We have all heard the alarming statistics of obesity rates in this country, and the subsequent deleterious health risks. And there are harmful effects of obesity on the brain. Studies have also shown that obese children are more likely to have lower IQ's (Olsson and Hutling, 2010), lower cognitive function and greater behavioral problems (Miller et al., 2006), greater risk for developing pseudomotor cerebri (buildup of pressure by fluid around the brain, aka idiopathic intracranial hypertension) and last but not least, brain lesions similar to what is observed in Alzheimer's patients (Miller et al., 2006). In 2010, a study was published in Diabetologia stating that obese adolescents with type 2 diabetes had impaired performance on learning and memory tasks compared to just obese cohorts. MRI scans also showed reduced white matter (tissue where messages pass from one area of the brain to another). ...have I scared you enough?! Here is a good article detailing how obesity effects a child's body:
Hope is on the horizon...
A researcher (Dr. Echon) with the San Antonio-based Social & Health Research Center was awarded a huge grant (a la $2 million) to study the caloric intake of 5 elementary schools. The schools were chosen based on the high rates of obesity and diabetes, so lower-income schools. It is estimated that 33% of children living in Bexas County (San Antonio/surrounding areas) are obese. Yikes!
Dr. Echon said the aim is to inform the parents of these children how many calories their darling buds of joy are consuming. So, in a nutshell, here is how it works. Kids are assigned a bar code for their tray. Once they have ordered all of their food, a camera at the cashier station will snap a picture of said food. Once the child hands in the tray, another camera snaps a photo of the remaining food. A computer program then analyzes the remaining food for calorie and nutrient consumption. Parents will then receive a copy of the data. The data will also be used to analyze what food kids are choosing to eat. No photo will be of any child, just the food.
With all of the information about how obesity negatively effects kids, from psychological to physical to actually altering brain plasticity, programs like this really need parental support. In addition to signing the permission slip to let these programs occur, parents need to improve the quality of food for their children. I live in the suburbs, therefore I am a bit jaded because all I see when I go to the grocery store are, lets just say, very rotund individuals. Grocery carts filled with processed foods, sodas, cookies, high-sugar cereals...but very little fruit, veggie, etc. If you are an adult and you want to be the size of a small aircraft carrier, more power to you (not really, but you are an adult). But, for your kids sake, for the sake of their potential future investment into society, care enough to make sure these kids are getting proper nutrition. They deserve the right to learn the best they can and not be hindered by a poor diet that leads to obesity and the deleterious physical and mental consequences.
Now go eat an apple!