Hide this
Previous Article Next Article
 

The Silent Epidemic that’s Becoming a National Security Disaster

March 06, 2010 | 237,533 views
Share This Article Share

First lady Michelle Obama launched her “Let’s Move” campaign the second week of February to highlight, and hopefully help remedy the current childhood obesity epidemic.

If you think epidemic sounds a little too dramatic, then consider this: It is estimated that one out of every three children in the United States is obese.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a simple formula for helping prevent childhood obesity.

It’s 5-2-1-0, and it breaks down like this:

5: Eat five vegetables and fruits a day (the majority of this should be vegetables). I would also add that you limit your fructose consumption from fruits to under 15 grams per day. You can use the table lower on this page to help you determine the fructose content of common fruits.

2: Limit screen time — TV in particular — to 2 hours or less a day. (The AAP says to avoid any screen time for children under the age of 2. Another interesting variation of this comes from Robert Lustig, MD who is a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California who specializes in weight loss. He integrates this into the next one in that for every minute of screen time (TV or video games) a minute of exercise is required.

1: Do one hour of physical activity a day.

0: Have zero sugar-sweetened drinks This is an easy one that EVERY child would benefit from following.

Additional suggestions are: Be persistent in offering your child new foods, don't berate your child about his weight, involve him in food preparation, and be a dietary role model.

In the video above, British chef Jamie Oliver delivers an impassioned plea for America (and the world) to embrace a healthy food movement. He was recently given the $100,000 TED prize.

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Childhood obesity has become a lethal epidemic in the US and many other parts of the world.

It’s so serious an issue, in fact, that US military leaders are now viewing obesity as a potential threat to our national security. As I wrote last week, obesity is the number one reason why applicants fail to qualify for military service, and it poses serious health problems within the services.

It’s a truly disturbing sign of how modern life, with all of its conveniences, can undermine health and happiness – and perhaps even national security…

How Food Culture and Obesity are Related

As British chef and food advocate Jamie Oliver explains in the video above, our food culture has changed so drastically over the last 30 years, a majority of young children of today do not know what fresh, whole food is.

They can’t identify foods, let alone figure out where they come from or how they grow.

He shows how the three aspects of the “food landscape,” home, school, and main street, have all abandoned real food in favor of quick, cheap, processed foods.

Three decades ago, the food available in each of these three areas was mostly fresh and grown locally. Now the majority of foods served, whether at home, in school or in restaurants, are highly processed foods, filled with sugars and chemical additives.

During that same time, childhood obesity has more than tripled. Now, one in three children aged 10 to 17 is overweight or obese.

Healthy Eating Starts at Home

Home used to be the heart of passing on food culture. This rarely happens anymore, and children are suffering the consequences.

Many parents don’t even know how to cook with fresh ingredients, because their parents had embraced the novel convenience of the TV dinner back in the 50s.

I’ve said this for many years, and it’s worth repeating many times over because it’s one of the main solutions to the obesity epidemic – cook your food from scratch, at home!

Many people are under the mistaken impression that cooking from scratch is an extremely complicated affair that takes lots of time and costs more than they could possibly afford.

Listen, that’s NOT necessarily true!

There are plenty of sources for simple recipes, many of which are free if you have access to the internet. In this previous article, Colleen Huber offers a list of helpful guidelines on how to cook whole food from scratch, while keeping your day job.

It does require some pre-planning in many cases, but remember that learning to plan your meals may actually reduce your stress levels rather than increase them!

Many people resort to fast foods and processed foods simply because they’re too frazzled at the end of their work day to figure out what to cook. Planning a menu and shopping ahead could actually turn meal time into a more relaxed time spent with family.

Also remember that whatever money you think you’re saving now by using processed foods, you’ll end up paying many times over later on when your health begins to fail.

Proper nutrition, consisting mainly of whole, fresh foods, really is your number one health insurance policy.

Likewise, children will not know which foods are healthy unless you, as a parent, teach it to them. Please, understand that poor eating habits at home, combined with poor food selections at school, may set your child up for long-term physical and behavioral problems.

According to a recent national study, preschool-aged children, in particular, reduce their future risk of obesity if they regularly engage in one or more of three specific household routines:

  1. Eat dinner together as a family

  2. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep

  3. Limit your child’s television viewing time

I would add ‘cooking whole foods from scratch’ to that short list.

School Lunches are a Prescription for Disaster

Ideally, schools should arm you with solid tools for survival and success. Alas, proper diet and health is not on the curriculum in most schools. At least not if you judge by the foods served.

Considering the fact that most children eat two square meals a day in school (breakfast and lunch), these meals are a vitally important consideration in the fight against obesity.

Altering school lunches CAN help diminish the obesity epidemic, as one Swedish study has shown. They eliminated all sweet buns, sweet drinks, and candy from school premises, and saw a 6 percent drop in obesity in four years. Behavioral problems have also been remedied by giving kids healthier lunches at school.

Unfortunately, the system is largely run by accountants, not food experts, and budgets are tight. The result is cafeteria food that consists of cheap, highly processed foods with a long shelf life. Many schools use little or no fresh foods at all.

This type of diet is loaded with sugars and unhealthy carbs, which also break down to sugar in your body.

In a misguided effort to make children drink more milk, many schools even offer sugar-laden, flavored milk products. This is foolishness at its finest, as pasteurized milk is more harmful than healthful, and these milk drinks are loaded with fructose, which is the major culprit for the obesity epidemic.

It’s easy to see that if you, as a parent, do not take the time to teach your child about proper, health promoting nutrition at home, they simply won’t learn it. And as Oliver states, every child needs to know how to cook 10 healthy dishes from scratch. It’s an essential life skill!

Fructose is the Leading Cause of Childhood Obesity

Although the American Beverage Association claims there is “no association between high fructose corn syrup and obesity,” a long lineup of scientific studies suggest otherwise. For example:

  • Dr. David Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital did a study of the effects of sugar-sweetened drinks on obesity in children. He found that for each additional serving of a sugar-sweetened drink, both body mass index and odds of obesity increased in the children he studied.
  • The Fizzy Drink Study in Christchurch, England explored the effects on obesity when soda machines were removed from schools for one year. In the schools where the machines were removed, obesity stayed constant. In the schools where soda machines remained, obesity rates continued to rise.
  • In a recent study, 16 volunteers were fed a controlled diet including high levels of fructose. Ten weeks later, the volunteers had produced new fat cells around their hearts, livers and other digestive organs.

    They also showed signs of food-processing abnormalities linked to diabetes and heart disease. A second group of volunteers who were fed a similar diet, but with glucose replacing fructose, did not have these problems.

Please understand that while there are many contributing factors, I am convinced that FRUCTOSE is the primary cause of the obesity epidemic in both children and adults.Sweetened beverages and processed foods are the main sources of fructose.

For an in-depth understanding of just how fructose is destroying your health, and that of your children, please watch this excellent video lecture in its entirety (part 1, and part 2). Dr. Lustig’s presentation on this subject really opened my eyes to this issue, and then Dr. Johnson, who is the chairman of medicine at the University of Colorado, reinforced that with his book The Sugar Fix: The High-Fructose Fallout That Is Making You Fat and Sick.

If you disagree with my assessment then please review these resources above and see if you still hold the same position. The evidence is beyond compelling.

Common Sense Guidelines for a Healthier Life and Weight

By changing your lifestyle (or your child’s) in the following ways, you can naturally reach, or maintain, the ideal weight for your body:

  1. Keep all fructose under 25 grams per day. Fructose is the number one source of calories in the U.S., and it is very clear that it is the primary cause of the obesity epidemic. Your children need to dramatically reduce foods that are high in fructose, such as fruit juices.

    Fruits need to be carefully measured as well to make certain that no more 15 grams of fructose are consumed. See the table below to get an idea of how much fructose is in your favorite fruits.

    I recommend limiting it to 15 grams of fruit because it would be VERY unusual for you not to consume fructose from your other foods, as it is added in just about ALL processed foods even though it might not be listed on the list of ingredients. Remember your TOTAL daily fructose intake should be under 25 grams, not just fruit.

    Also keep in mind that most processed food is loaded with fructose and is best avoided completely. For instance, there are about 40 grams of HFCS per can of soda.
Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose
Limes 1 medium 0
Lemons 1 medium 0.6
Cranberries 1 cup 0.7
Passion fruit 1 medium 0.9
Prune 1 medium 1.2
Apricot 1 medium 1.3
Guava 2 medium 2.2
Date (Deglet Noor style) 1 medium 2.6
Cantaloupe 1/8 of med. melon 2.8
Raspberries 1 cup 3.0
Clementine 1 medium 3.4
Kiwifruit 1 medium 3.4
Blackberries 1 cup 3.5
Star fruit 1 medium 3.6
Cherries, sweet 10 3.8
Strawberries 1 cup 3.8
Cherries, sour 1 cup 4.0
Pineapple 1 slice
(3.5" x .75")
4.0
Grapefruit, pink or red 1/2 medium 4.3
Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose
Boysenberries 1 cup 4.6
Tangerine/mandarin orange 1 medium 4.8
Nectarine 1 medium 5.4
Peach 1 medium 5.9
Orange (navel) 1 medium 6.1
Papaya 1/2 medium 6.3
Honeydew 1/8 of med. melon 6.7
Banana 1 medium 7.1
Blueberries 1 cup 7.4
Date (Medjool) 1 medium 7.7
Apple (composite) 1 medium 9.5
Persimmon 1 medium 10.6
Watermelon 1/16 med. melon 11.3
Pear 1 medium 11.8
Raisins 1/4 cup 12.3
Grapes, seedless (green or red) 1 cup 12.4
Mango 1/2 medium 16.2
Apricots, dried 1 cup 16.4
Figs, dried 1 cup 23.0
  1. Follow my nutrition plan and tailor your diet to your nutritional type. These are the foods that are right for your biochemistry, so they will naturally push your body toward its ideal weight. (By the way, these foods may be high in fat, high in carbs, heavy on protein, or mainly veggies. It all depends on YOU).
  2. View exercise as a drug. Many studies find that exercising for one hour, five days a week is ideal for weight loss, and I tend to agree with that. Sometimes you may need even up to 90 minutes of exercise every day.

    For best results, be sure you are incorporating the appropriate variety of exercises into your routine. For instance, there is compelling evidence that strength training and high-intensity anaerobic interval training may be especially effective for weight loss, so you’ll want to incorporate these into your workout program.
  3. Let go of your emotional blocks. Tools like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Meridian Tapping Technique (MTT) are your friend and ally when it comes to losing weight. For some, emotional eating is more complex, and an experienced EFT practitioner may be able to help unravel some of your deeper emotional issues.

To give your child the best start at life, and help instill healthy habits that will last a lifetime, you should strive to lead by example. There is perhaps no better way to help your child lose weight than to model the healthy behaviors I’ve described above in your own daily life.


[+] Sources and References