According to a 2010 report in JAMA, approximately 1/3 of adults are overweight. This translates to 30% of the adult population having a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30. Unfortunately, this trend seems to be filtering down to future generations. It is estimated that 16% of our children, aged 2-19 yearss, are obese. 30% of youths have a BMI greater than the 85th percentile for their age group. Since 1980, obesity rates have doubled in adults and tripled in children and the upward trend seems to be the most for the heaviest boys aged 6-19 years.
The CDC is calling obesity an epidemic. I’m calling it scary. In 2000, obesity-related health care costs totaled an estimated $117 billion. Here are just some of the health consequences of obesity:
Coronary heart disease
Type 2 diabetes
Cancer (endometrial, breast, and colon)
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Dyslipidemia (high total cholesterol or high levels
Liver and gallbladder disease
Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
Osteoarthritis (degeneration of cartilage and underlying bone within a joint)
Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)
Below are some summary’s from recent publications on how our foods effect our youth’s health:
1. Metabolic syndrome- characterized by abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, blood lipid elevations, and insulin resistance.
All of these are the results of consuming highly processed foods.
According to The Lancet (2001;357:505-508) & Dr. Mercola: For every soft drink or sugar-sweetened beverage a child drinks every day, their obesity risk appears to jump 60%. About 65% of adolescent girls and 74% of adolescent boys consume soft drinks daily. Currently, soft drinks constitute the leading source of added sugars in the diet, amounting to 36.2 grams daily for adolescent girls and 57.7 grams for boys. What this means is we are consuming more nutrient poor foods and higher empty calories.
2. Mood imbalances and Effects on Brain Health
A study in the International Review of Psychiatry demonstrated the dangers of low healthy fats in youths from high trans fat diets:
“Summary: Mechanisms by which aggressive and depressive disorders may be exacerbated by nutritional deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids are considered. Early developmental deficiencies in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may lower serotonin levels at critical periods of neurodevelopment and may result in a cascade of suboptimal development of neurotransmitter systems limiting regulation of the limbic system by the frontal cortex. Residual developmental deficits may be manifest as dysregulation of sympathetic responses to stress including decreased heart rate variability and hypertension, which in turn have been linked to behavioral dysregulation. Little direct data are available to disentangle residual neurodevelopmental effects from reversible adult pathologies. Ensuring optimal intakes of omega-3 fatty acids during early development and adulthood shows considerable promise in preventing aggression and hostility.“
What this study demonstrated is that without proper DHA and EPA ratios in the brain, the brain will not work effectively. Synapses for neurotransmitter transmission and memory function will deteriorate. Furthermore, you need Omega 3s for the formation of sex hormones, blood sugar regulation, and coQ10 (an enzyme responsible for cellular energy, heart health, and antioxidant power). A recent study highlighted that the lack of coQ10 in children leads to headaches.
3. Addictive Patterns
Why it’s Hard to Stop (Vital Choice)- A report:
The results indicate that their development of obesity is caused by an alteration in brain chemistry linked to pleasure responses. (from junk food)
In fact, rats fed a junk-food-like diet developed the same brain chemistry changes seen when these animals consume heroin or cocaine. These findings echo the results of a study published last year, in which rats became addicted to a junk food diet (Heyne A et al. 2009).
But the new study clarifies the connection to brain chemistry, and should prompt parents to protect children and lead health authorities to warn adults. Rats fed junk food develop drug-like dopamine patterns
The new study was conducted by Dr. Paul Kenny and graduate student Paul Johnson from Florida’s Scripps Research Institute (Johnson PM, Kenny PJ 2010).
4. Fatty Liver Disease
The Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition reported the following in their article, Association of Metabolic Syndrome & Fatty Liver in Adolescents:
Metabolic syndrome is strongly associated with ALT>40 U/L in US male adolescents.
A recent study reported in Vital Choice found that berries and omegas could help with liver disease and that junk foods were the contributing factor to this syndrome:
“Ten to 25 percent of American adults have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is defined as having more than 10 percent of your liver’s weight as fat. Fatty liver occurs most often in people who meet any one of several often-overlapping risk factors: diabetes, obesity, very high blood triglyceride levels, or excessive alcohol intake. Gradual buildup of excess fat in liver cells leads to inflammation of the liver, which damages the organ and can lead to liver failure. Fatty liver can even occur in children who eat high-calorie diets dominated by junky foods low in polyunsaturated fats (such as omega-3s) and high in saturated fats and sugars (Mager DR et al. 2010). Earlier this year, Scottish researchers linked higher omega-3 intakes to reduced risk of NAFLD, while an Israeli team associated sweet soda with increased liver risk. (See “Omega-3s Deter Fatty Liver; Sweet Drinks Raise the Risk”.) Now it looks like the antioxidants in berries may join fish-derived omega-3s as potential liver-protectors.”
The government is calling for policy changes and environmental incentives to help reverse this trend. Quoting the CDC:
“Currently, 23 states are funded through CDC’s Nutrition and Physical Activity and Obesity (NPAO) Cooperative Agreement Program that coordinates statewide efforts with multiple partners to address obesity. The program’s focus is on policy and environmental change initiatives directed towards increasing physical activity; consumption of fruits and vegetables; breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity; and decreasing television viewing and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and high-energy dense foods (foods high in calories). The program seeks to address health disparities and requires a comprehensive state plan.”
However, is this enough? Read Part I of this series here for an additional overview of more solutions.
Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among US Adults, 1999-2008 Katherine M. Flegal; Margaret D. Carroll; Cynthia L. Ogden; Lester R. Curtin. JAMA. 2010;303(3):235-241.
Prevalence of High Body Mass Index in US Children and Adolescents, 2007-2008 Cynthia L. Ogden; Margaret D. Carroll; Lester R. Curtin; Molly M. Lamb; Katherine M. Flegal JAMA. 2010;303(3):242-249.
CDC. Obesity. Halting the Epidemic By Making Health Easier. http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/publications/AAG/pdf/obesity.pdf
CoQ10 Depletion and Migraines in Adolescentshttp://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118518052/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0