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A Food-Culture Change Is Upon Us

As a pediatric endocrinologist, I am on the frontline of the childhood obesity epidemic. In fact, I am now seeing 100-pound two year olds and 150-pound three-year-old kids in my clinic and I am concerned. The obesity epidemic is perpetuated by a processed food-culture that lacks healthier local whole foods. 
Diets dominated by processed foods (refined carbohydrates with high fat- and/or high-sugar content and artificial ingredients) over whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) spur more obesity and diabetes, and have even been shown to negatively change gene expression of the offspring during pregnancy. All-processed ingredients reflect the balance of desirable factors in the modern way of life such as shelf life (long), taste (sweet), texture (fat) convenience (high), and price (low) — all profitable, all less nutritious, and all with a mass-marketed, generic, “cultureless” appeal that reduces emphasis on local cultures and flavors.

The recent rise of social networking is testament to the fact that people are hungry to connect and yearn to be culturally inspired. Culture (art, food, music) deeply connects people and transcends time, politics, and poverty because it is the language of being human — and something that never changes. Medical research as well as the positive embracing of First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign demonstrates an open mind to the idea of a healthier culture and readiness for change. In fact, many of the families that I meet in my clinic are interested in considering whole-food choices, but lack knowledge and guidance.

Food-culture change offers the best hope for transforming obesity and what Americans eat. Oprah’s recent vegan-whole-food-challenge show on February 1st is a step in the right direction and will help to propel the emerging whole-foods movement. Columbus, Ohio is emerging as a center for local whole-foods activism and food-culture change. Just in 2010, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission released the Central Ohio Local Food Assessment and Plan — the first plan of its kind in the nation — and received an $885 million US. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant to create an urban foodscape in one of Columbus’ most blighted neighborhoods. Read more »

An Obesity-Causing Virus?

Finally, the answer to the obesity epidemic. [According to the LA Times], it’s a virus:

New evidence indicates that children who are exposed to a virus called adenovirus-36 are more likely to be obese than those who are not exposed to it, and to be heavier than other obese kids who were not exposed to it, researchers said this week. The virus…is one of 10 bacteria and viruses that have been associated with a propensity for putting on plural poundage.

Maybe this explains why I and two of my sisters all became fat in the same year. Well, that — combined with the fact that we had just moved to a new neighborhood where there were no kids we knew to play outside with, and we started taking a bus to school instead of walking, and “Dark Shadows” had just started, leading us to spend every afternoon after school snacking in front of the TV. But I like to think it was a virus.

*This blog post was originally published at tbtam*

A Multi-Prong Attack On Fatness

If I was Surgeon General, I would follow the lead of our country’s first Mom, Michelle Obama. This is serious folks. We as an American society need to solve the obesity crisis, not just for our physical health, but for our country’s financial stability.

Reducing the spiraling costs of healthcare is wanted by all. So far, prevention of the diseases which contribute most to our healthcare costs, (heart disease, cancer and orthopedic issues, to name just a few) has been given only lip service, by our future supplier of healthcare — the American government.

It turns out that the mechanisms to reduce our most costly ailments are the same as those that mitigate obesity. It is like simple math. (If a=b, and b=c, than a=c.)  If lifestyle choices reduce obesity, and less obesity means less consumption of healthcare for heart disease and cancer, than better lifestyle choices means less healthcare consumption. Bunches less. (See, simple math was not so useless.) It is for this reason that I believe the most productive way to reduce health care expenditures is to reduce obesity. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Overmedicating Our Kids

One of the blogs I read by Maggie Mahar pointed out a new study that found that 26 percent of kids under age 19 are now taking prescription drugs for a chronic condition. The drugs include asthma medication, anti-psychotics, diabetes drugs, anti-hypertensives, and heartburn medications.

According to the Medco study (the largest pharmacy benefit manager), the incidence of type-2 diabetes increased over 150 percent in children between 2001 and 2009. This is staggering. Children are supposed to be healthy and active, not tied to a regimen of pills. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Let Kids Be “Willy-Nilly”

As a cardiologist and advocate for healthy living through exercise, the bleak news of rising childhood obesity hits me hard. But as an endurance athlete well versed in the inflammatory effects of excessive exercise, and a coach of middle school children, recent news reports on the overtraining of American youth is equally troublesome.

The overtraining of the young American athlete has risen to the level of capturing the attention of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  I planned on letting this New York Times piece pass quietly, as yet another documentation of how adults are either explicitly or implicitly drilling out the young athlete — sacrificing fun at the alter of performance. Little League-like overzealousness is old news dating back to my era, I thought. But I just couldn’t help myself. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

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Latest Book Reviews

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