Childhood obesity has dire consequences and can lead to many childhood health problems that persist into adulthood. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, obese children's health risks include high blood pressure and high cholesterol, increase risk of type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, joint problems, fatty liver disease, gallstones, heartburn and a greater risk of social and psychological problems (Basics About Childhood Obesity 2011). Obese children are more likely to become obese adults and the health concerns of children are likely to continue or worsen.
Obesity is measured using Body mass index. Calculated using a child's weight and high, it does not measure body fat directly, but it is a reasonable indicator of body fatness for most children and teens (Basics About Childhood Obesity 2011). Children between the 85th and 95th percentile are classified overweight and above the 95th percentile they are classified as obese (Basics About Childhood Obesity 2011).
According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 17% of children and adolescents are obese and data from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System reports 1 in 7 low-income preschool-aged children is obese (Basics About Childhood Obesity 2011). The prevalence of obesity in American children has increased in the past 30 years and this great increase in obesity may lead to increases in incidence of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and possibly cancer and is therefore projected to produce the first decline in U.S. life expectancy since the Great Depression (Trasande 159).
In his study “Environment and Obesity in the National Children's Study,” Transande states, “The recent explosive increase in prevalence of obesity reflects a complex interplay among changes in individual behaviors; changes in community structure, lifestyle, and the built environment; and possibly exposures to certain synthetic chemicals, such as endocrine disruptors, that may have the capacity to disrupt energy balance.” (Trasande 159).
To educate my sixth grade students about nutrition and obesity, I researched the nutrition label and the effects of nutritional eating at school. The ability to analyze a nutrition label and make good choices in the cafeteria could have positive repercussions in students' lives and help them combat obesity.
The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 mandated that all packaged foods carry nutrition label-ing information presented as standardized "Nutrition Facts" to provide accurate and truthful information on packaged products (Misra 306). According to Misra, “Label users had diets lower in fat and higher in fruit and vegetable intake compared with nonusers.” (306). Misra found consumers were able to use food labels effectively only when the task did not involve mathematical skill, so she recommends “nutrition education for adolescents should focus on understanding and using food labels rather than on calculations.” (306).
Adolescents need total nutrition more than at any other time of their life, yet they frequently consume inadequate diets. Schools need to provide adequate and applicable health education and prevention programs to guide adolescents to healthy choices.
Children who eat well, learn well, according to Storey et al, authors of a study in 2008 in which 12 schools in England received a tailored action plan and support to modify their food provision and dining environment over a 15-week period. Storey et al observed behaviors during post-lunchtime classes at all schools to investigate if there was evidence that food insufficiency was positively associated with poorer academic, cognitive and psychosocial development in children and young people even in the developed world (33).
The study provides evidence of the benefits on learning-related behaviors of modifying children’s school food and eating environments. (Storey et al 37). Storey et al found on-task behavior had increased and off-task behavior had decreased in both groups, but the changes were significantly greater in the intervention group (35). The study showed that modifying food provision and dining environments had the potential to improve learning-related behaviors of secondary school pupils in the post-lunch period. (Storey et al 35)
The research uncovered the following effects: improving food choices; reducing queuing times; improving the dining ambience; and increasing time available for physical and social activities. (Storey et al 35) The benefits included increased concentration and engagement can potentially improve learning outcomes and attainment. Behavior improved during the post-lunch period, a time in the school day that, traditionally, has been problematic for effective classroom management (Storey et al 36).
From analyses based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a complex, multistage probability sample of the US civilian, non-institutionalized population, Ogden et al found the prevalence of high BMI in childhood has remained steady for 10 years and has not declined (Ogden et al 248). With adequate curriculum and instruction, educators can help reverse this trend by teaching students how to read a nutrition label and make healthy eating choices, which minimize their waistline while maximizing their mental potential.
CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Basics About Childhood Obesity”
http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/data.html Page last updated: April 26, 2011. Accessed 2/3/2012.
CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Data and Statistics”
http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/basics.html Page last updated: April 21, 2011. Accessed 2/3/2012.
Misra, Ranjita. “Influence of Food Labels on Adolescent” The Clearing House 75. 6. (Jul. - Aug. 2002): pp. 306-309
Ogden, Cynthia L. PhD; Carroll, Margaret D. MSPH; Curtin, Lester R. PhD; Lamb, Molly M. PhD; Flegal, Katherine M. PhD “Prevalence of High Body Mass Index in US Children and Adolescents, 2007-2008” Jama 303.3 (January 20, 2010): 242-249
Storey, HC; Pearce, J; Ashfield-Watt, PAL; Wood, L; Baines, E; Nelson, M “A randomized controlled trial of the effect of school food and dining room modifications on classroom behaviour in secondary school children” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2011): 65, 32–38
Trasande, Leonardo; Cronk, Chris; Durkin, Maureen; Weiss, Marianne; Schoeller, Dale A.; Gall, Elizabeth A.; Hewitt, Jeanne B.; Carrel, Aaron L.; Landrigan, Philip J.; Gillman, Matthew W. “Environment and Obesity in the National Children's Study” Environmental Health Perspectives 117.2 (Feb., 2009):159-166