I was recently at a pediatric conference and attended a session on childhood obesity. The presenter was from London, a pediatrician and an advocate fighting childhood obesity. She was discussing the prevalence around the world and I was somewhat surprised by some of the statistics:
- 10 percent of all children are either overweight or obese
- In 2010, 43 million children under age 5 were overweight. (60 percent increase since 1990)
- By 2020 9 percent of all pre-school children ( 60 million) will be overweight or obese
- The highest prevalence is in the United States, followed by the UK and Australia.
Why in industrialized nations do we have such a problem?
Our processed foods:
In our industrialized world we can quickly get our food from cans, jars and bottles.
In third world nations, they tend to go to their backyard or the farmer on the corner and get their fresh fruits and vegetables. The availability of foods such as red meat may be scarcer which also decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
There are several studies that suggest the salt intake of teenagers is directly linked to obesity. In a previous blog I talked about the intake of sugary sweets and sodas. In addition to aggression, clearly the calories are an issue as well.
In this era of technology where my 8 year old may know how to program my iPhone as I fumble, tells me that our kids are spending more time sitting than running and playing. It is an easy ‘babysitter’ to have the child sit in front of the TV with a movie than to actually have them play outside.
In this go, go, go world from school to practice to lessons to homework, it is easier to sometimes grab something fast and well just…. GO. This leaves little room for healthy choices on a tight schedule.
Why do should I care?
There are multiple health complications associated with childhood obesity.
- Psychosocial: poor self-esteem; depression; eating disorders
- Lung problems: sleep apnea; asthma; exercise intolerance
- Stomach problems: gallstones; fatty liver
- Musculoskeletal problems: hip, knee and ankle injuries
- Heart Problems: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, clotting problems
- Hormone imbalance: diabetes; premature puberty
What can you do?
Recently Dr. James Ebert (our lead physician in Lipid Clinic) and Rachel G. Riddiford RD (organizational nutrition and healthy way officer) presented to the physicians of the Dayton community some great advice:
Parents and caregivers should…
- Remember 5-2-1-0
- 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables
- 2 hours or less screen time (none in bedroom)
- 1 hour or more of physical activity per day
- 0 sugar sweetened beverages
- Encourage eating breakfast everyday
- Limit fast food and dining out
- Encourage and implement family meals
- Use age-appropriate portions
- Provide adequate fiber and calcium
- Teach children at a young age self-responsibility
Ideally addressing diet and physical activity TOGETHER will help achieve positive results. Emphasizing positive change in behavior that can be maintained over long term with family and peer supports are also very important. Realizing there is no quick fix with a goal of maintaining healthy habits that last a life time is where we need to start.