When Terry Malin’s first baby, Ashley was delivered eight years ago, the hospital weighed her at eight pounds, eight ounces. She had a boundless appetite. As a toddler she’d pop cheese slices straight from the fridge. She loved the burgers and pizza her mom, an office manager in St. Louis brought home on nights when she felt too tired to cook. By age two, Ashley fit into clothes designed for a 4-year-old. Malin was concerned, even though several of the pediatricians in the medical group where she was being helped shrugged her off.
When Ashley turned four, a new doctor in the group examined her. He took one look at Ashley–42 inches, 71 pounds–and exclaimed, “This child’s obese! ” Malin did some research, and she found a local pediatric-obesity clinic at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. There was a six-month waiting list. “Clearly, we weren’t the only ones with a problem,” she says. Far from it. We are so far that three hundred thousand people die from obesity each year and it’s the result of the malnutrition that occurred in their childhood that proceeded into adulthood.
This is happening because children in America are being fed unhealthy and sugary foods from big box corporations and fast food chains, also because the exposure to advertisements from retailers and the lack of exercise because of advanced technology and media outlets that are so accessible. The wrong diet and not enough physical activity children continue gaining weight very rapidly which leads to illness and diseases such as diabetes at an early age. 208,000 people younger than twenty have type 2 diabetes, and the percentage of children aged six to eleven years old in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged twelve to nineteen years old that were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period. This is due to what they’re consuming on a daily basis. A typical twenty-ounce bottle of soda contains about sixteen teaspoons of sugar from High Fructose Corn Syrup and from 1977 to 2000 it’s estimated that American children have doubled their intake of sugar.
The unhealthy foods and drinks are rich in sugars and other chemicals that are harmful for a kid’s diet. To prevent this we can put a tax on sugar, better exercise throughout their daily lives at home, limiting the amount of technology your kids have access to, and providing them home cooked meals. The problem we are currently facing is children have been continuously gaining weight. This can be due to the sugar intake and the way advertisements have played a role in children’s lives. “Food ads on television make up 50 percent of all the ad time on children’s shows.
These ads are almost completely dominated by unhealthy food products, 34 percent for candy and snacks, 28 percent for cereal, 10 percent for fast food, 4 percent for dairy products, 1 percent for fruit juices, and o percent for fruits or vegetables” (JL Harris). Children are rarely exposed to public service announcements or advertising for healthier foods. For example, an experiment done by John A. Bargh tested elementary-school-aged children watching cartoons that contained either food advertising or advertising for other products and received a snack while watching.
Children consumed 45% more when exposed to food advertising. It increased consumption of products not in the presented advertisements, and these effects were not related to reported hunger or other conscious influences. This shows the power of food advertising to eating behaviors and the influence it has on our children especially when three out of every four foods advertised to children falls into the unhealthy categories that contribute to the obesity epidemic.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has been tracking childhood overweight and obesity rates since the 1960s. Between 1963 and 2008, rates of obesity among children between the ages of two and nineteen have been inching upwards. From 1963 to 1970, 4. 2 percent of six to eleven year olds and 4. 6 percent of twelve to nineteen year olds were obese. In 1988, 11. 3 percent of six to eleven year olds and 10. 5 percent of 12 to 19 year olds were obese. In 2001, just over 16 percent of six to eleven year olds were obese.
The last survey, from 2007 to 2008, 19. 6 and 18. 1 percent of six to eleven and twelve to nineteen year old kids were obese. Between 1971, the first year results were available for two to five year olds, and 2008, young kids went from an obesity rate of 5 percent to 10. 4 percent. Which can be in direct correlation to what they’re eating. “Children are consuming more sugar and food than ever, 10% of a children’s diet is sugar. Kids aged four to ten have equivalent of 5,500 sugar cubes a year” (Harron Siddque).
The obesity epidemic has many effects ranging from the many health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol, asthma, sleep disorders, liver disease, orthopedic complications, and mental health problems are just some of the health complications of carrying excess weight. For example, what Kelly Brigante said about her toddler Emily “I was overweight as a child and teen, and I had no self-esteem throughout high school. My daughter Emily, who is three, is off the charts weighting at 55 pounds.
Now when she says, ‘I have a perfect body! I answer, ‘Yes, you do! But my heart breaks. I know what’s ahead of her. ” This just shows the mental issues that come with obesity and has a direct link with depression because of the damage weight gain causes to the central nervous system that controls physical and mental functions. Not only does obesity have extensive physiological effects, it also feeds into discrimination against people with high body mass. Forty-three percent of overweight and obese people report that they experienced weight bias from their employers and supervisors.
In addition, obese people are viewed as “lazy, less competent, and lacking in self discipline” by their co-workers. Overweight people earn up to 6% less than their non-overweight colleagues and receive fewer promotions. More than two-thirds of obese and overweight people report that they had experienced bias by doctors. A significant number of obese people state that physicians blame many of their symptoms on their weight, and are reluctant to treat them because of their weight. Thirty-one percent of nurses stated that they would prefer not to care for obese patients, and 24% agreed that obese patients “repulse them.
Forty-three percent of teachers agreed with the statement “most people feel uncomfortable when they associate with obese people. ” This is just another effect of obesity that doesn’t just impact their mental and physical health, but it ties into discrimination amongst them from others. Obese children will experience those health co es that can lead to elated health problems in adulthood. “1 out of 3 kids now are considered to be overweight or obese and childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years” (Thomas Farley).
If we don’t do anything now we will see that number multiply itself again and again while the obesity death rates continue to increase more into further generations. Although the unhealthy foods children are consuming with the lack of exercise has a direct tie into childhood obesity, many believe genetics can have a bigger influence. “A child who has one obese parent is three times as likely to be obese as an adult, and a child who has two obese parents has ten times the risk of becoming obese into adulthood” says AJ Walley, but to further prevent childhood obesity in all there are a few steps we can take.
For starters we can put a tax on sugar. With a penny-per-ounce tax on just sugary beverages the tax would reduce consumption of these beverages by 15 percent among children. Over the period 2010 to 2015, the tax was estimated to prevent 2. 4 million diabetes person-years, 95,000 coronary heart events, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 premature deaths, while avoiding more than $17 billion in medical costs. Even with different solutions to cutting down the unhealthy products kids consume from big box corporations there is also ways to prevent childhood obesity as a parent.
By cooking at home, watching their kids portions, and setting boundaries of what they can eat and how much of it. Limit TV, the average time a child watches television is four hours a day and not only are they seeing advertisements for unhealthy products, they aren’t out moving and getting the daily exercise they need so have them join a sport or participate in extracurricular activities. Cut down on their consumption of juice and sweetened drinks by offering healthier alternatives such as milk or water.
For example, a mother named Heimroth now puts on music rather than the television while making dinner, does workout tapes with her daughter, and learned how to cook low-fat meals. She reports that her obese daughter Julia has lost 20 pounds in the last six months and the mother hasn’t put on a single pound. As you can see, implementing these simple steps into a child’s life can dramatically decrease the risk they have at obesity and put them on the right track. With guidelines and laws for solutions to prevent childhood obesity, what if it’s based off genetics as many researchers believe and isn’t possible to be prevented?
Well, if you were to put a cheeseburger or sugary drink every half-mile along the route children take to school and back, they will gain more weight. The point is that although genes certainly play a role in how people handle food, we live in a culture that overwhelms children with opportunities to eat excess amounts of junk and fatty food. 80% of the 600,00 items sold in grocery stores have added sugar that are located all around us, so with all the accessibility to unhealthy foods even the best genes can easily be challenged.
In all, to stop the further outbreak of the obesity epidemic we can start by decreasing the amount of sugar intake, which will begin with a penny-per-ounce tax. The second step is having parents be more aware at home with what their children consume and how much of it, also by decreasing their attention to different media outlets by replacing it with more physical activity. Once these moves get put into play we can begin to see the decrease of childhood obesity and see the rise in life expectancy.