Halloween and Childhood Obesity: A look at what we are doing to our kids on this and every other day. JB 10/26/16
This Halloween we should all give pause before handing out the typical garbage to children. It is hard to imagine a more pressing public health issue: More than 1 in 3 American children between the ages of 2 and 18 are either overweight or obese (more than 18% are obese). These numbers are based on NHANES 2010 results and most experts in the area of pediatric epidemiology think that the numbers have only gotten worse. Kids definitely move less than ever before. It is no mystery when you see how much time they spend online or on some type of hand-held device. However, the main cause of this 3-4x fold increase in obesity since 1980 is sugar consumption.
The average child now consumes more than ¼ of a pound of sugar or 30+ teaspoons per day. This 124 grams (estimated at more than 161 grams in adolescent boys) per day keeps the body in a continuous "fed" state with high insulin levels and more fat being deposited around vital organs (visceral fat) as opposed to the much healthier subcutaneous fat that we used to call "baby fat".
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, sometimes abbreviated NASH, is at an all time high. I was recently invited to speak in Southern Texas where I learned that pediatricians routinely see this condition in 5 year olds. Just 20 years ago this was unheard of and NASH was only observed in obese adults, most often with Type II diabetes. Now, with kids drowning in sugar, it is no longer just an adult disease. In fact, adult-onset diabetes is archaic in its terminology. The medical community saw such large numbers of adolescents with insulin resistance that it dropped the adult in favor of Type II.
How is it that we change this part of our food culture? Here at Functional Formularies we care about children’s health as much or more than any other population. We developed Nourish so that children needing enteral formulas could find one without added sugar. We realize that our formulas reach only a small percentage of kids and we hope that one day we can offer more organic, whole-ingredient, nutritious foods for children in all walks of life. Until then, we offer this advice to parents as part of the greater community at large.
Make Halloween more about creativity, whether it is in costume design, carving a pumpkin, or baking an apple pie, than about trick or treating and candy.
Get your kids in the kitchen and try to create a healthy treat without all of the added sugar. Sea salt on roasted pumpkin seeds is easy, as are shredded coconut, almond butter, and pumpkin energy bars. Kids love getting involved and these can play a much healthier role in a Halloween party. Hot chocolate made with heavy whipping cream and real 100% cocoa powder can offer children’s taste buds the satisfaction of healthy fat as opposed to the physiological fix or addiction generated by sugar.
Go for a haunted hike, after dark, in the woods or maybe find a local farm that has hay-rides or corn field mazes (look for non-GMO corn fields ).
We can’t expect children to make these changes on their own. We have to lead the way and step out of the strong current that is sweeping their health away at an alarming rate.
Thanks for considering!