Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year + The Myth of the Lazy Fatties

First: Happy New Year, y'all. I would resolve to be less neglectful of my blog this year, except I can't since my resolution last year was to boycott New Year's resolutions. So, ya know...

Second, there's this: One-third of 9-month-olds already obese or overweight:
The path toward obesity starts at a young age - even before babies transition to a solid diet, according to a new study.

Almost one-third of 9-month-olds are obese or overweight, as are 34 percent of 2-year-olds, according to the research, which looked at a nationally representative sample of children born in 2001. The study is one of the first to measure weight in the same group of very young children over time, said lead researcher Brian Moss, a sociologist at Wayne State University in Detroit. The results showed that starting out heavy puts kids on a trajectory to stay that way.

"If you were overweight at nine months old, it really kind of sets the stage for you to remain overweight at two years," Moss told LiveScience.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has tripled over the last three decades. In 2008, 19.6 percent of kids between the ages of 6 and 11 were obese.

But less is known about obesity rates in very young children. In fact, researchers hesitate to label children that young as "obese." Recent studies have raised the alarm about particularly large babies, however. One 2009 paper published in the journal Pediatrics found that babies who gain weight rapidly in the first six months of life are at increased risk of being obese by age 3. Another study, published in April 2010 in the Journal of Pediatrics, found that heavy 6-month-olds are more likely to be obese as 2-year-olds.
This kinda calls into question the whole people-are-so-fat-because-they're-sitting-around-watching-tv-and-playing-video-games-instead-of-exercising bit that so many have been yammering on and on about. What are 6 month-olds doing differently than their great-grandparents did at that age? Probably not spending less time on the treadmill. *

However, they are drinking lots of formula that has some form of corn syrup as it's main ingredient, along with other forms of highly processed corn as fillers. And that's different from what their great-grandparents were doing at the wise old age of 6 months. They're also probably going to be exposed to far higher levels of environmental obesogens than their forebears, both prenatally and in the environment throughout their childhood. Then there's the fact that genetics plays a role in weight, so it seems likely that a person with a higher target weight as an adult will also have a higher target weight as an infant. Then there's the fact that what counts as overweight and obese has changed dramatically since their great-grandparents were infants. Add to that the fact that almost every food that's marketed to young children, and even infants, is loaded with highly processed (probably corn) sugars, artificial colors and flavors, partially hydrogenated oils, and corn-based fillers, and you have the perfect storm.

Case in point: most fast-food restaurants, and even school lunch programs, have now replaced whole milk or 2% milk with skim milk that has processed corn starches and sugars added to it to try to simulate the flavor and texture of whole milk. This is widely cited as a way the restaurants and lunch prgrams have improved the health of the meal. It's so incredibly ironic. Let's remove the (basically) healthy natural fats in the milk, which young kids who are undergoing rapid growth and brain development really, really need, and instead add in cheap highly processed ingredients which have been linked to obesity and diabetes. Brilliant! Add to that the fact that studies show that people who eat full-fat yogurt for breakfast or snack on full-fat cheese actually consume fewer calories over the course of the day because they feel satisfied after eating it, and you have a widely believed, totally counterproductive myth concerning low-fat dairy product being healthier. What should we be worried about keeping out of our dairy products? Hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. Carcinogens and obesogens. Now that is something to be afraid of.


*Add to that the fact that obesity and diabetes have dramatically increased in our pet population. Are the dogs and cats doing less reps? Seems unlikely.
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Soooo...next time you hear someone mindlessly repeating the old Fatties-Are-Lazy line, ask them about the babies. Ask them about the cats and dogs.

And have a happy (healthy) new year.

9 comments:

  1. Anonymous1/02/2011

    Yes, yes, yes, yes! It is the perfect storm. Putting guilt trips on people about their diet when there are so many envirnonmental factors they can't control is worse than counterproductive; it's cruel. Thanks for so clearly pointing out the many factors contributing to this problem.

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  2. I read this article this morning and it made me so angry. Fat shaming for babies! Mom's, breastfeed your babies! But only in private! And quit your job to do it, because the US doesn't really care about your kid.

    I hate it all.

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  3. Studies like this make me worry that people are going to start putting babies on diets, and feeding them skim milk and the like. Then it will take us another 20 years to figure out why they have developmental problems. Sigh.

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  4. MelbaToast1/03/2011

    But I do think these studies are important, if this is truly a trend. The question should be why is this trend happening? Otherwise the default response is just more fat shaming.

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  5. Anonymous1/04/2011

    But if they've readjusted the weight ranges that count as overweight and obese a bunch of times, how do we know this is really a trend? maybe babies are the same size, we've just become less tolerant of baby fat.

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  6. @ Anonymous,

    I suspect that's a part of it, so if we were using the same measurements the percentage would be much smaller. But I also believe that the lack of options besides either exclusively breastfeeding, which isn't a viable option for many, or using formula that's basically fortified diluted corn syrup plays a role here. During my daughter's first year, I would probably have supplemented with some formula IF I had been able to find any that didn't have highly problematic ingredients, but even the "organic" brands are pretty iffy. And the rare formula brand that isn't problematic is so expensive that most people can't afford it. At which point you realize that the cheapest thing to do is to nurse exclusively, so you resolve to put up with the pump for just 6 more months...

    I also think that the environmental obesogen issue plays a significant role, and will only get worse until we begin taking it seriously. So I would bet that there is some increase in the average weight of American infants, although I suspect it's not as big as this study makes it seem.

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  7. And because many of the obesogens are also carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, this really is an issue that needs to be taken seriously.

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  8. But research has repeatedly shown that even genetic disadvantages can be overcome with exercise in over 90% of cases.

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