Childhood Obesity

chubby toddler

There is no doubt about it!

Childhood obesity is on the rise. Talk shows abound with stories about young children who are struggling through life, already at a disadvantage because of their weight. Even as the girth of the adult population increases, it is increasing in children more rapidly and at a younger and younger age.

As a result, kids are experiencing problems that formerly only plagued adults, such as Type II diabetes and joint problems, not to mention the social implications of carrying too much extra weight.

There is a lecture,"Sugar: The Bitter Truth" given by Dr. Robert Lustig (available on YouTube), which may shed some light on this issue. In his presentation, Dr. Lustig points out that not only is childhood obesity a problem, but it is a problem found in babies as young as 6 months old! We have been told that if we would just eat less and exercise more, we can achieve our healthy weight, but how does this apply to infants?

If you would like to see Dr. Lustig’s presentation, please click on the following link: 

Sugar by another name

According to Dr. Lustig, one reason for the rise in childhood obesity is as simple as the simple sugar known as fructose. As it happens, most baby formula is nearly half fructose, and the body treats it very differently than its close relative, glucose. Dr. Lustig provides a detailed explanation of how fructose is processed by the liver. This may not seem of interest to you, but when you see the result of this process, you will begin to understand why we are fat, why we are getting fatter, and why our children, even in infancy, are experiencing obesity problems.

Click here for a list of things you can do to prevent childhood obesity.

Fructose = More New Fat

For instance, did you know that fructose increases the formation of new fat in normal adults? This means that if you eat sugar in the form of fructose, you are more likely to add to your fat stores—both under your skin and in your organs—than if you eat other types of food. The triglyceride levels in your blood will also go up, one indicator for an increased risk of heart disease.

Why am I still hungry?

In addition, fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion, and so does not trigger leptin, that hormone that tells you that you have eaten and can stop. At the same time, fructose does not suppress ghrelin, the hormone that tells you that you are hungry. The implication of all these hormonal miscues is that if you are eating fructose, you may continue to be hungry, even after you have eaten sufficient food, because your built-in hunger control system is not functioning as it should.

Fast Food is "Fructose Food"

If you eat fast food, you should know that fructose is found in almost every item you consume from the ketchup and bun on your burger to the dressing on your salad, to the dip for your chicken pieces. Nearly all sodas are loaded with fructose, particularly with the advent of the cheapest of sweeteners in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

Fructose is Ubiquitous

Okay, so now you get it—fructose is not good for you, but besides baby formula, which foods have fructose in them? You may be surprised to find out that fructose is now everywhere in our food supply. It is found in nearly all processed foods from pickles, to bread to condiments to beverages. If you read labels, you will find fructose in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose—which is made up of half fructose and half glucose, and sugar on almost every list of ingredients—and often several times in different forms.

What about fruit?

One question that arises with the issue of fructose in our diet is what about fruit, since fructose is found naturally in all fruits in varying degrees. However, it would take a great deal of fruit to equal the amount of fructose in most other sources, and fruit has fiber and other nutrients that seem to mitigate the effects of the fructose. We know that fruits are part of a healthy diet, as long as they are eaten in moderation and in their whole form.

Having said that, parents should consider limiting the amount of fruit juice that their kids drink, particularly if they are overweight, since fructose is more concentrated in juice than in the fruit from which it is derived.

Water, please!

Kids and adults should drink mostly water and should completely avoid soft drinks and fruit “ades” and drinks that are loaded with fructose. Regular milk instead of chocolate milk is also a good choice, since the added sugar (some in the form of fructose) in chocolate milk may negate some of the benefits of drinking milk.

If you listen to the talk given by Dr. Lustig you will find that besides obesity, including childhood obesity, and the problems associated with being overweight, there are other effects that can be attributed to consuming too much fructose. These include an increased risk of high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis and metabolic syndrome.

Skip the soda

If you only change one thing as a result of reading this Childhood Obesity article or watching Dr. Lustig’s presentation, I hope it will be that you reduce or eliminate soft drinks from your diet, and particularly from your kid’s diet. There is nothing to be gained by drinking soda and everything to be lost in terms of good health and longevity.

If we take some time to educate ourselves about what our kids are eating, we can put a stop to this epidemic of childhood obesity and help insure our children will have a bright and healthy future.

Eat and be healthy with my warmest regards,

Click here to go from Childhood Obesity page to High Fructose Corn Syrup page.