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Overweight Kids?

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I recently attended the birthday party of a three-year-old. Cookies, cake, and ice cream were served. The birthday boy smiled with anticipation--he has learned that this food is worth getting excited about.

I recently attended the birthday party of a three-year-old. Cookies, cake, and ice cream were served. The birthday boy smiled with anticipation--he has learned that this food is worth getting excited about.

As I watched the innocent and authentic expressions of my young friend, I was surprised to see that with each bite of his sweet treats he cringed. He literally looked as though he were eating lemons. I found myself wondering if his relatively new taste buds still aren't quite used to the sugary, processed foods of today's world. In the end, he asked his mom for some strawberries from the fridge and happily ate them instead.

Childhood obesity has become a public health concern in Canada. Leading experts estimate that one in 10 Canadian children is obese, with even higher rates in the Atlantic Provinces. Research shows that levels of obesity among Canadian children aged seven to 13 nearly tripled over the past two decades, which is double the rate of childhood obesity in other countries such as Scotland, England, and Spain.

Dangerous Consequences

Obesity has been linked to a number of risk factors for health and social problems. Research from QueensUniversity shows that overweight and obese youth are at greater risk of being victims of aggression than normal-weight youth and are more likely to be perpetrators of bullying behaviours than normal-weight children. Several studies show that obesity is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes, which are developing more frequently in children.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information considers childhood obesity a serious population health issue that requires attention and action. Meanwhile, many Canadian school boards have turned to soft-drink and junk-food vending-machine sales to boost revenue. They claim it is the only way to drum up enough money to deliver sports and other extra programs for kids. Does it make sense to raise funds for our children by damaging their health?

Teachers and Parents

While some schools are signing million-dollar contracts with junk-food manufacturing giants, others are clueing into the life-threatening consequences of delivering junk food with education and taking steps to replace empty calories with healthier choices. The University of Alberta recently studied students from schools that were participating in coordinated healthy-eating programs. The students in the healthy-eating schools had significantly lower rates of weight problems and obesity and healthier diets. These students also reported participating in more physical activities than students in the schools without nutrition programs.

Nutrition and physical activity are not the sole responsibility of the public school system, however. Canadian statistics show that having obese parents greatly increases the odds for obesity in children. Results from a study done at MemorialUniversity in St. John's, Newfoundland indicate that measures to prevent overweight or obese children should begin before the age of three.

My feeling is that kids enjoy healthy foods until they learn otherwise. Let's help make healthy food available at home and in school. Let them eat strawberries.

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