by HILLEL MAZANSKY, M.D.
The incidence of childhood obesity has tripled in the last thirty years, and will continue to rise unless immediate, focused actions are taken to halt this fast spreading condition. Children worldwide are becoming overweight, and in America children between the ages of 6-9 years of age are mainly affected. Adolescents ages 12 to 19 years suffering from obesity are also being diagnosed with increased frequency. Obese children and adolescents are exhibiting early signs of Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, sleep apnea, elevated cholesterol levels (think cardiovascular disease) and early strokes. Obese children suffer from major psychological conditions in addition to physical handicaps. Tormented by class mates, they cannot participate in sports activities due to physical limitations, and often the psychological problems lead to further compulsive overeating.
Obesity , both the adult and childhood variety causes a ﬁnancial drain on the healthcare industry and governmental health resources. Active and aggressive steps are urgently needed to formulate a plan that will arrest the problem, similar to the stop smoking campaign. America must set the stage to serve as an example for the rest of world to follow. The annual cost to society for obesity in general is a staggering 100 billion dollars.
Every organization – federal agencies in Washington, local governments, physicians, the advertising and food industries, parents and schools with their lunch programs will all need to contribute and commit to a collaborative effort. Education is key to the solution. The country has a national champion for childhood obesity, our First Lady Michelle Obama, through whose organization “ Let’s Move and Prevent Obesity” attempts are being made to ﬁnd solutions and implement obesity reduction programs.
The cause of childhood and other types of obesity are two fold:
1. The excess consumption of simple carbohydrate foods known as “junk foods”, high fructose components, an excess of fat intake from fast food restaurants, drinking of sugar laden soft drinks, and meals prepared with little or no attention to nutritious content.
2. Lack of exercise, from watching television (targeted food advertisements included), DVD’s, playing video games and excessive
time on computers. These behaviors lead to inactivity. Television should be removed from the house, or restricted to minimal viewing
of parent -approved content. Video games or computer time that is unrelated to school projects should be similarly restricted. Healthy, nutritious food should comprise the daily intake for the entire family.
Outdoor activities that bond parent-child relationships, participation in sports programs at school or other venues and engaging friends in after school outdoor interests can all enhance activity/exercise levels. Adequate sunlight supports good levels of Vitamin D.
Input from teachers regarding obese child behavior patterns and child – peer interactions can increase parent awareness in providing constant encouragement, empathy and alteration in eating patterns. Parent and community groups to create awareness and target obesity reduction programs can be formed without signiﬁcant cost.
View our blogs on nutrition and exercise to reduce the obesity problem at www.gianinc.com