Monday, October 21, 2013

More is not better: Americans struggle with obesity

By Michael Aland
Obesity is a major problem, not only in America, but also in most countries, both developed and developing.  Childhood obesity statistics show that obese children and especially those in the teenage years have a 70% chance of being obese as adults.  This percentage increases to 80% if either one or both of the parents are obese(Hunt 23).  The epidemic of childhood obesity needs to be put to an end.  Who or what is ultimately responsible for childhood obesity?
While searching for major causes of childhood obesity, I came upon a very interesting article, which had a very different point of view than a majority of articles on the same topic, which read, “Obesity should be viewed as a consequence of a toxic environment, rather than the population failing to take enough personal responsibility” (Schwartz 79).  The article titled, “Actions Necessary to Prevent Childhood Obesity” by Marlene Schwartz, raises the argument that in order to make progress in decreasing the prevalence of obesity we must shift our views away from the medical aspect, and more toward public health, focusing on the population.  Schwartz gives many good examples of how a child can have the desire to make unhealthy choices just by driving down the street.  Children see many different signs, which draw their attention, most of which are fast-food establishments.  Children are drawn in but the parents who are driving them down the road are as well.  Essentially we are being enticed by these fast-food conglomerates everywhere we go.
Schwartz explains that humans are predisposed to prefer sweet foods, and as infants learn to prefer the flavor of high fat and high salt foods(78).  Learning at such a young age to desire these types of food, will have a lasting effect that is not going to magically disappear as you get older.  Eating healthy is critical while trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Majority of Americans lead very busy and stressful lives, and when it comes to the end of the day, eating healthy isn’t really thought about.  Most of the time the easiest way to deal with hunger at the end of the day is to pick up food instead of cooking it.  This isn’t good when you have been snacking on donuts from the office and topping it off with a sixty-four ounce Coke.  Schwartz makes very valid points that most of us would never think about.  The marketing toward children alone to eat unhealthy is extremely high.  There is a wide range of advertising techniques that specifically target children.
While searching along the lines of different types of marketing toward children, a very well written article comes into view, “Catchy Cartoons, Wayward Websites and Mobile Marketing:  Food Marketing to Children in a Global World.”  In this article, Clare Corbett and Colin Walker state, by 2050, 70% of girls and 55% of boys will be overweight or obese, compared to 30% obesity rate today.  This article shows many types of marketing and how it affects children, stating very similar arguments as the article mentioned earlier, concerning how marketing can affect all of us.  Corbett brings up the main argument of low regulations regarding the promotion of unhealthy food toward children on television, and how they need to become stricter.  Television is not to blame alone; the internet and mobile marketing need to raise the bar as well. 
The way unhealthy foods are presented to us can and does have an effect on how decisions are made.  The way certain things are marketed is very appealing to some, and not so appealing to others. Marketing alone can’t be the only reason for this epidemic.  The way the argument was presented in the article, pointed fingers only at the marketing and not anywhere else.  There are some very good points, but not enough for anyone to close the book on the subject.
Many theories explain how humans are genetically wired to become obese.  Nothing they try or do will make them average weight.  There are doctors researching, countless hours, trying to find a solution if there is one.  One day maybe finding this no-name gene and eliminate it. 
A group out of the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, research and compare parental feeding styles and tried to predict the outcome, trying to see whether these associations were dependent on children’s predisposition to obesity.  The article entitled, “Parental Feeding Attitudes and Styles and Child Body Mass Index: Prospective Analysis of a Gene-Environmental Interaction,” shows the results of 57 families that were tested ranging from high risk families to low risk families ages 3 to 7.  The authors come to the conclusion of the relationship between parental feeding styles and child’s BMI scores that suggest a gene-environment interaction, which in turn may produce additional weight gain. 
This just shows how vital it is to provide a firm foundation for children, centered on healthy eating habits.  When children are fed garbage food, something is triggered which reprograms children to want garbage, altering children’s genes in the process.  The lasting effects of unhealthy dieting are not something anyone should ever want for their children.
Continuing research down the path of healthy dieting, an article was found which made things even harder to understand.  The article titled, “Tackling the Epidemic of Childhood Obesity,” in which there is a quote that is very interesting.  Louise Baur, a member of the Canadian Medical Association states, “There shouldn’t be more promotion of physical activity in schools to reduce childhood obesity, but how schools should focus more on the dietary modification of the child.  Baur explains several benefits from physical activity in schools, including improvements in bone mineral density, blood pressure, lean muscle mass and aerobic capacity(701).  Ultimately she concludes the only way to go is to modify the diets of the children.
Does she plan on customizing personal diet plans for every child?  How can anyone make a statement, be so sure of it, and not even come up with a way to accomplish it?  Seeing through personal experience the effects of heavier-set friends dealing both with dietary and physical struggles, knowing that through staying active and maintaining a healthy diet, great things can be accomplished. 
Candida Hunt, the author of, “Tackling Childhood Obesity” introduces Health, Nutrition for the Really Young (HENRY) training courses for preventing childhood obesity.  The courses, which provide training for health and community practitioners working with families, combine key elements for a healthy lifestyle.  Hunt shows an effective way she has proven can work.  There needs to be a want, or desire to become healthy.  There are some families that need the additional help.  Hunt through hard work and diligence came up with a game plan to tackle the epidemic by teaching the entire family how to, and what they need to do to better themselves. 
Searching far and wide, hoping to uncover some sort of solution, to find one or many different ways to prevent childhood obesity, and coming to the conclusion that there isn’t just one solution.  Maybe the key is to look into all aspects and choose for yourself what you need to do.  Even if someone is genetically wired to become obese, that doesn’t mean he/she should give up hope and become an unhealthy person.  We need to make a change and just knowing how or what the changes may be will increase our chance of making it happen.


Baur, L. (2009). Tackling the Epidemic of Childhood Obesity. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 108(7), 701-702. Retrieved Sept 10, 2013, from the Academic Search Premier database.

Corbett, C., & Walker, C. (2009). Catchy Cartoons, Wayward Websites and Mobile Marketing: Food Marketing to Children in a Global World. Education Review, 21(2), 84-92. Retrieved Sept 10, 2013, from the Academic Search Premier database.

Faith, M. (2004). Parental Feeding Attitudes and Styles and Child Body Mass Index: Prospective Analysis of a Gene-Environment Interaction. Pediatrics, 114(4), 429-436. Retrieved Sept 9, 2013, from the Academic Search Premier database.

Hunt, C. (2009). Tackling Childhood Obesity. Primary Health Care, 19(4), 22-24. Retrieved Sept 9, 2013, from the Academic Search Premier database.

Schwartz, M., & Brownell, K. (2007). Actions Necessary to Prevent Childhood Obesity. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 35(1), 78-89. Retrieved Sept 10, 2013, from the Academic Search Premier database.