The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay explains the Child Wellbeing Index, which is produced by the non-profit Foundation for Child Development, finds that obesity is the single most widespread health problem facing American children. About 15 percent of United States kids are overweight.
The Foundation for Child Development says, overall, kids are better than they were in 1975. And, the other measures of child wellbeing improved. But, Senay explains, the obesity epidemic is taking a serious toll. The setback could undo gains made in child safety, violence and illegal drug use.
Also, high fructose corn syrup is a sweetener getting some scrutiny from some experts. It is found in high quantities in soft drinks and juices. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, one researcher hypothesizes that the rise in the obesity epidemic, which began in the late '70s, took off in the '80s -- mirroring the time exactly when high fructose corn syrup began to be widely used in processed foods.
The study says there is preliminary scientific evidence that HFCS works differently inside the body than other sugars to make people gain weight. They believe it does this by blunting the body's ability to recognize when it is full and making a person want to eat more.
Some nutritionists say HFCS needs to be looked at more carefully as one potential and predominant cause of the obesity epidemic. Senay says while the hypothesis is provocative, it has not been scientifically proven that HFCS acts differently than other sugars in the body.
The manufacturers of HFCS say their products are safe. A statement from the Corn Refiners Association says:
"High fructose corn syrup and table sugar are compositionally equivalent. HFCS is not the cause of obesity. Increased calories and a lack of exercise are to blame. One should note: Obesity is also on the rise in Mexico and Europe, both of which do not consume HFCS."
Food manufactures use HFCS for several reasons. It is cheaper than cane sugar (even though it is manufactured from corn), it mixes extremely well and it tastes sweeter.
Senay says if a consumer wants to avoid having HFCS they should check ingredients label and be knowledgeable of tasty alternatives.