Obesity in Children – disgraceful parental neglect?

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This is a follow-up post to that titled ”Obesity in Adults – a life destroyer and a threat to Earth’s survival?” which was published here last week.

Those who have read the earlier post would know about the disastrous course for the Planet that mankind is set on regarding overpopulating it and into the bargain turning the human race into an obese or overweight sick one in the process.

Now that latter problem currently actually starts again with today’s children who are our next generation. We have a situation whereby three-fifths of English adults are themselves obese or overweight, so what about their offspring, then? Well, anyone who walks down any high-street will tell you that whenever you encounter a fat couple accompanied by children, that their kids are invariable fat as well. Now, you may well say that such ‘self-informed’ opinion is not statistically sound, so what are the true facts, then?

Not very good, as it is that some quarter of all English 4 to 5-year-old children fall in that fat category and in 10 to 11-year-olds that rises to a third, and in 11 to 15 year olds up again to two-fifths – a bit lower than in adults certainly but that is probably because there are a lot of fat adults that don’t actually have children, aren’t there?

[A woman being overweight (and underweight) makes conception & having a healthy baby problematical and in a man, being overweight (and underweight) also affects fertility as sperm quality is affected as well as erection ability].

Britain currently has the worst obesity levels in Europe, apart from Hungary.

Just as in adults, children who are obese or overweight, are also at serious risk of devastating effects to their health and life expectancy, aren’t they? The cost to society is astronomical.

There is currently a massive public and political outcry in the UK, and rightly so, about the recent dreadful fire in London’s Grenfell tower, resulting from the ineffective or unenforced regulations, that resulted in the avoidable tragic loss of over eighty men, women, and children (as well as almost an equal number injured), but there needs to be an even greater outcry about the so-far useless steps being taken to halt the increasingly worrying crisis in children’s excessive weight, wouldn’t you say?

With nearly a third of children aged 2 to 15 overweight or obese, it is the younger generations who are becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese for longer, and that is at a time when we know that adult obesity doubles the risk of dying prematurely, is seven times more likely to result in type 2 diabetes (which may end in blindness or limb amputation), as well increasing the risk of high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol, so facing strokes & heart disease.

Moreover, it is getting worse with children from the poorest section of society, those from the lowest income groups, who are the most commonly obesely afflicted (twice or three times more likely) – that is basically caused by too high an energy consumption compared to expenditure. The disturbing fact is, that it is precisely those children and their health that are targeted by provision for the past three years of free hot, nutritious meals at lunch time for every child in a state-funded infant school, as well as disadvantaged students in further education. Yet it is exactly them that commonly refuse them in favour of a cold packed-lunch brought from home, which frequently consists of an excessive amount of unhealthy and junk food (like say chicken nuggets), cakes, chocolate bars, and sweet drinks – and it is their parents that throw a wobbly when the teachers warn them that such food is inappropriate, isn’t it?

In past generations most children were physically active much of their young lives, which included walking everywhere, playing-outdoors, going shopping, climbing trees, playing football or hopscotch or rounders in the street, bike riding, swimming, and doing organised sport, as well as many other energy expending activities, that develop muscle & bone strength, while conversely most modern kids lead a comparatively sedentary lifestyle, particularly at the bottom end of the income spectrum, with traveling even short distances on motorised transport, most time spent indoors with little physical activity (getting no fresh air, sunlight, weather exposure, or vitamin D!) – so all that previous exercise has been replaced by playing with computers, gaming boxes, videos, and all manner of electronic gadgets, with twenty-four-seven television to boot (with that often providing the only sport their witness?), and that is followed with poor sleep quality which compounds the unhealthy situation. Modern children in this technological age, spend far too much time in front of digital devices because they are captivated and preoccupied with them, and parents need to be aware of that and do something positive about it, don’t they?

In overeating and enjoying junk food, we in the UK have been led by the nose by our American cousins from over the pond, who’s adults themselves have progressed even further along the obesity trail, whence nearly seventy percent of adults there are obese or overweight, with their children quickly catching them up, eh?

A very good example of American impact on food intake is MacDonald’s fast food, very popular in the UK as well as the USA: a regular cheeseburger with fries and a Coke comes in at 808 kcals which is ½ the normal DAILY energy required by an active 7-year-old child. Now, growing children do need quite a lot of calories, but that doesn’t leave much wriggle room for 2 other mail meals a day nor snacks, does it? Children’s favored breakfast cereals (say like Aldi’s Harvest Morn Choco Rice or Kellogg’s Frosties) alone can contain 3 teaspoons of sugar (50 kcals) the same as 2½ chocolate biscuits. [That Aldi cereal with milk in a small portion alone with no toast of fruit, would hit a kid with nearly another fifth of a day’s requirement]. Kicking the day off with a shed load of sugar means that children get accustomed to sweet food so find other food with low sugar unpalatable, and that is damaging their long-term health and causes them to get overweight & obese very quickly.

Another problem is that our kids because of their modern lifestyle, don’t need the same energy intake of past times, yet they are presented with such a host of high energy foods in large quantities, augmented with untold choices and unlimited amounts of sweets & chocolate – a favourite is a Mars bar delivering a massive 230 kcals with 8.6g of fat into the bargain. The consequences for children is that they simply get fat, don’t they? [A much better more healthy treat chocolate bar would be a Milky Way that comes in at just 98 kcals and 3.5g fat, isn’t it?].

Now, the government at long last are doing something positive to health regarding the County’s child weight problem, since relying on effective voluntary action by the uncaring food industry has proved futile, as the industry blatantly drives a coach & horses through that. They are planning to introduce a sugar tax on some of the ultra-sweet drinks, that children in particular are very fond of – but that is simply attacking the tip of the iceberg, when so much food targeted at kids is unhealthy. The irresponsible trade is adamantly against even any such action as they claim it wouldn’t work, but they are simply looking after their own vested interests, aren’t they? Yes, it HAS worked elsewhere.

A more coordinated series of actions obesity and a proper strategy on childhood is required, as long-term significant change will only happen through government ‘enforcement’ action together with better education of the public and parents about the dangers of overeating and lack of exercise. That would also involve (apart from taxes), at least forcing the reduction of the sugar content of food & drinks, halting the irresponsible widespread promotion of unhealthy food & drinks, and moreover a reduction in standard portion sizes to take account of reduced requirement resulting from lack of exercise.

The government successfully did it with smoking against relentless opposition from all sides it should be said, and the same commitment and attention has to be applied to obesity, don’t you think?

You CANNOT blame children for being obese or overweight, but we MUST blame their parents, mustn’t we? In Britain, we have laws to protect children from neglect, and in past eras that most often applied to not meeting their basic needs for food, although it also covers their reasonable cleanliness, adequate clothing, proper shelter, supervision, not being put in danger, and no physical nor emotional harm.

What greater neglect, harm, damage and evidence of direly inadequate parenting, is that shown to a child who has been allowed at just a few years old to embark down the road of obesity, to then face a childhood of ridicule, name calling, and bullying, as well as being on its way to a lifetime of health problems, isolation and enforced inactivity?

Real parenting (and grandparenting!) requires attention to a child’s diet, with the intake of healthy food and a strict limitation of those sweet and unhealthy foods that children naturally crave – NOT crass irresponsible indulgentment, eh? That means that children find normal healthy food palatable and even better enjoy the occasional treat, doesn’t it? That in combination with a lot of physical exercise and sport, which should start with toddlers actually learning to swim, is just as important as ensuring a child has a good education and most parents already accept the need for that in our modern society, don’t they?

 

 

[It is critical that over the next decade the growing problem of child obesity is both tackled and dramatically reversed].

 

 

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