Wake Up to Wellness: Issue #4

Health Newsletter

What’s new in the world of health and wellness this week?

We’ve got you covered:

  • A holiday shopping guide for all your wellness gift needs
  • Possible 2020 changes to U.S. dietary guidelines
  • Taxes on red meat?
  • Social media and depression
  • How Apple Watches are being used to transform health

The Best Gifts for the Wellness Lovers on Your Holiday Shopping List

The holiday season is finally upon us! Do you have athleisure lovers on your list of family and friends to buy for this year?

Avoid gifting the same old standbys like pullovers and T-shirts. Get presents that are sure to please your outdoorsy, athletic loved ones. Think comfy shoes from New Balance that easily make the transition from the gym to brunch, trendy compression socks that combine fashion and function, slim-fitting sweatpants that look good and can handle the coldest of winters, a surprisingly trendy vintage faux leather Adidas fanny pack that can be worn on your waist or as a crossbody, and more!

Check out this list of athleisure gifts from Greatist and start crossing names off your Christmas list today.

Possible Changes in the 2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines

New dietary guidelines for Americans have been drafted that are slated for 2020. The Nutrition Coalition, a nonprofit focused on creating recommendations to the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services based on scientific evidence is hopeful that the new guidelines will bring positive change to nutrition policy in the U.S.

According to The Nutrition Coalition, the 2015 advisory committee that played a major role in developing the guidelines, has suggested an increase in plant-based, low-animal-fat and vegetarian diets. They also made the case that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued in 1980 correlated with beginning of the obesity epidemic in America.

The vice president of nutrition and education at Atkins Nutritionals, Colette Heimowitz, also said she is hopeful about proposed changes in the 2020 dietary guidelines.

She commented that there has already been movement in mainstream advocacy for lower-carb diets, saying, “They soft-pedaled it a little bit, but the fact that [the American Diabetes Association] said that [a low-carb diet] was a viable option for a therapeutic approach, I think is huge. I am not asking the Dietary [Guidelines Advisory Committee] to send the food pyramid on its head — that is asking too much. I just want them to recognize it is a viable option. That is what I am hoping for.”

Read the full story here.

What Would a Tax on Red Meat Do?

Earlier this month, people saw a lot of headlines advocating for a universal red meat tax, suggesting it could save thousands of people’s lives and provides billions of savings in health care costs each year.

Should the government use taxes to mandate what we eat and drink? After all, there’s a nicotine and alcohol tax.

The suggestion comes from one recent modeling study at the University of Oxford. Keep in mind, unlike a thorough scientific study, a modeling study is more like a “academic exercise.”

It’s long been theorized that red meat is linked to higher incidence of chronic disease, but many randomized clinical trials need to be done to confirm that theory — and they’ve never been done.

This suggestion needs to be taken with a grain of salt before policymakers jump in.

Consider that most nutritionists agree that meat is rich in nutrients and packed with protein. Furthermore, if a red meat tax is imposed and people eat less meat, what will they replace it with in their diet? Vegetables, more whole grains, and lean proteins? It’s unlikely that would be the case, particularly among lower socioeconomic groups that often struggle to buy healthy foods. They’d be more likely to replace them with processed foods and refined carbohydrates.

Want to learn more? Check out the full story.

Confirmed: Too Much Time on Social Media Can Lead to Depression

Nearly everyone has heard that using social media has been connected to depression and loneliness. Why? Seeing what everyone is up to on the internet creates a feeling that you’re missing out, or “FOMO,” as you compare your life to what you see others doing on social media.

A new study has confirmed what most people believed to be true. Spending too much time on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. does promote depression and loneliness. Research prior to this time only showed a correlation between social media usage and mental health issues, but it wasn’t yet proven. Some suggest that people living with depression were naturally more inclined to use social media.

Here’s how the study went down. Researchers looked at 143 people’s daily social media use for a week, measuring mental health behaviors such as depression and loneliness. The participants were then split into two groups and studied for three weeks.

One group was allowed to use Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram each for a mere 10 minutes per day — a total of 30 minutes of social media usage daily. The other group was allowed unlimited time on social media, while the researchers continued to track the same mental health behaviors.

The results? You can probably guess. The first group (who spent a maximum of 30 minutes per day on social media) displayed significant decreases in depression and loneliness.

What’s the key takeaway? Melissa G. Hunt, Ph.D., a lead psychologist at UPenn who led the study, says it best:

“Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

Read the full story here.

Apple Watches Covered in Insurance Plans?

Talk about an insurance incentive. Those who participate in certain UnitedHealthcare wellness plans can earn up to $4 per day for meeting goals, which they can use towards buying an Apple Watch. Plan participants pay for shipping and taxes, and then “work off” the balance of the watch by meeting daily fitness goals over time in the plan’s “Walk It Off” program.

The healthcare insurance company said they made changes in their internal systems so the Apple Watch can measure steps people take and then get credit towards goals as part of their UnitedHealthcare Motion wellness plan.

It takes about six months to pay the Apple Watch off, and after that meeting the fitness goals, credits flow into tax-advantaged health spending accounts.

Prior to incorporating the Apple Watch into the Motion plan, they accepted data from smartbands including FitBit, Samsung, and Garmin. Including the Apple Watch will broaden the reach of the program, as it has become the world’s best-selling smartwatch.

If you’re wondering what the impact of the Motion program has been so far, participants are currently averaging almost 12,000 steps per day — which is more than double the U.S. average!

Furthermore, those with chronic health conditions are 20 percent more likely than those without those conditions to take part of the Motion program, according to UnitedHealthcare data.

Don’t forget about the savings employers and healthcare providers can benefit from the program. Employers that leverage the power of UnitedHealthcare Motion spent $222 less per member per year compared to non-Motion plans. Wow!

Learn more about how technology is working to improve health in the full story here.

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