Junk Food Damaging American Children

Monica C.
Playfuls.com - Science and Technology
November 6, 2006

the children with high-fat, high-sugar foods has been proven
scientifically unsafe, as American researchers reveal that kids and
teens in the US are becoming fatter and more at risk for a series of

Chaoyang Li of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr
Stephen Cook, of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and
Dentistry in New York, and colleagues examined data from several national surveys of health and fitness taken by the Federal Government. Information was collected from more than 22,000 two- to 19-year-olds.

What they found is worrisome: the abdominal fat of children and
teenagers has increased significantly over the years, putting them at a
greater risk of heart diseases and diabetes. Since the 1990s, abdominal
fat has increased by more than 65 per cent, as have obesity rates.

However, abdominal fat is a reason for alarm not necessarily from an
esthetic point of view – it is more clearly and strongly linked with
disease than general body fat is. The American researchers found that
10.5 per cent of boys and girls had too much abdominal fat in 1999, as
measured by waist circumference, while in 2004, it grew to 17.4 per
cent of boys and 17.8 per cent of girls.

Dr. Cook commented the following: “Those increases only grow more
alarming as you tease out specific age groups over longer periods of
time. For example, between the 1988-1994 data and the 1999-2004 data,
the largest relative increase in the prevalence of abdominal obesity
occurred among two- to five-year old boys – 84 per cent – and 18- to
19-year-old girls – 126 per cent.”

The researchers also caution parents and caregivers that a watchful eye
can nip potential health problems in the bud. “Kids, teens and adults
who have early stages of atherosclerosis in their arteries can have a healthy cardiovascular system
again,” Dr Cook said. “Older adults who have plaque build-up have a
much harder battle, especially if the plaque has calcified.”

This doesn’t mean that you should weight and measure your child daily,
but that you can keep an eye on the little one’s belly. It’s as easy as
that. A five-year-old that has the protruding belly of an adult should
raise concern. There’s no need for embarrassment though. Dr. Cook
explains how the abundance of high-fat, high-sugar foods, especially
foods containing high-fructose corn syrup,
present on the market these days, “could be predisposing children not
only to become fatter, but disproportionately fat around the middle”.

The major use of corn syrup, rich in glucose, is in commercially
prepared foods as a sweetener and for its moisture-retaining properties
which keep foods moist and maintain freshness. As a sucrose
replacement, its sweetness is often insufficient and it is used in
conjunction with high intensity sweeteners. It is used in a variety of
food products,
from candy bars to ketchup and hamburger buns. Studies suggest average
daily fructose consumption has increased 25 per cent over the past 30

The researchers also found an increase in body mass
index (BMI), a weight-to-height ratio widely used as a measure of being
overweight or obese. The percentage of six- to 11-year-olds with high
BMI scores increased about 25 per cent between 1999 and 2004. The
percentage with abdominal fat increased over the same period to 19.2
per cent from 14.2 per cent. The increases in belly fat occurred in all
age, racial and ethnic groups.

“The good thing is, we know that in kids [the health effect of
abdominal fat] is completely reversible, if we can get them to exercise
more and to adjust their diet and adopt a healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Cook