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It’s Hard To Be A Healthy Kid These Days!

It’s Hard To Be A Healthy Kid These Days!

Since we know that obese children usually grow up to be obese adults, it seems like a good idea to explore why it is that so many children become obese or overweight.

Well before they mature, obese adolescents develop unhealthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood-sugar levels, as well as heart-valve damage and other signs of impaired heart function.

This is a very real worry, as we saw recently, with the information that nearly one in four teens is diabetic or pre-diabetic.

The good news is that by losing their excess weight, the young obese can return to good health. By adulthood, those who come down to a normal weight have no greater risk of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease than people who were never obese.

Nationwide, the prevalence of obesity in children has leveled off in the past few years at 17 percent, though it has increased a bit for boys, whose rate is almost 19 percent. The obesity rates among certain racial groups are stubbornly higher than average: 24 percent among black children and 21 percent for Hispanic kids.

And it is still far too high.

Obesity researchers have intensified their investigation into weight gain in infancy and toddlerhood. As Bloomberg reports:

This is important, because most of the excess weight kids gain before adolescence occurs before age 5. According to a 2006 study, children who are overweight in their preschool years are five times more likely than other children to be overweight at age 12.

Bottle-feeding, researchers have observed, for example, leads to greater weight gain than breast-feeding, even if breast milk is whatís in the bottle. Mothers of overweight toddlers have been found to view their childrenís weight as normal, which perhaps keeps them from cutting back on calories.

From the time kids reach kindergarten, a significant part of their diet is determined by the food choices offered at school and what they see on TV. A 2011 study found that kids with relatively high exposure to food ads on television consume more soft drinks and fast food than other kids do. Among those already on the heavy side, increased watching of TV food ads is strongly associated with a higher body-mass index.

It’s never too early to monitor what your kids are watching!

Grown-ups are beginning to clamp down on school food. Many states, cities and school districts now ban sugar- sweetened drinks in schools. All of them should make sure the ban includes sugar-sweetened fruit drinks and sports beverages. Even juice itself is better replaced with fresh fruit or water.

New standards for federally supported school lunch programs require that fruits and vegetables be offered every day, that more whole-grain foods be made available, that milk be fat-free or low-fat, that water always be at hand and that meals contain a limited number of calories. Many school districts — also the state of California — now limit the calories, fat and sugar in foods on sale in school vending machines. For every school, these standards should be a floor, not a ceiling.

And then there’s exercise: According to last monthís recommendation by the Institute of Medicine, all children should get at least an hour of physical activity during the school day, as well as access to after-school activities and programs that encourage walking or bicycling to school.

As for those TV ads for unhealthy foods, Bloomberg suggests that it may be unrealistic to think of banning them, but they can be discouraged. Here again, the Institute of Medicine has a smart suggestion: First, urge the food, beverage, restaurant and media industries to ensure that only healthy foods — those that meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans — are advertised to children ages 2 to 17. If, after two years, this change hasnít materialized, then local, state and federal policy makers should consider setting mandatory standards.

The good news is that it appears we can change behavior. In eastern Massachusetts, obesity among girls and boys under 6 decreased significantly from 2004 to 2008. In New York City, obesity among schoolchildren declined 5.5 percent from the 2006- 07 school year to 2010-11 — about 6,500 fewer obese kids.

Let’s hope we can see this kind of progress everywhere!

Related Stories

Nearly One In Four Teens Is Diabetic or PreDiabetic

Can Prescription For Nature Defeat Childhood Obesity?

Will New York’s Proposed Big-Size Sugary Drink Ban FIzzle?

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Photo Credit: One Tree Hill Studios

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106 comments

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8:23AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Foods were far less processed when I was younger in the early 60s. Now there are far more additives, poisons and highly processed foods on the market so it is little wonder obesity is a problem. Of course back then we also spent most of our time outdoors in the summer and much of it in winter with many activities enabling us to get far more exercise than many younger people today.

Today one needs to cook food from scratch if one is able to afford and purchase organic foods. Not everyone has the time if working two jobs and the like to always cook from scratch but the more organic and pesticide free veggies, hormone free meats one can get the better. Then those on low income can't always afford the healthier foods depending on where they live, not everyone has access to farmer's markets and inexpensive produce.

1:23AM PDT on Jun 11, 2012

The very sight of that crap -- that C.R.A.P.!!! -- is just nauseating.

At every fair or community gathering where this type of poison is peddled, I see big ol' WHALES -- people with great dough-y bodies and huge guts -- standing in line to get a cube of curly fries or an "elephant ear" or even worse -- and it's all I can do not to run up to them and KICK the thing right out of their hands. Instead, I simply walk up to them and say: "You will be in an early grave," and then walk on.

With health habits and concerns so ubiquitous in the media these days, there is NO REASON for these people to be so moronic. If they're standing on a bridge about to jump, or pointing a gun in their mouths, we get all upset and respond strongly. Well, eating that crap is the SAME THING; it's just a little slower.

I'd say they deserve everything they get, and it's no skin off MY nose.... but then we all have to foot the bill when they get heart attacks, diabetes, etc. -- either through Medicare funding or increased insurance rates.

I have no pity for these people, only anger and disgust.

12:24AM PDT on Jun 11, 2012

Thanks for the article.

12:42PM PDT on Jun 10, 2012

People need to be educated, it's just as easy to eat something healthy as something unhealthy.

12:18PM PDT on Jun 9, 2012

Childhood obesity is indeed a serious problem but too many stories ignore the fact that many overweight children live with overweight parents. Below a certain age a child isn't buying the groceries, cooking the meals, or packing the school lunches.

Too many point the finger at school lunches - while these can indeed stand improvement, a child eats 5 school lunches in a 7-day week. Many more meals are eaten outside of school; education begins at home.

12:17PM PDT on Jun 9, 2012

Childhood obesity is indeed a serious problem but too many stories ignore the fact that many overweight children live with overweight parents. Below a certain age a child isn't buying the groceries, cooking the meals, or packing the school lunches.

Too many point the finger at school lunches - while these can indeed stand improvement, a child eats 5 school lunches in a 7-day week. Many more meals are eaten outside of school; education begins at home.

8:17AM PDT on Jun 9, 2012

Children should be eating healthy ingredients, home-cooked, so that parents know what is going in to the meals. This doesn't necessarily mean slaving over a hot stove all day, it means planning and care. Sweets, crisps, fizzy drinks, takeaways, cakes, biscuits, etc. etc. should be given as treats - try giving sweets once a week. Children should also be encouraged to eat regularly, and to eat what they're given, and should excercise rather than sitting indoors.

Tough? Yes, maybe, but that's what being a responsible parent is about.

5:56AM PDT on Jun 9, 2012

I blame the parents; they are the ones making the food choices, either at the grocery store to skip the fresh fruit and vegetables and go straight to the frozen/ processed foods or going through the drive thru of a fast food restaurant.

2:10PM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

hard for adults and kids to be healthy these days!

5:51AM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

noted

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