An Unhealthy Generation
In US history, there were always obstacles required to overcome to ensure one's survival. With advancement in technology we have been able to weed out some of the more vicious diseases and properly vaccinate ourselves so that epidemic no longer wipe out entire populations. Though we have been able to rid out communities of deadly disease, we have also opened the door to another type of epidemic that we have allowed to take over an entire generation. Childhood obesity was doubled in prevalence in children between ages of 6-11 years old ("Does Food Processing?"). Being overweight as a child can have severe consequences that carry over into their adult years. In most cases, those who obese as children are unlikely to lose the extra weight. Instead they will continue into their adult years struggling with obesity for their entire life. 34.9% of all adults are obese ("Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity"). Obesity puts an individual's life at risk by exposing oneself to asthma, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure among many other health complications. The US Department of Health and Human Services has determined that obesity costs the us about $117 billion and about 300,000 per year ("Does Food Processing?"). It is time we learn from our mistakes and make the change to encourage our future to strive for a healthier lifestyle.
Children's diet is a big contributor to the ongoing obesity epidemic. In current times, we have transformed into a quick moving society where the faster something is, the more content the customer is. Fast food has made providing meals to busy families much more convenient, though at a high price to the customer's health. Fast food has been found to be twice as dense as recommended food for a child's diet (Does Food Processing Contribute to Childhood Obesity Disparities?"). Processed food is primarily chemical compounds, flavoring, coloring, preservatives and trans fatty acids. Biomedical studies have shown that these ingredients have been associated with increasing the risk of obesity due to negative affects they have on the body (Does Food Processing Contribute to Childhood Obesity Disparities?"). The ability to pick up food on the way home from work is not as beneficial as it appears. in the moment, having dinner ready to go in less than ten minutes can be much more appealing than driving home be in the kitchen for an hour or two to prep, cook and clean up after the family. Along with fast food is the struggle with sugar filled drinks. Studies have shown that soda, fruit drinks and energy drinks have been the primary source to exposure of excess sugar in American diets. Record shows that consumption of sugar filled drinks has increased 500% resulting it being the biggest contributor to a child's caloric intake (Don't Sugarcoat Our Future"). They are filling themselves up with garbage and receiving zero health benefits for it. Instead they are being put at risk for becoming overweight or developing diabetes.
Another factor contributing to the early onset of childhood obesity is increased screen time for children. Studies have shown long durations of time watching television or on the computer can be directly correlated with obesity ("The Impact of Food Advertising"). Instead of going home after school and being active with neighborhood friends, kids are more likely to plop on the couch and watch their favorite television show game on their phone. This is not only dangerous to a child's physical health, but mental health as well. Excessive amounts of screen time has also been linked to behavioral problems, violence, loss of social skills and problems with sleeping ("Screen time and Children"). It is scary to think kids are being completely consumed by television and video games. We are able to view from the outside perspective all the negative attributes associated with these activities and watch as our kids become more and more unhealthy. Among all issues associated with screen time, one of the biggest contributors to obesity is advertising.
The environment in which children are exposed to is also causing negative contributions to children's health. It isn't scree time alone that is causing the increase in obesity. Instead, it is more specifically the advertisements children are being exposed to while they are viewing their favorite shows. Ads are constantly running promoting all sorts of unhealthy snacks or the latest menu item at local fast food restaurants. Researchers have found that 50% of all ads on television are advertising food ("The Impact of food advertising"). Rarely does one see an ad for carrots or broccoli. Instead it is highly processed food that is being pushed on children. Kids are going to see the ad which motivates them to request it from their parents. Parents who are oblivious to health consequences of the constant intake of Cheetos and candy will most likely purchase that item knowing their child wanted to try it. It seems innocent enough but can easily get out of control. No children will willing switch back to carrot sticks as an afternoon snack once you allowed them to previously indulge in prepackaged donuts and cookies. Experts have also brought to light that nurture has a lot to do with childhood obesity and that it is in fact a disease of the environment ("Consumption Junction"). We are fooling ourselves when we try to put the blame on anything other than our own actions, or lack thereof. It is the current generation of parents' lack of accountability that allowing our children to live unhealthy lives.
Overall, the increase in sedentary lifestyles and consumption of processed food has taken control over our previously healthy lifestyles. Currently 20% of preschoolers are overweight. Teens ages 12-19 have tripled the obesity rate ("The impact of food advertising"). This issue is extremely alarming and will have unpleasant consequences if something isn't done to fix the issue. Parents need to be exposed to the harsh truth and understand that instant gratification now could have potential to ruining their child's life later down the road. Why expose your child to a laundry list of health complications when simple health choices now can prevent them from happening at all.