Childhood Obesity & School Lunches – Truth or Scapegoat?



The University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center has released an interesting study about childhood obesity. The study of 1,003 sixth graders showed that “children who are obese were more likely to consume school lunch ….”. This claim may be a bit misleading in an attempt to place blame on the schools, however.

Childhood obesity is, to me, one of the most upsetting health problems. A child who is obese has a  “70% chance of becoming [an] overweight or obese adult. This increases to 80% if one or more parent is overweight or obese…” according to the U.S. Surgeon General. In 1980, 6.5 percent of U.S. children aged 6 to 11 years were considered obese. That percentage rose to nearly 20 percent by 2008.  Conducting long-term studies into the habits of children – both obese and healthy – are vital in understanding the root cause of this rapidly growing prolem. While many are quick to blame genetics, the University of Michigan study found the opposite to be true, according to Kim A. Eagle, M.D., a cardiologist and a director of the U-M Cardiovascular Center,

“… increasing physical activity, reducing recreational screen time and improving the nutritional value of school lunches offers great promise to begin a reversal of current childhood obesity trends.”

Politicians have been tweaking school lunch menus since President Harry S. Truman began the program in 1946. President Obama recently signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 to create healthier school lunches. Obama’s act is designed to improve nutrition by reducing salt, fat and sugar in school meal. But the Michigan study found that 34% percent of non-obese kids had school lunch, compared to 45% among obese students. That isn’t a big enough difference to suggest the problem lies solely in the school lunch program.

What are those non-obese school lunch eating students doing differently? And what are the obese kids who bring their own lunches eating? While school lunches are important, an investigation into the students home is a critical variable missing. That’s where habits are learned. It’s strange that this was completely ignored. I bet many obese children have overweight or obese parents. Healthy habits start at home. The study found that 58% of obese children watched 2 hours of TV per day and less than 1/3 of exercised. I’m all for video games and TV, but in a household where refined carbohydrates rule the plate, and Wii Fit is the closest thing to exercise, it’s no wonder childhood obesity is rising. With those habits ingrained from birth, it is hard to make a change.

Unless something is done to create permanent change amongst the obese children, statistics say they will become obese adults, and most likely have obese children in return. It’s a horrible cycle that creates a compounding problem. Beyond your Social Circle, and Economic Status, learning about portion control, carb reduction and exercise will go a LONG way. It’s time to change (or die).

You can read the entire study here.

2 Comments

  1. deepak@rikhavinfotech.com'

    childhood obesity is really became a common problem in most of the teenager.

    There should be proper program from government to reduce it.

  2. mrsr0ger5@yahoo.com'

    I think all of what you wrote is very true and so sad to hear. Obesity is on the rise for our children and it seems like the government and others are at least trying to help but what about the parents? It is very sad that Wii is the closest things to exercise many children have but who is buying it for them? The times have changed a lot since when most of us were kids because the parents have to work ten times harder to help support their families but the lack of love and connection is not there as much. This is not totally the parents fault of course but many should start looking at all of the big pictures of obesity and causes, not just pointing the finger at someone else all the time. Kids these days don’t know what a good time in the great outdoors is. The good times are now what’s on t.v. or what new game came out or who is on their social group.Our children are the only ones suffering because the rates of disease and health problems are in their future and not being taught at a young age can only hurt them in the long run.The government is trying to help which is great but the problem can only truly be fixed at the place where the most time is spent. If parents could realize the effect they have on their own children then maybe this rate wouldn’t be so high.

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