that one portion might be the size of a fist, and if you must have dessert, you might have a sliver of dessert. A small piece, a taste, rather than eating large portions or second portions of foods.
Balintfy: Anything else you’d like to add, Dr. Donato?
Donato: The “We Can!” parents’ handbook and the “We Can!” youth curriculum focus on three behaviors: one is healthy eating, one is increasing physical activity, and the third is decreasing screen time. And by “screen time” we mean that we want to decrease the amount of time that children and youth spend in front of the television or computer screens doing video games, and that limitation is, no more than two hours per day.
Balintfy: Where can people go for more information?
Donato: “We Can!” information is found at the NHLBI Web site, at wecan.nhlbi.nih.gov. We also have a toll-free number at 1-866-35-WE-CAN.
Balintfy: Again, that’s wecan.nhlbi.nih.gov and 1-866-35-WE-CAN. Thank you Dr. Donato and thanks to Kim Pelis who helped with this interview.
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First Human Trial of Avian Flu Vaccine Begins
Balintfy: This month marks the anniversary of the first human trial of a vaccine to prevent avian flu. We turn back to January of this year to Bill Schmalfeldt’s report.
Schmalfeldt: The first human trial of a DNA vaccine designed to prevent H5N1 avian influenza infection began on December 21, 2006 when the vaccine was administered to the first volunteer at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Scientists from the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases designed the vaccine. So what's the difference between a typical flu vaccine and a DNA vaccine? Here's Dr. Gary Nabel, director of the Vaccine Research Center.
Nabel: A DNA vaccine is a new technology that we've used more recently in vaccine design. What we do is we use DNA that we grow in the laboratory and we engineer it in such a way that it expresses a specific protein from the virus. And that's done independent of the whole virus. So in other words, we cut out a little piece of one of the genes from the virus and express only that one protein. That's in contrast to the traditional flu vaccine which is actually the entire virus which has been grown in chicken eggs, and then inactivated with a couple of chemicals.
Schmalfeldt: As of December 27, 261 lab-confirmed human cases of H5N1 had been reported to the World Health Organization, resulting in the death of more than half of the infected individuals. While human cases remain relatively rare and are largely the result of direct virus transmission from infected birds, a few cases of human-to-human transmission have been reported. If there were to be a large scale outbreak of the so-called "bird flu", would a vaccine like the one being tested serve as a stop gap until such time as a vaccine for the specific strain of virus in a pandemic could be produced?
Nabel: Well it really depends on how effective the vaccine is. If the vaccine is highly effective then it might be a new vaccine that can be used on its own. If it isn't effective at all, obviously, that's not much of a stop gap. If it's somewhere in between, we would need to look at whether it would be good enough on its own or whether we might use it in different prime boost combinations. We'll need to just gather the data and see where in the spectrum it will be able to contribute.
Schmalfeldt: The study will enroll 45 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 60. Fifteen will receive placebo injections and 30 will receive three injections of the investigational vaccine over two months and will be followed for a year. Volunteers will not be exposed to influenza virus. For more info or to enroll, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov, or call the Vaccine Research Center toll free at 866-833-LIFE.
Balintfy: When we return, another highlight from earlier this year on an Emmy-winning program.
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NIDA Publication Explains Science of Addiction
Balintfy: The HBO special titled “Addiction” ended up winning an Emmy award. The National Institute on Drug Abuse was a key participant in providing information for the production. In this report from Wally Akinso, we hear about the announcement of NIDA materials, and the HBO special.
Akinso: The National Institute on Drug Abuse has unveiled its first consumer publication dedicated to explaining the science of addiction. The 30 page full color booklet, "Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction", explains in layman's terms how science has revolutionized the understanding of drug addiction as a brain disease that affects behavior. Dr. Timothy Condon, NIDA's Deputy Director, said this new publication will help reduce the stigma attached to addictive disorders.
Condon: Well this booklet explains the scientific research that NIDA has supported over the last 20 or 30 years and how this research has really revolutionized our understanding of drug addiction essentially as a brain disease that results in compulsive behavior.
Akinso: The new publication was introduced during a press briefing for the upcoming HBO documentary called Addiction. Dr. Condon said the timing was fortunate.
Condon: This is very fortuitous that it's coming out around the same time as the HBO documentary that NIDA has been apart of. We think this will be a very important adjunct to information for the public the lay audience to help them understand the science behind the disease of addiction.
Akinso: The 90 minute documentary airs Thursday March 15th. It was produced in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and NIDA, and will explore many elements of drug and alcohol addiction through the eyes of those who are addicted and the experts working to better understand and treat this disease. If you're interested in a copy of the booklet visit www.drugabuse.gov.
Balintfy: And that’s it for this episode of NIH Research Radio. Please join us again on Friday, January 11th when episode 49 of NIH Research Radio will be available for download. I'm your host, Joe Balintfy.
NIH Research Radio is a presentation of the NIH Radio News Service, part of the News Media Branch, Office of Communications and Public Liaison in the Office of the Director at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services.