Monday, July 12, 2010

Childhood Obesity-Three Small Changes Make a Big Difference

by Dr Joe Kosterich

Childhood obesity has been put front and centre by Michelle Obama. An ambitious goal to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation has been made. Whilst this is ambitious, there is an old quote attributed to Michelangelo that it is better to aim too high and miss than to aim too low and hit.

There is no particular reason why this goal cannot be achieved. The "Let's Move" campaign actually is focusing on a range of initiatives. It is getting government agencies coordinated and working in collaboration with business and the media. Sports stars have volunteered to help spread the message.

Success will of course come down to individuals and families making changes and accepting responsibility for what they do. However it has been shown that simple things like repainting crosswalks helps encourage children to walk to school hence providing some exercise. Giving parents useful information about foods and dispelling myths about junk food being cheaper will also help. The support of three major suppliers of school lunches to reduce fat and sugar in their products will help too. A positive approach rather than the usual handwringing will make it far more likely that there will be success.

Health habits start in the home. A new study has demonstrated that little things make a big difference. A study of over 8000 preschool age children showed a 40% lower rate of obesity in families where three simple things were done,

1) The families ate dinner together at least five times a week 2) The children got at least 10.5 hours sleep each night 3) The children watched less than two hours television each day

These three things combined almost halved the rate of obesity. None are difficult and none are expensive. We also know that getting it right in preschool age sets the basis for the school years so this is actually the best time to act.

Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum a study was released supporting gastric band surgery for teenagers. The study compared weight loss in 25 teenagers on a weight loss regime compared to 25 who had surgery after two years. The faults with this study are numerous including the small numbers and the short length of time. Seven of the teenagers required further surgery. The biggest issue is that a company, which makes the bands, funded the study and worse still two of the authors are on company advisory boards so are not independent.

It is already emerging that there will be long-term complications from gastric banding surgery including kidney stones and brittle bones. Interfering with the bodies absorption of food has major ramifications, most of which have not been thought about because they do not happen straight away. With teenagers who are still developing, the long-term issues are completely unknown.

The best quote on this came from (Australian) AMA Vice President Steve Hambleton who said, "We should not be outsourcing self control to a surgical procedure. It means we are not doing anything about the problem, just treating the symptoms."

I could not have put it better. Nobody is born obese. It comes from actions taken after birth. Hence the individual can change those actions. Support such as that outlined by the First Lady will assist.

Putting the right fuels into your body in the right amounts is a key part of Do It Yourself Health. It is within the power of everyone to do this.

About the Author
Do you want to look and feel better? Get knowledge and tips on ways that you can take charge of your own health from a doctor who actually talks about health. Dr Joe's Do It Yourself Health is your toolbox, complete with instructions on how to improve your health and well being today.

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Childhood Obesity-Three Small Changes Make a Big Difference

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