Why Are Kids Gaining Weight?: An Alternate Theory (and How Changing School Food is Crucial to Preventing It!)
|May 23, 2012||Posted by Stacy under Improving school food, Sugar, Weight prevention|
TIME magazine’s recent cover photo of a 3-year-old breastfeeding seems to have overshadowed another provocative one from Newsweek, which features a baby holding super-size fries and the headline: “When I Grow Up, I’m Going to Weigh 300 Lbs. Help!”
Inside the magazine, the story that inspired the cover shot (“The New Obesity Campaigns Have It All Wrong”) is equally thought provoking. Penned by science writer Gary Taubes, it proposes that obesity experts on last week’s HBO documentary The Weight of the Nation missed the mark. Instead of being a matter of Americans eating too much and not exercising enough, Taubes argues a different theory: It is the types of foods that we’re eating (namely, refined sugars and grains) that are the real culprit. As he explains:
“Sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup have a unique chemical composition, a near 50–50 combination of two different carbohydrates: glucose and fructose. And while glucose is metabolized by virtually every cell in the body, the fructose (also found in fruit, but in much lower concentrations) is metabolized mostly by liver cells. From there…some of the fructose is converted into fat, the fat accumulates in the liver cells, which become resistant to the action of insulin, and so more insulin is secreted to compensate.”
The end result: elevated insulin levels (the hallmark of type 2 diabetes) and the steady accumulation of fat—“a few tens of calories worth per day, leading to pounds per year, and obesity over the course of a few decades,” Taubes writes.
In other words, refined sugars and grains (think candy, soda, and packaged snacks–all the foods that our children go wild over) are bad news. And given how those abundant they are in our lives and our schools, it’s no wonder so many are gaining weight and developing diabetes and high blood pressure at frighteningly young ages. As Taubes so aptly concludes: “Lack of will isn’t their problem. It’s the absence of advice that might actually work.”
Despite Taubes’s criticisms, I highly recommend watching the HBO documentary, especially Part 3: Children in Crisis, which emphasizes the importance of avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages, including 100-percent fruit juice. It also discusses how making changes to school food could be a crucial step in the fight for a healthier generation.
With its depictions of children struggling with weight problems, the film made me sad and gave me chills, but unfortunately, it’s the real world. And while lower socio-economic levels are being hardest hit, all segments of the population are suffering. Bottom line: No kids are immune to the consequences of a world filled with poor-quality, overly processed convenience foods.