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Lighten the Load

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Lighten the Load

In order to assess a child's risk of being overweight for his or her age, researchers use a variation of the Bod.

Nearly one third of North American children are overweight and, in Canada, 1 in 10 is obese. According to the Center for Disease Control's Dr. Dixie Snider, overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming an overweight or obese adult.

In order to assess a child's risk of being overweight for his or her age, researchers use a variation of the Body Mass Index called the BMI-for-age. Unlike adult BMI measurements, BMI-for-age is gender and age specific and is plotted on specific growth charts. (To calculate your child's BMI-for-age, see cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/growthcharts/bmi_tools.htm).

At any age, healthy eating and adequate exercise will always be essential to an effective metabolism. Also key to an efficient, fat-burning metabolism is a healthy liver. As long as the liver isn't overly burdened by numerous toxins, it will remain one of the body's best fat-burning organs. Research performed at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia indicates that the majority of obese children suffer from excess liver burden (toxicity), which increases theodds of liver disease and dysfunction.

The research, which appeared in the West Virginia Medical Journal (March/April 2004), indicated that elevated liver enzymes were significantly higher in obese children compared to overweight or normal weight children. The researchers concluded that a liver assessment is recommended for children suffering from obesity. It is advisable to seek the advice of a medical practitioner to determine whether your child may have liver dysfunction.

Further research shows that it is common for obese children to suffer from liver dysfunction. The study, which was performed at the Department of Medical Genetics at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, discovered just how prevalent this problem may be. Out of 658 normal weight children tested, not one was shown to have liver dysfunction; however, of 329 obese children (206 boys and 123 girls) tested, over one-third (36.2 percent) showed liver dysfunction.

As the connection between unhealthy liver function and an inefficient metabolism grows, it makes good sense to ensure that your child's liver is operating as healthily as possible. Simple ways to maintain optimal liver function in children include feeding them organic foods whenever possible, and eliminating, or at least limiting, their consumption of foods made with sugar and hydrogenated fats. Also helpful is avoiding the use of harsh chemicals, such as cleaning products, around the house.

Supplements can help keep the liver healthy, too. Nutritional researchers have discovered that specialized phytonutrients either alone or taken in synergistic combinations can help to cleanse and re-establish healthy liver function. Some of the most promising of these herbs and vegetable extracts include artichoke (Cynara scolymus), milk thistle (Silybum marianum), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), calcium d-glucarate, and TMG (trimethylglycine, also known as betaine). Of course, when dealing with children, seek the advice of a nutritionist for recommended dosages.

Leading by example through proper nutrition and regular activity is always the best way for both you and your child to maintain a health weight and a healthy liver.

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