Childhood obesity: It's a disease

Jun 25, 2013

I spent last week at the Childhood Obesity Conference in Long Beach representing UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. I had heard that obesity was an epidemic. I had heard it's an issue that needs to be tackled. But I hadn't ever heard the extent of it before.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years. Adolescent obesity has tripled. In 2010, more than one-third of children and adolescents were obese. Last week, the American Medical Association went as far as to declare obesity a disease. The CDC has stated this is a direct result of caloric imbalance - children aren't expending enough calories, and they're eating too many.

In his keynote address, Michael Moss, investigative reporter with the New York Times and author of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, mentioned that a half cup of tomato sauce has as much sugar as several Oreo cookies. I researched this, and sure enough according to MyFitnessPal, a leading food tracking software and app, a half cup of Ragu Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce has 11g of sugar, while a serving of three Oreo cookies has 12g of sugar. As Moss mentioned, kids are taught to expect sweetness in everything they eat. According to him, the food industry is exploiting the biology of children. No wonder we can't get our kids to eat their vegetables.

This reminds me of a video clip I saw on YouTube of Jamie Oliver's television show Food Revolution. He goes into a classroom, hoping to have kids identify fresh vegetables, only to discover they don't know the difference between a tomato and a potato.

How did we get to this point? How have we become so disconnected from the food we eat and the things we put into our body? How did we get to a point where Oreos, Happy Meals and Cheez-Its were cool, but vegetables and fruits weren't? And most importantly, what do we do about it?

Is this next video a sign of where we are headed?

By Marissa Palin
Author - Centennial Program Coordinator