Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Childhood Obesity Epidemic

I recently came across this article in the Industry Science Journal, and it served as a great reminder of just how much work we have to do as parents and as a society to ensure a healthy future for our kids. 

In a 2010 report titled Healthy People 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set a goal of reducing obesity among children and teens from about 17% to 14.6%. The problem is that according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the current trend is headed in the wrong direction, and would put 21% of children and teens in the obese category by 2020.

The researchers’ proposed solution? Children and teens need to eliminate an average of 64 excess calories per day through either a decrease in calorie intake or an increase in physically activity, or both.

Now of course, their recommendation is just an average.  Some young people don’t need a reduction in calories, and many others need a far more drastic change than eliminating just 64 excess calories.  As the article points out, there are environmental, cultural and even hereditary factors that come into play that significantly alter those averages. For example:

“White youths would need a 46-calorie reduction, on average, in their energy gap to reach the goals. But given their higher obesity rates in 2008-2010, the average reduction needed to close the energy gap for Mexican-American youths is 91 calories and, for black youths, it is 138 calories. Youths in lower-income communities also need greater reductions than their peers in higher-income areas, again due to higher rates of obesity.”

So, while I agree that the elimination of excess calories is a worthy point of discussion, it’s not the whole discussion.  What I believe these and other disease statistics show is that we need a real food revolution in our country. You see, when it comes to overall health, disease prevention, quality of life, and even weight loss−all calories are not created equal.  In fact, the quality of calories consumed from various foods can be so different that it’s not even an apples to oranges comparison, it’s more like an apples to chemical-laden, preservative-filled, nutrient-void, GM pseudo-foods comparison. How your body metabolizes the calories and nutrients you consume is not only a factor in how much weight you may lose, but more importantly, it will play a huge role in helping your body function at its optimum level.

If we want to do something about the obesity epidemic, let’s start not by teaching the kids to count calories, but let’s educate them on how to make healthy food choices that will be a lifelong foundation for disease prevention and healthy living.

Of course, getting them off the Xbox and outdoors for some physical activity would do wonders as well, but don’t get me started on that!