Ditch The Fizz: Sugar-free Creates Obesity In Children

By Dr. Janet Starr Hull

The percentage of overweight children has tripled in the past two decades, and the percentage of obese adults has doubled. Even when we factor in bad health habits and poor lifestyle choices, we must acknowledge this weight gain coincides with the introduction of NutraSweet/Equal® twenty years ago. Coincidence? I don't believe in coincidence, and I strongly believe aspartame and ALL chemical sweeteners are directly related to weight gain. Over twenty years ago, independent researchers warned us that aspartame would cause weight gain - and look at us now!

Obesity is increasing worldwide and is set to become the world's biggest health problem. Recent reports suggest that it may soon overtake cigarette smoking as a serious health risk. Nearly two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight, and 30.5 percent are obese, according to data from the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). In the UK, nearly two-thirds of men and over half of all women are now overweight - and one in five are obese. At this rate, by 2010 at least one in four adults will be obese. According to data compiled by the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF), England and Scotland have some of the highest levels of obesity in Europe.

The worldwide increase in weight gain is also spreading to the developing countries that have recent access to the Westernized over-processed diet and chemical food technology.

Obesity in children poses serious health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure, to name just a few. All of these chronic diseases can be positively altered through proper dietary changes of whole foods without fake sugars or fake fats, so take heart!

A single twenty-ounce bottle of soda is actually 2 1/2 servings. In America, muffins are the size of small cakes. "Care for a large order of French fries? It's just a few cents more to super-size that order." That's a third of the total calories you should eat in one day! But do people resist the fries? Not usually. They order a large diet cola to justify the difference, nonetheless!

According to a new study by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women are eating 300 more calories a day and men 168 more calories than twenty years ago. All it takes is one hundred extra calories a day to gain ten pounds a year. To work off those one hundred calories, you must walk twenty-five minutes every day.

Many experts feel Americans overeat because much of the food that makes up their modern diet is inexpensive, dense with the taste of "fat" calories, and highly processed, so again, the food isn't satisfying, so we eat more to try to feel full.

What are we teaching our younger generation? Some of the most disturbing weight statistics concern children. Results from the 1999-2000 NHANES Survey, using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated fifteen percent of children and adolescents aged six to nineteen years are overweight. This represents a four percent increase from the overweight estimates of eleven percent obtained from NHANES III from 1988 to 1994.

No one can say with certainty whether one cause of childhood obesity outweighs another, but considerable blame can be placed on the fact that kids don't get enough proper nutrition, they sit more, and consume more and more diet products daily.

"School Vending Machines: Ditch The Fizz!" Children are encouraged to consume junk food at schools where the influences of fast food and soft drinks are prominent. The marketers of flavor, not nutrition, influence the food and drinks sold in schools.

There is a growing movement against soft drinks in public and private schools. School programs discouraging the sale of carbonated drinks appear to reduce obesity among children. A British study in London showed that reducing young students' intake of sweetened carbonated beverages reduced obesity among the students. A one-year ''ditch the fizz'' campaign discouraged both sweetened and diet soft drinks among elementary school children. The results showed a decrease in the percentage of children who were overweight or obese. The improvement occurred after the reduction of less than a can of soda a day. According to the study, a high intake of carbonated drinks contributed to childhood obesity. Apparently, such programs are working.

Of course, representatives of the soft drink industry contest these results, claiming carbonated drinks provide only a fraction of children's daily calories, and that they should not be blamed for the childhood obesity epidemic.

In Florida, USA, the Governor's Task Force on Obesity stopped short of admitting soda machines can make kids fat. They suggested a variety of remedies to the state's obesity epidemic - less TV, more exercise in schools - but unfortunately they did not recommend the removal of soda or snack machines from pubic campuses, rationalizing, "The machines often offer milk and other alternatives to carbonated drinks." (Can we trust children to make good choices--after all, they are children!)

School vending machines raise considerable cash, funds that many high schools use to support athletic and other extra-curricular activities. Most school principals support the idea of choice and don't want to eliminate the "cash cow" of colas. Most US state laws protect the sale of carbonated beverages on campuses if fruit juice is also sold. But many districts around the country are trying to get control of the situation in an effort to improve their students' nutrition. In Broward County, Florida, the school board's policy permits vending machine sales for only one hour after the close of the last lunch period.

Don't be discouraged. In my new book, Splenda®: Is It Safe Or Not?, I offer ways to change your lifestyle, not with trendy chemical diets, but with the tried and true methods our bodies recognize and celebrate: whole, natural foods and moderate exercise. Teach your kids to ditch the fizz, drop the fake foods, and their bodies will respond with vibrant health and attitude!

Posted December 2005 | Permanent Link

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