By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook
Should obese children be treated as "abused" and placed in foster care?
A group of medical experts in England and Ireland thinks so, according to an article published recently in the British Medical Journal. At least 20 cases of children being removed from their homes because of obesity had been reported in the previous year, the article noted, and apparently such cases are beginning to surface in the U.S.
Weight issues sometimes are associated with other forms of parental abuse.
"Parental behaviors of concern include consistently failing to attend appointments, refusing to engage with various professionals, or with weight management initiatives, or actively subverting weight management initiatives," the experts wrote.
Meanwhile, a study published in the journal Academic Pediatrics finds that parents often don't recognize when their kids are overweight.
"Parents don't recognize weight problems or don't know how to make things better," said one of the study's lead authors. "Even if they do, there are often barriers to healthier eating or more activity for these families."
Here's a middle-schooler right here in the District of Columbia who took a novel approach to educating her peers about obesity. She used an online tool called Survey Monkey to poll her classmates on the question of whether schools should measure the body mass index of students and include the results on kids' report cards.
Most of the 120 students surveyed at the private middle school said height and weight measurements should not be taken at school and that BMI should not be included on report cards. But 50 percent did not know the meaning of BMI. Eighty-seven percent thought kids should be educated on the topic of obesity.
Nearly every one of the middle-schoolers cited lack of exercise as the main cause for obesity, with too much fast food consumption coming in second.
And here's the first-hand account of a D.C. high school senior helping to deliver fresh produce to the city for a farm to school event.
Lack of exercise as a primary culprit behind the obesity epidemic is a popular notion. Indeed, it is a cornerstone of first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign against obesity. But a recent British study concludes that the popular perception is backwards: it isn't that lack of exercise causes people to be overweight, it's that overweight leads to less exercise.
Researchers found that exercise had virtually no effect on a study group of overweight children. Rather than exercise levels, the cause of excess weight gain, the found, was especially linked to sugar, such as the sugar in soft drinks, along with excessively large portions at meals and high-calorie snacks.
Instead of being an issue of burning calories, the study concluded that obesity is more likely to stem from metabolic consequences, which sounds very much like the conclusion drawn in this compelling lecture on YouTube by pediatric endocrinology professor Robert Lustig, who also blames the obesity epidemic on the proliferation of sugar and especially high-fructose corn syrup in the food chain.
And in case you needed reminding how much junk kids eat, here's a great photo from the Daily Mail showing what the average kid consumes in a year.
A report funded by the European Union finds that governments must step forward to control junk food advertising to children. The food industry cannot be depended on to police itself.
Many European countries are making progress in limiting the amount of junk food advertising to kids, according to the policy director of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. But there is "chaos in the details." Most countries don't address advertising according to calorie count or nutrient content.
Food companies that have volunteered to participate in the restrictions are sticking to their pledges, but the pledges have loopholes. "They don't all stick to the same criteria around the definition of marketing, what age group of children and what foods are covered."
The only solution, the report suggests, is for governments to step forward and make the requirements more explicit and firm.
Meanwhile, several U.S. government agencies are said to be working on strict standards for marketing junk food to children but the status of that effort is cloaked in mystery. Speculation is that food groups are leaning on the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more favorable treatment.
What happens when you raise kids without TV. Here's one mom's story about how much her children love kale and dislike sodas and McDonald's.
Finally, here's an inspiring story of how the lunch ladies in one Pennsylvania school district turned a deficit into a surplus with hard work and cooking food from scratch. "We decided to treat our kids and teachers like customers," said Northern Leheigh food services director Susan Bahnick.
Another important factor in Bahnick's success: she decided to involve the kitchen staff in food service decision making. Morale improved when kitchen workers took a stake in the results.
5 years ago