Friday, December 08, 2006

Nailing the Cause of Childhood Obesity

It seems these days there is a lot of finger pointing about the cause of the alarming rise in the incidence of childhood obesity.

It's the advertising children see...

No, wait, it's a lack of public parks...

No, really it's the fast food...

No, no, no, they don't have enough places to exercise...

Oh, wait, it's the inability to maintain a healthy balance between calories and activity...

No, they just eat too many calories...

Gosh darn it, it's the loss of physicial education in schools!

No, it's probably the school lunches...

Hey, what happened to recess?

Forget that, it's lazy parents...

Kids just need to learn to eat right...

They need to stop skipping breakfast...

They're eating the wrong snacks!

No, really, it's stranger danger keeping them from being active!

If they have a fitness magazine they'll lose weight...

Stop selling soda in schools, that's the ticket...

It's living in the suburbs...

We should hike up the tax on junk food to stop them from buying it...

They eat too much fat...

Damn those cupcakes...

Lay off the juice drinks...

Nah, they watch too much television...

Wait, it's too many hours surfing the internet and playing video games...

It's the trans-fats...

Give them more whole grains and less Lunchables!

They need healthy snacks!

They're too picky so parents just feed them what they'll eat...

It starts when they're toddlers....

No, it's their birth weight...

No, no,'s their mother's eating too many calories before they're born...

Oh, if only they were breastfed...

Wow - and that is just a sample from the results this morning in Google searching the phrase "childhood obesity."

Oh, and let's not forget, Cookie Monster is now singing "cookies are a sometimes food," schools have banned parties, and Candyland is being evaluated to determine if it's contributing to childhood obesity!

So, what do you think is causing childhood obesity?


  1. Anonymous12:44 PM

    I would say trans fats, sweets, fizzy drink and a lack of activity - lack of walking and outdoor exercise - partly caused by safety concerns and partly by alternative pastimes - computers and TV.

    Paul Anderson

  2. Anonymous3:06 PM


  3. Oh Regina child obesity confuses me.

    For example just yesterday I was reading an article on how eating too much during pregnancy is associated with childhood obesity and that we need to address this early on whilst pregnant and just after birth by eating less etc

    My 19 month old daughter she was a big girl when she was born (9pds 7.5oz) and still is. She is a very solid and tall girl. She was towering over 2 year olds at 11 months at a nearby playground *shrug*

    I have read other articles warning of obesity with children who grow too rapidly in the first 2 years...

    My daughter is breastfed, she doesn't eat junk infact she is not a big solid eater as she has only recently gotten over her strong gag reflex. If you gave her a whole biscuit right now she would put it down, however I assume if it was tiny (bite size), she would eat it.

    When I fell pregnant to her I was 55kg so I wasn't over weight (another factor) and I had been low carbing since 2002 and was maintaining at the time of conception. During my pregnancy I gained rapidly but my eating didn't increase and still exercised, infact I was bush walking over the weekends. I wasn't a craving lunatic like people always seem to assume pregnant women are yet here we are *shrug*

    My son on the other hand who was born way before LC when I was younger (in my 20s, daughter in my 30s), I wasn't overweight when I concieved him either, I ate whatever I wanted including copious amounts of sugar, I put on a small amount of weight during my pregnancy which was all baby and he was born at around 7pds 13oz. He was on formula by 3 months of age and solids a month later, diet was always full of junk right up untill I started LC.

    He is skinny as a rake, always has been.

    Yet he was always sick and my daughter isn't...

    When I read childhood obesity articles targetting infants and toddlers sometimes I just want to bang my head against a brickwall *shrug*

  4. Anonymous5:06 PM

    Probably the same things that causes obesity in adults. Among other things, insulin resistance brought on from too many carbs.

  5. It's the mothers who work outside the home.

  6. Too little activity and too much junk food. I ate plenty of carbs growing up and I was never fat. I also had a mother and gran-mother who cooked. My freinds and I were routinely sent outside, and we engaged in physical play for hours on end. Sitting inside watching TV wasn't an option, and there were no video games. A trip to McD's, or any restaraunt, was a rare event. I have worked with parents who pick up take out food every night on the way home. I know parents who don't allow thier kids outside until they get home, which is often after dark. We in the U.S., as a culture, have placed the pursuit of material success and business productivity above the health of ourselves and our children.

  7. All of the causes listed are likely.
    I think healthy foods and exercise should be advertised. Bikes should be advertised as being more fun than video games. The health benefits, however, should not be advertised, as young children do not have a sense of the future. Bike ads should play to a child's desire for freedom, adventure, friendships, etc, things TV cannot provide, and video games do only poorly.

  8. Wrong question. Modern medicine was seduced by the "germ theory of disease". This led to the idea that "disease" and "cause" are monolithic. One disease, one cause. With truly infectious disease, this view is correct. Unfortunately, we have mostly eliminated the common sources of infectious disease, yet we insist on trying to apply that model to modern conditions which are increasingly multi factorial. In one sense, the answer to your question is, all of the above.

    Autism is a tragedy that has exploded over the past twenty years, with the first case described in the literature in the 1930's. Again, organized medicine has sought "the cause", presumably as a necessary prerequisite to finding "the cure". Such an approach is domed to failure. how ever, as long as it generates profit, I fear that it will remain SOP.

  9. How about genetics? People are all different. I'm thin, and my wife is overweight. She was hypoglycemic as child, and always reacted badly to carbs. On the other hand, I seem to have a healthy glucose metabolism.

    Granted, continuously assaulting the pancreas with big doses of sugar or its equivalent, spaghetti, may eventually give you insulin resistance, but hey, MOST CHILDREN ARE NOT OBESE.

    Some people have a tendency to gain weight, which is probably connected to poor sugar metabolism. But the majority of people do not have this problem.

    Perhaps more children are overweight than before, probably due to stupid low-fat diets, but they're still a minority. I think the same children would, eventually, eating the same stupid low-fat diet, succumb to "diabesity". If there's an increase in childhood obesity, it's probably occuring in the same people who are genetically succeptible to diabetes in the first place.

    In other words, the "epidemic" of chilhood obesity is probably just part of the plague that has descended on the susceptible population overall. They're just getting fat earlier.

  10. I think most of the reasons mentioned add to the childhood obesity epidemic. Don't we all know that obesity isn't monocausal at all.

    When I think of my childhood we kids spent most of our leisure time outside, running, playing, on our bikes, climbing trees. Even then there were big and small kids but only very few were obese. I grew up in a place where most people had a garden and fresh veggies. Packaged and convenience foods were largely unknown (and considered expensive).

    Nowadays it looks like live is tv, computers and junk food, on top the ingredients in so-called foods have deteriorated... I think I read somewhere that a common store / grocery at 1900 listed 200-300 items, nowadays it is 30-50,000.

    One of the reasons ist probably that we are giving kids food instead of quality time or love. Another is, as paradoxical as it may seem, the fact that kids obsess about their weights too early, that everybody seems to be obsessed with dieting. I know from my own experience when I was a healthy teen at an absolutely normal weight, I was considered fat and chubby and forced into 'healthy' low fat diets, which consequently made me sick.

    So I guess it is: moving too little, eating too much and eating (and drinking - soda) too much of the wrong stuff. The food industry isn't interested in people eating less and choosing quality foods, it cuts their revenues...

  11. My 2 "favorite" reasons are 1) lack of exercise - children spend so much time indoors sitting either at a computer or in front of a tv set. 2) too much fast food or even just restaurant food with gigantic proportions (supersize me!) Parents are the enablers in this. My mom kicked my butt out the door right after breakfast with an order to "go play". Eating other than home cooked food was perhaps a 5 time a year experience usually being take out chinese or pizza or fish and chips (father is British). Of course i grew up in the 1950s and the fast food concept really hadn't spread yet. And let's face it television choices were limited and the internet was 40 years from reality.

  12. It's all of the above. My sister and I never had a weight problem as kids, but we didn't have vending machines and such at our schools 25 years ago and fast food was a treat, not an everyday occurance. I never even saw a computer (a Vic 20) until middle school. I didn't get online until I was in college. Etc....

  13. Anonymous11:12 AM

    One of the things that bugs me about arguing about "THE cause" is that it allows all the players to say, "It's not my product." (arguing that not all get fat, ingredients are wholesome, it's always been like that blah blah)

    When instead we could say, "My product contributes and this is what I'm doing to help."

    Also we are putting kids essentially in a feedlot situation.
    Feed them too much processed food (cheap starches, bad fats) and removing movement (which requires time, play space, and supervision.)

  14. Dear Regina,

    Your blog is great. I read it all the time.

    The cause of childhood obesity is too little fat and protein and too much sugar in the diet.

    Eggos instead of eggs and substitutions of this ilk.

    It is not lack of physical activity. And the answer is not adding more.

    The exercise answer is resistance training.

    The diet answer is getting the sugar out and the fat and protein back in.

    We are creating a culture of children of the corn syrup.

    My next book is on this subject specifically.

    BTW, I am the co-author, along with Michael and MaryDan Eades of The SlowBurn Fitness Revolution.

    All the best,
    Fred Hahn

  15. Children of the Corn Syrup

    Oh the horror!

  16. Anonymous11:11 AM

    It seems that all of the items you listed play a part.