The global pandemic of obesity in children and its related health risks is slowly being tackled in the two worst affected nations – the United States and Britain.
In Washington, Dr. Pooja S. Tandon of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and University of Washington’s Medical School has revealed some very interesting facts about the role parents have to play in curbing their children’s’ obesity problems.
99 parents of three to five-year-olds were tested. They were given McDonald’s menus with photographs and a price list, much like in a restaurant.
There was a good selection of food, “including a variety of burgers, sandwiches, salads, dressings, side items, beverages, desserts and children’s ‘Happy Meals.’ ”, The Institute’s press release states.
Half of these menus contained the number of calories in each of the dishes, giving some parents enough information about the nutrition in certain foods.
All parents were asked to make a selection of food for themselves and their children.
The results of this experiment are fascinating. The control group – those without calorie information – ordered food that had approximately 20% more calories in it than the group with the data.
Interesting to note is that there was no difference, between the two groups, in the number of calories chosen for the parents themselves. This shows a concern to ensure reasonable nutritional levels for their children; albeit without worrying about their own.
Further, there was no relation between the number of trips to fast-food restaurants and the number of calories in the food that was chosen.
The study concluded, on an upbeat note: “Just an extra 100 calories per day may equate to about ten pounds of weight gain per year.”
The Institute believes that providing nutritional information is a valuable tool to give individuals, enabling them to make informed decisions about their health and diet.
Across the United States, 30 communities and states are considering policy decisions about making calorie counts visible. Thus far, a mere four communities have actually done so.
On the other side of the pond, British students have been taking more and more control over their dietary habits.
A recent government study, reported by the East London Advertiser, states that more of London’s Tower Hamlets’ children are obese than at any other point in time.
39% of school children in Year Six are overweight.
The International Obesity Task Force claims “22% of boys and 27.5% of girls aged 2-15 were found to be overweight. The IOTF analysis indicates a marked acceleration in the trend from the mid-1980s onwards.”
The Department of Health uses a national Body Mass Index to measure obesity; its results have been gigantic. [Pardon the pun]. 30.3 % of British boys and 30.7% of British girls are overweight.
Ever since Jamie Oliver’s public castigation of school lunches in 2005, more light has been shed on the obvious importance of nutrition to prevent obesity.
Schools Under Secretary Diana Johnson agrees with the famous chef, proudly announcing that school food has “come on leaps and bounds in recent years. The kitchens are no longer churning out turkey Twizzlers.”
She recently joined school children in London’s East End to participate in a nation-wide healthy eating campaign. Students were being taught to cook wholesome food and organised events.
Ms. Johnson finds that the food now meets “rigorous national standards. Children are now becoming the experts on what’s good to eat.”
This is part of a £20 million campaign across the country, overseen by local authorities, which hopes to reverse the worrying trend towards obesity in children as young as a year old.