Childhood Obesity: When Food is Deadly to Our Kids

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Childhood Obesity: When Food is Deadly to Our Kids

We don’t let our children smoke and we don’t let them drink alcohol or take illicit drugs. Yet we do let our children partake in a diet that could bring many of the same unhealthy results. Childhood obesity is a chronic health condition that causes a number of other chronic health issues--from type-2 diabetes to hypertension and sleep apnea. Not to mention the toll that obesity takes on a child's joints.

Childhood obesity is still a huge problem in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese. That’s a whopping 12.7 million kids. It’s a larger problem in low income families where having access to and paying for healthy food is harder. And the most recent data shows that even Michelle Obama's most vigilant Let's Move efforts have met mixed results.

According to Time:

While childhood obesity among children between two and five years old dropped 3.7% from 2010 to 2012, the rate increased 2.1% for children 12-19 during the same period. The overall childhood obesity rate, meanwhile, remained at a constant 16.9% from 2008 through 2012.

A number of factors are at play here. Calorically dense foods are widely available. When kids sip on soda like they would water, it can account for the majority of their allotted calories per day. And that’s before they’ve taken a single bite of food. Not to mention that kids' tastebuds become adjusted to foods that are loaded with salt, sugar, and saturated fats. The subtle sweetness of an apple just won’t do when compared to a candy bar.

And then there’s the rush that parents often find themselves in on a daily basis. Serving home cooked, healthier foods is difficult when you’re at work until long into the evening. When parents feel guilty about being away, a trip to the ice cream shop is a great way to bond and pizza night is ever so appealing. It’s more difficult to control what our kids eat when they’re in daycare and school. While school nutrition has made major strides in the past few years, in many parts of the country, there’s tons more work to be done. Congress recently defied logic by calling pizza a vegetable in the lunch room.

But at least childhood obesity has gotten mainstream attention. There’s even been some talk of calling morbid childhood obesity child abuse.

According to Scientific American:

Allowing your kids to develop such a condition, which leads to severe cardiovascular damage on all levels and a shortened life, could be seen as bad parenting. Although the authors also point out the existence of other "obesigenic" factors, such as the marketing of unhealthy foods, the primary responsibility falls on the parents.

While I’m not sure I would call it child abuse, parents do play a major role in instilling good eating habits in their little ones. Because when children are obese, they tend to become obese adults, which is a death sentence for kids that don’t know how to turn back. It’s not an easy fix, but rather, day by day steps to make better choices for our kids.

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Image: Gideon

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