Fighting the Obesity Epidemic in Children

By Wild Oats Markets, Inc.

Obesity rates in children are soaring, and it has become a national epidemic. Currently one child in five is overweight and this number has doubled in the last two-to-three decades. No age range, race or gender has been spared from this epidemic.

Obese children show an alarming incidence of Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, once only known as adult-onset diabetes. Overweight children often have high blood pressure levels and cholesterol, both risk factors for heart disease. They may also have sleep apnea, asthma, liver disease or orthopedic problems. In addition, a recent study found a very high level of despair among obese children, with many rating their quality of life as low as that of young cancer patients on chemotherapy (Schwimmer, et al., 2003).

In this study, children reported that they were teased about their size, have trouble playing sports, and suffer physical ailments linked to their weight. The youngsters were more likely to miss school than normal weight kids, probably due to health problems and social issues at school.

What are the causes of childhood obesity? While family genetics may play a role, this doesn t account for the rapid rise in incidence over the last few decades. The real culprit is probably the same as for adults: eating too much and not moving around enough to burn calories. Almost half of children aged 8 to 16 watch three-to-five hours of television a day and children who watch lots of television are more likely to be overweight.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) outline the benefits of regular physical activity for children:

Parents can get involved with their children s schools and encourage choosing healthy food options many of which are available at natural and organic food stores like Wild Oats that have additional long-term benefits of no chemicals, hydrogenated fats and other synthetic additives. Parents should also be role models for their children ride a bike or shoot some hoops; choose a banana instead of a brownie.

Suggestions for Parents

Great Snack Choices

Most children get 20-to-30 percent of their calories throughout the day from snacks, so it is important to choose healthy ones. Read the labels and try to find snack items with low amounts of refined sugars, sodium and saturated or trans- fats (avoid foods with the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil), which have been proven to contribute to heart disease. Foods high in fiber help with digestion, regularity and help maintain a fuller feeling longer. And, only buy foods where you recognize the ingredients listed on the package. Stores like Wild Oats offer these, and other options, as snacks that not only taste great but that will contribute to your kids health for years to come.



Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, MD; Tasha M. Burwinkle, MA; James W. Varni, PhD. 2003. Health-Related Quality of Life of Severely Obese Children and Adolescents. JAMA;289:1813-1819.

Wild Oats Markets, Inc. is a nationwide chain of natural and organic foods markets in the US and Canada. The company operates 111 natural foods stores in 24 states and British Columbia, Canada. The company's markets include: Wild Oats Natural Marketplace, Henry's Farmers Market, Sun Harvest and Capers Community Markets..


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