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Kids May Suffer Most From Obesity Epidemic

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"In our country, there has been a decrease in the importance of physical activity," Bruner tells WebMD. "Physical education in school is archaic -- an anomaly." Bruner is also president of the Society for Bariatric Physicians, which is a group for obesity specialists.

Additionally, children often sit in front of computers, video games, or the television instead of going outside and playing because often being indoors is safer than being outdoors. Hours spent in front of the television increase a child's risk of becoming obese, according to a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

"Burn the television set and the computer and get kids to move more," says Arthur Frank, MD, the medical director of George Washington University Weight Management Program in Washington, D.C.

The availability of high-calorie fast foods also contributes to childhood obesity. The trend toward "super sizing," where for an extra few pennies you can get an extra 700 calories, certainly doesn't help either, Bruner says.

Now, results of a study published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that by the age of 5, children will eat more food than they actually crave when presented with larger portions.

Putting an end to the obesity epidemic is as multifaceted as the reasons behind it.

"The answer lies first of all in public education," Bruner says. "We need to mobilize communities and/or churches to generate safe after-school activities that involve exercise and to encourage schools to reinstitute physical education as a requirement."

Schools need to make a wider variety of wholesome foods available, she says. "Why not put fruit in the candy machine, instead of candy bars?" she asks.

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