In response to some recent requests , Dr. Lynn Dever, a local pediatrician and parent, has generously offered to write a piece for this Blog addressing the current childhood obesity epidemic. Thank you Dr. Dever for your insight.
“This generation of children will be the first in the nation’s history to live shorter lives than those of their parents by as much as 5 years” (Center for Disease Control-CDC).
WOW!! As both a pediatrician and parent, I cannot imagine a parent not being upset by this fact. If I told a parent that it was likely that their child was going to develop a disease and die from it, I think they would do anything in their power to stop this from happening. But every day, more and more children are being diagnosed as overweight or obese and are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease and Type 2 (“adult-onset”) diabetes. The CDC reports that one in three children born in 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes. These diseases lead to failure of every organ system in our bodies and ultimately death at an early age. . Obese children are 8x more likely to have hypertension and it has been shown that, as early as childhood, they develop plaque on their arteries. It is clear that these ramifications do not only occur in adulthood. In addition, 50% of all cancer could be prevented through healthy diet and exercise. The average American life expectancy ranks 27th in the world! And to think that 40-50% of what a child eats comes from school lunches!! This is where we can help to reverse this devastating trend, by serving fresher, less processed foods in schools.
Fact: Americans spend less than 10% of their income on food, but 17% of our GDP(Gross Domestic Product) is spent on healthcare. Europeans spend 17% of their earnings on food, but less than 10% of their GDP on healthcare. Do the math, it is clear that we are doing something very wrong.
The obesity epidemic is part of the reason we are spending so much on healthcare. There are many reasons for the rise in the obesity epidemic. First, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables has risen 40% in the past twenty years but at the same time the cost of soda, sweets, meat, dairy, fats and oils has decreased by as much as 20%. The ease in which processed foods are available as well as the harrowing onslaught of advertising to our children has been a large part of this epidemic. Let’s face it, food companies have added things to our foods that make them taste good. They are cheap and addictive but they are slowly killing us and our children.
Each of the following are just a few of the many additives that have been shown to be harmful to our health and a cause of disorders and diseases like ADD, ADHD, Cancer, liver enlargement, kidney tumors, organ damage and osteoporosis:
MSG (used for flavor enhancement) causes degenerative brain diseases
Artificial colors have been shown to cause hyperactivity and difficulty concentrating, and potential carcinogen
BHA,BHT and Propyl Gallate (used to prevent food spoilage)-,can cause hyperactivity, asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis, tumors and can affect estrogen balance and levels.
Sodium Nitrates (used to prevent botulism in canned foods and enhance the color and flavor in processed meats)-, combined with stomach acids forms nitrosamine- a carcinogen.
Phosphorus (Compounds make soft drinks bubbly) have been shown to block the absorption of calcium, thereby stunting growth.
One of the worst contributors to the obesity epidemic is High Fructose Corn
Syrup (HFCS). Although, this is found in many of the “reduced fat” products
we buy like cookies and crackers, it is also found in breads, sauces, cereals, yogurts, juices and many other foods as a cheap substitute for sugar. . If you have not seen it, watch a lecture by Dr. Brad Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist, called, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” on YouTube. He has done extensive research on HFCS. It is terrifying to know that this chemical that has been dubbed “healthy” by the food makers because fructose is supposedly “healthy”, is literally causing severe liver damage and is being charged as one of the main culprits in this obesity epidemic. According to Dr. Lustig, HFCS basically does to our liver what alcohol does, but unlike alcohol, there is no “buzz”. How cruel to think that no one is policing these companies from harming our children?
What a tragedy it is that all the gains we have made in the medical field over the last 100 years have been ruined in the last 20 years by this dangerous epidemic. We are sentencing our future generations to a shorter life. Children are our future. They need us to care and to do whatever we can to stop these harmful ingredients from making their way into children’s growing bodies!
We need to make sure we feed our children healthy foods mostly including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats such as olive oil, beans and fish. Children should only drink milk and water (and it does not need to be bottled). The fructose (sugars in fruit that are in the 100% fruit juice) is not the healthful part of the fruit, it is the fiber..the fructose by itself (fruit juice) offers no health benefit and does more harm then good when it comes to teeth and blood sugars.
We are what we eat and feeding our precious children processed foods that are high in trans fats and contain chemical additives and high fructose corn syrup is a recipe for killing them, not helping them grow into healthy adults. It is not easy to say “no” when our children are being inundated with ads for all of these bad foods but no one ever said doing the right thing was going to be easy.
Lynn Dever, MD is a pediatrician practicing with Holland Pediatrics (One of the many locations is in Dresher) She has been practicing for 23 years, and is on staff at Abington Memorial Hospital, Holy Redeemer Hospital and is currently on the Wellness committee at Albert Einstein Medical Center. Dr. Dever is also a speaker on Obesity for the American Academy of Pediatrics.