Color me “stunned” by this report: The Baltimore Sun “Picture of Health” blog reports a study in the journal Obesity suggesting that “physicians with a normal body mass index were more likely than overweight doctors to engage their obese patients in weight loss discussions.” Continue reading
The AP reports that doctors who care for children “are supposed to track if youngsters are putting on too many pounds,” but a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine “found less than a quarter of parents of overweight children recall the doctor ever saying there was a problem.” Continue reading
In my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, I explain to parents how there are three keys to prevent or treat overweight or obesity in children and teens: (1) better nutrition, (2) physical exercise, and (here’s the surprise!) better sleep!
The Time “Healthland” blog reported, “In the first study to examine the relationship between where food is prepared and increased calorie consumption, researchers report that eating commercially made food can lead children to take in more calories than if they had eaten similar meals at home.” Continue reading
Obesity experts have been saying for over a decade that children who sit in front of the TV screen day in and day out tend to be heavier. However, experts are finding it’s not only the couch potato effect, but the television ads children are watching, along with other factors that can add inches to their waistlines. Continue reading
Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in America – with 17 percent of children aged 2 to 19 obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics “has a new suggestion: ban companies from advertising junk food during children’s television programs.” Continue reading
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
The US Department of Agriculture recently unveiled the long awaited replacement for the food pyramid, the triangle of nutrition introduced back in 1992. And I, for one, think it’s a great change! Continue reading
In a new report, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), representing most of the nation’s pediatricians, is advising children and teens NOT to down sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade unless they’re actually playing sports and to forgo energy drinks like Java Monster, Red Bull and Full Throttle altogether. 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
On its website, WFLD-TV Chicago reports students “at some schools across the country will be adding another test to their agendas: One that measures their body mass index” (BMI) as “school officials are taking a stand against childhood obesity.”
“Finally!” is all I can say! However, you don’t just want your child’s BMI .. you also need to know their BMI percentile AND their blood pressure percentile. Here’s how you can find out this critical information and why you need to know: 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
Last week my blog, Diet soda consumption may be linked to increased heart attacks and strokes, was one of my most read postings in some time. Some commented that perhaps they would switch from diet to regular soda. NOT a good idea at all, and here’s another reason why:
In my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, I predicted that if the current obesity epidemic was not dealt with, that our children could become the first in American history to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Why? Because kids who are overweight or obese can have their life shortened by eight to twenty years by a plethora of obesity-related illnesses, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes).
Now USA Today reports, “Smoking, a declining habit, and obesity, a burgeoning problem, have cut three to four years off the increasing life expectancy of Americans, an international longevity comparison concludes.” Continue reading
Here’s another reason to consider breast feeding you baby … babies who are formula-fed and introduced to solid foods before they are 4 months old are more likely to be obese when they are three years old, researchers report. However, the timing of solid foods didn’t increase the odds of becoming obese in youngsters who were breast-fed. Here are the details from HealthDay News: 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.
In my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, I explain that schools that have cut back on recess and physical education have seen the kids’ test scores fall. Likewise, those schools that have kept or even increased exercise, especially among boys, find that the kids learn better and not only improve grades on their report cards but have improved scores on standardized tests.
Now a new study of teens living in Spanish cities is showing that girls who walk or bike to school instead of getting a ride perform better in tests of verbal and math skills. And the longer the commute, the higher the test scores, regardless of how much exercise girls got outside of school.
Still, it’s unclear whether the commute itself matters, or if exercise in general or some other factor is at play.
Here are the details from Reuters Health: Dr. Francois Trudeau of the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, who was not involved in the study, wondered, “Would basketball in the morning do as much as an active commute?”
Current guidelines suggest that children and teenagers get at least an hour of moderate or vigorous exercise every day — equivalent to a brisk walk or jog, respectively.
But less than half of U.S. children, and even fewer teenagers, manage to work this much exercise into their routines.
The teen brain undergoes important changes in structure and function, and many researchers believe physical activity may have a positive effect. It increases blood flow to the brain, for instance, and appears to improve concentration, memory, and other key factors associated with learning.
Earlier this year, a large study of urban teens in Spain suggested those who exercise more outside of school do better on cognitive tests.
To test whether the same might be true for an active commute to school, David Martínez-Gómez of the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid and his colleagues looked at test scores from 1,700 urban Spanish teens, and asked them how they got to school.
Roughly 65 percent of teens said they either rode a bike or walked to school.
The authors found that girls with an active commute scored an average of 53 points in tests of cognitive function, while those who got a ride scored nearly four points less.
And girls whose active commute lasted longer than 15 minutes did better on the tests than girls who walked or biked for less than 15 minutes on their way to school — a sign the relationship between active commutes and test performance is real, Trudeau said.
Indeed, the effect persisted even after the researchers accounted for age, body weight, social and economic status, and activities outside school.
It’s not clear why there was no link between active commutes and cognitive performance among boys. Another study among Swedish teens found the same thing, the Spanish researchers write in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, and it’s possible that if boys are more active than girls overall, a bit of extra exercise during their commute wouldn’t make much of a difference.
Alternatively, brain differences between girls and boys might cause them to respond differently to exercise, the authors suggest.
Trudeau added that walking or biking to school often takes longer than a car or bus ride, which may provide time to reflect and mentally prepare for the day, giving them an edge. “It may be a good period to start thinking about the school day.”
He cautioned, however, that not all commutes are equal — a walk through European cities, with their cafes and shops, can be much more stimulating than a walk through a typical North American suburb, which could impact the benefits teens get from it. Plus, not every commute is safe, if kids have to navigate dangerous neighborhoods or busy roads.
“Walking in the streets of Spain may be different than walking in the suburbs of Montreal or Los Angeles,” Trudeau noted.
To learn more about how you can improve your child’s exercise, sleep, and nutrition habits (and thus protect them from or treat them for overweight or obesity) you can pick up a copy of my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat. The books is currently on sale in both the hardcover and softcover versions.
Like many physicians who care for children and teens, I’m acutely aware of and concerned about the epidemic, the tsunami, of childhood overweight and obesity. Because of that, I headed a research project at Florida Hospital in Orlando, Florida, that resulted in the book SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat. The book is currently on sale in HARDCOVER for $4.99 here (save $18) and in SOFTCOVER for $1.99 here (save $11).
If you have children or teens who are overweight, NOW is the time to make some changes. And, my book has an 8-week plan your family can put into action to start the New Year. The reason to do so is that to NOT act is to doom your kids to a shorter life with lower quality.
USA Today reports, “Heavy teenagers are often destined for skyrocketing weight gain in their 20s,” according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. After reviewing “national data on the height and weight records of almost 9,000 people ages 12 to 21 who were followed for 13 years,” researchers found that “about half of obese teenage girls and about a third of obese teen boys become severely obese by the time they are 30 — meaning they are 80 to 100 pounds over a healthy weight.”
“By the time they reach their late 20s to early 30s, people who were obese between 12 and 21 are more than seven times more likely than normal-weight or overweight peers to develop severe obesity — defined as having a body mass index, or BMI, of 40 or more,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “The result not only confers profound health risks for teens whose excess weight follows them and accelerates into adulthood, it also spells a looming public health disaster in a country where almost one in five adolescents is obese, experts say.”
The CNN “The Chart” blog reported, “The researchers also found that [among] teens who were overweight but not obese when the study started, more than 15 percent of the girls and six percent of the boys went on to become severely obese adults.” In particular, “overweight African-American girls were more likely than their white peers to bump up to the highest weight category.”
HealthDay reported, “Severe obesity … heightens the risk for a number of health complications, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, and arthritis. In addition, people who are severely obese can expect significant reductions in life expectancy, according to background information in the study.”
In light of the finding that “teens who were obese at the beginning of the study were 16 times more likely to become severely obese adults compared to normal-weight or overweight teens,” study author Penny Gordon-Larsen, PhD, of the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, stated, “This is really setting these kids up to have significant health challenges later in life.”
According to a report from WebMD, “Gordon-Larsen tells parents of all children to ‘keep an eye on the weight gain.'”
Gordon-Larsen suggested that “parents have a goal of ‘keeping a healthy household.’ That means focusing on healthy food options and building physical activity into the day, encouraging kids to walk more and move more.”
Parents called upon to be role models in helping to fight childhood obesity. In a related article, USA Today reports that “obesity is proving to be a heavy burden for the nation’s kids and teens,” as evidenced by “a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that heavy teens often gain a lot more weight in their 20s,” many of whom go on to become “morbidly obese … by their early 30s.”
Dietitians point out that children watch what their parents each, and that “getting healthier should be a family affair.”
To that end, parents should consider having meals together as a family as often as possible, not keeping soda and an array of snacks at home, becoming more physically active as a family unit, and encouraging the kids to take part in planning healthy meals.
You can find hundreds of practical tips on helping your kids in my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat. It’s on sale, so get one today and make a life-long difference with your children and their health.