After a 25 year increase, it seems that the percentage of obese or overweight children has plateaued. This news offers us some hope that perhaps the future of America will not be riddled with diabetes and heart disease.
One expert, Dr. David Ludwig, has commented that even though he is encouraged by these findings, “it is still too soon to know if this really means we’re beginning to make meaningful inroads into this epidemic. It may simply be a statistical fluke.” Another expert maintains that there is at least a small level of optimism about these results.
According to studies by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in ’03-’04 and ’05-’06 about 32 percent of children were overweight but not obese, 16 percent of children were obese and an unfortunate 11 percent were extremely obese. Since 1980, those levels had risen consistently, but finally we see a leveling off.
Most experts emphasize that although it would be inadvisable to celebrate prematurely about these findings, there is hope that emphasizing better eating habits and a need to exercise is finally paying off. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, our culture has experienced an increased awareness of the damage that can be caused through excessive consumption of junk food and a lack of physical activity. Parents and teachers that grew up during this time period are now believed to be turning the tide in the battle with obesity, by promoting a sustained healthy lifestyle.
Be Optimistic, But Take the Results with a Grain of Salt
Because it can take many years for obesity to translate into life-threatening complications, Ludwig believes that until we see a significant reduction in American obesity levels, “the full impact of the childhood epidemic will continue to mount in coming years.” The experts, and Americans like myself, hope that we can avoid such ailments as kidney failure and heart attacks by continuing to aggressively promote healthy living.
Ludwig also commented that the best evidence for determining what direction children’s obesity rates are really heading, will be the CDC’s analysis of data for 2007-08, which is due out next year.
About the Study Participants
The results of the CDC studies are based on nationally representative government health surveys conducted in ’03-’04 and ’05-’06. 8,165 children ages 2 to 19 participated in the surveys.
The studies are based on in-person measurements rather than people reporting on their own height and weight, thereby making them a truly accurate reflection of true obesity levels in American children.
The CDC also reported similar findings for both American men and American women during this same time period.
Although this marks a favorable trend in the epidemic of childhood obesity, we still have a long road ahead. What with fast food restaurants popping up in nearly every large American town, and with sugary food and soft drinks prevalent in American culture, we still must continue to educate our children, not on the dire effects of eating junk food and being a louse, but rather on the positive effects of eating healthy and exercising regularly.
Here are some good rules with which to govern a healthy lifestyle:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eat at least 5 servings a day.
- Eat whole grain carbohydrates. Avoid white or processed carbs that come in boxes or contain added sugar.
- Eat more fish and poultry, avoiding high fat beef and pork products.
- Drink more water. Avoid soda, sweetened juice, and other beverages with empty calories.
- Exercise vigorously 3 times a week, for at least 30 minutes per session.
- When eating fast food try to avoid mayo, other high fat condiments, beef, bacon, and high fat salad dressings. There is typically a salad or grilled chicken meal at every fast food restaurant that you can opt for instead.
What You Can Eat At Fast Food Restaurants
I will preface this list by letting you know that you can order all chicken sandwiches without mayo or sauce, and then get a side of BBQ sauce to put in its place.
- McDonalds – egg mcmuffin, grilled chicken salads with low fat dressing, grilled chicken sandwich, grilled chicken wraps
- Burger King – grilled chicken sandwich, for a real treat order a junior whopper without mayo, I’m not sure if BK sells salads or not
- Wendy’s – grilled chicken sandwich, grilled chicken salad with low fat dressing
- Dunkin Donuts – order all drinks with skim milk and splenda; ham, egg, and cheese on a toasted english muffin
- Arby’s – just get a simple roast beef sandwich, it’s not all that bad for you