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Parents Ask About 11-Year-Old Son’s Obesity

Dear Dr. Bill,

We have an 11-year-old boy who LOVES food.  He’s always asking us for treats or snacks, and becomes disappointed and upset when we say “no.”  Worst of all, he’s 4-foot, 9-inches tall and weighs 114 pounds!

We often talk to our son about the importance of a healthier diet, but we battle with overeating ourselves.  Both of us are 20 to 30 pounds overweight.  We’ve tried not to make things worse by forbidding ALL junk food, yet our son will “pig out” whenever we can’t control his diet.

Of course, we love our son no matter what, but we feel we can’t allow this to go on.  But we don’t want to damage his self-esteem or steal away what he seems to enjoy the most.  What should we do?

–Paul

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Dear Paul,

I consulted with my friend Dr. Walt Larimore, a family physician who is an expert on childhood obesity.

He said that if son weighs 114 pounds and is 4 foot 9, his weight puts him in the 95th percentile for boys his age.  That means he is clinically obese, and at high risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, depression, and early death.  In fact, according to one study, his life expectancy right now is only 46!

Your family needs to make some dramatic lifestyle changes, not just for your son’s sake, but for yours as well.  The fact that you are both overweight puts you at risk for multiple health problems and premature death.

Dr. Larimore suggests that your family focus on five things:  better nutritional choices, an increase in physical activity, eating meals together as a family, better rest and recreation habits, and wiser media choices.  For more specifics, go to supersizedkids.com.

Thanks for writing Paul.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, just click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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Are Things Too Clean?

Are parents keeping things too clean for their kids’ good?

Numerous research studies on children’s health seem to suggest that we’ve gone overboard when it comes to protecting our kids from germs.

In a recent WebMD article, Lisa Zamosky reports that allowing infants to be exposed to normal, everyday germs may offer them greater protection from allergies and illnesses later on in life.

According to something called the “hygiene hypothesis,” when exposure to parasites, bacteria, and viruses is limited early in life, children face a greater chance of having allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases during adulthood.
Just as a baby’s brain needs stimulation, input, and interaction to develop normally, the WebMD story points out the young immune system is strengthened by exposure to everyday germs. That allows it to learn, adapt, and regulate itself,
Exactly which germs seem to do the trick hasn’t yet been confirmed. But new research offers clues.

Dr. Thom McDade at Northwestern University found that children who were exposed to animals on farms before the age of 2 had less incidence of inflammation in the body as they grew into adulthood. Inflammation has been linked to many chronic adulthood illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
McDade says. “Microbial exposures early in life may be important… to keep inflammation in check in adulthood.”

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM

Eating Fatty Foods During Pregnancy Can Lead To Breast Cancer

If you’re pregnant—back away from that bag of Doritos!

According to a new study, pregnant women who gorge on fatty foods may increase the chances that their daughters and even grand-daughters will develop breast cancer in later life.

The London Daily Mail reports that researchers believe eating an unhealthy diet can permanently alter the cells of an unborn baby – and future generations. 

They suggest that eating well in pregnancy could reduce levels of breast cancer, the most common cancer in the UK affecting one in eight women during their lives.

Scientists at Georgetown University in Washington DC fed pregnant rats either a normal diet or one much higher in fat.

For those on the fatty diet, their daughters and grand-daughters which were fed normally, were found to have a significantly higher risk of developing breast cancer tumors.

A fatty diet is linked to higher levels of the female sex hormone estrogen. 

While the findings have not been confirmed in humans, lead author, Dr  Sonia de Assis said: ‘What a mother eats or is exposed to during pregnancy can increase her daughter’s breast cancer risk.

‘What we found for the first time is that increased breast risk of those daughters can be passed down to grand-daughters and even great-grand daughters and that is without any further exposures. 

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM

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Big Sugary Drinks

As you may have heard, New York City has approved a ban on big sugary drinks.

According to USA Today, the measure could go into effect as early as March. It places a 16-ounce limit on bottled drinks and fountain beverages sold at city restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts.

It applies to sugary drinks that have more than 25 calories per 8 ounces. It would not affect 100% juice or beverages with more than 50% milk or milk substitute.

In New York, hundreds of soft drink makers and sellers, trade groups and community organizations banded together to fight the ban.

The New York State Restaurant Association and the theater owners’ group also spoke out against the controversial ban.

Andrew Moesel, spokesman for the restaurant association, says “Proposals like the soda ban discourage new business and hurt our reputation as the dining capital of the world,” said “Reducing obesity is an important goal, but we want to partner with government to come up with effective ways to confront the problem.

“What we don’t need is more burdensome regulation making it harder for businesses to function and skewing the competitive landscape.”

But the ban does have its supporters.

Steven Safyer, president of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, says “The Board of Health did the right thing for New York,” “For the past several years, I’ve seen the number of children and adults struggling with obesity skyrocket, putting them at early risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”

Personally, I don’t think the ban is going to make a significant impact on childhood obesity. That won’t happen until PARENTS start taking more responsibility for their children’s nutrition—and model healthy behaviors themselves.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM

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