Fast-food culture creating an epidemic

Published 4:33 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We’re facing an epidemic in America.

In the last 30 years the number of children who are overweight has tripled to 15 percent. In fact, when we add the overweight and obese statistics together, we see just how serious the problem really is. One-third of our nation’s children are carrying too much weight.

There are a number of reasons why child obesity in America is on the rise, but most doctors agree that there are two primary factors that have led to this epidemic.

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First, our children and teenagers are not eating the right kinds of foods.

Let’s face it; we’ve become a fast food nation and there are certain risks that accompany that lifestyle, which we are reminded of this month, which is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

A study conducted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and published in the January of 2004 revealed that young adults who eat frequently at fast-food restaurants gain more weight and have a greater increase in insulin resistance in early middle age.

After 15 years, those who ate at fast-food restaurants more than twice a week compared to less than once a week had gained an extra 10 pounds and had a two-fold greater increase in insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

One reason for the weight gain may be that a single meal from one of these restaurants often contains enough calories to satisfy a person’s caloric requirement for an entire day.

The second reasons is that America’s children are getting less and less exercise on a daily basis. The mixture of fast food diets along with sedentary lifestyles is creating a generation of children who are facing very adult health issues like high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease.

That’s the problem.

What’s the solution?

We need to teach our children to make healthy lifestyle choices, and that includes setting a good example by following a nutritional and exercise plan that leads to a healthy weight.

Parents must cook nutritionally balanced meals, greatly reduce snacks high in fat and sugar, teach portion control, pack healthy lunches, avoid fast food and help their children increase levels of physical activity.