According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), obesity among pre-teens climbed from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. Researchers at the University of North Carolina have found that 20% of young adults have high blood pressure. Thirty percent of young people are obese today, according to Suzanne Steinbaum at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. She says, “We’ve usually thought of this population as being healthy, and these are people who shouldn’t be sick and they are.”
Obesity is on the rise and our kids are at risk for hypertension, diabetes, gallstones, sleep apnea, kidney complications, loss of bone mass, high blood pressure and heart disease.
This is an issue of critical importance and it is our responsibility as parents to help stem the tide.
An article in the March 9, 2011 issue of JAMA states that childhood obesity affects approximately 12.5 million children and teens in the U.S. (17%) Obesity tripled in the 1980s and 1990s. Twenty years ago, Type 2 diabetes in teens was virtually unheard of. Now, it is estimated that 15% of new diabetes cases among children and adolescents are of this type.
U.S. adults, on average, weigh 24 pounds more today than they did in 1960, and they are at increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Approximately 9% of all medical costs in 2008 were obesity-related and amounted to $147 billion, twice what it was 10 years before.
Greater access to fast food, less available time, more sedentary activity, lack of self-discipline and increased marketing of fattening food to children have created an environment conducive to obesity. The ability to eat whatever, whenever, is everywhere. Emphasis is on quickness not quality.
What Parents Can Do
Serve more fruits, vegetables and whole-wheat products. Cut down on highly processed and high sugar foods and drinks. (Did you know that a 12-oz. Coke—considered a small size today—contains 9 teaspoons of sugar?)
Decrease time spent sitting and viewing and encourage more activity. Place limits on television and video time.
Engage your kids in physical activity. Play ball, take an evening walk, go swimming or ride bikes.
Encourage child-care facilities and schools to provide healthy foods and drinks. Policies should promote the health of our children instead of providing high-sugar, high-fat products that harm our kids.
Resources for Action
A good resource for talking to your kids and for approaching your school is the School Health Nutrition Guideline list from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention <http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00042446.htm>.
Michelle Obama started the move to healthier kids with her “Let’s Move” Initiative which called on parents and kids to eat healthier and move more. The USDA has revealed MyPlate <http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ > which replaces the food pyramid.
You can make a difference. Take an active role in your child’s health. Help clarify the critical importance of food to current and future health. It’s an investment in your child’s future.