Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

Leave a comment

Kids Are Spending More Time On Mobile Devices Than Ever Before

Almost half of young children now have their own tablet, a new report says.

According to the report, which comes from Common Sense Media, those tablets are seeing plenty of use. Kids younger than eight are reportedly spending an average of two hours and 19 minutes per day glued to screens. Roughly 30 percent of that time is spent on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. Forty-two percent of youngsters have a personal tablet.

While screen use has held fairly steady over time—kids in 2011 spent two hours and 16 minutes per day looking at screens, for example—the medium of choice has changed dramatically, according to the Common Sense Census. Television is still the most popular screen, but daily time spent watching the tube has dropped by 11 minutes since 2011. During the same time period, meanwhile, mobile device use has exploded from five minutes per day to its current 48 minutes.

Meanwhile, kids are still spending about a half hour per day reading or being read to—and, interestingly enough, the vast majority of that time is spent with print media, not e-readers.
Still, the uptick in mobile usage may be cause for concern. “Mobile device use is more individual, immersive and on-demand, and it influences interpersonal dynamics differently and can be harder to break yourself (or your child) away from,” writes Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan, in an opening letter for the Common Sense Media report. Studies have also linked excessive device use among youth to everything from speech delays to decreased emotional intelligence.The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children between the ages of two and five spend no more than an hour per day on screens, and suggests “consistent limits” for kids older than six.

Jamie Ducharme    Oct 19, 2017    TIME Health
source: time.com

Leave a comment

Child And Teen Obesity Soars Tenfold Worldwide In 40 Years: WHO Report

GENEVA (Reuters) – The number of obese children and adolescents worldwide has jumped tenfold in the past 40 years and the rise is accelerating in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Asia, a major study said on Wednesday.

Childhood and teen obesity rates have leveled off in the United States, north-western Europe and other rich countries, but remain “unacceptably high” there, researchers at Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

“Over 40 years we have gone from about 11 million to a more than tenfold increase to over 120 million obese children and adolescents throughout the world,” lead author Majid Ezzati of Imperial’s School of Public Health, told a news conference.

This means that nearly 8 percent of boys and nearly 6 percent of girls worldwide were obese in 2016, against less than one percent for both sexes in 1975.

An additional 213 million children aged 5-19 were overweight last year, but fell below the threshold for obesity, according to the largest ever study, based on height and weight measurements of 129 million people.

The researchers called for better nutrition at home and at school, and more physical exercise to prevent a generation from becoming adults at greater risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancers due to excessive weight.

Clear food labels on salt, sugar and fat content are needed to help consumers make “healthy choices”, the study said.

Taxation and tough restrictions on marketing of junk food should be considered, it said. WHO has already recommended a 20 percent tax on sugary drinks to reduce consumption.


South Africa, Egypt and Mexico which had “very low levels of obesity four decades ago” now have among the high rates of obesity in girls, between 20-25 percent, Ezzati said.

“The experience of east Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean show that the transition from underweight to overweight and obesity can be rapid,” the study said.

If current trends continue, in 2022 there will be more obese children and teenagers worldwide than underweight ones, who now number 192 million, half of them in India, the study said.

Polynesia and Micronesia had the highest rates of child obesity last year, 25.4 percent in girls and 22.4 percent in boys, followed by “the high-income English-speaking region” that includes the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Britain.

Among high-income countries, the United States had “the highest obesity rates for girls and boys”, 19.5 percent and 23.3 percent, respectively.

“Children are not getting physical activity in the school days, there is poor food opportunities in many schools, walking and cycling to school is going down in many countries, unsafe in many other countries, and parents are not being given the right, sufficient advice on nutrition,” said Fiona Bull of WHO’s department of non-communicable diseases.
“It’s the changing environments, food, behaviors, portions, consumption patterns have completely changed over the last 40 years. Highly processed food is more available, more marketed and it’s cheaper,” she said.


Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay Editing by Jeremy Gaunt     OCTOBER 10, 2017 
source: reuters.com

1 Comment

How Parents Needlessly Lower Their Children’s IQ

The parental behaviour that lowers children’s IQ.

Children who were spanked in childhood have lower IQs, a study finds.

The more children were spanked, the lower their IQ, the research also found.

The probable reason is that spanking is highly stressful for children.

It can leave them with post-traumatic stress disorder.

An ongoing fear of terrible things happening — being easily startled — is linked to a lower IQ.

Parents who continue to use corporal punishment into the teenage years may hamper their children’s brain development even more.

Professor Murray Straus, the study’s first author, said:

“All parents want smart children.
This research shows that avoiding spanking and correcting misbehavior in other ways can help that happen.
The results of this research have major implications for the well being of children across the globe.
It is time for psychologists to recognize the need to help parents end the use of corporal punishment and incorporate that objective into their teaching and clinical practice.
It also is time for the United States to begin making the advantages of not spanking a public health and child welfare focus, and eventually enact federal no-spanking legislation.”

The results come from research that followed 704 children from the ages of 2 – 4 until they were 5 – 9 years-old.

The IQ of children who were not spanked between 2 and 4-years-old was 5 points higher when tested four years later than those who were spanked.

Professor Straus said:

“How often parents spanked made a difference.
The more spanking the, the slower the development of the child’s mental ability.
But even small amounts of spanking made a difference.”

The psychologists also found that countries in which spanking children was more common saw stronger links between corporal punishment and IQ.

Professor Straus said:

“The worldwide trend away from corporal punishment is most clearly reflected in the 24 nations that legally banned corporal punishment by 2009.
Both the European Union and the United Nations have called on all member nations to prohibit corporal punishment by parents.
Some of the 24 nations that prohibit corporal punishment by parents have made vigorous efforts to inform the public and assist parents in managing their children. In others little has been done to implement the prohibition.”

The study was published in the Journal of Aggression Maltreatment & Trauma (Straus & Paschall, 2009).

OCTOBER 3, 2017
source: PsyBlog

1 Comment

11 Tips to Get Kids to Eat Healthy

Ask any parent about the top challenges of raising kids, and getting them to eat healthy would probably be high on the list. Countless parents have kids who just want to eat chicken nuggets, or pasta, or macaroni and cheese, or all of the above, and definitely without any vegetables.

It’s a problem throughout the year, but at back-to-school time, it gets maybe a tad more stressful, as parents are looking to start over or at least give their kids lunches that pack a healthy punch and won’t get traded away for Oreos or some other sugary snack.

So what’s a parent to do? First, don’t stress – we reached out to parents across the country, including a few experts on healthy eating for kids, and they had a ton of great advice. We’ve boiled down their insights into 11 great tips that are sure to make healthy eating in your household a little less complicated, beginning with what not to do:

1. Do nots? There are many

Don’t let your kids get hooked on sugar, says Agatha Achindu, a mother of three who founded Yummy Spoonfuls Organic Baby Food in 2006. “Sugar is in just about all packaged food these days, in one form or another,” said Achindu, who grew up on a farm in Cameroon, West Africa. Banish soda and other sugary drinks from the household, read the labels and don’t buy anything with added sugar, she says.

You might not be able to control everything your child eats, especially when your kids are not at home, but you can give them a good healthy foundation. She suggests not bringing junk food into the house: “If it’s not there, they won’t eat it.” Don’t plead or threaten or bribe your child to eat healthy food, she says, because those tactics are not effective. And don’t judge your child’s tastes by your own. “You may not like broccoli, but your child is not you. He/she may love foods that you don’t care for,” Achindu said.

2. Make food interesting

Lori Day, an educational psychologist and consultant, says her mom always told her that she was a terrible eater and that it would be karma if her daughter also didn’t like to eat well. But that’s not what happened. When her now-grown daughter was young, Day thought that if she found food interesting, she’d be more likely to try it. So Day let her daughter shell peas, count them, sort them by size and play with them before putting them in the pot. She loved eating them raw or cooked, Day said.
Same with mussels marinara, which became one of her daughter’s favorite foods. She enjoyed inspecting the mussels and looking for the potentially dead ones to throw away, learning about their biology and pulling the cooked shells all the way apart and picking out the meat.

“My main tip is to make food interesting if your child is naturally curious, enjoys science/nature and is willing to engage,” Day said.

3. Get the kids involved

Several parents talked about how bringing their children with them to the farmers market or the grocery store and having them help with the cooking can get them more excited and invested in what they are eating. “Kids can be inspired to eat healthy when they are part of the meal and snack planning process,” said Margaret McSweeney, host of the podcast Kitchen Chat, on which she has interviewed about 200 chefs, cookbook authors and food industry experts. “A trip to the local farmer’s market or produce aisle can be an adventure and connect them with the source of food.”

Monica Sakala, a mother of two who runs the social media consulting business SOMA Strategies, said she continues to be amazed by the power that growing their own vegetables has had on encouraging healthy eating in her kids. This is their third summer with a vegetable garden.

“They delight in going out back, getting dirty and picking the veggies. I watch them eat them raw,” she said. “They seem to delight in what they’ve grown, and there’s never a battle.”

4. Give kids choices

Ava Parnass, an infant-child psychotherapist and author of “Hungry Feelings Not Hungry Tummy,” said that from a young age, parents should let their kids choose foods, fruits, vegetables and snacks they like, within reason.

“Give them more room to choose as they get older,” she added. And never get into a power struggle with your kids about eating, food or even healthy food, she said. “Make sure you are not overcontrolling, overeducating or over-lecturing them, or they will rebel in the food arena.”

5. Get creative

Rachel Matos, a social media marketing strategist, says her teenage son would live on chicken wings and Pop-Tarts if she let him. He has always been picky about eating his greens but loves his juices, she said. “Instead of arguing every night at dinner, I got a juicer … and started making him natural fruit juices and smoothies but gradually started adding in kale, spinach and other greens.”

He noticed the change in color but continued to enjoy the taste, so as time went on, she added more and more greens. Now, he can drink a kale or spinach drink with no issue. “The juices helped him develop taste for veggies. He also notices how much better he feels when he drinks them consistently,” she said.

McSweeney, the podcast host, has another idea, this one for younger kids: Present healthy food in a creative way, such as hosting a purple night. “Everyone dresses in purple for a purple meal. Menu items could include purple peppers, purple cauliflower, purple potatoes, grapes and/or eggplant,” she said. “Savor the day!”

6. Model healthy eating

Our kids watch everything we do, so it should be no surprise that they can be influenced to make better choices if they watch us doing the same. Pam Moore says her kids, ages 3 and 5, always see her and husband eating healthy. “Both my husband and I typically add greens to our eggs (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, whatever is around) at breakfast. I always add greens to my smoothies. I often keep sliced veggies (bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers) washed, sliced and ready to eat for snacks,” said Moore, founder of the blog Whatevs.

Added Parnass, the author and psychotherapist, “Our children will ask for bites as time goes on, as they like to copy what we do, not what we say.”

7. Forget about making your kids clear their plates

Cherylyn Harley LeBon, a lawyer, strategist and mother of two, says that as a child who was the last person sitting at her table many nights, she is not a fan of making kids stay at the table until they are finished with their meal. “If they do not want to finish their vegetables or meal, they are welcome to leave the table, but there is nothing else to eat,” she said.

Moore, of the Whatevs blog, said she and her husband never force their kids to eat anything and are not in a habit of fixing them a separate dinner. “If they refuse to eat the meal, we tell them that’s OK, but that’s all there is, and they can eat again at breakfast,” she said. “If they want a second helping of, say, steak, and they have not finished whatever veggies are on their plate, we tell them they have to finish what’s there before they can have more of something else.”

8. Words matter

John Furjanic, a single father of one, said his daughter is the second-smallest child in her elementary school class – she’s about to begin fifth grade – and is acutely aware of the size difference between her and her classmates. Recently, she surprised Furjanic by repeating one of his mantras, which is “Protein builds muscles.”

“I flex my muscles when I say it, and she rolls her eyes, but apparently she has been listening,” said Furjanic, who works as a financial adviser. “I’m ecstatic that she is asking me to make chicken, steak and eggs.”

9. Get colorful

Kathy Beymer, founder of the craft site Merriment Design, said that her mom taught her when she was growing up that she should eat a bunch of colors on her plate, so she has passed that on to her kids. “We talk about food colors and how it’s healthiest to make meals that have a variety of colors, a little red, a little green, some orange, a bit of yellow,” said Beymer, a mom of two. “If everything on the plate is beige, then they know that’s not a healthy meal and that they need to add some brighter colors.”

10. Consider “litterless lunches”

Julie Cole, a mother of six and co-founder of the personalized labeling company Mabel’s Labels, says that packing “litterless lunches” will mean you are not sending in “pre-packaged snacks that are often loaded with salt or sugar.” It will encourage you to pack more fresh fruit and fresh veggies, she said. “Healthy snacks and good for the environment? Sign me up.”

11. Experiment

Jennifer Bosse, a mother of two boys ages 4 and 6, analyzed the family diet a few years ago and realized there were some “obvious tweaks” they could make to ensure healthier eating. She realized they were consuming a lot of bread at each meal, and pasta was on the weekly lunch and dinner rotation. So, she did some research and started trying new things.

Instead of pasta noodles for spaghetti, she switched to spaghetti squash. When she makes baked goods like muffins, she uses alternative flours like coconut and almond. Instead of oil, she uses unsweetened applesauce.

“I’ve made some dishes that my boys absolutely loved and others that weren’t as successful,” said Bosse, who has contributed to the Huffington Post, Scary Mommy and Mamalode. “It’s an ongoing process. … Some days, I hit a home run. Other days, I have to pull out the chicken nuggets. As with everything else in life, moderation is key.”


Article by Kelly Wallace, CNN   Tue September 5, 2017
source: www.cnn.com

1 Comment

Skimping On Sleep In Childhood Could Speed Up Cellular Aging

New U.S. research has found that children who sleep less appear to age faster at the cellular level – a process which can have a negative effect on health later in life.

Previous smaller studies on adults have already suggested that sleep might be linked to a shortening of telomeres – the protective “caps” at the end of our chromosomes.

Telomeres naturally get shorter as we age, every time our cells divide. However, certain lifestyle factors such as lack of sleep, poor diet, and lack of exercise, appear to accelerate this process.

When telomeres get too short, it is believed that cells are no longer able to divide in order to repair and replenish the body – a sign of aging.

Reported by New Scientist, the new study was carried out by researchers Sarah James and Daniel
Notterman and their team from Princeton University, and set out to see if sleep was linked to telomere length in children, not only adults.

The researchers gathered information from a database of 1,567 nine-year-old children from cities across the U.S., which included the children’s average sleep duration.

Saliva samples were also taken from each child to extract DNA and examine the length of their telomeres.

The results showed that those who had a shorter sleep duration also had shorter telomeres, with telomere length 1.5 per cent shorter for each hour less that children sleep per night.

The findings could be significant for children’s future health, as short telomeres have previously been linked to cancer, heart disease and cognitive decline.

Although at just 9 years old the children in the study didn’t show any signs of these conditions, James still commented that the study “raises concerns.”

Exactly how much sleep adults should be getting can be confusing, with some previous studies suggesting that too much sleep could be just as bad as too little. However, it appeared in this study that in the case of children and cell ageing more sleep is better, with James advising sticking to the current recommendation of between 9 and 11 hours of sleep per night.

Whether more sleep could actually help reverse telomere shortening remains unknown.

The findings can be found published online in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Relaxnews   Friday, July 7, 2017 
source:  www.ctvnews.ca

Leave a comment

Busy Schedules are Putting Children’s Health at Risk

‘Worry and busyness and stress is robbing children of their peace of mind,’ says child therapist

According to child and family therapist Michele Kambolis, children are vulnerable to anxiety and stress preventing them from getting a good night’s sleep.

Busy schedules, too many worries and a lack of sleep could be threatening the health of your children, one expert is warning parents.

Vancouver-based child and family therapist Michele Kambolis says she often hears from children who say they are working with tutors or doing homework late into the night.

“Worry and busyness and stress is robbing children of their peace of mind,” she says.

But getting enough sleep is crucial to a child’s development, Kambolis says.

“It’s a non-negotiable part of their health. Children who are sleep-deprived are at risk for a whole host of problems including difficulties at school.”

Cultural attitudes to sleep play a big role, she notes.

“We seem to live in a culture that doesn’t value sleep in the way that it should,” she says.
“Our lifestyles are more hurried and more worried and a lot of busy, busy activity is falling into the time of day when children really need brain rest.
“We’re focusing on high productivity and we know that children match us. They match our choice and our behaviour.
“It’s really important to create a clear delineation between the busyness of the day and nighttime when children can wind down, lean into our care and talk about whatever worries have arisen throughout the day.”

(Natalie Holdway/CBC)

Some of her tips include:

  • Cut back on children’s screen time an hour and a half before bed.
  • If nighttime wetting is a problem, help keep kids dry by using absorbent bedtime pants.
  • Address dietary issues. Caffeine and sugar late in the day makes it very difficult for kids to sleep at night.
  • Practice ways to calm the mind and body in order to facilitate sleep.
  • Communicate with teachers, day care providers or other caregivers about how the child is functioning through the day to see if a lack of sleep is causing concern.


CBC News      Posted: May 17, 2017 
source; www.cbc.ca

Leave a comment

Sleep Apnea in Children Tied to Changes in Brain

In children with a common condition that causes them to periodically stop breathing during sleep, areas of the brain involved with thinking and problem-solving appear to be smaller than in children who sleep normally, a study finds.

Researchers can’t say the brain changes actually cause problems for children at home or school, but they do say the condition, known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), has been tied to behavior and cognitive problems.

“It really does seem that there is a change in the brain or that the brain is affected,” said study author Paul Macey, who is director of technology and innovation at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Nursing.

Macey and colleagues write in Scientific Reports that up to 5 percent of all children are affected by OSA. The condition causes the child’s airway to become blocked, which ultimately causes the brain to go without oxygen for short periods of time and may wake the child up.

Previous studies on lab animals and adults with OSA have shown changes in the brain due to nerve cells dying, they add.

For the new study, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to analyze the volume of children’s gray matter, which is the outermost layer of the brain that allows for higher levels of functioning like problem solving.

They compared brain scans from 16 children with OSA and 200 children without the condition. All the youngsters were between 7 and 11 years old.

Overall, children with OSA had decreases in gray matter volume in areas of the brain important for controlling cognition and mood, compared to the other children.

Macey, who is also affiliated with the UCLA Brain Research Institute, said it’s unclear how closely changes in the brain are connected to behavior, cognition and other issues.

“We know these two things are happening, but we’re not sure how much the reduced gray matter tracks with poor scores,” he told Reuters Health.

The researchers also can’t say exactly why OSA is tied to reduce gray matter volume among children. A lack of oxygen may kill off brain cells or it may stop the brain from properly developing, for example.

Macey’s team wants to see whether treating the condition helps children get back on track with their healthy peers.

“If we did that we would know better how people recover from it or not,” he said.

Dr. Eliot Katz, of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, said previous research shows treating OSA by removing tonsils and adenoids improves children’s school performance, behavior and sleep-related issues. Evidence is mixed on whether it improves cognition.

Katz, who wasn’t involved with the new study, said the previous research on problems faced by children with OSA – like behavior and cognition – is fitting nicely with the brain imaging studies.

“This is really the first large, really well controlled study that has found decrements in gray matter in children with obstructive sleep apnea,” he told Reuters Health.

He said parents should discuss symptoms of OSA with children’s healthcare providers. Those symptoms include chronic snoring and gaps in breathing while they sleep.

“Sleep complaints are often not addressed in well child care visits,” he said, or in training programs for pediatricians.

He advises parents to “take a brief phone video of the breathing pattern that’s concerning to them and show it to their pediatrician.”

Macey said daytime tiredness and mood issues can also be symptoms of OSA. Children who are overweight and obese are at higher risk for the condition.

By Andrew M. Seaman (Reuters Health) 
source:    bit.ly/2mY9IFX        Scientific Reports, online March 17, 2017.        www.reuters.com

Leave a comment

TV Ads May Spur Snacking in Kids as Young as Two

Mindless snacking in front of the television set may start long before children know how to work the remote control, a U.S. study suggests.

In an experiment with 60 kids aged 2 to 5 years, researchers focused on how advertising influences what’s known as eating in the absence of hunger.

They gave all the children a healthy snack to make sure they had a full belly, and then sat the kids down to watch a TV program with ads for Bugles corn chips or for a department store.

All of the kids had Bugles corn chips and one other snack in front of them while they watched the show. Children who saw ads for the corn chips ate 127 calories on average, compared to just 97 calories for kids who didn’t see Bugles on the screen, researchers report in Pediatrics.

“This is the first study to show that exposure to food ads cues immediate eating among younger children – even after they had a filling snack,” said lead study author Jennifer Emond of Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

“Young children average up to three hours of TV viewing a day,” Emond added by email. “If kids are exposed to food ads during that time, they may unconsciously over consume snacks which can lead to extra weight gain.”

More than one third of U.S. children are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against any screen time for children younger than 18 months and suggests no more than an hour a day for kids aged 2 to 5 in part to encourage language development, support healthy sleep habits and limit sedentary activity that can set preschoolers on a path toward obesity.

The type of TV program matters too. The AAP encourages educational programming like “Sesame Street” that can support language learning.

For the experiment, researchers sat kids down to watch a 14-minute segment of “Elmo’s World” that included three minutes of advertising.


Before the show started, all of the kids could snack as much as they liked on banana, sliced cheese and crackers. They also got water to drink.

Children were randomly assigned to view ads for national department stores or to watch Bugles spots that showed kids playing and eating the corn chips.

While the shows played, kids were given bowls of Nabisco Teddy Grahams and Bugles corn snacks.

There wasn’t a meaningful association between how much kids ate during the program and their age, weight or the way their parents typically supervised mealtime at home.

In particular, researchers looked at whether parental feeding restrictions – which can include things like pressuring kids to eat or prohibiting certain foods – and didn’t find any association between these practices and the amount of snacks kids consumed in the experiment.

One limitation of the experiment is that it included mostly white, affluent rural kids, which may make the results less relevant to the broader population of U.S. children, the authors note.

Young children can also be unreliable when they tell adults whether they are full, so it’s possible some children who claimed they had enough to eat before watching TV were actually hungry, the researchers also point out.

Even so, the findings should give parents another reason to limit children’s exposure to media that comes with advertising, said Dr. Julie Lumeng, a researcher at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Many children’s programs are now instead using product placement to advertise,” Lumeng added by email. “Parents should also pay attention to how product placement occurs in the television programs or other media their young children may be watching.”

Age 2 may be too young to understand how ads can influence behavior, Lumeng noted.

“But parents can consider gradually introducing the power of advertising to young children as a strategy for helping their children resist the effects of these ads,” Lumeng said. “Ultimately limiting the child’s exposure to the ads is the key strategy.”

 By Lisa Rapaport    Reuters Health

 SOURCE: bit.ly/2fCqsMF Pediatrics, online November 21, 2016.

 source: http://www.reuters.com

Leave a comment

Childhood Obesity: Sizing Up Our Kids

A new Senate committee report on the obesity crisis in Canada was released this week. It includes 21 recommendations to combat the high rate of obesity, including a ban on food and drink advertising aimed at children, a tax on sugary drinks and creating government subsidies for healthy food.

Feeding a child can be simple—in the beginning, at least. Weight gain is celebrated: We smother plump bellies with raspberry kisses, gush over dimpled knees and happily dole out extra helpings. After all, food is love; it’s warmth; it’s family. Until suddenly it’s not. Baby fat blossoms into a fleshy frame. Bullies take their toll. Maybe food becomes a solace, consumed mindlessly while staring into screens, turning flesh into flab. As a parent, do you even see it?

Many of us don’t. Parental bias can stack its own mental blocks. In the past year, three major studies have concluded most parents fail to recognize when their child is overweight. One study from New York University, involving nearly 7,000 kids, found the vast majority of parents felt that even their obese children were “just about the right weight.”

Yet it’s also true that overweight kids don’t stand out as they once did. Children all over the world are heavier than they ever have been. As the World Health Organization reported in January, 41 million children under age five are now overweight or obese—in 1990, the number was 31 million—a spike blamed largely on the consumption of processed foods and not enough physical activity. In Canada, the rate has tripled over the past 30 years; almost a third of children between ages five and 17 are overweight or obese.

“It’s quite natural that parents don’t recognize it, because we assess ourselves by comparison and look at everyone else,” says Tom Warshawski, a paediatrician and chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation in Kelowna, BC. But experts agree this is a worrisome gap in perception, as parents who don’t see a weight problem are unlikely to help a child overcome it, and there’s no sugar-coating the end result: Most children will not grow out of it. “If you are obese at 16,” says Warshawski, “there’s an 80 percent chance you will be obese as an adult.”

With obesity comes a long list of life-threatening ailments: hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, respiratory problems, bone conditions and many more. Some scientists predict that with the record-high rates of childhood obesity, today’s kids will be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents. Last November, the American Heart Association reported that obese kids as young as eight are showing signs of heart disease. Says Warshawski: “We are setting our children up for a life of ill health.”

Of course, it’s a prognosis no parent wants to hear. Yet even if you recognize that your child is overweight, figuring out what to do next can be daunting. There’s no magic potion to make pounds disappear, and most obesity research has focused on adults. In fact, helping a child reach or maintain a healthy weight may be one of the thorniest challenges of modern parenting.

It’s hard enough for adults to lose weight, and we presumably have more patience, reason and willpower. No one wants to police the pantry or make a kid count calories. In most families, fat is the other F-word. So how—in a conflicted world that’s thin-obsessed but awash in junk food—do you manage a child’s weight without creating lifelong anxieties around eating and body image?

Very carefully, says Laurie Clark, an Ottawa psychologist at the Centre for Healthy Active Living (CHAL) at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. At CHAL, there’s a team of specialists who help children with severe obesity and their families improve their health through behavioural and lifestyle changes. But none of it is set in the context of losing weight or slimming down—rather, it’s all about getting fit and healthy.

When kids are just starting to develop their relationship with food and themselves, Clark says it’s important they hear that healthy bodies come in different shapes and sizes, and that the goal of making healthier lifestyle choices is “to be active and happy in our bodies.” So instead of talking about calories or diets, which “sets kids up to be preoccupied with that,” she says, discuss choices in terms of good health and overall happiness. “If a child is functioning well and has no other health issues, a parent needs to step back and say, How are we running our household?”

The most critical step in managing a child’s weight, experts say, is to recognize that the issue is not about the child—it’s about the family. When lifestyle changes are the best (and usually the only) available treatment for a kid carrying excess weight, those changes have to be adopted by everyone.

“You may see the problem with one child, but weight is a reflection of genetics and environment,” Warshawski says. “So it’s actually a problem with the whole family that’s just showing up in this one kid.”

About 16 different genes impact an individual’s propensity to gain weight, Warshawski says, and you can see the effect even in infancy. One baby will be content after four ounces of milk, while another needs three more to feel full. “That will continue into childhood, but now the food you’re filling him with is rich in fats and sugars. So one child can eat whatever she wants and never gain, while others just see food and pack on the pounds. That’s the way genetics interplays with the environment.”

But unlike genes, the environment is something parents can generally control, especially in the younger years, when we hold more sway than peers and when the chances are highest of forming healthy lifelong habits. Yet studies suggest that many families have a long way to go: Most kids—seven out of 10 of those between ages four and nine—do not eat the recommended five-serving minimum of fruits and vegetables each day, and only seven percent of five- to 11-year-old kids get the daily recommended minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity.

Which is why, in 2013, Warshawski’s foundation helped launch a family-based program in BC called MEND, short for Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It! Started in the UK in 2004, the program takes a hands-on approach to helping parents and kids with weight issues become fitter, healthier and happier by teaching them how to make healthy food choices and live more active lives. Run out of local recreation centres, the free 10-week program involves at least 20 visits with a team of specialists. It also includes a three-month membership to the community rec centre and a tour of a grocery store to learn how to shop healthily.

Obesity & Children
Ed.’s Note: A new Senate committee report
on the obesity crisis in Canada was released this week.
It includes 21 recommendations to combat the high rate of obesity,
including a ban on food and drink advertising aimed at children,
a tax on sugary drinks and creating government subsidies for healthy food.

It’s a big commitment, says Warshawski, but studies suggest it can make a difference in reducing weight and body mass index. However, he cautions, it may not work for everyone: “I saw a family yesterday, and they are all still gaining weight; another is doing really well. It’s not one-size-fits-all.” What is key, he says, is that “the whole family has to buy into the lifestyle solutions for this to work—if you get the habits right, you’ll get the body that’s right for you.”

At the CHAL program in Ottawa, dietitian Anna Aylett says that any attempts to change the lifestyle of just one child are likely to backfire. “I often see families where they have started to restrict the overweight children by not giving them dessert or treats, but it can lead to food sneaking,” she says. There may be genetic differences in a family that make one child prone to gaining weight, but the food available has to be the same for everyone in the household, Aylett says. “You have to have the same rules for everyone.”

Doing otherwise can make your kid feel unfairly singled out and cause her to associate feelings of guilt and shame with eating. Instead, experts say, it’s up to parents to create a healthy food environment for everyone and then practise a clear division of responsibility on food matters—parents decide what, when and where the family eats; children choose how much they want to eat.

If a child, however, seems to suddenly gain weight, there could be underlying forces at work. Stasia Hadjiyannakis, a paediatric endocrinologist and director of the CHAL program, says parents should find out if there are genetic factors that could be influencing weight or whether kids are eating in private, skipping meals or not getting enough sleep. Screens, especially in the bedroom, she notes, can interfere with sleep and lead to hormonal changes “that can impact your appetite and increase the risk for obesity.”

Emotions can also figure powerfully into food relationships. After all, the idea that people eat their feelings has been around longer than ice cream binges have been associated with breakups. Alex Jadad, for instance, a renowned University of Toronto physician and founder of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, learned the hard way that unhappiness was at the root of his 10-year-old daughter’s overeating.

Jadad and his wife hadn’t even realized their daughter Alia had gone from chubby to obese. “I think sometimes familiarity breeds blindness,” says Jadad. But then she told them that she was being bullied at school because of her weight. “They called her ‘Blue Marshmallow,’ because of her blue jacket…. They taunted her with chocolate,” he says. “That’s how we found out [she was obese]—we didn’t realize it ourselves. You know your child, you see her all the time, and she’s perfect—and she was perfect.”

Only when they took Alia to the doctor did they discover that school bullies were not the true source of her sadness—as Alia diagnosed herself: “She said, ‘I’m jealous.’” Jadad explained that his wife’s niece had recently come to live with them, and Alia felt displaced. “She was overeating to compensate. Weight was the issue, but it was a manifestation of other things.”

Alia’s revelation marked the beginning of a long journey—one the Jadad family took together. They bought bicycles, educated themselves about nutrition and eliminated most sugar from their diet. They even grocery shopped together, making a game of it to find packaged products that did not carry one of the 50 sugar synonyms on their labels. (It was almost impossible, he says.)

Alia, now a grown woman, did eventually lose weight, but more important, says Jadad, is that his daughter and the whole family created a new and healthier—and happier—lifestyle for themselves. Alia also switched to a new school, where she thrived and regained her self-confidence.

The point, he says, is that “it’s not an individual’s responsibility to solve—it’s not ‘Oh, there’s something wrong with you.’ It wasn’t her fault, and it cannot be a case of telling your child, ‘Don’t do this. Don’t eat that. Don’t eat this.’” It’s about getting the family back to fundamentals, says Jadad, who is a founding member of the Canadian Obesity Network.

Blaming individuals for being overweight only contributes to the discrimination and isolation they already face. “What makes this problem so monumental,” Jadad says, “is that it’s one of those rare cases where the stigma alone can become a public health problem because of the toll it takes on mental health.” In fact, Warshawski notes, kids who are obese rate the quality of their lives lower than children undergoing cancer therapy.

What’s important is that children feel good about themselves by making healthy choices. “We know a lot comes down to the way our body was designed, and there’s a strong biologic response to weight loss —that’s why it’s often regained. Ideally, prevention happens early on,” says Hadjiyannakis. For example, encouraging kids to move, play and be physically active is a huge step in the right direction.

“I think it’s about shifting the outcome we’re celebrating,” she says. “So we might not see a big change in body weight, but if we have patients that find a new physical activity they love—that’s a success, and that’s something people can control, more than a number on a scale.”

By the numbers

The MEND program encourages families to follow the daily 5-2-1-0 formula: five servings of fruits and veggies; no more than two hours of screen time; at least one hour of activity and zero sugary drinks.

Taking measure

The body mass index isn’t a fail-proof way to diagnose childhood obesity—if your kid is muscular, for instance, the results might be skewed. That said, tracking BMI is a good starting point to help you and your paediatrician monitor your kid’s growth.

Today’s Parent    Carolyn Abraham    2016-03-02
source: www.msn.com


Junk Food Ads Sway Kids’ Preferences

Children under 8 most vulnerable to marketing’s effects, study says

Any parent who’s ever endured a whining child begging for that colorful box of cereal won’t be surprised by a new study’s findings: Children are more likely to eat junk food when they’ve seen ads for unhealthy foods and beverages.

The new review included 29 past studies. There were more than 6,000 children involved in those studies.

The researchers found that ads and other marketing for products high in sugar or salt have an immediate and major impact on youngsters. And children younger than age 8 might be most susceptible to junk food and beverage marketing, the study authors reported.

The findings show the influence that such ads can have on children, said lead author Behnam Sadeghirad, a doctoral student at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

tv watch

“This [review] shows that the extensive exposure kids have to marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages via product packaging (superheroes, logos), TV and the internet increases their short-term caloric intake and preference for junk food,” Sadeghirad said in a university news release.

Unhealthy products account for more than 80 percent of all televised food ads in the United States and Canada, according to past research. The authors behind the new study noted that recent research revealed that children see an average of five food ads an hour.

Study corresponding author Bradley Johnston said, “Overall, our analyses show the need for a review of public policy on child-targeted unhealthy food and beverage marketing.” Johnston is an assistant professor in the department of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster.

“The increasing prevalence of obesity seems to further coincide with marked increases in the food and beverage industry’s budget for marketing aimed at children and youth, with data showing that energy-dense, low-nutrient foods and beverages make up the majority of commercially marketed products,” Johnston said.

WebMD News from HealthDay    By Robert Preidt   HealthDay Reporter  TUESDAY, July 5, 2016 
SOURCE: McMaster University, news release, July 5, 2016    HealthDay   WebMD