the health of our nation’s children: yesterday, today, and tomorrow

IF YOU THINK YOUR GENERATION HAS HEALTH PROBLEMS… WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE WHAT’S COMING!

Healthy Children

“Despite their greater life expectancy, the adults of today are less “metabolically” healthy than their counterparts of previous generations.  The prevalence of obesity in our youngest generation of men and women at the mean age of 40 is similar to that of our oldest generation at the mean age of 55. This means that this younger generation is 15 years ahead of the older generation and will be exposed to their obesity for a longer time.”  From the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Invasive Cardiology (Today’s Adult Generations Less Healthy Than Previous Generations).  In other words, for ‘Generation Z’ 30 will be the new 45.

A society that lives longer, but with more chronic health problems.  It’s BIG PHARMA’S wet dream.  But how long before people aren’t living as long, and what about the sorry quality of life associated with this phenomenon?  Via the latest issue of their journal (Circulation), the American Heart Association has issued a “Scientific Statement” called Cardiovascular Health Promotion in Children: Challenges and Opportunities for 2020 and Beyond.  In this paper, thirteen prominent cardiologists and Ph.D researchers presented their case that our nation’s children not only have overall poor health now, but are at risk for terrible health as they age — the major reason I continue to argue that our current healthcare trajectory is UNSUSTAINABLE.

In this “pediatric focused” paper, the authors let us know that (no big surprise here) OBESITY is at the root of numerous health problems.  How bad has the problem of childhood obesity gotten in the good ole USA?  “The number of overweight children has risen dramatically over the past four decades for youth 2 to 19 years of age, with a recognized epidemic occurring between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s in the United States.   17% of 2 to 19-year-olds are obese and an additional 15% are overweight.”  Interesting.  Not only do we see that one in three of our nation’s children are packing excess weight, we see that incidence of this exploded (they use the word ‘epidemic‘) in the decade of the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s.  Make sure and ask yourself why?

I would contend that you can largely thank our government for this decade of dietary debacle.  How so?  The decade being discussed would best be described as the “Low Fat / Fat Free” era — an era I wholeheartedly bought into while at KSU as a nutrition major (HERE).  Face it; science has gotten any number of things wrong over the years — particularly when it comes to diet.  For instance, they’ve told us that things like SALT, EGGS, RED MEAT, GREENS, etc are bad for us, while things like GRAINS, MSG, ASPARTAME, and HFCS are just fine.  And despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, they continue to beat us over the head about DIETARY FAT.  There was an expensive and concerted effort that started in that ten year span to make sure that everyone knew that it did not matter so much what you ate, as long as it wasn’t fat.  There was no such thing as a “GOOD FAT“.  Fat was fat was fat, and it was all equally bad — except that one particular fat that supposedly came from heart-healthy “vegetables” (TRANS FATS  —– made from corn).  What was the result?

Look around you.  40% of our nation’s women are obese, with another third being simply overweight (HERE).  And men aren’t too far behind.  As America became increasingly fat-phobic, they became not only more and more obese, but they ended up with all the problems associated with rampant carb-consumption (HERE), including hardcore addictions (HERE).  The problem is, it has taken the government decades to get their act together as far as telling us what we should be eating — and it’s still screwed up.  In fact, no one but maybe the medical profession itself (HERE), continues to offer worse dietary advice than our government.  Don’t believe me?  Case in point, our government’s current recommended diet — DASH — the specific diet recommended by the authors of the study we are talking about today.  But the free fall doesn’t end there.

The metrics that the AHA looks at to determine one’s level of cardiovascular health include SMOKING, BMI, EXERCISE LEVEL, BLOOD PRESSURE, CHOLESTEROL, BLOOD SUGAR, and of course, diet.  The first question I have to ask is how bad has it gotten when children are taking DRUGS FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, DRUGS FOR HIGH CHOLESTEROL, and DRUGS FOR TYPE II DIABETES?  Although this sort of thing was unheard of when I was a kid back in the 1970’s, today it’s not uncommon at all.  The second question I must ask is why is the sort of dietary advice the government is dishing out so behind-the-times?  Is it any better than the debacle we’ve seen in the past?  Maybe a bit.  In this study they promoted a, “diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, low sodium, and few sugar-laden foods and drinks.

Some of this is fine.  Getting off the sugar and junk carbs is a fantastic place to start.  However, it’s our grain-based diet of the old ‘Food Pyramid’ that helped push us to where we’re at now.  Furthermore, unless you are getting wild, cold-water fish, there is not a an iota of health benefit.  In fact, some people say that farm-raised fish is one of the worst foods you can eat (HERE).  The truth is that DEER or FRESCOLN BEEF is far better.  As for fruits and vegetables; can we please stop talking about them as though they are a single entity (HERE)?   And about the whole “low sodium” thing, click my earlier link on “salt” and you’ll quickly notice that this is another of the numerous areas where the “experts” are confused (or outright lying to you).  But lets forget all of this for a moment.  Why is this whole paper a huge we’ve-heard-it-all-before pipe dream as far as making real changes are concerned?  Take a listen to what the authors reveal.

“Unfortunately, children in the United States score most poorly in regard to a healthy diet.  Approximately 91% of US children are classified as having a poor diet score, while less than 0.5% are classified as having an ideal diet score.  Moreover, a higher percentage of children than adults are ranked in the poor category for diet quality.  This worrisome finding is consistent across all pediatric age groups, races, and sex.”

There you have it folks; kid’s diets are bad — really bad.  And not only are they really bad, they are significantly worse than adults.  Across the board.  Mostly this is the fault of moms and dads who have failed to step up to the plate and parent, making sure little Junior does not leave the table until he eats his broccoli.  Pretty soon, when Junior is a senior in high school, he’s eating Skittles and Coke for breakfast, fries and ketchup for lunch, and a frozen pizza and cold cereal for supper.  And we wonder why things look so bleak for the future of cost-efficient healthcare.

The older generation may think they have it bad as far as health-related problems are concerned.  But they grew up eating non-processed foods and garden vegetables.  Although few of these elders will be around  to see the consequences, just wait until people get a load of what’s coming down the pike as far as health problems are concerned.  We are talking here about a generation (Gen Z) who has never let a garden vegetable parse their lips — and has no intention of doing so.  No matter what sort of CATCHY PSA you hit them with.

The prevailing thought in America has been, and largely continues to be, a DRUGS-FIRST approach.  In case you were wondering how well this is working out, wonder no more.  Simply start reading the titles of THESE POSTS and you’ll quickly realize you’ve been bamboozled.  Swindled.  Sold a bill of goods.  Sold down the river.  Use whatever analogy you want, but the drugs aren’t doing what the TV commercial told us they would (HERE).  You can go back and look at my earlier links, or you can read what the authors themselves wrote about this cycle of crappy habits, crappy diets, and and crappy health.

“Unfortunately, over time, most children experience a decline in health factors and behaviors, resulting in loss of cardiovascular health as they reach adulthood. It is well known that achieving sustained lifestyle changes in adults is difficult, and risk factor control through the use of medication cannot fully restore the low-risk state present in ideal cardiovascular health.”

This whole paragraph one giant understatement.  Medications are largely a myth and do not do what they claim they are going to do — except provide you with untold numbers of side effects (HERE).  We also know that bad habits you carry through from childhood to adulthood are tougher to break the older you get.  For instance, if you are an overweight gamer and computer junkie who never gets off the couch as a kid, what makes you think it gets easier when you get to adulthood?  What’s the result of this whole cycle?  Easy.  “A decline in health factors and behaviors children reach adulthood.”  Unfortunately, this decline rapidly turns into a free-fall.

The government welcomes ‘Captain Obvious’ to the discussion when they state, “Overall, it is clear that much of the benefit of ideal cardiovascular health factors is lost in childhood and adolescence. This is due in large part to the adoption of unhealthful diet and physical activity behaviors.”  Great; but let’s get to that point where the rubber meets the road.  How are we going to turn this around and change 35 years of heading down the wrong path?  SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAMS certainly aren’t getting it done.  Neither is the admonishment to exercise more, smoke less, and eat more vegetables.  And we’ve already seen how well these sorts of programs really work anyway (HERE).  Of course the government’s solution is more studies, more and bigger analytics, and (drum roll please), more funding —- way more funding.

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