Parents view themselves as responsible for childhood obesity, survey says


Obesity Initiative at UGA

The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity released a 40-page report about childhood obesity and how parents view their role in the process. The report titled “Food marketing to children and adolescents: What do parents think?” is based on a survey of 2,454 parents with
children ages 2-17 living at home in June-July of 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Some interesting thoughts in the report:

The surveyed parents ranked the food and beverage categories marketed most often to their children fairly accurately. Fast food restaurants, cereal, and soda/pop were at the top of their lists, while milk and fruits and vegetables were at the bottom. However, parents tended to underestimate the frequency of their children’s exposure to some highly advertised categories, such as other (i.e., not fast food) restaurants. They also overestimated the number of ads their children saw for the healthiest categories.

Parents were as concerned about junk food marketing to children as they were about alcohol and tobacco use in the media. The surveyed parents were highly aware of the “pester power” of food marketing and its effects on their children’s food preferences. They were less likely to agree that food marketing affects their children’s diet or the products they buy. Parents believed that TV commercials, in-store promotions, and cartoon characters on packages had the most impact on their children’s eating habits.

Surveyed parents perceived a number of environmental obstacles to ensuring healthy eating habits for their children, including the expense of healthy foods, easy access to unhealthy foods, unhealthy food advertising, and children’s media usage. In addition, 69% rated the media as a negative influence on their children’s eating habits, followed by the food industry (61%), and the government (55%). However, they attributed 60% of the cause of increased childhood obesity to personal responsibility and 40% to the unhealthy food environment.

Ga. schools get grants to fight childhood obesity


Maternal & Childhood Obesity, Obesity in America, Obesity in the News

Georgia health officials have announced that 21 schools have gotten grants to help fight childhood obesity. Here’s info from the Associated Press, featured on the Atlanta CBS website:

The grants total $87,000 and come from the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Governor’s SHAPE initiative. The schools include elementary, middle and high schools throughout the state.

Twelve schools got up to $5,000 to implement physical activity and nutrition plans, while nine others got $3,000 to develop plans. The money will also be used for training and technical assistance.

Health officials say children are more physically active if their schools schedule and promote physical activities. Georgia ranks third in the nation for overweight and obese children.

SHAPE is a statewide initiative that brings together the government, philanthropic, academic and business communities to fight childhood obesity in Georgia.

OI in the News: UGA researchers study diets and why people don’t lose more


Obesity & Exercise, Obesity in the News

Back at it. Check my story in Georgia Health News about research being done by the Obesity & Exercise team about diets and exercise. Do compensatory behaviors make a difference?

The UGA researchers, led by Michael Schmidt, believe many dieters give up their new, healthier routines of eating right and exercising when they don’t see results on the scale.

But there’s more to it than that. The researchers think the needle on the scale may be slower to drop because people unconsciously compensate for added exercise by increasing their food intake, or by decreasing their physical activity outside their new exercise regimen.

Now the researchers are putting that theory to the test.

“People don’t lose as much as you’d expect them to based on the calories burned [during exercise]. They’re only losing 30 percent of what you’d expect,” said Schmidt, who is an assistant professor of kinesiology.

Schmidt and three other UGA professors are focusing on the compensatory behaviors, such as eating more after exercising, that might prevent the simple formula “eat right and exercise” from working.

UGA student researches obesity in UAE


Obesity Initiative at UGA

Check out this interesting story in The Red & Black about a student who spent his summer in the United Arab Emirates, studying obesity and fast food:

Faust, now a first-year graduate student in the University of Georgia Department of Communication Studies, traveled to the UAE to study obesity, the globalization of fast food and childhood obesity.

“I loved being able to see the different perspective on a problem that we face even here in the United States,” Faust said. “It was a very eye-opening and unifying experience to see that we are all going through these problems and working through these struggles together.”

The health of UAE citizens has been drastically affected by the nation’s rapid growth and consumer-driven culture. Not only are the UAE’s struggles similar to those in the United States, but Faust said several other industrialized nations deal with obesity due to a consumer-driven culture. In Dubai, where Faust focused his reporting, there has been a 200 percent increase in population, and the country is facing major changes.

Weight gain is a relatively new topic for the UAE, as fast food restaurants have begun to dominate the streets.

“It was interesting to see how their approach to this crisis is compared to how Americans deal with the fast food issues that we have here,” Faust said. “There were a lot of common ground and there were some differences.”

Gallup: Obesity up in nearly all age groups since 2008


Obesity in America, Obesity in the News

Nifty data from Gallup in the past few days. I had no idea that they conducted health polls like these.

Check the facts:

The prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults increased significantly between 2008 and 2012, and at least minimal increases occurred among nearly every four-year age group. However, not all age groups exhibited this to the same degree. Rather, Gallup-Healthways data indicate that middle-aged adults and advanced seniors were the most likely to see an increase in the percentage of people in that age group with higher obesity rates than four years ago.

The increase in obesity among middle-aged adults is particularly troubling, because it means these adults will face the health risks of maintaining an unhealthy weight for a longer period of time, resulting in a lower quality of life, more health problems, and a shorter lifespan. This will also add to the nation’s multi-billion dollar healthcare bill. The increase in obesity among the nation’s oldest adults may have fewer long-term implications, but serious short-term ones for this population’s daily wellbeing and quality of life. More effort should be put into helping seniors stay active and informed about their nutritional needs.

Here’s some good news for young people:

The minimal increase in obesity rates among the youngest age groups — those aged 18 to 23 years and 24 to 27 — is promising, because it may indicate that efforts to improve nutritional awareness and foster more exercise among the nation’s youth may be working. Alternatively, it could mean that obesity has reached a saturation point among the young. It will be important to see if these patterns continue.

Parental stress could cause chilhood obesity, researchers say


Obesity in the News

Parents – chill out. It looks like your stress could be harming your kids in more than one way.

It’s an interesting thought and apparently not a new idea. Previous research shows a connection between parental stress and child obesity, but this new study covered a more diverse population, both ethnically and socioeconomically.

Check this post on Psych Central:

In the new study, investigators discovered parents with a high number of stressors in their lives are more likely to have obese children.

Specifically, researchers determined that when parents perceive themselves to be stressed, their children eat fast food more often, compared to children whose parents feel less stressed. Parental financial stress was also associated with lower levels of physical activity.

“Stress in parents may be an important risk factor for child obesity and related behaviors,” said Elizabeth Prout-Parks, M.D., the leader of a study recently published in journal Pediatrics. “The severity and number of stressors are important.”

Parental stressors linked to childhood obesity include poor physical and mental health, financial strain, and leading a single-parent household, Prout-Parks said.

An article in WebMD expanded on this study published in Pediatrics, with this helpful info:

Some families in the study were more vulnerable to the effect of stress on their weight. These “high-risk” groups include:

  • Black/Hispanic children
  • Children from single-parent households
  • Kids from families that are struggling financially

Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “We do see this in clinical practice,” she says. “Parents are often stressed and have a hard time providing healthy options.”

The easy defaults are unhealthy — namely high-fat fast foods.

“You have a hard day at work, and trying to get a nutritious meal on the table can be overwhelming and expensive,” she says. “It can be difficult to raise healthy kids without adequate resources.”

Fresh produce is pricey, but low-salt frozen and canned vegetables are less expensive alternatives.

Parents can also take time to de-stress, which will be beneficial for everyone, Mackey says.

Former Pres. Clinton says obesity threatens economy, launches fitness initiative


Obesity in America, Obesity in the News

Former President Bill Clinton spoke during a national forum on childhood obesity at the Peabody Little Rock hotel earlier this week, and he announced a new fitness program to help kids get moving.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette story is behind a paywall, but the San Francisco Chronicle posted a brief about the keynote:

Clinton spoke in Little Rock on Sunday at a national forum on childhood obesity and said staying healthy would help Americans have more money in their pockets.

Clinton says U.S. residents spend almost 18 percent of their income on health care and that making healthy choices would drive that number down.

Clinton’s foundation and the American Heart Association founded the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which in 2006 launched the Healthy Schools Program to provide training and educational resources to schools.

A story on gives a bit more detail about the announcement:

The Fit for a Healthier Generation campaign features pre-recorded, 3-5 minute physical activity breaks aimed at getting kids up, moving and having fun throughout the day. The fitness breaks DVDs were produced by Watch It Now Entertainment, a leader in fitness production. The fitness program BOKS, an initiative of the Reebok Foundation, will sponsor the distribution of the more than 30,000 DVDs to communities all across the country.

“Less than 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools, and 2 percent of high schools provide opportunities for daily physical education,” said President Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation and co-founder of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, via release. “By bringing together some of the leading experts on physical activity in the country, we can show the benefits of living fit and help kids lead healthier lives.”

American Academy of Pediatrics launches plan to fight childhood obesity


Obesity in the News

Looks like the AAP is getting on board with all of the initiatives being launched to combat childhood obesity. I wanted to include this for those who are watching all of the different groups that are joining the cause. Note that Nestle — also backing the efforts of the World Health Organization against obesity — is providing a good bit of the funding here.

Here’s the story:

The American Academy of Pediatrics is launching a major new initiative in its fight against childhood obesity, focusing on both prevention and treatment of what has become a major threat to children’s health in the U.S. The new AAP Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight, to be launched Oct. 20-23 at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans, will lead the academy’s efforts in providing pediatricians, families and communities with evidence-based resources to help prevent and treat childhood obesity.

“Obesity is epidemic in childhood and presents a threat to both child health and to health across the lifespan,” said Sandra Hassink, MD, FAAP, chair of the steering committee of the Institute. “Pediatricians are in the best position to combat childhood obesity because they are dedicated to children’s health and well-being and build long-term, trusting relationships with families. The Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight will provide pediatricians and other professionals with the tools and knowledge they need to provide care that begins with research and ends in real results.”

The Institute, housed within the AAP, will be funded by a diverse base of corporate sponsors and grants from government and foundations that understand and support the mission and vision of the Institute. As the founding sponsor, Nestlé is providing the substantial funding required to launch the Institute.

Mexico leads world in soda consumption, World Health Organization planning to fight it


Obesity in the News

We’re not the only ones worried about obesity and how it’s affecting our health. Officials in Mexico are now launching a plan to combat childhood obesity.

Check this report:

Mexicans are the world champions in soft drink consumption, guzzling down 163 liters (43 gallons) of sweet bubbly drinks per capita every year, according to Consumer Power, an independent organization.
Food stands are everywhere on Mexican streets, dishing out handfuls of greasy tacos for just $1, while ambulant vendors wait outside schools to sell cheap tamales or tortas (sandwiches) to hungry students.
To nutritionist Tamara Vera, Mexico suffers from “bad nutrition and bad habits like a lack of exercise, a lack of water consumption and too much grease and sugar.”
The education ministry, with the help of various embassies, led a campaign called “The Week of Taste” in 124 schools this week to teach children better eating habits. The masked and muscular stars from the country’s ultra-popular Lucha Libre, or professional wrestling, circuit have been recruited by the government to help drill new eating habits into people’s consciousness.
But Education Minister Jose Angel Cordova warned that it would take time to reduce child obesity, stressing that a “new culture” must be instilled in families and Mexican society at large.
“The (child) obesity problem arrived over 30 years and maybe we won’t need 30 years (to reduce it), but we will need at least 10 years to stabilize it,” he told reporters after a meeting of Latin American education ministers.
In addition, Reuters released a special report about the World Health Organization using the dollars from soda companies and other food industry leaders to combat the problem. Will that create a conflict of interest?

As the world’s foremost health agency, the World Health Organization bills itself as an impartial advocate working on behalf of 194 member nations.

Its mission as the public health arm of the United Nations ranges from stanching communicable diseases such as malaria and AIDS to battling what the U.N. considers the latest “global epidemic”: chronic ailments such as diabetes and heart disease caused primarily by unhealthy diets.

But to fight those diseases in Mexico, the nation with the world’s highest rate of obese and overweight adults, a Reuters investigation found that WHO’s regional office has turned to the very companies whose sugary drinks and salty foods are linked to many of the maladies it’s trying to prevent.

The office, the Pan American Health Organization, not only is relying on the food and beverage industry for advice on how to fight obesity. For the first time in its 110-year history, it has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in money from the industry.

Heavy lifting for ambulance crews: EMTs experiencing effects of increasing obesity


Obesity in the News

Interesting article in the Hartford Courant about EMTs lifting heavy patients. Just as we’re seeing larger chairs and sofas to accommodate the trend, the medical world is using larger stretchers, hospital beds, and ambulances.

Check it out:

Emergency medical technicians have long shared a Murphy’s Law kind of reckoning about obese patients: for every additional floor in a building, the patient will weigh 100 more pounds.

It’s dark humor among men and women with an often grim, strenuous job, but obesity rates are rising throughout the state and nation, and a recently released report says the ranks of the morbidly obese will continue to balloon.

The task of transporting patients who weigh at least 100 pounds more than they should is now a daily reality in Connecticut and throughout the nation. The job strains ambulance crews, causing widespread back injuries, and piles financial burdens on both volunteer companies and professional providers.

“We’ve always had to deal with big people,” said Glenn Luedtke,safety committee chairman of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, “but nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see someone who’s 300 pounds into the 400-pound range.”