These modern foods are holding your child back
“Junk food is killing our children.”
It may shock you to hear such a bold statement, especially as a parent, but Professor W. Philip T. James, M.D., chairman of the International Obesity Task Force, says we can no longer hide from the truth. What our kids eat is hindering their growth and development. It may even be shortening their lives.
JUNK FOOD AND CHILD OBESITY
If the obesity epidemic continues at its current rate, our kids will bear the brunt of the burden, says the International Obesity Task Force.1 There are now over 300 million obese people around the globe, defined as a condition of excess body fat associated with chronic disease. Obesity affects men, women, and children in both developed and developing countries. Based on World Health Organization standards, it is possible that up to 22 million children under the age of 5 are overweight.
In the U.S. alone, the amount of overweight children from ages 5 to 14 has doubled within the past 30 years, increasing from 15 per cent to 32 per cent.
As parents hyper-vigilant about our children’s wellbeing, what are we doing wrong? The problem lies on your child’s plate, in the inflammatory, processed foods they eat at each meal. These junk foods are the modern favourites, like bread, pastry, cereal, potatoes, white rice, dairy, pasta, and processed foods. On the contrary, Really Healthy Foods like vegetables, dark-skinned fruits, seeds, nuts, beans, grass-fed meats, poultry, fish, and sprouted grains refresh and restore. These foods promote healthy development in children and can reduce the risk of disease later in life.
When looking for answers, researchers point to one major problem in the junk food pandemic: It’s everywhere. You, like many parents, may have a few junk foods in the kitchen at home that your kids love to eat. An even bigger issue lies in the widespread availability of junk food in schools, another contributor to childhood obesity. Researchers agree that junk food access is a major problem for today’s students, strongly correlated to weight gain and obesity in adolescence and adulthood.2 The American Psychological Association places the blame on advertising – increases in junk food advertising have clear associations with rates of childhood obesity.3
JUNK FOOD ADDICTION STARTS BEFORE BIRTH
Giving your child processed foods in moderation may not seem like a problem, especially when everyone else is doing it. Junk foods are at school. Junk foods are at birthday parties. Junk foods are in restaurants – it seems our kids cannot escape them.
But as we dig deeper and begin to understand how these processed foods are crippling our children, this junk food infiltration becomes even more serious. It starts earlier than we realize.
Most women are well aware of the fact that a healthy diet during pregnancy is essential to support a healthy baby. 2013 research from The FASEB Journal proved just how important a healthy pregnancy diet is: It can affect your child’s health for the rest of their life. Pregnant mothers who ate junk food caused developmental changes in the brains of their unborn children. These changes occurred in the opioid signaling pathways, decreasing opioid sensitivity. As a result, the children were born less sensitive to the opioids released after eating processed, sugary foods – babies were born “addicted” to junk food and needed to eat more to achieve the same reward sensation after eating.4
A processed food diet in early childhood has long been proven to lower IQ. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals may have the opposite effect, say researchers who conducted the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) on close to 14,000 children. In the study, a healthy diet led to the highest IQ by the age of 8.5 years old.5
3 CHILDHOOD OBESITY SOLUTIONS THAT START AT HOME
The solution to childhood obesity is simple, but no one said it was going to be easy. Junk food is everywhere, and it is shortening the lives of the next generation. When your family makes a commitment to “junk the junk” and change habits, you are not only improving your children’s health today, but you are reducing their risk of disease tomorrow.
Here’s where to begin:
1. Anti-Junk Food Diet: Junk food in the womb and junk food in the early years has a devastating effect on a child’s health.
The solution is simple: The Anti-Junk Food Diet is the Really Healthy Foods Diet, rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, nourishing proteins, and healthy fats that support brain development. This anti-inflammatory diet is most important during pregnancy and in the younger years – and should continue through childhood and beyond.
2. Anti-Junk Food Nutrition: Even the best Really Healthy Foods diet can’t provide all the nutrients your child needs for healthy brain, behavioral, and physical development in each stage of life. A daily full-spectrum vitamin with 90 vitamins and minerals can bridge this gap. These nutrients are most effectively absorbed and distributed throughout the body with powerful digestive support: Daily digestive enzymes can improve digestion and ensure a healthy gut. Children also need a daily probiotic to strengthen the gut barrier, offering natural resistance to infection, food allergies and sensitivities, and chronic inflammation that contributes to disease.
3. Daily Activity: Inactive kids are likely to become inactive adults, says the American Heart Association. Physical inactivity is one of the top risk factors for coronary artery disease and can increase the risk of lifestyle conditions like high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. This is not a burden you want to place on your child at such a young age. Teach healthy habits early on by making exercise a part of your daily life. Take a walk each night after dinner to unwind, reconnect, and reap countless social, psychological, and physical benefits.
Instead of looking at the childhood obesity crisis as a challenge, you can see it as an opportunity. This is your chance to do things differently than the previous generation did. By making a few simple changes at home, you’re giving your kids a priceless gift of a longer and fuller life.
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1. “The Global Challenge of Obesit…” International Union of Nutritional Sciences.
2. J Policy Anal Manage. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 May 30. Published in final edited form as: J Policy Anal Manage. 2012 Spring; 31(2): 312–337.
3. American Psychological Association (2004). Report of the APA task force on advertising and children. Washington, DC: Author.
4. J. R. Gugusheff, Z. Y. Ong, B. S. Muhlhausler. A maternal “junk-food” diet reduces sensitivity to the opioid antagonist naloxone in offspring postweaning. The FASEB Journal, 2012; DOI: 10.1096/fj.12- 217653
5. K. Northstone, C. Joinson, P. Emmett, A. Ness, T. Paus. Are dietary patterns in childhood associated with IQ at 8 years of age? A population-based cohort study. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 2011; DOI: 10.1136/jech.2010.111955
6. “The AHA’s Recommendations for Physical Activity in Children.” Heart.org.