Raising Healthy Children

I am very happy to announce the arrival of my fourth child!   With the hectic schedule and lack of sleep that goes with a newborn in the house, I have been a bit lackadaisical about updating the blog.  The other day I was holding my new son and thinking about the heavy responsibility of parenting. I got to thinking about all the things that we as parents can do to positively impact their child’s future health. I have an entire section in my book explaining all the evidence for the impact of development on future risk of obesity so I thought I would post a snippet on the topic to show you how important it is.

Teen and childhood obesity

Teen and childhood obesity (Photo credit: Gaulsstin)

You are probably well aware of the astronomic increase in the waistlines of Americans over the past 20+ years (if not check out my post – How Bad is it?).   It shouldn’t surprise you that the same deadly trend is happening in our children. About one in six kids is obese (above the >95th percentile for weight). Many overweight kids are now afflicted with conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure and are forced to take pills that used to reserved for older adults. I’ve started seeing more and more younger people with massive heart attacks in my own practice. Not only is the weight taking a toll on their health and self-esteem, it is also increasing the risk that they will be overweight and obese as adults. It has been shown that the risk of adult obesity is more than twice as high for obese children as for non-obese children. The later in childhood that kids are obese the more likely they will be obese as adults. The lifestyle and physiologic toll of obesity during development dooms these innocent victims to a lifetime of struggling with their weight. These kids are being robbed of their health at such a young age. Even worse, the life-shortening consequences of obesity will have a greater effect on shortening their lifespan because they start so much earlier.

A recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has shown that all kids would have to cut an average 33 calories for preschoolers, 149 calories for grade-schoolers, and 177 calories a day for teens to meet the national goal of getting the obesity rates back to what they were in the 1970s.  They would have to decrease their caloric intake by about 40 calories a day just to prevent them from getting fatter!

Schoolchildren eating hot school lunches made ...

The bottom line is that to make a major impact on the overweight epidemic in our country there needs to be a much greater effort by parents, schools, government, and the broader community to educate and train children to lead a healthy and normal weight life. We all need to train our children to eat well and exercise more. To all parents out there, there is no time to lose. As I showed you above, the longer a child is obese the more likely they are to be obese for their entire life. You have to start now. You can change the course of your child’s entire life for the better. You can save them untold suffering.

Of course, if you don’t transform your own relationship to food and weight, how can you expect them to?


References:

Guo S, Roche A, Chumlea W, Gardner J, Siervogel R. The predictive value of childhood body mass index values for overweight at age 35 y. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:810-9.

Wang YC, Orleans T, Gortmaker SL. Reaching the Healthy People Goals for Reducing Childhood Obesity, Closing the Energy gap. Am J Prev Med 2012

Serdula M, Ivery D, Coates R, Freedman D, Williamson D, Byers T. Do Obese Children Become Obese Adults? A Review of the Literature. Preventive Medicine 1993;22:167-77.

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