Three new studies appearing in the journal Pediatrics confirm that the environment in which a child lives in has more impact on their obesity levels than genetics, low physical activity, or other tactics utilized to try to control adolescent obesity.
In just three decades, our youth in this country have literally ballooned in weight from healthy, active teens and pre-teens to children at risk of Type II Diabetes, sleep disorders, cardiovascular disease, and bone and joint problems, which are all associated with being grossly overweight. The heartbreaking part of this equation; however, is it turns out that the adolescent obesity rates which have recently tripled are less the fault of adolescents than we ever might have imagined.
“We are raising our children in a world that is vastly different than it was 40 or 50 years ago,” says Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity doctor and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa. “Childhood obesity is a disease of the environment. It’s a natural consequence of normal kids with normal genes being raised in unhealthy, abnormal environments.”
Surely, the GMO corn which was recently found to cause addiction to gluten is partly accountable, or the fact that children eat fewer home-cooked, organic meals, and instead gorge on the fast-food products hurled at them by mass marketing. The children who challenge the makers of fast-food are in the minority, like the recent young girl who attended a McDonald’s board meeting to chide the CEO for advertising unhealthy fast food to children around the world. Instead of offering clean, purified water to our children, we offer endless soft drinks and sugary ‘sports’ drinks full of xenoestrogen-causing chemicals and high fructose corn syrup. We also force kids to keep crazy schedules that impair their sleep, which can lead to hormonal imbalances that cause them to overeat.
It isn’t just one factor contributing to the obesity rates of the nation, there are multiple reasons – all environmental, by nature. Everything from plate size for portion control (taking away the term ‘super-sizing’ along with the portions that go with it) to observing adults eating too much are proven to contribute to obesity rates in the most recent studies. We are a product of our environment – children especially.
While we may want to blame our ‘fat’ genes on our parents or grandparents, the spike in obesity rates in our children proves this problem has very little to do with genes, and more to do with the way we are living as a society. One of the researchers, Jennifer Fisher, states:
“This notion that children are immune to the environment is somewhat misguided,” says Fisher, who headed up the study. “To promote self-regulation, you have to constrain the environment in a way that makes the healthy choice the easy choice.”
Our kids are learning from our own poor choices when it comes to nutrition and proper weight, but the good news is that as we prove to be better living examples of health and stewards of the land and food supply, our children will follow.