Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Childhood obesity: Where the road leads
My 10-year old cousin is a ticking time bomb. He's more than a little chunky -- actually, a lot more -- he's fat. His mealtime staples include french fries, processed chicken nuggets and of course, soda. Lots of soda. I stand by as my relatives feed him this toxic menu and I know he has friends who eat the same way.

The obesity epidemic in the United States is particularly glaring among our young people. Add asthma and mental illness and you've got the top three chronic illnesses setting millions of children on a perilous path. What you may find shocking is that many of these kids could die or be severely handicapped by their 30s or 40s, and some in their 20s. In fact, today we know that the number of children whose parents report that they are disabled by their illness -- that means staying home from school because they can't breathe, or have hypertension at age 10 -- has quadrupled since the 1960s.

Dr. James Perrin, a director at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston, says that unless we stem this trend, there will be millions of people in their 20s and 30s who will be living on public welfare, unable to find a job. And that doesn't even take into account the strain they will put on the health care system.

The reasons for the obesity problem among our youth are definitely complex, but television seems to be at the core. Kids are simply watching too much, and it is happening at the expense of exercise.

Even if you don't have children, this is the type of story that can make you wonder what's happening to kids today. The idea of an entire generation incapacitated, unable to work, or dying too soon is very scary... and very real.

Of course there are ways we can reverse the trend.

Parents can become more aware of what's going on with their kids - get them moving, not watching more TV. In fact, studies show that when families exercise together, the weight loss is more substantial than if children are left to their own devices.

There are other ways to curb the trend of childhood illness -- community centers, school exercise programs, and eating better are all examples.

But the real impact begins at home. What do you think?
I have a son who has autism. He started getting chunky last year. He is seven and went up to 67 lbs. He was eating the whole gamut of kid foods because we felt that he would only eat those foods.

We started making minor changes, using I can't believe it's not butter spray for anything that any of the kids need butter on, letting them walk on the treadmill whenever they want to (supervised), adding more whole grains.

We also stopped buying sweet drinks and installed a ice maker/water dispenser which gives filtered ice and water. They love getting their own ice water.

I started biking with the kids. All of this has cut down on his little belly. He had been developing fatty deposits in his chest, those are going away now. We make sure that all of the kids have LOTS of fresh fruit and veggies, but we really watch the junks foods.

I think that it works if you can get them to discontinue bad habits and gain new healthy ones. Of course it helps that Mom and Dad are eating better too.
I am a firm believer that we need to get our kids up and moving. I have 3 daughters ages 14,10 & 8 and after I get home from work we go on a long walk each evening after dinner. My girls are not over weight at all and they all are very active in sports and extra curricular activites. It seems the more they're outside, the more they get bored just staying in and watching tv, being on the computer or playing video games. I agree it has to start as a family and continue that way, it doesnt even have to be walking you can go play basketball together, catch, bike riding, freeze tag etc...OUR KIDS ARE OUR FUTURE & IT NEEDS TO START NOW!!!
I wholeheartedly agree the impact starts at home. My brother passed away a couple of months shy of turning 30 from being obese since he was 7. He had hypertension as a teenager and eventually developed Congestive Heart Failure. There was nothing my parents could do for him as an adult but as a child they gave him far too much freedom with what he ate and how much time he spent in front of the TV/Computer that it eventually led to these continued habits that would cost him his life.

As an adult, I have friends who keep their children involved in sports and by doing so, they're much healthier and slimmer then their classmates who are couch potatoes at home.
In my family everybody is huge. Everyone except me and my family. Before I got married I deliberately set out to change my relationship with food and exercise. For too long I slept underneath too much fat, salt and sugar. And as I changed, I exploded with energy and joy. Now that I have two small children, we are a force to be reckoned with!

I hope other Moms out there can realize that it all starts with us! There may be a genetic component to fat, but we are stronger than our genes! We are Moms and we can do anything!
I just recently started my child in a pre-school program. This is a program where the school provides breakfest, lunch and snacks in accordance with the USDA and California Child Development Associates Nutrition program. They are also part of the National School Lunch Program. After reviewing the menu, I noticed that the majority of the food served is processed and canned. The school refused to give me a list of the ingredients in these foods. By law, thy just have to follow basic guidelines, one of which is a 30% fat content for children ages 2 - 5. My child could be consuming trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and who knows what else. I can't believe as a society that we don't make our schools provide the nutritional breakdown of the meals they serve. We require it on packaging at the grocery store. We require it from fast food stores, but not from our schools. I am sure you are wondering why I don't just make her lunch and send it along. Well, I do, but I had to get a doctor's note to do so. This facility does not allow "outside" food. It's the most absurd and annoying thing. I wonder how many school facilities are feeding our children poor diets, and that combined with cuts in physical education programs equals a very fat society. We need to set better standards for our school lunch programs.
From TIME.com: Studies Bring New Hope for Obese Adolescents. Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas have found that teenagers handle bariatric surgery even better than adults. The study of 309 adolescents and 55,192 adults found that only 5.5% of teenagers had complications after surgery compared with 9.8% in adults. "There has always been a lot of concern that doing surgery in a young person, however extreme the case is, will carry a lot of complications," says Dr. Esteban Varela, lead author of the study and director of Minimally Invasive Surgery at VA North Texas Health Care System. "But it is even safer." Between 2000 and 2003, the number of teenagers who had bariatric surgery tripled. While the number is growing, with 771 adolescents signing up in 2003, teenagers still represent less than 1% of all bariatric surgeries — a number that will begin to increase as more doctors view the practice as safe.
I have 2 sons, ages 2 and 4 years old. They both eat at least 4 or 5 servings of fruit and vegetable everyday. I expose them to all kinds of fresh food and very very little junk food. They never ask for soda or juice because they know they won't get it. One day I asked my then 3 year old if he wanted a cookie after dinner. He said, "No cookie! Can I have carrots?" I will never forget that and I only hope he'll continue eating that way. It will get harder as he gets older and sees his peers eating junk food. I hope the healthy eating habits we instill now will last.
I definitely think the home environment has a huge role in curbing the trend of childhood obesity. As a student of nutrition and public health, I have been learning about all the different factors that contribute to the rising rates of obesity in the United States (and other industrialized countries). I'm especially interested in school-based initiatives to promote healthy eating and physical activity. But, I've realized that a child who eats a quality healthy meal at school could very easily go home and eat fried chicken fingers every night for dinner. Without a foundation laid down by parents or guardians, a school will have little chance of building supporting walls. Interestingly, there are parents across the country that are opposed to school-based initiatives such as limiting access to vending machines and changing the offerings in vending machines. The basis for the opposition is that these initiatives encroach on personal liberties and freedom of choice. While I understand this point, I find it indicative of the laissez faire attitude some parents have with their children's eating habits. As someone who hopes to work in schools and WITH parents on making America's children healthier, I hope everyone will soon realize that this team effort requires parents too!
Being the parent of a 15 year old son who is obese, who was birthed by Cesearean section 3 weeks early and was 10lbs. at birth, I know all to well the complications and implications of childhood obesity! My children a 21 year old daughter and 15 year old son were both "gestional diabetes" babies. My daughter wasn't large, she was only 6lbs. 6oz. and was overdue by 2 weeks. My son on the other-hand was as I stated above taken 3 weeks early and was at that time already 10lbs,8oz.! He was a huge baby, but slimmed down until age 4 when his father and I couldn't understand how this "active" child could keep gaining approximately 10lbs at each doctor's appointment. Of course, I consulted his pediatrician and was quite disturbed by her non-chalant attitude that he'll eventually slim down. Needless, to say my handsome son is suffering from type 2 diabetes, hypertension. He takes insulin, blood pressure pills, metformin. My heart has been crying out for my baby for years. Trust me we've tried everything. We cut out the soda, candy, cookies, etc. Don't have any of those things in the house. In fact, my husband won't even allow it in the shopping carts! We've joined gyms, doctor-assisted weight loss/exercise programs. You see the problem persists for more than one reason than the "at home" issue. We live in an urban community and the school systems here DO NOT PROVIDE healthy school breakfasts or lunches!!!! When I went to the school to see what they feed the children I was appalled! Danish, donuts, carton of milk, sugary foods, laden with trans fats!! What's this? Lunch consisted of chicken in every imaginable form almost daily and weekly and monthly!!! Fatty chicken mcnuggets, greasy fries, sometimes the food was partially frozen still. Now my nephews live in the suburbs and they get, breakfast sandwiches, fruit and yogurt! Don't all children being educated deserve good, nutrious food? That's one fact! Okay, another. Environment..it's a fact that kids in suburbia can play a little more freely on their bikes, skates, with jump ropes, double dutch,etc. cause the may have large driveways, backyards, pools, community centers with such activities. Urban kids, first of all get nothing community-based due to the fact that our politicians don't feel our children are that important. No swimming at a community center, no arts and crafts, no running, no hide and go seek! No childhood fun, just good ole' plain fun! Why? Don't all American children deserve to be kids and have community centers and places to play without drug-laden needles, pipes,etc. infesting the playgrounds,exposing them to disease! Who cares for these kids. As soon as you guys see an obese inner city child you blame the parents and even the kids! Everyone is not afforded the ability to live where ever they want! That's just a fact of life! We all can sit back and pass judgment on the obese society of people, including the kids. It's unfortunate that some kids can't be valued and loved by all people and not pushed aside because they don't live in zipcode 90210. I've sincerely tried so many things to help my son because as a child I was a "fattie." But in the 70's we were "chubby" not obese and we didn't have type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure! I've lost and regained numerous times and I probably could have a degree in psychology and nutrition with all that I've learned. Was it enough to keep me and my son from the clutches of obesity? NO. Was it enough to have me help him to keep the weight off and not suffer the physical and emotional trials of this disease? NO. Honestly, obesity in the young is caused by a number of issues. Doesn't the world understand that we parents are afraid to let our children play outside and run and ride bikes because of all the evil that lurks around the corner and even in your own backyard? Isn't that why most children have Ipods, Playstation, Wii, all video games, t.v.'s, etc. All things designed as a sign of OUR times! Parents feel very comforted that their children are in the home at their fingertips and not some pedophile! I'm a parent suffering tremendously about my son and it's broken my heart a million times over. Since he was 4 years old I've cried myself to sleep and still do. If it was all that easy don't you think parents and doctors would fix the problem? Let's stop pointing the finger and have some compassion, walk in someone else's shoes for once and try to see how it feels to be a kid obese or a parent of one!
It wasn't until I entered a coop living environment when I was 20 that I learned what it meant to eat healthy. No soda, no candy, no ice cream! Sure, there are sweets, but if you have to take the couple of hours to make cookies or a cake (no mixes allowed), you'll be a bit more judicious in making and eating such substances. I have never been obese, but I was almost always overweight. I'm still a little heavy now, but I eat food my housemates cook everyday, I'm vegetarian and do it right. I think learning to cook from scratch was a large part of learning to eat healthfully for me. If you love making what you eat and love eating, I feel the incentive to eat well is larger. The satisfaction of knowing what went into a delicious meal makes me want to savor each bite. I'll never overcome my love affair with food, but if I'm going to eat, I might as well really really enjoy it.
To state the obvious here, I believe that the best way to change unhealthy eating habits and inactive lifestyles in children is through the example of the parents.

One blogger mentioned that exercise would be a great family activity. This is great motivation for the kids and enjoyable as well. I think its necessary as well. I remember when I was a child, we were able to disappear to a park or on bikes all day with no safety concerns but times have changed.
SICKO did not cover misdiagnosis issue.I read that ER Doctors miss 40% of Stroke.IS THIS a correct Fact.Dr.Gupta is a neurosurgeon--I heard that people should get Stroke Screening.Does he agree?
Sicko did not cover Obesity.As I read that Heart,Stroke,Diabeties,Obesity and Chronic illnesses are responsible for 75% of HealthCare costs.Should'nt CNN Compare that with France?
CNN should look in to this area and give us another perspective.
Also,I did not see any coverage of an Incredible Story of IAN DUNCAN which I read recently--Fitness,ER misdiagnosis are two points that standout.
Re: Anonymous' statement "Doesn't the world understand that we parents are afraid to let our children play outside and run and ride bikes because of all the evil that lurks around the corner and even in your own backyard? Isn't that why most children have Ipods, Playstation, Wii, all video games, t.v.'s, etc. All things designed as a sign of OUR times! Parents feel very comforted that their children are in the home at their fingertips and not some pedophile!"

Yes Anonymous...it's easier to be a "parent" by sitting a child in front of a TV/Computer or hooked up to iPod's and avoid the outside world because it's so bad. Why did you have children if the world is so bad? No wonder this generation of children are becoming even more apathetic - they don't even know how to socialize with all those gadgets. My parents played an active role in my play time by taking me to the parks or lakes. The world has always been evil and they made sure they were around while I lived it. Being a parent means being active in your child's life - not placating them with expensive gadgets. What will your children remember you by...the latest iPod you bought them? I have wonderful memories of sledding and flying kites with my dad and playing on the swings and slides with my mom. That is being a parent.
I am not sure that television is completely to blaim. Parents these days are so busy we don't tend to spend enough quality and family time with our kids. We are our kids role models and what kind of signal does it send to our kids if we ourselves sit behind a TV or computer? I am a bit guilty of this myself and am trying to add more quality family time to our lives and and include exercise into it, even if it is just a walk in the park. Even though some of us may have very demanding jobs, it is important to include high quality time into our families and work to incorporate a healthy lifestyle for our kids to emulate.
As a Mom, nutritionist/RD, and author of THE parents' manual on teaching healthy eating habits, WHAT SHOULD I FEED MY KIDS?--HOW TO KEEP YOUR CHILDREN HEALTHY BY TEACHING THEM TO EAT RIGHT (Career Press, 2006), this continues to just leave a hole in my heart. This obesity plague facing kids today is deplorable, and we are not moving very quickly toward fixing it. It is a 3-pronged problem, parents, schools, and the media...and it needs to start right at home with parents, who need to be the ultimate role models, and guide these children toward better HABITS, just as we teach them to swim, and not to put their fingers in electrical sockets. Why shouldn't we teach them the basic premise of eating healthfully and making good choices. As the Mom of a 12 and 15 year old, I promise you, it can be done. It's not real difficult, it just takes some guidance, patience and direction.
Time to start thinking outside the box on obesity.

Since we got scared out of the sun in 1989 obesity and autism have been on the rise (and so has melanoma, incidentally).

Vitamin D is linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol, hypertension. Some hypothesize that it may also be linked to autism.

Vitamin D deficiency is epidemic. The darker your skin the more deficient you probably are.

Everyone should consider getting tested for Vitamin D level and aim for 45-50ng/ml or 115-128nmol/L--lifeguard summertime level.

The Canadian Cancer Society, in a historic move, recently recommended 1000 IU/day D3. Vitamin D researchers often recommend more.

Also, check out this site for cutting edge Vitamin D research.
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