Losing a child is every parent's worst fear. No one would argue that nurturing and protecting our children to the best of our ability should be one of our highest priorities. We make sure our children get enough sleep, do their homework, brush their teeth, limit their TV exposure, and enroll them in sports. Yet considering the healthfulness of our children's diets, our society has collectively and seriously failed in protecting them from future disability and chronic disease.
The World Health Organization attributes approximately 1.7 million deaths a year worldwide to "inadequate fruit and vegetable intake." Many of these are attributable to poor food choices made early in childhood, which Dr. Joel Fuhrman believes has fueled our adult cancer epidemic.
Over the past few decades, modern agriculture has not only made food more abundant, but also fast and cheap. In fact, fast food is available to us twenty-four hours of the day. Using both science and technology, the food industry has been busy; developing strategies that enhance the taste of their products, thus boosting sales. Artificially concentrated flavors along with added fats, sugar, and salt have purposefully been added to "seduce our taste buds." The majority of processed and refined foods contain these super concentrated flavors that affect the taste, aroma, texture and appearance of these foods. These manipulated flavors stimulate our brain's pleasure center, causing us to crave the artificial (hyper-palatable) intense flavors over the natural flavors in whole, unprocessed foods.
Is Diet Shortening Our Childrens Lives?
In Dr. Fuhrman's article, "The Standard American Diet Is Shortening Our Children's Lives" he states, "The poor dietary habits of today's children are contributing to their obesity, chronic illness, and ill-health. It is also laying a foundation for poor academic performance, chronic disease later in life, violent behavior, and premature death." Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, affirms these beliefs by saying, "Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents."
Dr. Fuhrman emphasizes "Poor nutrition gravely impacts children's health throughout their lives. Junk food IS life-threatening!" Below are some of the points Dr. Fuhrman mentions in his article:
- "Overweight and obesity rates have doubled among children and quadrupled among adolescents in the past 30 years."
- "Obesity in children increases their risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, joint problems, sleep apnea, early puberty, and several cancers."
- "About half of overweight teenagers (and 37 percent of normal-weight teenagers) had one or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including diabetes, high LDL cholesterol, and hypertension. Signs of atherosclerosis can be seen in childhood."
- "The CDC estimates that 1/3 of children born in 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Childhood obesity has been found to be the greatest risk factor for premature death due to chronic disease."
- "Many adult cancers are linked to poor childhood nutrition."
- "The effects of poor nutrition on the brain are dramatic too—research has linked poor childhood dietary habits to adult violence. The Cardiff University study involving 17,500 people found 10-year-olds who ate sweets daily were significantly more likely to have a violence conviction by age 34. The researchers found that 69% of the participants who were violent at the age of 34 had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during childhood, compared to 42% who were non-violent. Frequent consumption of fast food and baked goods in particular has been associated with an increased risk depression, and in children and teens, poor nutrition is linked to lower IQ scores, depression and diminished academic performance."
What Oath Should All Parents Take?
"When it comes to something so simple and basic that so greatly impacts the quality of a child's life" Dr. Fuhrman adds, "there is no excuse to be negligent. Just as a doctor takes an oath to 'do no harm' with the course of treatment for his patients, so should parents have to take an oath 'to do no harm' with the food choices they offer their children. Somehow we overlook that allowing our children to indulge in junk food creates an environment setting them up for childhood illnesses, later life cancers, and an overall poor quality life. We ignore the hazards of some of their food choices and, worse, actually condone behavior that is potentially very harmful to them—even life-threatening!"
Dr. Fuhrman emphasizes the importance of "taking control of our children's health" and that parents can have a "major impact on the future health" of their children. He concludes by saying, "Indeed, we are in full control of the meals that we provide and the examples that we set. Our goal should be to instill healthy habits in our children so that they grow up at a healthy weight, enjoy healthful foods and exercise, and hold on to these habits as adults. Please arm yourself with the critical information about how to protect your children's health, both mind and body, by feeding them right and educating them about the power of food. Let's give them the best fighting chance for the brightest future."
For additional information regarding how children's diets are linked to adult diseases, click on the following links:
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