The Childhood Obesity issue is a fascinating subject that appears to be somewhat mis-understood at core level. For instance, clearly an enhanced exercise regime will represent a huge advantage in dealing with obesity, however it will be far less effective if our children just go to McDonalds afterwards. For instance, did you know a 75-pound kid would have to walk 8 hours and 55 minutes to burn-off a Whopper with cheese?…and that doesn’t include the fries and Coke the kid probably would also buy.

If this kid added fries, it would add another 2 hours and 41 minutes of walking. And the Coke to wash it down adds another 1 hour and 21 minutes of walking. That’s more than 10 hours total of walking! Whew.

Equally, a well balanced nutritional diet at school will of course be of value in maintaining a child’s health, however its value is mitigated once the child goes home and eats processed junk from the supermarket and plays video games all weekend.

The core issue behind obesity is basically our consumer culture (video games, etc) combined with the over availability of some of the world’s worst food!! So basically – our children are sitting in front of TVs consuming high fat laden and chemically infused products day in and day out – all of which is driving the average child’s weight into the stratosphere.

In our new age world, it is unlikely that we will ever move kids back from video games to riding bikes, and more sports, (although we clearly must try, and try hard), however we can certainly impact what they consume  if the legislature would help. For example, all McDonalds’ products should come with a Health warning, and frankly should not be available for children under a certain age – this probably sounds overly dramatic and ridiculous however consider this:

Kids Happy meal – designed for children between ages of 3 – 8 (or there abouts):

Cheese burger, low fat milk, and Apple dippers – 500 calories add fries: another 380 calories – so just under 900 calories in one meal. (American Heart Association recommends around 1400 A DAY for kids under 6 (depending on sex and exercise levels).

Add in some chips 150 grams, a cup cake say 250 grams, and the child is already over the daily recommended limit. Of course most kids may have only one Happy Meal a day, however the other meals can be worse – ever checked the nutritional values on a Pizza box lately – ever looked at what been added?

Here is McDonald’s Bun and Cheese breakdown:

Regular BunEnriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, enzymes), water, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, yeast, soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated soybean oil, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, wheat gluten, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, guar gum, calcium peroxide, soy flour), calcium propionate and sodium propionate (preservatives), soy lecithin.CONTAINS: WHEAT AND SOY.
Pasteurized Process American CheeseMilk, water, milkfat, cheese culture, sodium citrate, salt, citric acid, sorbic acid (preservative), sodium phosphate, artificial color, lactic acid, acetic acid, enzymes, soy lecithin (added for slice separation).

Recognise all of these ingredients???

And of course, fast food outlets like McDonalds have become huge corporate enterprises, making super-profits from the selling of quickly consumed food. McDonalds alone spends an estimated $2 billion a year alone in advertising worldwide, with its all-pervasive ads and promotions targeting children and the time-deprived.

From breakfast to suppertime, millions of people worldwide now consume McDonalds food every day.

According to the ads, McDonalds food is cheap, tasty, healthy and easily available. In fact, studies show that 55 percent of the calories in a Big Mac come from fat, together with 83 mg of cholesterol. In cheeseburgers, fat makes up 45 percent of the calories, with 41 mg cholesterol. French fries have 47 percent fat, while a regular hamburger has 39 percent fat and holds 29 mg of cholesterol. Like most fast foods, and convenience foods in general, these products are high in salt and sugar that can become addictive and which can also lead to increased weight and other medical problems – so McDonalds’s executives and shareholders are getting richer, our kids are getting fatter, related medical costs are escalating (obesity costs are almost as high as smoking related costs), and we, the public, are……. well paying more for Health Insurance along with out-living our obese children!!!

Junk food may not be addictive in the same way that tobacco is. But weight, once gained, is notoriously hard to lose, and childhood weight patterns strongly predict adult ones. Rates of overweight among small children–to whom junk-food companies aggressively market their products–have doubled since 1980; rates among adolescents have tripled. In 1999 physicians began reporting an alarming rise in children of obesity-linked type 2 diabetes. Once an obese youngster develops diabetes, he or she will never get rid of it. That’s a lot more irreversible than a smoking addiction.

So in answer to the question: What are your ideas to end childhood obesity within a generation?

Quite simply

I would say:

  1. Govt warning labels on all food products that contain high fat or processed ingredients
  2. Govt endorsements on healthy foods, with packaging that is appealing to kids (of all ages)
  3. incentives, and subsidies for restaurant companies and food manufacturers that provide (verifiable) healthy foods for kids, in order that they can keep prices competitive still generating healthy profits
  4. Elevated education for both parents and children on food intake and the implications of non nutritious food products
  5. Only healthy food available at school
  6. Very strict guidelines on advertising and marketing by fast food companies- with substantial fines for violations and misleading statements
  7. Age limit on children buying food from fast food outlets, without an adult present

Robert Ancill is CEO of Innovations International Food and Restaurant Consulting Group, The Next Idea


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