Man, there has been a ton of obesity-related news this week (no pun intended).
Kids who sleep in their parents' bed (those that don't suffocate when a parent rolls over on them or die of SIDS, that is -- the studies are conflicting) are less likely to be overweight than kids who always sleep on their own.
(Also, Meow, a literal "fat cat," has died from complications related to his morbid obesity. This kitty weighed in at a whopping 39 pounds! And, yes, I realize that this one is a little off-topic.)
I could go on. There are also a lot of "fixes" out there for the obesity epidemic--everything from national policies to questionable medical devices and weight-loss pills or "cleanses" to "personal responsibility." Ultimately, though, the individual solution to a weight problem means balancing calories in vs. calories out. And it's almost summer here in Minnesota, so get out there and do something. Take a walk over lunch. Ride your bike to and from work. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. It turns out that you only need 20 minutes of moving around to get most of the benefits of exercise and that 100 fewer calories a day can have a major effect: 10 pounds in a year. And dropping 500 calories per day can mean a weight loss of almost a pound a week.
I thought this BMI visualizer was pretty cool. Give it a try. It will probably inspire you to go jogging or something...
I have to admit that I’ve been out of the school lunch loop for quite some time now. And I seem to recall that it wasn’t too long ago that many schools, faced with school lunch budgets that were feeling the squeeze, were turning toward more fast-food type menus to try to encourage participation and sales.
But a new study out last week says that schools are making a big move toward healthier meals for school kids who are increasingly dealing with overweight issues.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reported that last year, about 19 percent of school cafeterias were serving French fries, down from about the 40 percent serving them six years earlier.
Another gauge of healthier school food items: the same survey showed that high-fat baked goods were becoming more rare at school fundraisers, declining to 54 percent of the offerings last year compared to 67 percent six years earlier.
One more sign of healthier times: about half of schools today offer bottled water instead of sugary sodas or sports drinks at vending machines or snack bars. Only about a third of schools had bottled water available six years ago.
Latest statistics show that about one-third of the kids in the U.S. are overweight and 17 percent are considered obese.
Here’s the study stat that I found really hard to believe: about one-third of schools in the country still allow tobacco use on campus and at school events by adults. That’s an improvement from six years ago, when about half of schools in the country had smoking bans. In Minnesota, schools have banned smoking on their grounds for a much longer time than that, I believe. Public health officials still have a goal of having a total smoking ban on school grounds.
The new study finds that some of that stigmatization can happen as early as three years old. And it’s not just other kids who hold a peer’s size against them. The study found that teachers, even parents, can have bias against large kids based solely on their weight.
Here are some startling findings of the report:
• Youngsters who’ve said that they’ve been picked on or teased because of their weight are two to three times more likely to report considering suicide.
• When asked to describe kids who were overweight, the most commonly used terms by other kids were mean, stupid, ugly and sloppy.
• Another study found that among middle school and high school teachers, 20 percent said that overweight kids were untidy, less likely to succeed and more emotional in their behavior.
Of course, there are the obvious health risks for overweight kids to contend with as well. But the whole issue takes on even more urgency when you look at the current demographic trends. By the year 2010, it’s estimated that almost 50 percent of children in North America will be classified as “obese.”
Maybe you’ve seen the current network television show where Shaquille O’Neal is helping a crew of overweight kids to lose weight. I haven’t see it yet, but it’s great step to turning this trend around in two ways, I think.
It will give overweight kids inspiration to lose weight themselves and maybe it will help other people see the “human” side of those who are overweight.
Is this a real serious problem? What other ideas to you have to try to turn around this situation? Share them here with other Science Buzz readers.