Our Children are in Trouble
Ways Parents Can Help

An article by By Dr. Jan McBarron, MD, reprinted from "Taste for Life" magazine

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Why focus on the young?

Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer are all now childhood problems. The reason? Today’s children are more overweight than they have ever been.

The childhood obesity epidemic has healthcare workers alarmed. This generation of overweight children may die prematurely and never live to see their own children and grandchildren grow up. We need to act now.

It’s more dangerous for a child to be overweight than for an adult. Until about the age of 18, when children gain weight, they do so by multiplying fat cells (that is, by increasing the number of fat cells). After age 18, a person can no longer make any new fat cells. Therefore, any weight gain after high school is a result of blowing up or enlarging the fat cell. Regardless of age, whenever someone loses weight, it occurs by shrinking the fat cells, not by changing the number of fat cells. Consequently, when children gain weight, they will then carry those fat cells with them for the rest of their lives.

Why are so many of America's children overweight today?

Obesity is at epidemic levels for several reasons. First, today’s parents are heavy; 64 percent of American adults are overweight, and 31 percent are obese. Obesity is defined as being 30 pounds above recommended weight, based on height. Many individuals who think of themselves as overweight are disappointed to learn they are actually “obese.” Because obesity dramatically increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and more, it’s easier to consider ourselves overweight, when, in fact, more and more of us are obese. As being overweight or obese becomes the norm, it’s easy to overlook these problems in young people, which only increases their risk.

The second reason children are overweight is because they don’t get enough exercise. Studies have shown that four hours a day of television, video, or computer use dramatically increase overweight. Kids don’t go outside and play often enough. Recess and physical education in school are at an all time low. Kids are chauffeured rather than walking or riding bikes.

The third reason for an increase in childhood obesity is the prevalence of fast foods and snacks. The variety of high sugar snacks is tremendous. All too often the norm, fast foods are laden with fat and calories but severely lacking in nutrition and portion control. If we supersize a child’s meal, is that not an adult portion? And if these high-fat, high-calorie meals are not enough of a problem, we then worsen it by ordering at a drive-through window rather than at least getting out the car and walking inside.

The fourth reason is soft drinks. A 12-ounce serving of soda contains an average of 10 teaspoons of sugar. Those empty calories stimulate appetite, fat cell growth, tooth dcay, and diabetes. In addition, sugar disrupts the beneficial bacteria that normally live in our mouth and through our intestinal tract.

What can parents do?

Parents have the greats influence on children’s weight. They can set an example with better eating habits, establish portion control, encourage exercise, and make sure their children get all the nutrition they need daily. Consider lifestyle changes that include the following:

  • Set an example by getting your own weight under control.
  • Encourage biking, tossing a ball, and tag, instead of surfing the net.
  • Walk to do errands. If you must drive, park far away from the door of the mall rather than trying to that front spot.
  • Replace soft drinks with water, fruit juice and herbal tea.
  • Give your child a good multiple vitamin and probiotic supplement daily.

Why are supplements important?

Most children don’t eat enough vegetables. Also, studies have demonstrated that children taking a multiple vitamin are more focused on schoolwork and more attentive in the classroom, so they achieve better grades. Look for a multiple vitamin/mineral formula that doesn’t contain sugar.

Taking a probiotic supplement daily is necessary for several reasons. The sugar in soft drinks and snacks destroys the good bacteria in the mouth and can promote tooth decay. Sugar is also the main food source for bad bacteria and yeast in the stomach and intestines. Taking probitoics every day assures that children maintain essential friendly bacteria for good healthy. Choose a probitoic that is fresh and contains a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria, including acidophilus.

Selected sources

"Childhood growth pattern linked to heart disease risk" by Michael Smith
"Developmental origins of health and disease" by Mathew Gilman, MD
"Trajectories of growth among children who have coronary events as adults" By David Barker.


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