Saturday, January 30, 2010

Surgeon General's report lays out recommendations to address childhood obesity

The Atlanta Journal Constitution: "As many as one in three children are overweight or obese, according to a new report" released yesterday by U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. The report included various recommendations including: "Requiring students from pre-kindergarten to grade 12 to take physical education, ... child care providers to offer at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day ... [and] schools to develop comprehensive wellness plans that include policies to offer kids more nutritious lunches."

First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at an event marking the report's release, saying that "many schools have reduced PE classes, recess and other activities because of budget cuts. At the same time, the recession has caused many cash-strapped families to forgo healthier foods in favor of cheaper, less nutritious meals." Additionally, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted the United States "spends nearly $150 billion on obesity-related health issues -- more than it spends on treating cancer" (Keefe, 1/28).

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Most parents don't realize their 4 or 5 year-olds are overweight or obese

Half of the mothers who took part in a study thought that their obese four or five year-old was normal weight, as did 39 per cent of the fathers, according to the February issue of Acta Paediatrica.

When it came to overweight children, 75 per cent of mothers and 77 per cent of fathers thought that their child was normal weight.

More than 800 parents of 439 children took part in the study, carried out by researchers from the University Medical Centre Groningen in The Netherlands. Five per cent of the children were overweight, four were obese and the rest were normal weight.

"As well as asking them to provide information on their child's height and weight, they were also asked to provide information on their own vital statistics" says Professor Pieter Sauer from the Department of Paediatrics.

"We used this to compare the parents' assessment of their children with their own weight to see if there was any correlation. Data on the child and both parents was provided in 397 cases."

The study showed that:

Mothers and fathers of overweight and obese children were significantly heavier than the parents of normal weight children.

Parents were more aware of their own weight. 83 per cent of the overweight mothers and 78 per cent fathers realised that they were too heavy, as did 98 per cent of the obese mothers and 96 per cent of the obese fathers.

When asked to choose their child's body shape from seven different sketches, 97 per cent of parents with normal weight children chose a lighter sketch than the data they provided indicated.

The same was true of 95 per cent of the parents of overweight children and 62 per cent of the parents of obese children.

Parents of normal weight children tended to think their child was one sketch slimmer than their Body Mass Index (BMI) indicated and parents of obese children often chose sketches that were three slimmer.

Most of the parents did not worry about their child's weight, but the mothers of obese children were more likely to be concerned than the mothers of normal weight children (44 per cent versus seven per cent).

Parents of overweight and obese children did not think their children were less active than others and 94 per cent felt they could influence their child's food choices and eating habits.

Approximately four out of five parents said they would want to receive information or guidance if their child was overweight, regardless of how they viewed their child's current weight.

"It's estimated that 10 per cent of children in The Netherlands are overweight, compared with 20 per cent in the USA" says Professor Sauer. "However, public perception of what is a normal weight has shifted upwards because more people are overweight or obese.

"Overweight children are very likely to become overweight teenagers and adults, so intervening when they are aged between three and five could prevent weight problems later in life.

"It is vital that parents are aware of their children's weight if we are to prevent them becoming obese in later life.

"The fact that the parents in our study perceived their children to be lighter than their BMI indicated is cause for concern.

"Our findings point to the need for health education programmes that encourage parents to recognise what is a normal healthy weight for their children and work with health professionals to tackle any weight problems."

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tips to combat childhood obesity

You've heard the alarming statistic before: one-third of U.S. children and teens are overweight or obese, increasing their risk of developing health problems such as diabetes.

But what can the typical parent do to prevent childhood obesity?

Cindy Cunningham, a nutritionist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has a few tips that can help a child stay healthy.

First, help babies avoid weight issues from the start of their lives.
"Even people with a genetic tendency to be overweight can avoid excessive weight gain with good nutrition and exercise. Start with breastfeeding and introduce solid foods when the baby is developmentally ready - around four to six months of age," says Ms. Cunningham. "Learn to recognize your child's hunger signs and don't use food as a pacifier."

Other tips include:
•Keep portions small and allow children to get a second helping if they're still hungry.
•Keep the healthy food and snack options, such as fruit, stocked in the kitchen.
•Don't give up on offering healthy foods, as it might take several tries before a child will accept.
•Use low-calorie substitutes when cooking meals, such as low-fat cheese and nonfat milk.
•Encourage children to get exercise through physical activity.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Helping Your Child through Childhood Obesity

by Brent Boyd

A child that suffers from overweight or obesity is one that should regarded as having a temporary disease, the obesity condition is dangerous for the child heath and has effect on his social life, self esteem and confidence. When you decide that you want to fight, and beat childhood obesity you should think carefully or a plan and a tactic you will use to fight this condition.

The three major keys in losing weight and having a successful diet plan are regular physical activity, performed on a set schedule and without exception the physical activity will encourage the child to get better and hopefully cause him or her to focus on activity rather than on food or the discomforts of the diet.

The next key to fighting childhood obesity is naturally a diet, making a diet plan should be done after advising with a diet professional that has all the tools and information about your child and his or her needs. making a realistic plan that will take a long time to complete you will gradually adapt new eating habits, showing the child that there are different kinds of foods and that making the child conscience of the things they eat and their effect on weight and the body. Increasing the awareness to the effect of different foods is a very important thing since it clearly identifies the cause and effect relationship to the child.

The last key for beating childhood obesity is as important and as natural as the first two, it is slowly and gradually changing the behavior of the child, and sometimes of the whole family, the new behavior patterns can be treated as rules first, make sure you explain why it is not good to eat candies, and more impotently you should make sure that your child knows that from time to time he or she are allowed to make an exception and have a candy, do not delete and block sweets from their lives completely since this usually has the opposite effect on kids.

The behavior change is a major one and if effects all the rest of the keys mentioned here, you should try and set rules in the beginning, if you can have a family meeting and set those rules it will be beneficial for everyone, making the children feel that they are setting these rules, you should encourage your kids to set rules and live by them, when you first start you can also join their activities to show them they are not alone, and from time to time you could explain how important it is to follow the rules and the benefits that are waiting in the end of the road.

A technique I have heard about some time ago uses imagination and positive thinking to encourage obese children to maintain a diet and physical activity routine. The parents have a weekly talk with the child and they go over all the last week events, good and bad, trying to explain what happened and why, not forgetting to compliment the child on his or her achievements. Once the events have been reviewed and points made clear the parent and the child close their eyes and imagine how it would be like in a month or two ahead, with more weight loss and better fitness and daily routine, talk about all the benefits of losing weight, like nicer clothes, better feeling, more energy, social admiration and so on, just make sure that the goals are realistic and can be achieved in a month or two of hard work, when your child achieves this you should mention the talk to him or her and demonstrate how belief and will power has real effect on life.

About the Author
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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Severe Childhood Obesity Linked To Missing DNA

Researchers in the UK have linked cases of severe childhood obesity to missing DNA that runs in families, whereby members missing the vital genetic chunk are severely obese from a young age, have a strong drive to eat and put on weight very easily; the missing DNA, called SH2B1, is located on chromosome 16 and plays an important role in regulating weight and blood sugar.

The finding has implications for the diagnosis and care of severely obese children, whose condition may be misattributed to abuse, said the researchers.

The study, thought to be the first to show this kind of genetic deletion can cause obesity, is the work of Dr Sadaf Farooqi from the University of Cambridge and Dr Matt Hurles from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and colleagues, and was published online in the journal Nature on 6 December.

Obesity is on the rise and has become a major public health concern all over the world. Although the increase in the last 30 years is most likely driven by environmental factors such as diet and lifestyle, our genes also play an important part, for instance in determining why some of us are more likely to put on weight than others.

For the study, which was funded by the Wellcome Trust, Farooqi, Hurles and colleagues scanned the entire genomes of 300 severely obese children for mutations in copy number variants (CNVs), large segments of DNA that are either copied or missing in our genes, and which scientists suggest play a vital role in the development of genetic diseases.

They compared them to the genome information of over 7,000 controls, apparently healthy volunteers from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium 2.

The results showed that the children with severe obesity had some CNVs that were different to the controls. The researchers wrote that:

"We identified several rare copy number variants that were recurrent in patients but absent or at much lower prevalence in controls."

Farooqi told the media:

"We found that part of chromosome 16 can be deleted in some families, and that people with this deletion have severe obesity from a young age."

"Our results suggest that one particular gene on chromosome 16 called SH2B1 plays a key role in regulating weight and also in handling blood sugar levels. People with deletions involving this gene had a strong drive to eat and gained weight very easily," he added.

Hurles said:

"This is the first evidence that copy number variants have been linked to a metabolic condition such as obesity. They are already known to cause other disorders such as autism and learning difficulties."

The finding has implications for the diagnosis and social care of severely obese children, whose condition may incorrectly be attributed to abuse by their parents or carers.

For instance, some of the children in the study had been placed on the Social Services "at risk" register because it was assumed that their parents were deliberately overfeeding them: they are now no longer on the register, according to a press statement from the University of Cambridge.

Farooqi said that their findings show that severe obesity is a "serious medical issue that deserves scientific investigation".

"It adds to the growing weight of evidence that a wide range of genetic variants can produce a strong drive to eat," he added, explaining that they hoped this discovery will change "attitudes and practices amongst those with professional responsibility for the health and well-being of children".

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