Childhood Obesity and What Need To Be Done

One third of U.S. children and overweight and obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies also show that not only is obesity detrimental to children’s health, but can also have detrimental effects on their self-esteem and their academic productivity.

The Lancet recently published an issue on obesity this month. Here are three points that were repeated throughout the journal in relation to childhood obesity. 

1. Issue: Children and adolescents prefer nutrient-poor, high-caloric foods full of salt, sugar, and fat. 

What can be done: Exposing children to healthy food as early as infancy can help reduce children’s taste preferences. Studies show children learn to develop healthy eating habits when repeatedly exposed to the same foods. Creating a healthy food environment in the home and at school is necessary to prevent the development of unhealthy food preferences among children in the long-run.

2. Issue: U.S. children are 11 pounds heavier than they used to be 30 years ago. 

What can be done: High energy, unhealthy food, especially snacks, provide little to no nutrients to children yet snack foods are designed to be continuously eaten and in larger portions. 

Limiting the portion size of food and beverages in schools and homes can influence children on a micro level. On a bigger scale, regulating food marketing to children is necessary to reduce overconsumption among children, according to the Lancet study. Other examples of food-policy that should be implemented are:

  • Controlling the way food companies are marketing their consumers with misleading information. 
  • Restrict and guide unhealthy food retail in areas usually populated with children.

3. Issue: Lack of affordable and accessible nutritious foods in certain rural and urban neighborhoods. 

What can be done: Increase food subsidies for a longer period of time. Vouchers and financial incentives can encourage families and schools to opt for and afford healthier food.

To affect people with low preferences for these foods, subsidies need to be implemented in the form of an incentive, encouraging people to reassess their preferences, and sustained for a sufficient time to enable preferences and habits to adjust.

What else can we do to curb childhood obesity?