A New Year's Resolution To End "Boob©Tube Obesity"

BFP Magazine

Cardio-vascular Health

Child Obesity, Television

A New Year's Resolution To End "Boob©Tube Obesity"

By Dr. W. Gifford Jones

January 2, 1994

What is the best New Years' Resolution for 1994? I can't imagine a better one for parents than fighting "Boob©Tube Obesity" If they don't a medical hell awaits their children later on. During the 3rd International Conference on Preventive Cardiology in Oslo, Norway I talked with Dr. Munro Proctor, School of Medicine, Boston University, about this problem.

Television has often been linked to the increasing violence of our society. But Proctor says everyone should start asking how much television affects their child's physical health?

For several decades an investigation known as the "Framingham Heart Study" has tracked a group of adults to determine who are most likely to develop heart disease. Proctor's task was to evaluate third and fourth generation offspring of the original participants.

Dr. Proctor is an authority on obese children. He has shown previously that decreased levels of physical activity in childhood could lead to obesity in maturity.

Children, Proctor claims, start down the treacherous road to obesity as early as the age of three! And one major factor that propels them along the way is the "boob©tube".

Dr. Proctor's investigation involved 97 pre©school children from three to five years of age. 58 boys and 39 girls were followed for four years.

Parents were asked to keep an accurate record of the number of hours their children spent watching TV every day. At the end of each year investigators measured the triceps, abdominal, thigh, suprailiac and subscapular skin folds.

The conclusion? Dr. Proctor claims that the number of hours spent watching TV during preschool years can predict the increase in body fat later in life. Boob©tubes don't burn up calories!

Children are exposed to another T.V.hazard. Commercials routinely push high caloric foods loaded with sugar. And it's a rare parent or child that can say "NO" to these repetitive and tempting ads. Ô 0*0*0* Dr. Stan Banach, a prominent clinical nutritionist in the U.S., says childhood obesity has become a national disgrace. He warns parents they should consider childhood obesity the greatest nutritional problem in North America. I couldn't agree more.

He claims the future looks grim unless there's a massive shift in the way parents and society confront this matter. In North America the incidence of obesity among adults has increased about 15 per cent since 1960. During that same period teenage obesity increased 39 per cent. But for children between the ages of 6 and 11 years of age the increase was a staggering 54 per cent.

Dr. Banach cites one survey that showed that about 40 per cent of 5 to 8 years old are obese. These are frightening figures and children as young as five years of age are developing health problems associated with obesity that were formerly seen only in adults.

The future scenario is not hard to predict. Today's children are destined to become the most obese adults in history and both they and society will pay dearly for it.

Parents and teachers must teach children basic facts about food. To substitute popcorn for potato chips. Use mustard instead of mayonnaise on the sandwich. Banach says these two changes would result in an 18 pound weight loss by the end of the school year. A 20 minute walk each day would produce a 31 pound loss in one year.

Banach worries about hidden calories in some foods. He says people used to eat real potatoes and reminds patients that French fries don't grow in the ground! An 8 ounce baked potato contains 160 calories. The same amount of french fries contain 700 calories and a comparable amount of potato chips 1,200 calories.

Today the most popular foods consumed by children are bread and crackers, donuts, cookies, hot dogs, hamburgers and luncheon meats all high in calories and fat.

So what does the crystal ball see? Obese children on their way to diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and other degenerative diseases that can be prevented by a sound lifestyle.

What disgusts Banach and me is that food companies continue to deceive consumers. One company's advertisement stated that its cereal has the most fiber and no added salt or sugar. But the third ingredient listed was corn syrup! In some cereals there's so much sugar it's safer to eat the box.

I asked Banach why authorities allow this to happen. He claims there are a lot of flunkies in government Departments of Health. Besides, the food industry is a very powerful lobby. The moral for 1994? If you don't look after your child's health no one else will.

My best wishes for a happy and healthy 1994.

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He's been a ship's surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones. He can be reached at bfp@bogotafreeplanet.com

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