Blog Posts by Dr. Ayala

  • Moms Oversharing Their Kids’ Most Personal Stories

    The mommysphere was abuzz over Dara-Lynn Weiss Vogue article that detailed her effort to get her 7-year-old daughter to lose weight.

    Criticism of Weiss spread like wildfire, especially after Katie J. M. Baker posted her scorn in Jezebel and described Weiss' self-reported intense regimen of calorie restriction and public shaming as "abrasive, often irrational weight-loss strategies" and accused Weiss of projecting her hatred of her own body onto her child, and of writing the "worst Vogue article ever".

    Was Weiss wrong to put her daughter on a diet? Was the diet regimen inappropriate? Was its message misguided? Is being tough on your kid a parenting mistake?

    There are situations in which action needs to be taken to prevent kids fromfurther weight gain, and it's definitely a parent's job to educate kids about healthy eating and active lifestyle, and to provide for healthy food. There's more than one way to obesity prevention and treatment in kids, and the discussion about

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  • Do Nutrition Labels Confuse You? You're Not Alone!

    Nutritional labels have been around for well over a decade, and the familiar panel - which provides some key nutrition information, an ingredient list and nutrition declarations - enables more informed food decisions.

    Do people make good use of the information? The first step is for people to bother looking at it -- and they do. Women more than men, the health conscious and exercise enthusiasts more than the couch potatoes, but most people report they do consult with the label, at least when they're buying a product for the first time. A recent review of 120 studies of nutrition label usage in Public Health Nutrition finds that 75% of Americans check the label.

    Eyeing the label is a good start, but do consumers get what they need from it?

    A recent paper in Nutrition Reviews found that of the 60 percent of consumers who said they use the Nutrition Facts Panel, only a quarter found it easy to use. The calorie information on the Nutritional Facts Panel gets a glance from 75

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  • Forget Makeup! Eat Your Veggies for Glowing Skin

    Fruit and vegetables 009

    I used to chuckle when I heard moms urge their daughters to eat tomatoes for rosy cheeks. Old wives' tale, so, I thought, and by that logic would I turn greener with kale? I was a little less sure of my dismissiveness when my own palms turned an orangey tint when I went heavy on my carrots, and was totally humbled when I met my first pink flamingoes.

    Beauty from the garden's bounty

    A new study in the scientific journal PLoS ONE followed 35 students for 6 weeks looking at how fruit and veggie intake affects skin tone, as measured by a spectrophotometer (an instrument that measures the spectrum and photometric intensity of each wavelength present, and in this case of visible light).

    The researchers, led by Ross Whitehead, found that measured skin tone correlated with reported changes in the diet: eating more fruits and veggies increased skin redness and yellowness, and these skin color changes where achieved with a relatively modest increase of fruit and veggie intake -

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  • Can Hot Peepers Help You Lose Weight?

    hot peppers

    A new chili pepper was recently crowned the hottest of the hot. It's called the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and has a measured spiciness of 2,000,000 Scoville heat units, which brings it to the level of law enforcement grade pepper spray. Care for a bite?

    Hot peppers and weight loss

    Hot peppers have many culinary and nutritional benefits, and have also been used for topical pain relief. One of the interesting research areas of hot chili peppers is their alleged capacity to aid in weight loss.

    A few studies showed that eating good amounts of hot peppers might increase energy production as heat temporarily in rats and in people. Increasing energy expenditure's a good thing - we'd love to burn extra calories without hard work.

    The active ingredient in hot peppers is capsaicin. Capsaicin also gives peppers their pungency, which limits the amounts people can comfortably eat without hitting the ceiling.

    Brown fat and spicy peppers

    Hot pepper's capsaicin weight

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  • The Diet Soda Dilemma

    We've developed a national sweet tooth problem. Enjoying sweet foods is the most natural, inborn tendency - it used to get us excited about mother's milk and ripe fruit -- but our level of added sugar consumption has reached such absurd heights that it's clear that these mountains of sugar are fueling the obesity epidemic.

    To our alleged rescue came non-caloric sweeteners, offering the same intense sweetness without the caloric price tag.

    Alas, diet drinks may not assist with weight loss. A few long-term studies surprisingly showed a dose-response correlation between consuming diet drinks and the development of obesity.

    What was even more alarming was the emergence of studies showing a connection between the consumption of diet drinks and chronic disease: diet drinks were linked with the metabolic syndrome* and type 2 diabetes, and a recent study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed that people who drink diet soft drinks on a daily basis may be at

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  • The Kids Don’t Get Enough Sleep -- and Study Shows They Never Did

    Sleep's a mysterious thing. We're not sure what sleep is and why we need it, but we do know sleep is critical to our health and wellbeing. Lack of sleep has been associated with pretty much all that ails humans, and recently it has been also blamed for rising obesity rates.

    Parents loose sleep worrying about sleep. Most parents believe their kids don't get enough of it. We blame it on overscheduling, iPads, YouTube or our busy state of mind, but whatever it is, sleep's always insufficient.

    Sleep concerns are nothing new

    A new study in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics finds concerns over kids' sleep from the early 1900s were much similar to our concerns today. The researchers, led by Lisa Anne Matricciani, tracked more than a century's worth of advice in more than 200 articles regarding children's sleep, and compared it to data on how much kids actually slept over the years.

    Kids always slept less that what health professionals thought they should -- about 37

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  • Cities Fighting Soda

    Several city health departments are stepping up their anti-soda efforts in an attempt to curtail obesity and diabetes. Philly is now airing its own TV spot, which my kids had noticed and brought to my attention over the dinner table.

    There's quite a wide range in the messaging tactics each city takes. NYC's campaign certainly caused a stir, especially the "Are You Pouring On The Pounds" video, which was deemed too disgusting by some. Take a look at these different approaces. Which works best in your opinion?


    New York:


    See LA's media campaign here and Santa Clara's here.

    Dr. Ayala

    Full disclosure: I'm vice president of product development for Herbal Water, where we make organic herb-infused waters that have zero calories and no sugar or artificial ingredients. I'm also a pediatrician and have been promoting good nutrition and healthy lifestyle for many years.

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  • Halftime in the School Cafeteria

    Last month Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced some very welcome and long awaited changes to the government subsidized school meals. These are the first changes made in the program -- which feeds 32 million kids each day - in 15 years. Under the new guidelines kids will be doubling their fruit and veggie intake, will be eating more whole grains, all milk will be low fat, and there'll be upper limits to salt, trans-fat and calories in the school meal.

    Yes, the program is far from perfect, kids will continue to eat lots of highly processed foods - very few schools actually cook food from scratch - and tomato paste on pizza counts as a vegetable. But it's a laudable change in the right direction, and considering the mighty fight the food industry wages against any proposed change, and the fact that the new rules will add 3.2 billion to the yearly cost of the program it's reason for a mini celebration.

    The next critical change is yet to come

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  • Valentine’s Day Recipe: The Most Chocolaty Cookies Ever


    If you're looking for a homemade gift for Valentine's Day (reminder: it's this coming Tuesday) these cookies are perfect - textbook for the serious chocolate lover and great for cookie fans too. I've received a recipe request from every recipient of this cookie gift that dares to bake.

    Chocolate's my favorite treat. Chocolate is, to me, pure pleasure. These cookies are as close as it comes to eating pure chocolate while still serving a dessert. They're rich, chunky, delicious and decadent and hit the chocolate craving spot right on.


    • 500 grams/17.6 ounces 72% dark chocolate, broken into cubes or pieces
    • 500 grams/17.6 ounces milk chocolate, broken into cubes or pieces
    • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1 cup sugar
    • ½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature
    • 4 eggs
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup chopped walnuts
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  • Does the Biggest Loser Fuel Weight Stigma?

    Overweight people are the majority in the US; a third of Americans are obese, so obese people can hardly be viewed as a small minority.

    Nevertheless, overweight people face bias and discrimination every day.

    Does the portrayal of obese people in the media reinforce weight bias? Is the swelling roster of popular weight-loss reality TV shows supporting anti-fat attitudes? Or do these shows actually introduce viewers to the trials and tribulations of obese people, thus promoting sympathy and reducing prejudice?

    NBC's The Biggest Loser is now in its 13th season and is a huge hit, with millions of viewers weekly, an online weight loss program, a line of diet and nutritional supplements, and two weight loss resorts.

    The Biggest Loser clearly promotes weight loss, but some suggest that the show presents the unrealistic view that enormous weight loss can be achieved by willpower and very hard work - suggesting obesity is totally controllable.

    A new study in the journal

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