How many of you were raised on Kool-aide, potato chips and marshmallow fluff? Was your lunch typically a fluffer nutter, a plate full of chips and some sugar laden, teeth reddening drink mix? Yes, I too was a baby boomer raised by parents who didn't know the nutritional difference between a salad and a chocolate bar. Parents fed their kids what was easy, convenient, branded and well liked. Nutritional value and healthy diets were foreign ideas during this time period.
However, now we have a choice and it's up to all of us to change the landscape! Why should we even care? During the past four decades, obesity rates have soared, increasing more than four-fold among children ages 6 to 11. Today, nearly a third of children and adolescents are overweight. That's more than 23 million kids and teenagers. Furthermore a study of more than 200 neighborhoods found 4 times as many supermarkets in white neighborhoods as in black neighborhoods. Communities with high levels of poverty are significantly less likely to have places where people can be physically active, such as parks, green spaces, and bike paths. If we don't act to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic, we're in danger of raising the first generation of American children who may live sicker and die younger than the generation before them.
1. Speak out locally ~ Effect change
The latest research shows that the environment we live in and the policies our leaders enact impact the foods our children eat and the activity they get. Healthy foods and beverages in school cafeterias and vending machines mean that students eat better. Parks and bike trails in neighborhoods and vigorous physical education programs in schools, equate to more active children. Supermarkets and farmers' markets that sell affordable healthy foods translate to families that eat more nutritiously. However when communities are dominated by fast food, with few places to play, our children eat worse and are less active, and their health suffers. And we all pay a price-in higher health care costs and lost economic productivity. Take the steps necessary to ensure healthy school cafeteria options as well as regular access to recess, play time and the gym.
2. Turn off the Telly!
Unhealthy products are heavily marketed to children, and research shows that exposure to food marketing messages increases children's obesity risk. The Rudd Center at Yale University released one of the most comprehensive analyses ever of the marketing of cereal to children. The 2009 report found that the least-healthy cereals are the ones most aggressively and frequently marketed to children of all ages, often in ways parents are less likely to see. Therefore the best way to reduce this risk factor is to limit exposure to these advertising messages. Don't let our kids be swayed toward unhealthy food choices.
3. Support Research Initiatives
Research adds to the evidence that gene variations may affect kids' weight. A study on this topic found variations that were exclusive to obese children across 2 ethnicities - European American and African Americans. Detecting these same differences in both groups, solely in the obese, strengthens the probability that they play a role in the development of obesity. While the findings don't help with diagnosis and treatment, they do add to evidence that genes contribute to childhood obesity. As a result it is necessary to support and fund these activities ensuring adequate detection and treatment when a child's DNA code predetermines obesity.
Childhood obesity is not only an epidemic, it may be an infectious disease transmitted by a common cold virus. A study found a link between obesity and a virus, providing evidence that diet and exercise are not the only issues affecting the obese. Previous research has shown that adenovirus 36, or AD-36, can infect fat cells. So far, no other type of virus has been shown to affect fat cells. Lab studies show that the infects fat cells and makes them grow more quickly. Researchers conducted a study involving 124 children. About half of the children were obese and half non-obese. Children who tested positive for AD-36 weighed about 50 pounds more than those who tested negative. Therefore, if a cause and effect relationship can be established it would have considerable implications for the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity. And the timing is right for adenovirus-36 to be one factor stimulating the obesity epidemic. The virus was first isolated in the late 1970s about the same time obesity rates began to climb.
The new study may encourage people to look to viruses as a factor contributing to obesity, especially in the developing world where television and computers aren't as prevalent but obesity rates are increasing as fast as in the United States. It gets hard to explain a population where more than 15 percent of children are obese, like Thailand, when fast food and inactivity are not the issues. This is a subject that concerns us all and this blog will be dissecting the causes and potential solutions to turn this epidemic around. Like minded individuals are sought to underline, highlight and advocate for eradicating obesity.
How do you think we should fight childhood obesity?