Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Take sugary drinks away from kids and they will lose weight

The New York Times is reporting today that the childhood obesity rate is falling by a small amount in some cities--namely those which have actively discouraged the consumption of sodas and other sugary drinks.

The drops are small, just 5 percent here in Philadelphia and 3 percent in Los Angeles. But experts say they are significant because they offer the first indication that the obesity epidemic, one of the nation’s most intractable health problems, may actually be reversing course. ... (The)  researchers note that declines occurred in cities that have had obesity reduction policies in place for a number of years. Philadelphia has undertaken a broad assault on childhood obesity for years. Sugary drinks like sweetened iced tea, fruit punch and sports drinks started to disappear from school vending machines in 2004.

When anti-obesity campaigns are focused on reducing fat intake or increasing exercise, they never work. The key is to get kids to stop eating foods with added sugars.

Though obesity is now part of the national conversation, with aggressive advertising campaigns in major cities and a push by Michelle Obama, many scientists doubt that anti-obesity programs actually work. Individual efforts like one-time exercise programs have rarely produced results.

Clearly, we still have a fat crisis.

Nationally, about 17 percent of children under 20 are obese, or about 12.5 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ... That rate, which has tripled since 1980, has leveled off in recent years but has remained at historical highs, and public health experts warn that it could bring long-term health risks. Obese children are more likely to be obese as adults, creating a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Cancer Society says that being overweight or obese is the culprit in one of seven cancer deaths. Diabetes in children is up by a fifth since 2000, according to federal data.

Poor blacks and Latinos are the fattest Americans. Why? They eat the most sugar.

Obesity affects poor children disproportionately. Twenty percent of low-income children are obese, compared with about 12 percent of children from more affluent families, according to the C.D.C. Among girls, race is also an important factor. About 25 percent of black girls are obese, compared with 15 percent of white girls.

However, in Philadelphia, where they have taken away sodas and other sugary drinks from schools, the black and Latino kids have been experiencing the largest reductions in weight.

But Philadelphia, which has the biggest share of residents living in poverty of the nation’s 10 largest cities, stands out because its decline was most pronounced among minorities. Obesity among 120,000 public school students measured between 2006 and 2010 declined by 8 percent among black boys and by 7 percent among Hispanic girls.

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