In my 2005 book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, I published this the then shocking statement, “If we don’t get a handle on (childhood obesity), this generation of kids coming up will have a shorter life span than their parents. That’s scandalous!” Now, we’re seeing some data indicating this unfortunate prediction may indeed be happening. Continue reading
Family meals have long been an American tradition. During the past several decades, however, the American family has undergone radical changes—and family meals have changed at the same time. And as family meals have decreased, so has the physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health of our children. Continue reading
If parents falsely think that their children are normal weight, when in fact they are overweight or obese, then they are unlikely to do anything to correct the situation. Now there are some data that show parents how bad the situation is. Continue reading
In my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, I warn that the childhood obesity epidemic was leading to dramatic increases in the number of kids with diabetes and cardiovascular disease and could shorten their life expectancy. Now we’re beginning to see this come true. Continue reading
In my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, I made the then startling claim that childhood obesity was associated with a lack of sleep. And, in a clinical study, we showed that families who make wise nutrition choices, activity choices, AND increase the amount of sleep children get, can prevent or treat childhood obesity.
Since the publication of the book, study after study (many reviewed in this blog) have demonstrated the association between poor sleep or inadequate sleep and childhood obesity. Now, a new study suggests that sleeping in on the weekend may help children fight obesity. Here are some details from HealthDay News:
Too little sleep puts kids at risk of obesity and other health conditions, but “catch-up” sleep on weekends and holidays can mitigate the effects of weekday sleep deprivation, researchers say.
“In the United States, the sleep of our children is clearly not enough,” said lead researcher Dr. David Gozal, chair of pediatrics at Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago.
Gozal’s team monitored the sleep patterns of 308 children for a week and compared their sleep patterns with their body mass index (BMI), which is a measurement that takes into account height and weight. The children, who were 4 to 10 years old, averaged eight hours of sleep a night.
“This is way lower than the recommended amount of sleep that kids should get, which is about 9.5 to 10 hours at this age,” Gozal said.
Among the children who got the recommended amount of sleep, the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular problems was nil, Gozal said.
“But, as the amount of sleep became shorter and the regularity of sleep became less organized, the risk for obesity increased,” he said.
“Kids who had the shortest sleep and had a more disorganized sleep schedule had more than a fourfold increase in the risk of being obese,” he noted.
These children also had increased risk for cardiovascular problems and pre-diabetes, Gozal said.
However, if these children consistently slept longer on weekends to compensate, the risk for obesity and metabolic problems was reduced to a 2.8-fold increase. “It did not normalize it. It’s still a risk but not as much as keeping your crazy short sleep schedule even during weekends,” Gozal said.
It is this combination of less sleep and irregular sleep that appears to result in metabolic problems, such as high blood sugar, Gozal said.
The report is published online Jan. 24 in advance of print publication in the journal Pediatrics.
Gozal says that other studies have shown that inadequate sleep has biological effects, including high blood sugar and cravings for sweet and high-fat foods. Insufficient sleep also makes it harder to lose weight, he said.
“All this would suggest that sleep is an important regulator of metabolism,” Gozal said. “If we abuse our sleep by not sleeping enough, then we are likely to pay the price by being heavy and being at risk for cardiovascular and all the other metabolic complications,” he said.
Children are sleeping less for various reasons, Gozal said. Busy family schedules and electronic media — cell phones, computers and TV — interfere with healthy bedtime routines. The result is that sleep suffers, he said, noting that while bedtime can be extended, we still have to get up at the same time.
“Children should follow a regular [sleep] schedule,” Gozal said. “Follow the rule of sleep and you will be happy,” he urged.
Frederick J. Zimmerman, of the department of health services at the University of California Los Angeles, said the study largely confirms earlier research that found inadequate sleep is a risk factor for obesity among children.
The new research offers a “tantalizing suggestion that sleep that is inadequate both in duration and in consistency may have adverse metabolic effects,” he added. However, it does not explain why obesity and sleep are related, Zimmerman said.
“It could be that obesity causes disturbed sleep or that inadequate sleep increases the risk of obesity. It could also be that a third factor, such as nighttime television, may lead both to obesity and to poor sleep,” he said.
Despite these uncertainties, the consensus is that parents should create an environment in which children can consistently get adequate, restful sleep, Zimmerman said.
“As difficult as it is for parents to consistently enforce early bedtimes, it may still be one of the easiest ways to promote happy, healthy children,” he added.
So, watch the clock, these experts say. The study found that parents tend to overestimate the amount of sleep their kids get, usually by 60 to 90 minutes, Gozal said.
For more information on children and sleep, visit the Nemours Foundation. Or, purchase a copy of my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat. It’s on sale at my website. The hardcover is on sale for $3.99 here, and the soft cover for $1.99 here (plus shipping).
Here’s a shout out to Mrs. Obama. News reports say that the First Lady and Wal-Mart have forged an agreement geared at preventing childhood obesity. Media sources generally characterized the move as a victory for Mrs. Obama’s signature campaign and I would agree.
ABC World News reported, First Lady Michelle Obama “announced that Wal-Mart, which sells more groceries than any market in America, is going to change what’s on its shelves.”
On the CBS Evening News the First Lady was shown saying, “I am thrilled about Wal-Mart’s new nutrition charter.”
NBC Nightly News said that Mrs. Obama “has announced she’s working with the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, which promised today to cut prices on fresh fruits and vegetables and to reduce fats, sugars, salt, eliminate transfats in some of its own store brands by the year 2015.”
The AP reports, “Wal-Mart … says it will reformulate thousands of products to make them healthier and push its suppliers to do the same, joining first lady Michelle Obama’s effort to combat childhood obesity. The first lady accompanied Wal-Mart executives Thursday as they announced the effort in Washington.”
Wal-Mart “plans to reduce sodium and added sugars in some items, build stores in poor areas that don’t already have grocery stores, reduce prices on produce and develop a logo for healthier items.”
The Washington Post reports, “Just a few years ago, President Obama refused to shop at Wal-Mart. But his wife now has other ideas.”
The First Lady said, “When I see a company like Wal-Mart launch an initiative like this, I feel more hopeful than ever before. … We can improve how we make and sell food in this country.”
If your family is wrestling with childhood or overweight, consider ordering a copy of book I’ve written specifically to help you and your family: SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat. You can find them on sale at my book Web site. The hard cover is available for $3.99 (plus shipping) here, and the soft cover for $1.99 here.