This morning I was introduced to a disturbing new term; “Extreme Obesity.” I couldn’t believe my ears. Have we now taken obesity to a new level?! After doing research I learned the term is not that new, but it is still disturbing. According to a Kaiser Permanente study “extreme obesity” affects 6.4% of our children.
What is going on here?
The rise in childhood obesity and obesity in general appears to have really taken off in the late 1970’s and early 80’s.
Two changes occurred during that time frame. Soda and food companies moved away from expensive sugar and replaced it with cheaper, chemically alter corn known as high fructose corn syrup (HFC). HFC is a primary sweetener in many of the foods now consumed. Though there is conflicting data and reports, we can not dismiss the timing of the introduction of this dietary additive as a potential contributor to the ballooning of the nation’s collective girth.
The second change? In the that time frame the ground work, for what would later became known as the food pyramid, began to rear its ugly head and from it’s mouth a fountain of misinformation began to spew.
Fat, in all forms, became public enemy numero uno. Food producers, looking to increase profits unleashed a barrage of low and no fat products. There is a dirty little secret; to make up for the fat and to increase palatability, the sugar and HFC content were amped up. They even took it a step further and started labeling existing; sugar shocked junk as “low fat foods,” absurdly insinuating that the product was “healthy.” The mindset evolved into sugar be dammed, as long as it doesn’t contain fat — eat it to your hearts content and, as we are discovering, eventual damage.
We went from eating balanced diets, to eating carbohydrate saturated foods. Please realize, no matter how complex the carbohydrate; once digestion is over — it becomes a simple sugar. In turn we went from a relatively small amount of obese folks, to now having more people classified obese, than simply overweight.
Dietary considerations are only part of the problem. When I was a youth I was excited to receive a football, baseball, basketball or any sports related, activity encouraging, item. Today’s youth often are showered with sloth inducing products; video games, smart phones, computers, etc… The concept of going outdoors to play and socialize has been replaced with sedentary instant messaging and texting.
Schools are just as culpable. They serve nutrient lacking foods, allow empty calorie dispensing soft drink machines in their lobbies and, because of standardized academic testing, arguably see the need to restrain activity.
Recess is a thing of “the olden days.” Gym class is either cut back or dropped. In some cases youngsters have gym for a set number of days and then not again until it returns in a cycle.
For the health and well being of the children — gym class must be daily.
As the extreme obesity generation passes into adulthood, diseases that do not usually show up until humans are more aged will start making appearances in people as young as twenty.
Will this be an acceptable burden on the nation’s health care system?
Ad campaigns claim, age wise, “60 is the new 40.” That may be true for my generation, but it looks like for succeeding generations, 40 may turn out to be the new 80.