Extra Pounds Could Cost Kids Years

Obese kids risk losing years off their lives.

That ominous conclusion is reached in a new study in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay explains that the study is really a statistical model, looking at what would happen to this generation of children experiencing the obesity epidemic.

The researchers predicted a three-to-five-year obesity-related shortening of lifespans. "Obviously," Senay says, "this is controversial. Not everybody agrees. But the bottom line to this is what people are talking about.

"What we know is true is that this generation of children is seeing chronic diseases we never saw before in this age group: type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure. We're seeing this at higher and higher rates as this epidemic unfolds. That's a for-sure thing."

The latest group to jump into the public health debate about how to try to stem the childhood obesity tide is the Endocrine Society, made up of endocrinologists the world over.

Senay says the society suggests several common-sense approaches to helping kids trim down or keep from packing on extra pounds to begin with. Among them:

  • Classify obesity as a disease: "If you classify it as a disease," Senay observes, "we would research it in a different way. It could be a real way to move this problem forward.
  • Make exercise programs tax-deductible.
  • Eliminate school fundraisers with candy and cookie sales. "So often," Senay remarks, "the school environment is rich in things that are really unhealthy for kids."
  • Make water fountains readily available in schools, so kids don't look to the soda machine or the juice machine.
What can parents do? The Endocrine Society recommendations include:
  • Women should reach a normal weight during pregnancy. "There's something about the womb environment that can affect how a child becomes when they grow older, or be a predictor," Senay notes.
  • Get moderate exercise during pregnancy.
  • Breastfeed for at least the first three months and up to one year.
  • Eat meals together at a fixed place and time. Don't skip meals, especially breakfast. Serve meals on a small dish to regulate portion size. Keep serving dishes away from the table.