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2:16PM

Turning point on US obesity epidemic?

From NYT:

After decades of rising childhood obesity rates, several American cities are reporting their first declines.

The trend has emerged in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, as well as smaller places like Anchorage, Alaska, and Kearney, Neb. The state of Mississippi has also registered a drop, but only among white students.

“It’s been nothing but bad news for 30 years, so the fact that we have any good news is a big story,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the health commissioner in New York City, which reported a 5.5 percent decline in the number of obese schoolchildren from 2007 to 2011.

The drops are small, just 5 percent here in Philadelphia and 3 percent in Los Angeles. But experts say they are significant because they offer the first indication that the obesity epidemic, one of the nation’s most intractable health problems, may actually be reversing course.

Crucial to get kids less fat, because fat kids are almost totally doomed to be fat adults, burdened by all manner of lifetime medical ailments.  Our obesity epidemic began with kids and it will end with kids.

Especially tough since so many kids eat majority of their weekday food at school (breakfasts + lunch + snacks). Health advocates have to fight food and beverages industry on this.  Good example:  big push to get sodas out of schools and Coca-Cola and others fire back with "energy drinks" that are just as sugary.  Sugary drinks are believed to account for half of the obesity epidemic.  

Then there are those cheap-skate Republicans in Congress who insist on labeling pizza a "vegetable," while insisting on more tests and thus less phys ed.  I can tell you that Indiana is nuts on that score (testing):  my kids are forced to prep and take these mindless (and useless) tests ALL YEAR LONG.  What a way to prep kids for the 21st century!

But I digress ...

Researchers are trying to figure out what's working.  All they know is this: "declines occurred in cities that have had obesity reduction policies in place for a number of years."

Looking ahead:

Though obesity is now part of the national conversation, with aggressive advertising campaigns in major cities and a push by Michelle Obama, many scientists doubt that anti-obesity programs actually work.

Exercising is required, but it never does it alone (and never will).  Key is reducing all those empty calories and portion sizes ("Want some fries with your pizza and Gatorade?").

What we eat in America is what is most profitable for US food companies and ag corps to sell - plain and simple. We subsidize grains big time and do virtually nothing for fruits and vegetables.

We've got a nanny state alright, and she's telling us that fat is good.

I admire Michelle Obama for working this issue.  Exactly the right focus for her right now.  Because when we solve the tripling of obesity that's unfolded over the past three decades (stunning, really), we solve a good deal of our healthcare crisis.

References (1)

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Reader Comments (6)

What would be the ramifications of stopping grain subsidies? And a step further, of stopping subsidies for grains, and starting subsidies for fruits and veggies?

December 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKestrell

I won't claim to be an expert, but subs expand production by making it less risky. So subs for fruits and veggies would mean more of those. Less subs for grains would crowd out marginal usage, like taking 1/3 of corn crop and making gasoline - very expensively.

December 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom Barnett

OK, let's do it.

December 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKestrell

An important Antiamerican stereotype is the fat, ugly Hamburger-eating American who X-larges himself while the rest of the world is dying of starvation.However the obesity seems to be an underclass phenomena due to the cheap fast food available everywhere.But till now there was no US-President who looked like a fat ugly toad. Maybe a good sign.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRalf Ostner

As a fellow Indiana parent, I'm less worried about the testing than I am about the time the education people take to ready the kids for said tests. After two separate teachers from two separate grades told my kids to stop learning so fast and having to talk down a principal from disciplining my oldest because he was working ahead, I ended up pulling my kids from the public system. The cafeteria isn't the only place the state system is crippling kids.

Go take a look at Khan Academy and their system of spiral test taking. You test very small atomic concepts to mastery and you get quick one question reviews on any past topics back to first grade. Get a couple wrong and you get reassigned the unit. It's not the whole solution by any means (and even Khan will cheerfully admit they're still under construction) but the education reformers tossing up free resources in multiple learning styles is absolutely part of the solution.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTMLutas

Obesity isn't the only issue at cafeterias. A former teacher of mine has a godson who's extremely sensitive to preservatives, salt and what-not; allergic reaction, triggering seizures sensitive.

After the school district decided they couldn't handle him, she took over homeschooling, figured out his food problems and put him on a crash diet of healthy stuff. It helped.

December 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

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