Childhood Obesity

A recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and making its rounds through the national news media, concludes that obesity often has its roots in early childhood.  Like many other studies that appear in the medical literature, it draws a conclusion that has long been obvious to anyone who observes human society and behavior.

While our general body habitus has a genetic basis and genes play some role in our tendency to gain weight, there is little question that parents set the stage for obesity in the great majority of cases; one need only visit local restaurants and shopping malls to observe obese children in the company of their obese parents.  Parents determine the diet and activity level of their young dependents and obese parents are more likely to instill both poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle.  When children are raised in such an environment, school programs designed to encourage a healthy diet and exercise are much less likely to be effective.  Indeed, we observe similar parental effects when it comes to tobacco use and other unhealthy lifestyle choices.

In my opinion, over-feeding children is a form of child abuse, destined to have long-lasting effects on both the physical and mental health of those innocent youngsters and fueling a cycle of obesity that may continue for generations.