Friday, June 20, 2008

Some disturbing reading today






Since I finished my book last night, I took the opportunity to finish reading last week's edition of Time. The cover story is childhood obesity, and I read every single article in this issue on the topic. You can read the main article here. It was very disturbing.





I'll give you a few statistics and facts.


  • 32% of all American kids are overweight
  • 90% of overweight kids have at least one avoidable risk factor for heart disease, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes is being diagnosed in kids as young as 15 years old
  • The current generation of kids may be the first in American history to have a shorter life expectancy than that of their parents
  • In 1991, only 42% of high school students took part in daily phys ed--today that number is 25%
Although many people attribute obesity to genetics--and there is definitely merit to that, at least in part--many other factors are involved, including environment, geography, regional diet, and race, but the biggest factor could very well be income: 22.4% of 10-to-17 year old kids living below the poverty line (less than $21,200 for a family of four) are overweight or obese, compared with 9.1% of kids whose families earn at least four times that amount.
The rise in the price of fruits and vegetables between 1989 and 2005 was 74.6%. The real price of fats fell 26.5% in the same time period, so it's a no-brainer what type of foods you'll buy if you have a limited income.
Besides the health problems mentioned earlier, other complications include arthritis, joint damage (especially on developing young bodies), sleep apnea, and liver, lung, heart, gallbladder, and pancreas damage. In addition, overweight kids are more likely to be anxious, unhappy, and to suffer from depression.
It's all pretty sobering, isn't it?
While in the short term, it would seem that it's looking bleak for our kids, it seems that there is room for optimism. A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association in May 2008 published a study showing that the increase in U.S. obesity among American children had leveled off. While federal fitness programs have been slashed, the article stated that Governor Schwarzenegger in California and Governor Daniels in Indiana (yay, Indiana!) had begun statewide programs to promote fitness and a healthier lifestyle.
I believe that while state- and federally-funded programs are important, they can't take the place of setting a good example at home, and every doctor and expert cited in the article agrees. If kids see us making unhealthy dietary choices, or if we provide mass quantities of unhealthy foods in our homes, we are doing them a great disservice. One of the articles advocates making a household-wide change in the food on hand, rather than singling out a child and restricting what they can eat. What kind of a message does that send? "Your little brother can have these cookies, but YOU can't." Terrible, and sure to set the kid up for failure, because he/she will only crave things more.
One of the articles consisted of 10 tips to "get your kids moving." The Number One tip? Pull the plug. Kids, on average, spend nearly 6 hours in front of a screen, whether TV, video game, or the computer. God knows I'm guilty of plenty of screen time, but I've been making an effort to not be quite as sedentary as I have been. After reading these articles, I am even more resolved to do so. I think about my childhood, when every nice day was spent outside riding our bikes or hiking in the woods, and it was for the entire day, not just a couple of hours. I understand all too well that times have changed, and that I was fortunate to grow up in a rural area where we could roam all day and not get into (too much) trouble or be at too much risk. I know that's not the case now. But as the 10 tips article stated, parents have no problem saying no to drugs, drinking, and smoking, so why not set limits for screen time, too? Encourage kids to be more active--in fact, mandate it. Summer days should not be spent sitting inside growing pale and flaccid and losing muscle tone.
I'm not trying to be accusatory or holier-than-thou, by any means. I have plenty of my own work to do, believe me! But I believe that we, as a country, owe it to our kids to help them make better choices when it comes to their eating habits--even if sometimes we have to force them to do so--in order to put them on the right path to a healthier adulthood and lifestyle.


rdautumnsage said...

While I was reading this my first thought was exactly what you wrote, "pull the plug". I remember as a kid spending hours outside running, involved in sports, riding my bike. I do believe they need to bring physical fitness back into the schools and make it a priority. The exercise alone would help stimulate the kids minds.

I did a research paper a few months ago and diabetes 2 is not normally diagnosed as a childrens disease. (Hugs) Indigo

luvrte66 said...

Hey Indy! You wrote, "I did a research paper a few months ago and diabetes 2 is not normally diagnosed as a childrens disease."

Bingo. To quote directly from the article written by Alice Park in the issue I wrote about, "Disrupting the insulin threshold usually takes decades--which explains why this form of diabetes was generally more common in adults over age 30 and why the more genetically driven Type 1 was more prevalent among children. Before 1994, only about 5% of school-age children with a diabetes diagnosis had Type 2, but today anywhere from 30% to 40% of diabetic kids are told they have Type 2. And use of insulin-controlling medications to treat the disease in children rose 150% from 2001 to 2007."

I think that is just appalling.


ziggy2315 said...

I believe that young people in their 20's and even some in late teens, if they are diagnosed with diabetes it is called Type 2. I know that the age level is getting lower all the time, and more and more people are becoming diabetic. I am one of them.

luvrte66 said...

Ziggy wrote, "I know that the age level is getting lower all the time, and more and more people are becoming diabetic. I am one of them."

I'm really sorry to hear that, Ziggy, but I hope that you are managing it well and staying healthy.

All my best,

deshelestraci said...

I have one child who eats to live and one who lives to eat.  Scares me to death.  And they are pretty active.  I do agree that way too much tv time is a problem.  I will say that they will never have tvs in their rooms.

buckoclown said...

I know that I have genetics against me when it comes to weight, but I also have the drive to not let it get out of hand.  If they could only make calorie free beer :o)

mpnaz58 said...

I agree 100%!  How do you change the mentality of today's parents?  Not only do they let their kids watch too much TV, they're driving through the McD's picking up lunch and dinner!  Fast food is becoming the norm...I can't tell you how many people I work with eat out every single day.  Sad.
xoxo ~Myra

eml625 said...

That photograph says it all. Life was different when we were 10 or 11 than it is for our kids. How many times did your mom say, go outside and play. And you DID.
We spent all summer vacation outside. Now? My kids definately are in a rut and follow the high percentage of kids that are hooked to the internet and video games.
It's sad.


shrbrisc said...

fortnately people are talking about it but you still won't get a pediatrician or doctor to help you show your kids how to lose weight

carouselqueen70 said...

Things arent going to get better when food costs rise so high. In the older days when you were poor you were thinner. Now if you are poor you are heavier. I am on a VERY strict budget. Unfortunetly the fat food are way more expensive than the healthy ones. I cant afford to buy all fresh fruits and vegatables for them to eat everyday. I wish I could. I just do the best I can. My children are healthy and not overweight. I guess I can be thankful for, Christine

queeniemart said...

With the mess the U.S. is in and with the economy going to get worse i bet many kids will slim down because their parents will be unable to feed them.

cayasm said...

We have the same problem here, and it's getting worse there are several initiatives in operation but often don't work because parents will not follow the guidlines set. Junk food it would appear has taken over, and people just will not provide or cook fresh food for their children, or saying that their children don't like it,..duh,...of course they don't if you continually feed them junk they will not eat anything else. to my mind it's a form of child abuse, how can any parent watch and allow thier child to become so unhealthy with trying to do something about it.


mereel2005 said...

I remember a time when as a child, I looked forward to summer; I coud play outside, read, draw, go to visit family at the beach.

Now it takes an act of G-d to get my g-dchildren from in front of my TV and get them to go to the play park. I don't even turn on the TV or computer when they come over,

markonit said...

... technology has made for a more sedentary lifestyle, as we replace our connection to life with the internet, seek our entertainment only to stimulate our visual senses, and as a family unit, are to busy to act with each other outdoors ...

... could go on, but the biggest factor in childhood obesity, the parents, are the ones who need to get up and out first ... the children where I live, enjoy doing the 20 - 30 mins of exercises that I do ... and that is something I think any small child would like to do, and would keep doing as they mature ...