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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Kids and Obesity

This article came through my RSS Reader a few days ago. It is about the significant rise in childhood obesity.

Four-year-old girls are six times more likely to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30 than they were 20 years ago and ten-year-olds are five times more likely, according to research published in the April issue of Acta Paediactrica.

The article goes on to note that from 1982 to 2002, the Body Mass Index (BMI) of girls rose 13.3 percent, while that for boys rose 5.1 percent. I'm not a big fan of BMI on an individual basis because it doesn't take muscle mass into effect. Every NFL player and probably most other professional athletes are considered "obese" by the BMI. My BMI is somewhere between 27 and 27.5, yet I maintain a very low bodyfat percentage. Am I really overweight? Across a population though, BMI is rather telling as the muscle-bound freaks are canceled out through averaging.

So what we see is that in the last 20 years, our kids have been getting fatter. That's not news to anyone. What could be causing this precipitous rise in childhood obesity? For starters, kids today have sugar, sugar, sugar at their disposal around every turn. They start their day with sugary cereals or Pop-Tarts or some other sugar- and grain-based food; they arrive at school to vending machines loaded with soft drinks, Honey Buns, cookies, and candy bars; they eat a lunch of pizza, French fries, or some other processed food; and then head home for a snack (which I doubt includes fruits or vegetables) and a carb-o-rific dinner with pasta, bread, or some other substance. It's carbs in the morning, carbs in the evening, and carbs everywhere in between. Nary a piece of produce touches the lips of most kids today. Couple that with the rise of video games, keeping kids inside working their thumbs instead of outside working their bodies, and you have a recipe for obesity.

I have a solution. I won't even charge for it. Feed your kids a hunter-gatherer diet: copious amounts of full-fat meat, vegetables, nuts, proper oils (olive, palm, coconut), fruit, tubers, and squashes. Give them some fish oil for omega-3's. Limit their access to sugar and grain products. If you say your kids won't eat what you put in front of them, too bad. When they get hungry, they'll eat what's available and because you're in charge, it will be healthful foods. If you cave and give them pizza, guess what they'll do next time you present them with a plate of steak and broccoli? And then send them outside with a ball, a bike, or a jump rope. Tell them to find someway to enjoy themselves for an hour. Better yet, get some exercise for yourself and bond with your family at the same time: go for a family bike ride, walk, or jog. Shoot some baskets together. Throw a baseball or football. It really is that simple. Eat foods that can be killed with a stick or dug from the ground and move around.

I'm sure the nutritionists are blaming fat intake though.