Supersized Kids, Diminishing Health.
Child Obesity Expanding
Dec. 11, 2001 -- As a nation, we are getting fatter, and that
is especially true of our children. A new study confirms that over the last
decade, childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S., hitting
boys, African Americans, Hispanics, and kids living in Southern states the
The research, published in the Dec. 12 issue of TheJournal of the American Medical Association, represents the most
comprehensive national picture of weight trends among children over the last
two decades. From 1986 to 1998, the number of non-Hispanic white children who
were overweight doubled from 6% to 12%. The research suggests that roughly one
in five African-American and Hispanic children are overweight -- a startling
120% increase during the 12-year study period.
So what is to blame for the rapidly expanding waistlines of
kids and teens? Take this quick multiple-choice test:
A. It's the super-gigantic value meals served up at fast food
B. Most young people spend their free time parked in front of
TVs, computers, and video consoles;
C. There are soda machines found in just about every hallway of
just about every school;
D. All of the above.
The experts say the right answer is D -- all these things are
"This is a little like the Agatha Christie story, Murder
on the Orient Express, where there are many suspects and all of them are
guilty," study co-author Harold A. Pollack, PhD, of the University of
Michigan tells WebMD. "The best explanation is that there are many factors
pushing kids toward becoming overweight. Children are consuming a higher
percentage of their calories in high-fat foods and sodas, and they are more
inactive than ever."
Pollack and co-author Richard S. Strauss, MD, of the Robert
Wood Johnson School of Medicine, write that, like adolescent smoking, teen
pregnancy, and youth violence, childhood weight problems arise from deeply
rooted behaviors and social practices.
Weight-control specialist Christopher Still, MD, says the three
Ns -- Nickelodeon, Netscape, and Nintendo -- are playing a large role in the
obesity epidemic among children. As kids spend more and more time watching
television, playing video games, or surfing the net, they are getting less
exercise than ever, he says.
A study released last week by insurance provider CIGNA Corp.
found that children now spend an average of 14 hours watching television per
week. Children aged 12 to 14 average almost seven hours per week playing video
"There has been no shift in the gene pool over the last 20
years, so this has to be an environmental issue," says Still, who is
director of the Center for Nutrition and Weight Management at Geisinger Medical
Center in Danville, Pa.
The trend is affecting far more than the weight of America's
children. It is affecting their health. There has been a 10-fold increase in
the number of children with type 2 diabetes during the past five years. Once
called adult-onset diabetes, type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity and sedentary