It’s often said that good health begins in the gut, an aphorism that is well supported by two studies published in the August 29 issue of Nature (2013; 500, 541-46). In short, individuals with low bacterial richness in their gut have more obesity and inflammation--and weight loss can improve the richness of their bacterial genes.
Here is another reason to encourage children to maintain a healthy weight: According to a Kaiser Permanente Southern California study, children who are overweight or obese are at significant risk for developing hyper- tension.
Preadolescence is a time of major change and growth, bringing psychological, physical and social shifts for boys and girls alike. Caught between the carefree days of childhood and the first throes of being a teenager, “tweens” (roughly aged 9–12) are a force to be reckoned with. Like many other populations, preadolescents are suffering from lack of exercise, which threatens to chart a course toward obesity and disease.
It is well known that the United States faces a childhood obesity epidemic. In fact, 81% of respondents in a poll on the topic considered childhood obesity a serious concern and two-thirds believed the problem was getting worse (Hassink, Hill & Biddinger 2011). Actually, national surveys show a stabilization of childhood obesity rates and even small declines in some localities (RWJF 2012).
In his research paper, Hill notes that body weight and obesity are increasing in all segments of the population in most, if not all, countries around the world. Further, although most people are aware that
a sedentary existence, combined with overeating, has negative health consequences, many are not able to make and sustain the changes to combat this way of life. Moreover, most people who do achieve weight loss goals regain the weight over time. Is it inevitable that our society will eventually be obese?
Weight problems may be all in your head—or at least in your brain, according to an emerging body of brain-imaging work and related research on cravings, overeating and addictive responses to food. Daniel Amen, MD, one of the world’s best-known neuropsychiatrists, has worked with tens of thousands of patients from 90 countries for more than 20 years and has recently gathered results and insights related to the brain-fat connection in his best-selling book, The Amen Solution: The Brain Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Keep It Off (Crown 2011).
Since 1980, global obesity has more than doubled. Sixty-five percent of the world’s people now live in countries where overweight and obesity cause more deaths than underweight. In 2010, nearly 43 million children below the age of 5 were overweight (WHO 2011). In spite of global awareness and isolated attempts to face this crisis head-on, the fact remains that our kids are fat and getting fatter.
Obesity is preventable. If we don’t help our children find their way out of the downward spiral of obesity, what will their world be like when they grow up?
As the economy slumps, health experts expect more Americans to develop paunchy guts and bigger butts by packing on “recession pounds.” Plunging personal earnings lead to tighter spending; and many people ditch their gym memberships and buy fewer fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and low-fat meats in favor of cheaper edibles loaded with sugar and fat. Couple that with the specter of unemployment and stress and we have the perfect recipe for weight gain.
The obesity epidemic seems to be attracting more interest than ever in our nation’s capital. Considering the burden that obesity places on our healthcare system and, ultimately, our ballooning deficit, there is a dire need for us to continue attacking this problem. We made two trips to Washington, DC, in December and January to meet with leaders of two important groups working toward eliminating obesity: the Let’s Move campaign and the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA).