Obesity Prevention That Works
Kids who began the Head Start program as overweight or obese achieved a more healthy weight by kindergarten than kids in the comparison group, find researchers. Published in Pediatrics, the study found that kids who entered Head Start at an unhealthy weight ended up with a significantly healthier body mass index (BMI) before kindergarten compared with kids who were seen for pediatric well-child checks. In addition, underweight children experienced an increase in weight gain. Lead author Julie Lumeng, M.D., of the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital says that while Head Start is often at risk for cuts in funding, the program is "associated with robust, early and sustained beneficial changes in children's BMI."
First Two Years of Life
The use of broad-spectrum antibiotics in the first two years of life increases the risk of childhood obesity finds a study from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. Children who received four or more courses of broad-spectrum antibiotics, including amoxicillin, tetracycline, streptomycin, moxifloxacin and ciprofloxacin, had a 17% higher risk of obesity between ages 3 and 5. The study was based on medical records of 54,580 babies and children. Research suggests that the mix of bacteria in the gut plays a role in obesity. Gut bacteria destroyed by antibiotics has been linked to a higher risk. "This really gives strong evidence that, often, obesity really is not a personal choice," said Dr. Stephen Cook, American Academy of Pediatrics.
One in Three See No Problem
UC San Diego researchers report that almost one-third of the parents of children whose excess weight has become a health issue have no idea that their child even has a weight problem. The study involved over 200 parents whose family doctors advised them to take the obese child to a weight-loss clinic, and it found that 31 percent of them had believed their child to be in very good or excellent health at the time, while 28 percent considered the child's weight to be perfectly healthy. The study also found that while 61 percent of the parents voiced plans to improve the child's diet, only 41 percent also intended to increase the child's exercise activity, and that the parents' ability to convince the child to adopt a healthier lifestyle fell dramatically after the age of fourteen.
Obese? Not (burp) Me!
The National Center for Health Statistics reports that about one-third of Americans ages 8 to 15 years, or some 9 million young people, lack an accurate sense of how much they weigh, with most of them underestimating their weight. Specifically, of those classified as obese, 48 percent of boys and 36 percent of girls believe their weight to be just about right, as do 81 percent of boys and 71 percent of girls who are clinically overweight. The numbers cause concern among health experts, who worry that kids who underestimate their weight will have no motivation to change their eating or exercise patterns. Also of concern are the four percent of those whose weight is healthy but who think they are too fat, and are thus susceptible to developing bulimia or other eating disorders.
Overprotected and Overfed
Children of "helicopter moms" are more likely to become obese as pre-teens, according to an analysis of data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children conducted by researchers at the Telethon Kids Institute. Specifically, children of mothers who engaged in patterns of highly protective parenting were, at ten to eleven years old, thirteen percent more likely to be obese than their peers whose mothers were about average in protectiveness. Why the weight gain occurs at that particular age is unknown, but the study's lead author notes that this is the age at which most children begin having more freedom and independent mobility, and that those who don't may be impacted emotionally or even hormonally in ways that exacerbate already obesity-prone diet and activity patterns.
Native Americans Win-Win
The growing belief that simple poverty is a significant cause of childhood obesity is supported by a Johns Hopkins study which found that when Native American tribes build or expand casinos, the level of tribal income goes up and the percentage of obese children goes down. Data from 117 school districts serving tribal lands indicated that just adding 13 slot machines per community resident boosted the average local annual income by $7,000, and was correlated with a 2.5 percent reduction in the rate of young residents who were overweight or obese. Researchers suggested that the additional funds allowed families to buy healthier food and their communities to build recreation and sports facilities, and cite the study as illustrating "the impact of economic resources on kids' health."
More Often Than Not
One reason that a third of America's children are overweight or obese may be that over half their parents have no idea that they are. According to an analysis of 69 studies involving almost 16,000 children ages 2 to 18 by University of Nebraska researchers, 51 percent of the parents of obese or overweight kids think their weight is perfectly normal. This tendency to underestimate the child's weight is especially pronounced in parents of 2- to 5-year-olds, beyond which age, they “realize it's not just baby fat any more," noted one researcher, who expressed concern that parents who underestimate kids' weight won't take steps to reduce that weight. One unexpected finding: 14 percent of parents actually thought their normal-weight child was underweight, especially in the case of boys.
Chubby at 5, Fat at 14
A large part of a kid’s risk for obesity is established by the age of 5 years, find researchers. The study analyzed data from nearly 8,000 kids who started kindergarten in 1998. Researchers measured the kids’ weight and height seven times between 1998 and 2007. By the time the kids were aged 14 in the eighth grade, 20.8 percent were obese, and 17 percent were overweight. Half of the kids who were obese at 14 years old were overweight in kindergarten. The largest increase in rates of obesity were observed between first and third grades. Kids who were more than 8.8 pounds at birth had a higher risk of being obese at every age. Researchers also found that children from the wealthiest families were the least likely to be overweight. The study was published in New England Journal of Medicine.
Obesity Epidemic Blamed
Although the incidence of strokes is down among most wealthy countries, the number of strokes suffered worldwide is on the rise, and the most marked increases are among low-to-middle-income countries and young people. While stroke has been regarded as a disease of advancing years, a study published in The Lancet found that it increased by 25 percent among persons under 65 during the period of 1999-2010, to the point that over 80,000 children and adolescents now suffer stroke each year. Study authors attribute the soaring stroke rate among young people to the soaring rates in that demographic for obesity and Type 2 diabetes, major stroke risk factors, which implies even greater stroke numbers to come. Over 90 percent of strokes can be prevented through diet and lifestyle changes.
Just One Per Day Can Do It
Previous studies have clearly linked drinking sugary beverages with obesity in teens and adults, and now we have the trifecta: University of Virginia researchers report that even five-year-olds who drink at least one sugary soda, sports drink, or sugar-sweetened juice drink each day are more likely to be obese. The daily sugary soda drinkers are also more likely to have an overweight parent and to spend at at least two hours a day watching TV. But even accounting for those factors, and for family income and education, the daily sugary drink imbibers are 43 percent more likely to be obese than children who drink fewer or none. According to the study's leader, sugar-sweetened drinks add just a small number of calories to the child's daily intake, but they add up to obesity over time.
It’s All About the Giveaways
Fast food ads aimed at kids emphasize giveaways and not the food, say researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth who compared fast food ads on children’s television channels with those aired for adults. Ads targeted to kids focused on food packaging and street views of the restaurants whereas images of the food itself dominated ads targeted to adults. Nearly 70% of kids’ ads included giveaways vs 1% of ads for adults. Previous studies have shown that associating fast food with animated characters enhances children’s perceptions of food taste and that exposure to advertising increases consumption of fast food by children. Researchers call for oversight of fast food marketing to children given health concerns about childhood obesity and its relation to fast food consumption.
Stroke, Diabetes, Heart Attack
Current childhood obesity rates may portend an epidemic of coronary artery disease in the future, according to a new study which found that people who become obese earlier in life stay obese longer and raise their risk of atherosclerosis, or arterial plaque buildup, which can result in a stroke or heart attack over time. The study, which followed 3,300 U.S. adults ages 18 to 30 for 25 years, determined that for every year a young adult is obese, his/her risk of plaque formation rises by 2 to 4 percent, independent of age, sex, race, BMI, smoking, exercise level, diet or alcohol use. People who remained obese the longest were also more likely to develop high blood pressure and cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Statistically, Americans are becoming obese at an increasingly younger age.
Marriage Produces Skinnier Kids
Children living in a household with two married parents are less likely to be obese, find researchers from Rice University and the University of Houston. Published in Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk, the research found that children living in two-parent married households had an obesity rate of 17 percent compared to an obesity rate of 31 percent for children living with cohabitating parents. Due to lack of available data, the study didn't evaluate children living with same sex couples. For children living with an adult relative, the obesity rate was 29 percent, compared to 23 percent for kids living with a single mother. For kids living in a household with a cohabitating stepparent, the obesity rate was 23 percent.
80% of US Teens at Risk
Eighty percent of US teens may be facing heart disease later in life due to the amount of exercise they receive and the diet they are eating today, finds a new American Heart Assn. study. Too much sugar, salt and fat and not enough fruits and vegetables comprise the average American teen’s diet and only 1% eat what the AHA considers a perfectly healthy diet. For the national study, researchers surveyed 4,600 teens about their eating and exercise habits. Participants also underwent medical exams that included blood pressure and cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The AHA warns that heart disease later in life is directly related to diet and exercise habits in childhood and recent studies that have found evidence of early heart disease in children bear this out.
Reversing a 30 Year Trend?
Childhood obesity rates are on the decline in some US cities, finds a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, perhaps signaling a trend that the obesity epidemic may be reversing course. NYC reported a drop of 5.5% in the number of obese schoolchildren from 2007-2011. Philadelphia reported a 5% drop and LA is down 3%. Researchers are not sure what’s behind the declines, the first in 30 years. Obesity is now part of a national conversation but researchers, many of whom doubt that anti-obesity programs work, say it will take a broad set of policies applied systematically to effectively reverse childhood obesity. Philadelphia, for example, has reduced or eliminated sugary drinks from school vending machines, replaced whole milk with 1% or skim and reduced serving sizes of snack foods.
More Than Two Hours Per Day
Bedroom TV viewing significantly raises the risk of childhood obesity, find researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center who studied the TV habits of 369 children of various ages, genders, ethnicities and weights. The children were evaluated for health factors including cholesterol and waist circumference. Researchers found that kids with bedroom TVs watched more often and also had more fat and higher waist circumferences than those who didn’t have bedroom TVs. Bedroom TV watchers and those who watched 2+ hours a day had up to 2.5 times the odds of the highest levels of fat mass. The average American child, ages 8-18, watches 4.5 hours of TV per day; 70% have a bedroom TV and about 1/3 are considered obese.
Play Less, Eat More
According to a new European study, children who grow up without siblings are at a fifty percent greater risk of being overweight or obese than those children who have brothers and sisters. The research is based on the responses from a parent questionnaire included in the Dietary and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants Study which included data from 12,700 children aged 2 to 9. Monica Hunsberger, a researcher from the University of Gothenburg, says that only children are less likely to play outside, often liven in households with lower levels of education and are more likely to have televisions in their bedrooms. According to the CDC, childhood obesity in the United States has more than tripled in the past thirty years.
Activity Is Key
"I would imagine parents underreport their kid's caloric intake, out of subconscious guilt or just inaccuate observation."
- Charlie in the comments
Overweight and obese children, ages 9-17, consume fewer calories than their healthy weight peers, although the reverse is true for children under 9, finds a new study from the U of North Carolina. Lead author Asheley Cockrell Skinner, Ph.D., explains the dichotomy when she says, “Children who are overweight tend to remain overweight. So, for many children, obesity may begin by eating more in early childhood. Then as they get older, they continue to be obese without eating any more than their healthy weight peers.” Skinner defends her research by pointing to the fact that overweight children tend to be less active than health weight kids, indicating that obesity is not simply a matter of eating less. For the study, Skinner examined 7 years worth of dietary data on 19,125 kids, ages 1-17.
Not Just an Adult Disease
Overweight children are twice as likely to have gallstones, says a Kaiser Permanente study that found that the more overweight a child is, the more at risk he or she is for gallstone disease. Extremely obese kids are 6 times as likely to have gallstones while those who are moderately obese are 4 times as likely to have the disease vs children with a normal BMI. The study, based on the health records of more than 510,000 children ages 10 - 19, also indicated a stronger association between obesity and gallstones in girls than boys - but overweight boys are not immune to the disease. "The high rate of gallstones in obese children and adolescents may surprise pediatricians because gallstone disease is generally regarded as an adult disorder,” says senior study author George Longstreth, MD.
Higher Childhood BMIs
Antibiotic use in babies under 6 months may be associated with being overweight in childhood, says a New York U. study of 10,000 children which found that kids exposed to antibiotics from birth to 5 months weighed more than those with no exposure. As the child aged, the correlation became more pronounced. By 3 years, exposed kids had a 22% greater likelihood of being overweight. Children exposed to antibiotics after 6 months showed no significant risk of being overweight in later childhood. This is the first study to analyze the association between antibiotics and body mass in infancy although there’s been much focus on the overuse of antibiotics. While this study shows a correlation between antibiotic use and increased body mass, further studies are needed to prove a causal link.
Followed by Childhood Obesity
Lack of exercise was rated as the top health concern for children in 2012 by adults across the U.S. For the first time, the annual C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health found that most adults rated lack of exercise as their biggest health concern for kids. "The strong perception that lack of exercise is a threat to children's health may reflect effective recent public health messages from programs such as First Lady Michelle Obama's 'Let's Move' campaign," says Matthew M. Davis M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the poll. The poll also found that childhood obesity was the second biggest health concern for children, followed by smoking and tobacco use. Other top concerns include drug abuse, bullying, stress, alcohol abuse and teen pregnancy.
Jogging Toward You
A new Nike ad that aired during the Olympics broadcast, with tagline "Find Your Greatness," features a 12-year-old boy who weighs 200 pounds. Nathan Sorrell, a middle-school student, is 5 feet and 3 inches tall. As the ad progresses, the viewer can see the jogger, Nathan, more clearly and realize he's overweight. The narrator of the ad talks about "greatness," telling viewers that "we're all capable of it." According to Time, some see the ad about the power of the human will as a publicity stunt that exploits Nathan, while others see it as Nike's attempt to combat the stigma around childhood obesity. What do you think?
Psychology vs Drugs
The focus of this year’s Am. Psychological Assn’s Convention was how behavioral treatments - vs meds - could combat the obesity epidemic. Highlights: In a Diabetes Prevention Program study of 3000 overweight people with impaired glucose tolerance, participants learned to track food intake, remove unhealthy food from their homes and increase physical activity. The study showed that even a modest weight loss of 14 lbs reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58%. Another study focused on food policy and presented research that found, through brain imaging studies, that sugary foods act on the brain in ways that create signs of addiction. It raised the question of whether lawmakers should set limits on addictive foods and curtail advertising of these foods, especially to children.
Are Plastics Making Kids Fat?
Preliminary results from a new study suggest that a phthalate used to soften plastics may increase the risk of childhood obesity. The study involved collecting blood from 204 six to 13 year olds, 105 of whom were obese. After accounting for physical activity and caloric intake, a higher body mass index (BMI) was linked to higher levels of di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) which is found many products people use every day. DEHP likely acts in two ways to increase fat; reducing the potency of the male sex hormone androgen which normally lowers BMI and disrupting normal thyroid function which secretes hormones that affect weight gain. Both hormones affect appetite and how quickly food is broken down. Male fertility, breast development in boys and low birth weights has been tied to phthalates.
The Unkindest Cut, Long-Term
A heads-up for expectant mothers: According to research reported in the latest British medical journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, babies delivered by caesarian section stand roughly twice the chance of being obese by the age of three as babies born vaginally. A study of 1,255 mother-child couples found that the obesity rate at that age for vaginal-birth babies was 7.5 percent, compared to 15.7 percent for the c-section babies, who were heavier in general and carried more body fat. Although c-section mothers tended to weigh more, the results held even when mothers' weight, babies' size at birth, and duration of breastfeeding were taken into account. As of 2007, 32 percent of all U.S. births were c-sections, compared to 20.7 percent ten years earlier.
Retired Brass Up in Arms
A group of over one hundred retired U.S. Army generals and Navy admirals, including Generals John Shalikashvili and Wesley Clark, have issued a report, titled "Too Fat To Fight," which warns that 75 percent of young Americans ages 17 to 24 are disqualified from serving in the military, with the leading medical reason being overweight or obesity. Declaring that this alarming development threatens the future strength of the U.S. armed forces, they explicitly cite poor childhood nutrition as the primary cause, and call upon Congress to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act, and specifically to remove high-calorie, low-nutrition "junk food" food from U.S. schools, to increase the quality of student meals, and to provide educational and exercise programs promoting fitness.
Now They're Flunking Nutrition
The more educated the parent, it seems, the less likely that the offspring will be fat. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics notes that in U.S. households headed by adults who do not have a high school degree, 22 percent of the girls and 24 percent of the boys are obese, compared to just 7 percent of the girls and 11 percent of the boys in households headed by a someone with a B.A. or higher. Holders of bachelor's degrees have other health advantages: just one-third as many are smokers, compared to high school grads, and they outlive high school dropouts by about nine years on average. Higher education is associated in general with healthier lifestyle choices and greater access to medical care.
Co-Sleeping, Not Comfort Eating
Preliminary results from a study involving approximately 500 Danish two to six years old at risk of becoming overweight due to factors surrounding their mothers' pregnancy and their birth found that those who get to sleep in their parents' bed after waking up at night are less likely to be overweight. Those who were never allowed to do so had three times the rates of obesity of those who did it after every incidence of waking up at night. This challenges previous research that suggests kids who sleep with their parents are at an increased risk of obesity because they do not sleep as well as they would in their own bed and researchers expected similar results. Researchers hypothesize that kids who can sleep in their parents’ beds feel more secure which may reduce the risk of obesity.
Obesity rates have slowed and today about 1/3 of US adults are obese. But the future doesn’t bode well finds a Duke U study that predicts that 42% of US adults will be obese by 2030. The study, released at a Ctrs for Disease Control conference on obesity, found that the costs of treating the medical conditions associated with obesity would be around $550 billion, an amount that could be avoided by maintaining the current obesity rate of 36%. Plus, the already obese are getting larger and severe obesity, often a consequence of childhood obesity according to health experts, will double to 11%. Study leader, Eric Finkelstein said it’s unclear whether the obesity rate has slowed due to public policy and greater awareness or because US residents have reached a maximum level of obesity.
After School Snacks
School bans on sugary sodas don’t reduce overall consumption of sweetened drinks, says research. In schools that ban only soda, about 30% of middle school students bought sweetened sports and fruit drinks; in states where all sugar-sweetened drinks are banned, students consumed the beverages outside of school. “The laws have some positive effects but schools can’t do it alone,” says study author Daniel Taber. “The study underscores the importance of policies that extend beyond schools to discourage consumption of sugary beverages - and encourage children to purchase and drink healthy beverages like water, low-fat milk and 100 percent juice,” says Frank Chaloupka, U of Illinois. Proponents of school bans call for comprehensive programs that affect sales of all sugary drinks.
Began in Late 90s
The epidemic of childhood obesity began about 15 years ago, says a new UNC study that focused on 100,000 adolescents and four national databases that tracked BMI’s of 12 to 26 year olds from 1959 to 2002. The results showed that BMIs increased “sharply in the adolescent ages beginning in the 1990s and among young adults around 2000,” especially for black females, says lead researcher Hedwig Lee. The study shows how an issue that used to begin in middle age now affects young adults. "It's scary because the earlier weight gains mean earlier onset of chronic illness such as hypertension (or high blood pressure) in the 20s instead of 40s," says Lona Sandon, UT. Definitive causes remain undefined, but researchers cite increased time in front of the computer or TV.
Ban Food Ads Aimed at Kids
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents put kids on a “media diet” by restricting TV and internet time to help reduce obesity. Studies show that these sedentary activities not only displace physical activities, but people snack more on junk food while doing them. Now, the AAP has gone a step further by calling on Congress to ban junk food and fast food ads during TV shows aimed at kids. Says pediatrician Dr. Victor Strasburger, it's "time for Congress to man up against the food industry." Kids are psychologically defenseless against advertising, he explains, citing years of studies that find they don’t understand the selling intent of ads. In the meantime, the AAP suggests that parents limit kids’ screen time by keeping TVs and computers out of kids’ bedrooms.
But Obesity Is Costlier
In December, the government passed legislation which gives the USDA the power to set and improve the nutritional standards for food provided to school children. Among the changes include establishing calorie maximums, reducing sodium and starchy vegetables, and eliminating trans fatty acids. While health experts applaud the new efforts, some school districts will be financially challenged by the changes. Fresher, less processed foods tend to be more expensive. Many districts have made improvements to their menus over the past several years, including whole grain pizza crusts and whole-muscle chicken tenders. But, with obesity now affecting nearly one of every five American children over the age of 6, “it’s worth the additional money.”
You Are What Your Mom Ate
A study examining nutrition in pregnant woman found that low amounts of carbohydrates changes some of fetus’ DNA most likely because the fetus is trying to gauge the environment it will be in after birth. How external factors such as diet affect DNA and ultimately gene expression is called epigenetics. Researchers demonstrated that certain markers in the umbilical samples of pregnant women with low carbohydrate diets were also found in their children and strongly associated with childhood obesity at 6 and 9 years old. The RXRA gene, which makes the vitamin A receptor was modified which is important because vitamin A affects how the body's cells handle fat. Based on these results, researchers want healthcare providers to provide more nutritional education for pregnant women.
One-Third of US Adults Is Obese
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) seeks to combat obesity by funding research for new programs and technology designed to address the problem which affects more than one-third of adults and nearly 17% of US children. Research recommendations include using technology to advance obesity research and improve healthcare delivery, discover key processes that regulate body weight and influence behavior, and evaluate strategies to prevent and treat obesity in real-world settings. The NIH plan hopes to improve public health by highlighting education and community outreach. One advance by past NIH task forces was to help women achieve a healthy weight before and during pregnancy to ensure the future health of their children.
GREEN EGGS and HAM DIET SLAMMED
The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been chosen to promote the new "Eating Healthy. Growing Strong." campaign designed to fight childhood obesity. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the American Academy of Pediatrics have teamed up to provide 17,500 copies of the book, complete with growth charts and reading handouts to pediatricians around the country. Former president Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, one of the founding organizations of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation said, "We are starting a dialogue between parents and doctors that will go beyond the waiting room and into the home, enabling 21 million children to make more nutritious choices and lead healthier lives."
Sack Your Old Lunch
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley has partnered with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to promote healthy school lunches to help fight obesity and prevent such diseases as diabetes and hypertension in children and teens. More than 70 percent of school lunch menus are currently too high in saturated fat and cholesterol and low in vegetables, whole grains and legumes. The public service announcement, called “Sack Your Old Lunch!” promotes low-fat, cholesterol-free lunches with essential good nutrition for optimum health and physical and mental performance. PCRM also promotes more vegetable dishes and fresh or dried fruits. Woodley’s PSA can be found at PCRM.org.
Poor Diet and Sedentary Kids
There have been several studies to suggest that when moms work, their children are at greater risk for poor diets and more sedentary lifestyles, so they therefore have a greater tendency toward childhood obesity. Another study conducted at American University has found that third grade children experience approximately a one pound gain in excess weight for every six months their mother works. The link became stronger as children matured into fifth and sixth grades. The implication is not that moms leave the workforce, stresses author Taryn Morrissey, but that there should be more policies in place to protect families of working mothers such as greater access to child care, healthier foods in schools and more flexible work schedules.
Contributing to Obesity?
Children who have their tonsils removed tend to gain weight, finds an analysis of four decades worth of studies. One study found that within one year of surgery, the average increase in BMI was about 7 percent among children who had tonsillectomies. Another finds that up to 75 percent of children experienced weight gain in the year following surgery. Study author Anita Jeyakumar MD of St. Louis University is hesitant to suggest that there is a direct link between tonsillectomy and weight gain, but it does raise questions if the surgery may be contributing in some way to the dramatic rise in childhood obesity. Fewer American children are having their tonsils removed today than in years past. Reasons for removing the throat tissue clumps include infection and sleep disordered breathing.
Diet and Exercise Overhaul
First lady Michelle Obama visited the Army’s largest training post at Fort Jackson outside of Columbia, South Carolina and praised the efforts of the military for improving the health of the recruits. Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling has worked to overhaul both the soldiers’ diets and exercise programs, including adding fat free milk, green salads, fruit and nuts in the mess halls. The recruits are also engaging in more rigorous training drills and participating in exercises that build core body strength and stamina. Mrs. Obama said the military’s health initiatives could be a model for youngsters elsewhere as obesity is “not just a health issue but a national security issue.” Fort Jackson trains more than 60,000 soldiers annually.
Can’t Get with the Program
Actress Gennifer Goodwin of “Big Love” fame was once a nine-year old member of Weight Watchers. But, the diet company tells TMZ, “under no circumstances whatsoever” can kids under the age of ten join nowadays. Goodwin started Weight Watchers 23 years ago but, in 2003, the company underwent a policy change. The new company line? It’s potentially dangerous for children under 10 to become WW members. Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Supama Jain told TMZ that the diet giant is “wise not to give its stamp of approval to anyone under 10, because the diet does not provide enough calcium and protein for a growing body.” But, says WW, “Between the 10th and 17th birthday, a doctor’s permission note is needed and the doctor is responsible for recommending a healthy weight goal.”
For Nutritious School Food
Yesterday, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 into law. The bill’s intention is to “provide children with healthier and more nutritious food options, educate children about making healthy food choices and teach children healthy habits that can last a lifetime.” The bill gives the USDA authority to set nutritional standards for foods sold in schools, provides additional funding to schools that meet updated nutritional standards for federally-subsidized lunches and requires schools to make nutritional information available. The bill addresses childhood obesity, a cause championed by Michelle Obama. "I think that our parents have a right to expect that their kids will be served fresh, healthy food that meets high nutritional standards,” she said.
Reduce Meat Consumption
NYC Green Schools, an organization made up of parents of children in the New York public school system, has teamed up with the national non-profit group Meatless Monday in an effort to bring more plant-based foods into NYC schools. The goal of Meatless Monday, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, is to help reduce meat consumption 15 percent in order to improve both personal health and the health of the planet. NYC Green Schools launched their effort at Validus Preparatory Academy in the Bronx, where the students were given information about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, including decreasing the risk of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes. The group is now encouraging the school district to implement a mandatory nutrition curriculum as well.
Alters Genes Affecting Appetite
What your mother ate while she was pregnant may have determined your propensity for weight gain. A new animal study published online in the FASEB Journal shows that eating a high-fat diet - 35 percent or more of calories coming from fat sources - during pregnancy alters the function of genes (epigenetic changes) that regulate circadian rhythm and appetite. A specific gene affected includes one called Npas2, a key regulator for both sleep and food intake. The research also found that the children of those eating a high-fat diet were more likely to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Lead researcher Kjersti Aagaard-Tillery MD PhD says “We are enthusiastic that even small changes…will translate into a lower chance for obesity in our next generation.”
He's Not Lovin' It
"What is wrong with him? How about doing something helpful and limit these disgusting restaurants from adding more locations!"
- Alle Fronteria in the comments
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to veto the city’s ban on McDonald’s Happy Meals on Friday. The Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance Tuesday that requires fast food children’s meals that contain toys to meet new nutritional standards. Supervisor Eric Mar initiated the proposal because the rate of obesity, particularly among six to eleven year olds, has quadrupled over the past 30 years. Fast food is targeted because it markets high calorie, high fat meals to children, enticing them with “prizes.” Mayor Newsom has scheduled an event today which will outline a new report of the city’s efforts to combat childhood obesity. Unfortunately, however, his veto likely will not stand, as the ordinance passed 8 to 3, a veto-proof margin.
A vitamin D deficiency leads to faster weight gain in kids, according to a U of Michigan study of 479 schoolchildren. "We found that the kids with the lowest vitamin D levels at the beginning [of the study] tended to gain weight faster than the kids with higher levels," said senior author Eduardo Villamor who also found that children with the lowest levels had greater increases in abdominal body fat. Abdominal fat has been linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health issues. "This is significant because vitamin D insufficiency is highly prevalent across the globe and childhood obesity rates are dramatically increasing worldwide," says researcher Diane Gilbert-Diamond. Sun exposure is one source of vitamin D; others include supplements and fortified foods.
Stiff Blood Vessels
Obese children have similar signs of CV disease as older adults, says Dr. Kevin Harris, who evaluated 63 obese children and found that they had aortic stiffness, an early indicator of heart disease and early death. For the study, Harris evaluated the children’s blood pressure, BMIs and lipid panels. The children also had ultrasounds of the heart and blood vessels to determine how quickly blood flows. Test results, for all but the kids’ blood vessels, were normal. Harris says this is significant because the elastic quality of the children’s blood vessels was impaired even though other measures of heart disease were normal. The next step, says Harris, is to determine whether the damage is reversible with lifestyle changes. The mean age of the children in Harris’s study was 13.
An Un-Happy Meal
A San Francisco board committee has ruled in favor of banning toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals and other kids meals unless the nutritional content is improved, according to a news report from the San Francisco Chronicle. The ban, recommended by Supervisor Eric Mar, will be placed before the full board on October 19th. The committee is asking for fast food companies to lower the sugar, sodium, and fat content in the popular kid’s meals and to add a half-cup serving of fruit and vegetables. Although many support the ban, Mayor Gavin Newsom has pledged to veto it should it be passed. Although a supporter of healthy eating, a mayoral spokesperson says “It’s one thing to educate people and make sure they have healthy choices, but this is over the line.”
Sugar Drinks Taking Over
Children in the United States are not drinking enough plain water and even mild dehydration can lead to a decrease in physiological functioning, fatigue, muscle weakness, and impaired cognitive and mental performance. According to a study of almost 4,000 kids under 19 published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, only 15 to 60 percent of boys and 10 to 54 percent of girls (depending upon age) drink the minimum amount of water recommended by the US Institute of Medicine. Children are more apt to meet their fluid needs through sugar-sweetened beverages instead, increasing caloric intake and the risk of excess body weight. Parents are encouraged to start kids off early in life enjoying the taste of plain water over sugary beverages such as sodas and sports drinks.
Thirty Days Hath September
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month to bring attention to the epidemic of childhood obesity in the US. As part of this initiative, Mary Ann Liebert has launched a bimonthly, print and online journal entitled Childhood Obesity. With rates of this epidemic increasing annually, Liebert calls for a multidisciplinary approach to assess and aid obese children and adolescents. "The warriors in this war must be many ... physicians, educators, community members who interact with children, members of parent-teacher associations, food manufacturers, nutritionists, and other healthcare professionals—many of whom find it difficult to tell parents that their children are overweight and then don't see these patients often enough to monitor the problem," says Liebert.
Let's Move with Healthier Sides
Michelle Obama suggested a need for healthier choices on kids' menus this week as part of her "Let's Move" initiative. One of the arguments she made to the National Restaurant Association was that French fries should not be the standard side dish. Instead, they could be replaced by something healthier like carrots sticks, and fries could still be available on request. With healthier choices promoted up front, "…parents don’t have to hunt around and read the small print to find an appropriately sized portion that doesn’t contain levels – high levels of fat, salt and sugar," Obama said. She hopes that if more energy goes into marketing nutritious alternatives, demand for them will go up.
Teach Good Habits Early
Children who consume food and beverages from vending machines are more likely to have poor eating habits that may lead to obesity and chronic health problems, found researchers from the U of Michigan Medical School. "The foods that children are exposed to early on in life influence the pattern for their eating habits as adults," says lead study author Madhuri Kakarala, M.D., Ph.D. Previous studies assessed the nutritional value of school lunches, but this is the first study to look at foods sold in vending machines. Eighty-eight percent of US high schools have vending machines. Soft drinks, fried snacks and desserts are the most commonly vended items. Study authors recommend the restriction of unhealthy vending machine foods in schools, as well as nutrition education in the lunchroom.
Good Night, Sleep Tight
Kids that do not get enough sleep could be at risk for developing childhood obesity, according to a study in the September issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Researchers studied 1,930 children ages 0 to 13 years between 1997 and 2002. At the end of the study, between 33 and 36 percent of participants were overweight or obese with a BMI at or above the 95th percentile of national growth standards. In younger children (under age 5), short duration of nighttime sleep was associated with an increased risk of later childhood overweight or obesity. Napping was not an adequate substitute for sufficient nighttime sleep. Obesity in children under the age of 5 has doubled during the last three decades, according to the study authors.
Not So Innocent Grilled Cheese
Eating out can contribute to childhood obesity, and Men's Health (via MSNBC) has noted the five worst kids' meals served at popular restaurants. The fatty restaurant meals were singled out by the authors of the book Eat This, Not That!. One of the top offenders is the Olive Garden Fettuccini Alfredo meal with 800 calories! Another worst meal is Applebee’s Grilled Cheese with French fries at 1,020 calories. The suggested replacement for the grilled cheese meal is a hot dog with applesauce, which has only 300 calories. Denny’s Slap Shot Sliders (2) meal with Finish Line Fries also made the list with 1,180 mg sodium! Instead, order Spaghetti, Set, Go! With Apple Dunkers and Caramel Dip, suggest the authors. Kids' meals from Outback Steakhouse and Friendly’s also made the list.
Young Men, Beware of Your Weight
Young obese men beware! A Danish study has found that men who are obese by 20-years-old die eight years sooner than non-obese counterparts. The study included 5,000 military conscripts (2,000 who were obese at the start of the study) and participants ranged in age from 20 to 80-years-old. The study found that obesity by the age of 20 increased the risk of death by 10 percent for every point over 25 body mass index points. Esther Zimmermann of Copenhagen University Hospital says "At age 70 years, 70 percent of the men in the comparison group and 50 percent of those in the obese group were still alive and we estimated that from middle-age the obese were likely to die eight years earlier than those in the comparison group." Other top studies have validated these findings in men and women.
Reasons Are Unknown
Thousands of sixth graders enrolled in a school health program weighed less in eighth grade than their non-participating counterparts, finds the National Institutes of Health. Researchers followed more than 4.500 students and noticed an overall decline in the rates of obesity in both groups suggesting that childhood obesity may be on the wane. At the start of the study, 30 percent of kids were overweight. Students enrolled in the program practiced healthy eating and increased their physical activity. After two years, the percentage of overweight kids dropped to 24.6 percent for the participation group and 26.6 for the control group. “Something is going on in the environment that is leading kids to become less overweight or obese,” said Dr. Gary D. Foster, Temple U, Philadelphia.
Spain, Italy Have Our Kids Beat
"Because of food marketing we have a pandemic of diabesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol"
- CLEAVES M. BENNETT MD in the comments
Childhood obesity is a huge problem in the US with 41 percent of children, ages 5 to 13, being overweight or obese, according to a study conducted by Datamonitor. But, in a comparison of 19 mostly industrialized countries, the US ranks third for childhood obesity, surpassed by Spain and Italy where 44 and 45 percent of children, respectively, have a weight problem. US childhood obesity rates are projected to rise at a rate of 1.3 percent between now and 2010. That is considerably lower than China, where childhood obesity is expected to grow at a rate of 9 percent per year; or Japan where the rate of growth is projected at 8 percent. Said Joe Dixon of Datamonitor in an interview with CBS News, "There's a widespread perception that childhood obesity is only a U.S. problem. It’s not."
Are Toys Making Kids Fat?
"It's not CPSI's job to decide if/when my kid gets a cheeseburger."
- David in the comments
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group, is telling McDonald's that the toys they feature in Happy Meals are unfairly causing kids to market to their parents for a trip to McDonald's, reports MSNBC. The group, which may file a lawsuit, says the practice of including toys in Happy Meals is deceptive. The consumer advocacy group hopes that McDonald's will agree to stop selling the toys before a lawsuit is filed. CPSI believes that even if McDonald's only advertises the healthier Happy Meal options, like those with apple dippers and low-fat milk, kids will still choose the unhealthier meals in most cases. McDonald's didn't immediately respond to CSPI's request.
High Fructose Diets Not for Kids
A laboratory study has found that when fructose sugar is present as children’s fat cells mature, it makes more of these differentiate into visceral (belly) fat and less able to respond to insulin, thus increasing the risk of both heart disease and type 2 diabetes. By measuring biopsies from the precursors to adipocytes of 32 healthy-weight children who had not yet undergone puberty, the researchers found that fructose, present as high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks and processed foods, had different effects on the maturing fat cells than glucose, or regular table sugar. The results, presented at The Endocrine Society’s 92nd Annual Meeting, indicate that fructose has a greater effect on the risk of cardiometabolic disease in growing children than in mature adults.
Also Helps Reduce Obesity
Obesity statistics indicate that nearly one in three children are overweight or obese, dramatically increasing their risk for diabetes and heart disease. But new research shows that one way to curb the often ravenous appetite of the typical teen is to ensure that they eat breakfast daily and that they include protein in that meal. Researchers found that teens who included protein in their first meal of the day ate an average of 130 fewer calories at lunch and were less hungry between meals. "We observed that eating breakfast, regardless of composition, led to increased feelings of fullness. However, when the adolescents ate a breakfast rich in protein, they also experienced a reduction in hunger, thus maximizing the beneficial effects of protein," says study author Heather J. Leidy.
Mississippi Has the Most Obese
Health officials would like to learn Oregon's secret for having a childhood obesity rate of only 10 percent. However, that 10 percent rate falls short of the federal Healthy People 2010 initiative, which sets a goal of only 5 percent of children being obese. Oregon still deserves a bit of applause since it's the only state with a recent decline in childhood obesity rates. According to a new government study reported on by MSNBC, more than 16 percent of kids ages 10 to 17 in America were obese in 2007. That number represents a 10 percent rise since 2003. Mississippi has the worst childhood obesity rates in the country at more than a fifth of children obese. Experts also found that kids living in poorer areas with no access to parks or sidewalks had a much larger risk of being obese.
Reasons to Limit Toddler TV
While allowing toddlers to watch television may seem harmless, new research suggests otherwise. A study from Michigan and Montreal Universities revealed that older kids face issues that may be traced back to their TV viewing habits as toddlers. For every hour of television watched, kids faced negative effects later, such as poor school performance and a higher consumption of junk food. For the study, parents reported on toddler TV habits at 29 and 53 months. When the children were 10 years old, teachers reported on their school performance, behavior, health and body mass index (BMI). Two-year-old kids who watched the highest levels of TV had increased BMI, poor math achievement and lower levels of classroom involvement at age 10. Recommended maximum amount of TV per day is two hours.
Ages 6 to 9 Peak of Bullying
Bullying of obese kids has no bounds. New study findings from the University of Michigan showed that obese kids are bullied regardless of gender, race, academic achievement or socioeconomic status. The study, to be published in the June issue of Pediatrics, also revealed that obese children may be bullied even if they have great social skills. Both childhood obesity and bullying are considered pervasive public health problems, particularly since close to 20 percent of children in the United States ages 6 to 11 were estimated as obese between 2003 and 2006. Researchers found that bullying peaks between the ages of 6 and 9. Parents of obese children indicate that bullying is their top health concern, and prior studies have shown that obese kids experience more depression.
Veggies Front and Center
As the rate of childhood obesity continues to rise, policymakers, educators and parents seek ways to ensure that children make healthy eating choices. School cafeterias may offer fast food options but they also offer salads which are often passed over by school kids. Now, a team of researchers from Cornell University has identified an elegantly simple and effective way to get children to make healthy food choices. In a year long study, researchers found that when the salad bar was moved to a more prominent location, sales of fruits and vegetables increased by as much as 300 percent. "By the end of the year, this even led to 6% more kids eating school lunches," said researcher Laura Smith. "It's basic behavioral economics — we made it easier for them to make the right choice."
Taking on the Cafeteria Lady
A group of retired military leaders has announced a new battle. Mission: Readiness, Military Leaders for Kids, a non-profit group of 130 members, is advocating improving the nation’s unhealthy school lunches which contributes to the childhood obesity epidemic. They cite data that at least nine million young men and women are too heavy to join the military and could not pass the minimum physical fitness standards for entry. Because 31 million children across the nation eat lunch at school each day, accounting for about 30 to 50 percent of a child’s total daily calories, the group supports a reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act which, in part, calls for serving more nutritious foods. Investing in children early, the group says, is critical to National Security.
Term Creates Stigma for Kids
The City Council of Liverpool is considering dumping the words "obese" and "obesity" from public health campaigns aimed at helping kids improve their health because the terms could stigmatize youngsters. Instead, they suggest the term "unhealthy weight" be used because it has less of a negative connotation and won't turn young people off. But some think that idea goes too far, such as Tam Fry, director of obesity prevention efforts for the Child Growth Foundation, who says "if you're obese you're obese" and there's no reason to sugarcoat it. The idea came from members of the Liverpool School Parliament, which says a change in terminology could help improve kids' lives. The group also said "food heroes" should be appointed to encourage healthier eating in schools.
Throwing in Towel on Fat Adults
"They fire the football coach and 200 people show up at the next school board meeting. But they serve corn dogs, burgers and fries for school lunch and no one shows up to complain."
- Anthony in the comments
We hear it more and more: Diets don't work. If you lose weight, you'll just gain it back, plus a few pounds. Even if you get bariatric surgery, you'll discover that with your walnut-sized stomach you can still pig out on milkshakes and wine and gain the weight back. Perhaps this kind of thinking is behind the decision of Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., the publisher of dozens of medical and scientific journals, to rebrand its Obesity and Weight Management journal as Childhood Obesity. After all, it's looking like if you can't solve the problem at its root, before kids start on a lifetime of bad eating habits, weight gets programmed in for life. The newly titled journal will concentrate on childhood and adolescent obesity topics, and will be aimed at physicians, nurses, dietitians, and educators.
Watch Baby's Weight in the Womb
There's been a lot of focus lately on efforts to curb childhood obesity focusing on elementary school kids and older, but growing evidence suggests that a child's propensity for obesity might be set up a lot earlier than that -- perhaps even in the womb. Research has shown that kids whose moms smoke while pregnant are more likely to be obese later, even though they're often born smaller. Babies who don't get a lot of sleep or who grow really quickly early in life may also be heavier later on. And though one in 10 children under the age of 2 is overweight, doctors are hesitant to label such a young child as fat or to seek to put a toddler on a diet. The main advice for preventing obesity in kids from the start is for overweight moms to lose weight before they get pregnant and to breastfeed.
Kids At Risk
"People should just not eat anything that wasn’t a food 100 years ago"
- Philip123 in the comments
Childhood obesity has reached serious proportions in the US. Now, a new study focuses on extreme obesity in children ages 2 to 19. In the first study to examine extreme childhood obesity from a racially and ethnically diverse population, researchers tracked 710,949 children and teens and found that extreme obesity now affects more children at younger ages. The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, found that 7.3 percent of boys and 5.5 percent of girls are extremely obese with Hispanics and blacks having the highest proportion of children in this category. These children are at risk for shorter life spans, joint problems, diabetes and heart and liver disease. The study focused strictly on health issues and didn’t address the social stigma often associated with childhood obesity.