Content Library Articles How to Solve the Epidemic of Childhood Obesity and Disease

How to Solve the Epidemic of Childhood Obesity and Disease

How to Solve the Epidemic of Childhood Obesity and Disease
YOUR CHILDREN WILL DIE younger than we will. That's a scary thought -- and one that's going to become a fact if we keep following the same bad habits of the last 30 years. There's no doubt about it. We're living in a toxic food environment. But it doesn't have to be this way. This week, I'd like to share with you some critical information from a very important new book. It's called Ending the Food Fight, Guide Your Child to a Healthy Weight in a Fast Food/Fake Food World. This book was written by a friend of mine, David Ludwig, MD, PhD. He's an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and the Director of the OWL (Optimal Weight for Life) Program at Children's Hospital in Boston. Simply put, his book is a manifesto that provides a solution to our frightening epidemic of childhood obesity and disease. With a strong voice and a clear head, Dr. Ludwig tackles the problem of our toxic food environment and the unparalleled decline in our children's health straight on. In one book, he tackles the three main obstacles facing us in creating health for our children (and ourselves, too). First, he teaches us that we are in a losing battle our biology. It's a battle that you'll always lose -- unless you learn how to balance your mind and your metabolism. You can do this by eating whole, real foods that balance your blood sugar and create weight loss without counting calories, fat grams, carbs, or deprivation. And that becomes effortless, because you're working with your body, not against it. This ends the food fight within you. Second, Dr. Ludwig teaches us how to create a family environment that supports our children with age-appropriate, practical parenting ideas that work with the child's psychological needs. That ends the food fight in the family. Third, he courageously names the elephant in the room -- the completely toxic food environment in which we live. He calls on parents and communities to stand up for their children by demanding that schools and governments respond to the crisis. He suggests that they provide increased physical activity in schools, create playgrounds and community parks, offer healthy school lunches based on nutritional science not industry profits, ban ads on junk food to children, and more. That ends the food fight in the community. I believe that nothing less will help to solve this problem. Nothing less will stem the tsunami of obesity and disease facing our children today.
By the time overweight children are in their twenties, they can expect to be diagnosed with diseases that normally affect people in their sixties and seventies
Before I tell you more about what Dr. Ludwig teaches us, let me tell you who he really is. Some of us who write books are simply translators of the science, and we depend on intellectual and creative giants to pave new paths in understanding how our bodies work and how to create health. I mostly fall into that category. Others are the giants who see far into the future and quietly do the hard work in the laboratory and in clinical scientific research to bravely ask the right questions despite enormous political and economic obstacles. Dr. Ludwig is just such a man. In fact, he is an unsung hero who has taught us about the effects of food and particularly high-glycemic foods on our bodies. He has published more than 70 scientific papers in top medical journals like the "New England Journal of Medicine" and the "Journal of the American Medical Association." His work is the basis of popular diets such as "The South Beach Diet" and "Sugar Busters," and I counted heavily on his research for my book UltraMetabolism. Up until now, his work has been only available to those who study scientific journals. But now, for the first time, he speaks out in public to teach us what he has learned in a way that is accessible to every grandparent, parent, and child in the world. Now you too can discover what he has learned in more than 20 years of research -- information that could save your life. He provides the only real hope I've seen for our children and our communities. I have had the privilege of getting to know Dr. Ludwig personally and he is a man of the highest integrity, modesty, and truth. You owe it to yourselves, to your children, to your family, and to your community to listen to what he has to say. Here are but a few things he writes about in his new book, "Ending the Food Fight." Why we are in trouble:
  • The percentage of overweight children ages six to eleven has doubled in the last 25 years.
  • The percentage of overweight teens has tripled.
  • One in three American children (30 million kids) are overweight today (and it is predicted that one in two -- a full half of all children! -- will be overweight by 2010.)
  • Pediatricians now treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, "adult" onset (type 2) diabetes, heart attacks, and sleep apnea in children.
  • By the time overweight children are in their twenties, they can expect to be diagnosed with diseases that normally affect people in their sixties and seventies, including heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, and even amputations caused by complications from diabetes.
  • Overweight children are discriminated against more than those in wheelchairs or with facial disfigurement.
  • Childhood obesity affects the quality of life as much as a diagnosis of cancer does.
  • Life expectancy is declining for the first time in human history.
  • A typical child sees 10,000 junk food ads a year.
  • Modern foods are made by food chemists, not grown by farmers.
  • Neighborhood playgrounds, school physical education, and after-school programs have all declined dramatically -- while junk food vending machines are now everywhere in schools.
  • A Harvard study of 750 children from 10 to 15 years old found that kids who watched five hours of television or more a day (compared to those who watched two hours or less), had a FIVE-fold (500 percent) greater risk of being overweight.
  • Sixty percent of all childhood obesity can be attributed to watching TV. For every hour of TV watched, weight increases by six pounds.
  • Soda intake has increased 500 percent since the 1950's and now comprises 10 percent of all calories consumed by the average teenager.
  • Among 500 middle school children, the risk of becoming obese increased 60 percent for every additional serving of sugar-sweetened drink per day.
  • In a study of 3,000 children over 15 years, those eating fast food twice a week or more gained an extra 10 pounds (one fast food meal can contain more than the all the calories the body needs for the entire day!)
What Dr. Ludwig's research has found about how the body works:
  • Low-fat, low-calorie diets don't work.
  • The government's food pyramid is wrong and works against our biology.
  • Our genes haven't changed, the environment has.
  • Low-glycemic-load diets (which raise blood sugar and insulin levels more slowly and less than diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrates like flour products, white rice, pasta, potatoes, and processed foods) are very effective for long-term weight loss.
  • They do this without you having to count calories or fat or carbs -- they do it by reducing hunger and naturally helping you reduce food intake.
  • Eating a low-glycemic diet helps lower all the hormones that make us hungry and fat -- working with the body, not against it.
  • High-glycemic-load diets increase belly fat even without weight gain, leading to a higher risk of disease.
Here are just a few tips from Dr. Ludwig about what we can do to solve this problem:
  • Eat high-quality, whole foods that decrease hunger and support metabolism (this is the basis of my book UltraMetabolism.)
  • Eat real foods that come from nature and are grown on farms -- not fake foods made in a chemist's lab.
  • Follow Dr. Ludwig's Eight Principles of Low Glycemic Eating (on page 69 of his book.)
  • Play throughout the day. Don't only focus on structured exercise -- make it fun.
  • Turn off the TV at meals and remove TVs from your bedrooms and living room. Limit screen time to two hours a day.
  • Use age-appropriate parenting practices that defuse conflict and guide long-term behavior changes.
  • Young children watch adults, so be a role model and set up clear boundaries and limits.
  • Older children need to learn to be self-directed.
  • Follow Dr. Ludwig's 9-week program developed at Harvard Medical School, which has been successful with thousands of patients.
  • Work within your community to make it a healthier place by getting vending machines out of schools and healthy foods in.
  • Lobby for bans on junk food commercials to kids (they are banned in Canada and much of Europe.)
  • Work on getting more play spaces in your community and physical education back into schools.
There are so many more jewels of wisdom and practical suggestions in "Ending the Food Fight," including his 9-week plan, wise parenting advice, delicious recipes, weekly diaries, shopping lists, and great resources. So if you have children or know anyone with children, please get this book, read it, use it yourself, or give it to them. It is the greatest gift you can give yourself, your children, and your community. It is the wisest, clearest and most powerful tool we have in addressing the greatest health crisis facing our families and our nation. Give a copy to your senators, congressmen, and to all your local school and local and state representatives. This problem affects all of us not just the children who are victims of a toxic food environment. Dr. Ludwig is our hope for a saner, healthier society. Here's a handy link to get your own copy from Amazon. Now I'd like to hear from you... What do you think about this crisis of childhood obesity and disease? Are your children coping with being overweight or obese? What steps have you taken to keep your family healthy? Have you read Dr. Ludwig's book? What did you think? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. To your good health, Mark Hyman, MD
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