Entries in Child obesity (7)


Obesity Rates Among Preschoolers Declining, Study Suggests

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Have parents and pediatricians gotten the message about the dangers of obesity in young kids?  A new study out Tuesday suggests that the obesity rates of kids ages 2 to 4 may be declining for the first time in 12 years.

According to data from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System, there's been a steady increase in obesity since doctors began monitoring kids nationwide in 1998.  But in 2010, rates among kids in low-income families were down, with 30,000 fewer kids registering obese than the year before.

"This was actually the first national study that showed a slight decrease in the rate of obesity in preschool age children living in low-income families," ABC Medical Contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton says.

While that's a step in the right direction, it's just the tip of the iceberg, Ashton points out.

"[The] good news of this study is that it does appear that possibly the message is getting through that we really need to be aggressive about preventing and managing obesity, even in preschool age children.  The bad news here is that at a rate of 14.9 percent, that still leaves approximately eight million obese preschool age children in this country," Ashton says.

"Make no mistake, we need to do much much better in the future," adds Ashton, who notes that kids who are overweight are more likely to become obese as adults.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


After Foster Care, Weight Loss, Obese Boy Returned to Mother’s Care

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CLEVELAND) -- An Ohio boy has been returned to his mother’s care more than five months after he was placed in foster care by county officials who said his mother wasn’t doing enough to control his weight, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

In November, the 9-year-old weighed 218 pounds. After spending months in foster care with an uncle, the boy’s weight dropped to 166 pounds.

The boy was returned to his mother in early March under protective supervision, the newspaper reported. The decision made Thursday by Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge David Stucki released the family from that supervision.

The case became a flashpoint for the controversy of whether obese children should be removed from their parents’ care, a move typically reserved for children who have been physically abused, neglected or undernourished. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12.5 million children and teens are obese.

In a controversial article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2011, Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity expert at Children’s Hospital Boston, said government removal is probably not appropriate for most children, but in a few cases may be the best solution.

“State intervention may serve the best interests of many children with life-threatening obesity, comprising the only realistic way to control harmful behaviors,” Ludwig said in the editorial, which he co-wrote with Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health.

“In severe instances of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable, from a legal standpoint because of imminent health risks and the parents’ chronic failure to address medical problems,” the authors wrote.

Dr. Keith Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said removing a child from his home is not a desirable solution, but in this case, it appears to have succeeded.

“When you remove a child, no one wins. But it should not have come to this,” Ayoob told ABC News. “What this removal did was disprove any claims that the child couldn’t lose weight. He could, he did, and his mother needs to be motivated to keep it that way.”

According to the Plain Dealer, the boy first came to officials’ attention in March 2010 when he was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which can be weight-related. His mother agreed to place him in a program called “Healthy Kids, Healthy Weight” at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. The boy lost a few pounds, but began to gain some of it back. At that point, the Department of Children and Family Services asked a juvenile court for custody of the boy, saying his extreme overweight was a form of medical neglect.

The boy’s mother, who was not identified, disputed the county’s charges that her son’s weight was the result of her unwillingness to follow doctors’ orders.

Dr. Sumana Narasimhan, co-director of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Weight program, said patients in the program get a combination of medical and psychological evaluation and diet and exercise counseling to help families make the necessary lifestyle changes to improve a child’s health.

She said isolated cases of children being removed from their families should not deter parents from seeking help with their child’s weight.

Lawyers involved in the boy’s case told the newspaper that the boy has been doing well despite the upheaval, is exercising regularly and has been monitored by a Big Brother.

The county is offering nutritional and health counseling services to the boy’s mother and will continue to monitor him.

The Plain Dealer reports that if the county doesn’t feel the boy is being properly cared for after 90 days, they will go back to court.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Child Obesity Grows: School Desks Too Small for Heavier US Kids

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More than one-third of children and teens are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it’s starting to show in U.S. classrooms as more children are proving too large to fit into traditional school desks and more schools try to accommodate them.

CNN reports that the hefty changes in America’s youth are reflected by the uptick in sales and manufacture of larger goods -- from school desks to plus-sized children’s clothing lines to larger car seats.

Some companies are also adjusting their products to fit bigger consumers, offering larger, deeper seats or desks with adjustable heights. Others are noticing differences in sales.

Tony Ellison, chief executive officer of, a company that sells office and school furniture, told CNN that the company’s “big and tall” sizes have been selling better than standard sizes, and furniture made to fit older, bigger students is being purchased more often in elementary and middle school classrooms.

“That is an obesity trend reflected in the furniture,” Tom Brennan, president of the school furniture company School Outfitters, told CNN.

The changes also prompt questions about the balance between fighting childhood obesity in schools and accommodating children with different body shapes and sizes.

Gary Foster, director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University, told ABC News that it’s unfortunate that childhood obesity is having such a noticeable impact in the classroom, but that schools do have an obligation to accommodate students of all sizes, large or small.

“There’s no gain to punishing children for their size. They’re already stigmatized,” Foster said.

Studies have associated overweight and obesity with a number of psychological woes, like depression and anxiety, which can be compounded by the social stigma of being fat. Squeezing into an undersized desk or standing out in a larger seat can be an uncomfortable, humiliating experience for a child.

“Kids want to belong, right? They don’t want to be different,” Foster said. “The principle is that you would try to make the defaults accessible to kids of all sizes.”

Dr. Richard Deckelbaum, director of the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University, told ABC News that the changes in school furniture parallel the questions facing airlines on how to best accommodate obese adult passengers. He said schools’ solutions to the problem should focus on long-term changes to ease kids’ obesity rates, which would make larger school furniture obsolete.

“If you want to learn well, you have to at least be comfortable. But the best solution in the long term is prevention,” he said. “I would hope that even if schools did buy [larger furniture], the problem will go away in the next few years.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obese Teens Want to Lose Weight, But Don't Act Like They Do

Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- A study of overweight 9th through 12th graders in the School District of Philadelphia reveals that the majority of overweight kids do want to lose weight, but are doing the wrong things.

Temple University doctoral candidate, Clare Lenhart, is the lead author of the study.

Although 75 percent of the students in the study did suggest they were interested in losing weight, Lenhart says she'd like to see that they’re actually interested in “weight loss.” She says this because many of the specific behaviors the students endorsed actually were incompatible with weight-loss.

Lenhart said that the females in the study were “more apt to report to daily physical activity” than their male counterparts. However, “there was a two-fold increase in the report of daily-use consumption of soda.”

When it comes to the males in the study Lenhart says, “when they said that they were interested in losing weight, they were also much more likely to participate in no days of physical activity within a week, and participate in three or more hours of video game-playing per day.”

Again, they are talking the talk but not walking the walk.

The data was gathered from the Philadelphia Youth Behavior Survey and the results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.

The study concludes teens need more guidance and support to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Group Hits General Mills on Fruit Snack Nutrition 

General Mills(WASHINGTON) -- A nonprofit nutrition and health watchdog group and a California mother are at the center of a complaint that alleges General Mills misled consumers about the nutritional and health qualities of its popular fruit snacks including Fruit Roll-Ups and Fruit by the Foot.

The complaint filed Oct. 14 at the United States District Court of Northern District of California alleges the company made “misleading statements that its products were nutritious, healthful to consume and better than similar fruit snacks,” but the products contain “trans fat, added sugars, artificial dyes, lacked significant amounts of real natural fruit, and had no dietary fiber.”

“General Mills has misled parents into thinking this isn’t junk,” Stephen Gardner, director of litigation for the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, told ABC News.
“Selling these fruit snacks was little better than giving candy to children,” according to the complaint.

General Mills, in a statement to ABC News, said: “To our knowledge we have not been served with any lawsuit. But it would not be unusual for CSPI to put out a press release before actually serving a lawsuit.  We cannot comment further at this point...We stand behind our products -- and we stand behind the accuracy of the labeling of those products.”

“I do think products that include fruit in their names and sport pictures of fruits on their packaging- should be made mostly, or at least partly, from those fruits,” Dr. David Katz, a director at Yale University Prevention Research Center, wrote in an email to ABC News.

So what’s in the product? An online label for Fruit Roll-Ups Blastin’ Berry Hot Colors on the company website lists the ingredients for the product as pears from concentrate, corn syrup, sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil contains 2% or less of: citrium acid, sodium citrate, acetylated monoglycerides, fruit pectin, dextrose,  malic acid, vitamin C,  and natural flavor color.  Above the nutrition facts the label says: “MADE WITH REAL FRUIT” in red lettering.

“I think the claims by General Mills are consistent with allowed language,” said Keith Ayoob, associate Clinical Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in The Bronx, New York “I’m thinking if they have a complaint they may better address it to the FDA or USDA. I assume their claims are legitimate and in compliance with regulation and, if they’re not, the federal government has to get involved.”

Ayoob said he encourage parents to read product labels.  "If there are ingredients that you choose to not give to your child, then you have the right to do so. These are not a necessary food or a required food.  It’s not something that children have to have in their diet.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Brains of Obese People May Show Less Impulse Control for High-Calorie Foods

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- The ability to fight food cravings may be all in your head, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

By manipulating blood sugar levels in study participants and monitoring their brains with functional MRI scanners, researchers from Yale University and the University of Southern California found that obese people had a more difficult time fighting off cravings for high-calorie foods, which could explain why it is difficult for obese people to lose weight.

The researchers showed pictures of high-calorie foods (including French fries and doughnuts) low-calorie foods (including tofu and salads) and non-foods to five obese and nine non-obese study participants.

When blood sugar levels were low in both obese and non-obese participants, the region of the brain associated with reward was activated, triggering a desire to eat high-calorie foods. Once the levels were brought back up to normal in the non-obese group, there was increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain involved in impulse control. The non-obese people were then less interested in the high-calorie foods.

This was not the case for obese participants. Not only was the desire for high-calorie foods more noticeable in their brain activity, but when their blood sugar levels were brought back up to normal, their brains continued to show a craving for high-calorie foods.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Michigan to Track Kids' BMI

JupiterImages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(LANSING, Mich.) -- In an attempt to combat Michigan's childhood obesity epidemic, Gov. Rick Snyder announced Wednesday that the state would begin tracking kids' body mass index through the Michigan Care Improvement Registry. Although the policy would be one of the most extensive government anti-childhood obesity efforts, pediatricians were divided over whether it would have the desired impact.

The tracking system would require pediatricians to calculate patients' BMI using height and weight measurements, and report these numbers to the state through the existing immunization tracking system, the Michigan Care Improvement Registry. The numbers would be reported anonymously, meaning that the child's identity would not be connected to his or her BMI in state records.

The hope is that having doctors track height and weight in this way would encourage more discussion among parents, kids and doctors about the dangers of being overweight, says Geralyn Lasher, director of communications at the Executive Office of the Governor.

The new policy does not require doctors to discuss obesity with kids and parents, nor does it provide physicians with the extra time or training needed to discuss weight problems -- a narrowness of focus that some doctors believes will limit the policy's effectiveness.

Others questioned the policy's use of BMI, an obesity metric some pediatricians call oversimplified and misleading, especially in children.

Some worry that discussing obesity in terms of BMI with parents and kids will be misleading, as tracking BMI does not reflect positive changes overweight kids can make in their activity level.

But Keith Ayoob, director of the Rose R. Kennedy Nutrition Clinic at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, defended the use of BMI, saying that while it's not a perfect measure, it's the "best we've got" for measuring obesity on a population.

While Michigan's BMI tracking system will most likely become only an entry point for further discussion and intervention in cases of obesity, any pediatricians still believe it's worth the effort.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio