To make matters worse, children are bombarded with well-crafted TV ads from fast-food chains and other purveyors of high-fat, high-sugar meals and snacks. A recent study reported that children ages two to six that watch television are more likely to choose food products advertised on TV than children who do not watch such commercials. These highly effective advertising campaigns, combined with a physically inactive life-style, have produced a generation of kids who are at high risk for obesity-associated medical conditions.
The major health threat is early development of Type II diabetes (adult onset), particularly in children with a family history of the disease. Doctors are reporting a surge in young adolescents developing Type II diabetes – which can lead to heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke, limb amputations, and blindness. People who develop diabetes in adolescence face a diminished quality of life and shortened life span, particularly if the disease progresses untreated. It’s a scary prospect for our children but, in many cases, obesity and diabetes are preventable.
Parents should be involved in their kids daily physical activities. In today’s educational system, most schools offer PE (Physical Education) classes that allow kids to participate in physical activities and help them be more active. They also allow them to interact with their classmates on another level. However, these PE classes are not enough to help with their daily activity allowance. Many of these classes have been cut or reduced in recent years because of a lack of funding.
Physical education should be a top priority; after-school extra-curricular activities and sports are also vital. Children must develop a lifestyle that includes regular exercise, as well as a healthy diet. Parents need to set limits on the time their children are engaged in passive activities. Pediatricians recommend restricting children to one to two hours per day on TV and computers combined, unless, of course, they are Internet hackers – but there are always exceptions to the rule.
Fortunately, some schools now provide meals that are lower in fat and include healthy helpings of fruits and vegetables. Parental involvement remains the most important key to our children’s healthy diets. Programs to educate parents about nutrition are essential. Fast food should be banned from all schools. Period!