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Supersized Kids - today's children are not just mildly overweight.

old message Supersized Kids - today's children are not just mildly overweight. Darrell Miller 06/12/05


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Date: June 12, 2005 02:04 PM
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Subject: Supersized Kids - today's children are not just mildly overweight.

Supersized Kids by Carl Lowe Energy Times, August 1, 2003

If your kids are like most American children, they are in serious danger. Because of a lifestyle that packs in too many calories and not enough exercise, today's children are not just mildly overweight; they are fat enough at younger and younger ages to threaten their well-being.

All of the extra body fat kids carry around is not just a cosmetic problem. Unless something is done quickly, this overweight generation may be doomed to a lifetime of chronic illness stemming from their excessive weight.

If you have kids, they are at risk. The time to take action to save them is today. When researchers look at the weight problems of today's youth, they are shocked and dismayed. The juvenile weight problem has resulted in some kids becoming obese-grossly overweight-by their third birthdays. Scientists are also finding that, in many cases, obese 10-year-olds now have livers that are already malfunctioning because of too much body fat. At the same time, their bodies, in an effort to cope with increases in fat, are secreting high levels of insulin, making them prone to type 2 diabetes, a disease usually found in older adults.

Scary Possibilities

When pediatric endocrinologists at the University at Buffalo analyzed the heights and weights of young children who were referred to them, they found frightening levels of obesity (Pediatric Academic Societies meeting 5/3/00).

"Childhood obesity not only affects a child's self-esteem, it also is associated with multiple medical consequences," says Teresa Quattrin, MD, professor of pediatrics and director of the study. "High insulin levels are believed to be related to type 2 diabetes, formerly known as 'adult-onset diabetes.' In fact, the incidence of type 2 diabetes in children has risen significantly in recent years, along with a high prevalence of obesity." "Children at risk of obesity must be identified very early, even at the preschool level," she adds. "Obese children often have obese parents, so an effective family-based multi-factor intervention program should begin as soon as obesity is diagnosed." Experts estimate that up to one in three US children and adolescents is already obese, and the numbers are rising. Children who are overweight are much more likely to grow up to become overweight adults and to suffer all of the health problems associated with adult obesity.

Family Eating

Experts believe that the best way to get children's weight under control is to get family eating under control. And the eating changes do not have to be drastic to produce effective results.

"Obesity is a family illness," says Debra Haire-Joshu, PhD, director of the Obesity Prevention Center at Saint Louis University School of Public Health. "Children...learn to become obese in an environment that encourages it. If parents are eating poorly, that's what they're providing their children."

To help children eat a moderate diet, according to Dr. Haire-Joshu, parents have to eat healthier first. In her research (Preventive Medicine, 6/03), the Saint Louis University School of Public Health joined with Parents As Teachers (PAT), a national, free educational program for parents of children from birth to age 3, to show parents simple ways to eat healthier that they could share with their children.

The researchers found that when they instructed the entire family on eating fewer calories, fewer fried foods and more fruits and vegetables, everyone, including the young children, benefited.

"What we showed in the study is parents who institute very simple changes can significantly impact their health. When parents have kids, they want the best for their kids. We get them at a very teachable moment," Dr. Haire-Joshu says. But society and the media produce an environment that encourages kids to eat gooey, calorie-dense food and stay glued to the television.

"Our society receives consistent messages to eat more and move less. This is a way to balance some of those messages to very young families," warns Dr. Haire-Joshu.

Incremental Changes

Dr. Haire-Joshu says that her study shows parents are more likely to start on healthier diets when the dietary changes are relatively small. For example, instead of completely revamping meals, families that ate fried foods at five dinners during the week tried cutting back to four fried dinners. Or mothers who consistently ate at fast food restaurants were encouraged to add lettuce and tomato to a smaller burger than the supersize they usually ordered.

Don't wait. Make those kinds of changes today to help your kids control their weight. Their health is at stake.



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