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Supersized Kids, Diminishing Health.

Child Obesity Expanding


"Until recently, type 2 diabetes was rare in kids," Still says. "Now it accounts for 40% to 50% of the diabetes among children." And when it comes to treating children, Still says that doctors are seeing more high blood pressure than have seen in the past -- another weight-related problem.

So what can be done to reverse this trend, and put kids on a healthier path? Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says the government can do a lot, with more money to beef up vanishing physical education programs in schools and to institute mass media public health campaigns to make people aware of the problem. CSPI is a Washington-based lobbying group that focuses on health and environmental issues.

Jacobson says it would be easy to pay for these initiatives by imposing small taxes on snack foods and soft drinks. About a dozen states now levy such a tax, and they raise $1 billion a year, he says.

There also are legislative efforts in a handful of states aimed at getting soft drink and snack food vending machines out of schools. Such efforts are being challenged by school systems, which generate revenue from the machines.

Still says sodas and other sugary drinks, including fruit juices, have played a huge role in the fattening of the nation's kids. One of the easiest ways to eliminate calories from a diet is to cut out sugary drinks, he says.

"People don't think about the calories they drink during a day, but the average kid may take in thousands of calories a week drinking regular sodas and fruit juices. I tell people who are trying to lose weight to eat their calories, not drink them."

Experts say these tips can also help parents help their children maintain a healthy weight:

  • Keep the fatty and sugary snacks to a minimum at home.
  • Set limits on TV, computer, and video game time.
  • Make fitness a family affair, with activities designed to get everyone moving.
  • Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into family meals.
  • Review your own health habits. Children model the behaviors they see at home.


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