Panaceia or Hygeia

immunize yourself against the pandemic of lifestyle diseases

Child obesity and trans fat, a politically correct scapegoat

Posted by Colin Rose on March 28, 2007

Here is a classic example of politicians trying to deflect responsibility for a problem away from the average voter, whom they are loath to antagonize, to a politically powerless scapegoat. You will never hear a politician say that eating TOO MANY CALORIES because of food addiction is the cause of pandemic obesity. That would upset the whole food supply industry and rural voters whose votes are worth twice a much as city dwellers. So, politicians blame trans fat and recommend building more gyms, changes that will make ABSOLUTELY NO difference but will not injure an delicate voter sensibilities.

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Child obesity an epidemic, Ottawa told

25% OVERWEIGHT: COMMONS COMMITTEE For first time, Canada’s younger generations are expected to live shorter lives than parents

OTTAWA – More Canadian children are overweight and for the first time the country’s younger generations are expected to live shorter lives than their parents because of obesity, says a new Commons committee report made public yesterday.

Committee MPs said they were “shocked” to learn about the increase in overweight children, from 12 per cent to 18 per cent, and obese children, from three per cent to eight per cent, between 1978 and 2004.

That makes about one in four Canadian children overweight or obese.

The report said parents must be in denial, as a Canadian Medical Association survey found only nine per cent report they have a child who is at least somewhat overweight.

The health committee called yesterday for aggressive measures to halt child obesity, and said they share fears of experts that “today’s children will be the first generation for some time to have poorer health outcomes and a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”

Highlights of recommendations are a ban on trans fats as advised by a federal task force; use of a mandatory, simplified, standardized food labelling system; and designation of federal funds to build or replace aging playgrounds, sidewalks, rinks, pools and other community exercise spots across the country.

The report said most Canadian children spend too much time in front of TV and computer screens; don’t get the expert-recommended 90 minutes a day of exercise; eat too much fat and junk food; consume too many sugary drinks and don’t eat the recommended five daily servings of fruit and vegetables.

The committee also reported the “distressing” and “most alarming” number of 55 per cent of First Nations children living on reserves, and 41 per cent off reserves, are overweight or obese.

There is so much poverty among First Nation and Inuit people that many people cannot afford nutritious food, especially in remote northern communities, the report said.

And of more than 500 First Nations schools, only half have a gym.

The health committee proposed Canadians take up a national challenge to halt a 30-year rise in overweight children in just three years – by the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver. Then targets to reverse the trend could kick in.

“It is ambitious but it is doable,” committee chairperson Rob Merrifield, an Alberta Conservative MP, told a news conference.

“For the first time in recorded history, our younger generations are expected to live shorter lives than their parents due to obesity,” he said in a prepared statement.

“New and aggressive action is required to address this complex and, ultimately, very costly problem.”

The report was welcomed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, which has long warned “fat is the new tobacco,” and by the Canadian Medical Association.

Foundation chief Sally Brown said overweight children are on “a fast track” to developing hypertension, heart disease and stroke.

New Democratic Party MP Penny Priddy said by chronicling links between poverty, poor diet and lack of exercise, the report busts a myth that overweight children all sit around playing on computers and watching TV. She cited the example of children in poor families being fed Kraft Dinner instead of going to bed hungry.

Kraft Dinner is a brand of macaroni and cheese, an inexpensive food.

Expressing concern that the committee would get into trouble with the Kraft corporation, Merrifield said “I love Kraft Dinner.”

The report said on average, adolescents in Canada spend almost 35 hours a week in front of a TV or computer screen – more time than in the classroom over the course of a year. Studies had shown the less time in front of a screen and the more activity, the less weight.

The committee also postponed a decision on a possible ban on food advertising to children, saying it would assess the impact of self-regulation in Quebec, Sweden and other jurisdictions in a year before deciding on the issue.

Bloc Québécois MPs issued a dissenting report, saying the Quebec government already has a well-defined strategy to deal with juvenile obesity and that the federal government should stick to its own jurisdiction in health, which is confined to First Nations and Inuit people.

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According to studies conducted at the University of Guelph, Canadians consume an average of eight to 10 grams of trans fats per day. At 9 kcal/gm for fat, trans fat account for at most 90 kcal/day. This is the cause of the obestiy pandemic? One pound of fat is about 3500 kcal, so it would take about 40 days to gain or lose one pound of fat if one adds the trans fat or eliminates it respectively. But that trans fat is always REPLACED with another form of fat with the same calories. A gram of trans fat has the same caloric value as a gram of oil or other fat. So one has to reduce the TOTAL FAT and TOTAL CALORIE intake to make any difference.

Here is what is often used to replace trans fat. No cholesterol, no trans fat, omega-3. These slogans are now used by food manufacturers to market even more junk calories. I predict the pandemic will only worsen. Nobody wants to deal with the fundamental problem, food addiction. See my photo essay on food addiction.

Health Food in Costco

One Response to “Child obesity and trans fat, a politically correct scapegoat”

  1. I agree fully with the remarks above. Child (or adult) obesity is a recent disease of affluence. Many parents themselves are afflicted by it and are obsessed about the difficulty of losing weight, whereas I believe the solution is quite simple. In the 3rd world, it is rare to see obese people. It seems most affluent humans can’t resist putting excess food of the wrong kind in their mouths.

    As a kid, I grew up in New Zealand during the 2nd world war, when food was scarce and rationed. I remember only 2 kids out of 400 at my primary school who were overweight. One lived on a farm and ate dairy and other foods which were obviously not rationed or at least, were hard to ration by the authorities. The other had no interest in physical activity, but loved eating, particularly fatty fried food. Overweight adults were also a rarity.

    I walk along the streets of Balmain in Sydney, after schools are out and most kids are eating ice creams, or consuming sugary drinks, bought for them by their mothers! When I grew up, the standard of living was much lower, but an ice cream or lemonade was a special treat, bought for me rarely.

    Controlling a child’s obesity starts at home and parents need to set the example and use some old fashioned discipline. This is not always easy, but the ability to achieve it in a way that doesn’t turn children off is an art that parents can work at for a win/win result. Nutritious meals of a modest size, devoid if possible of processed or fast food is a great start. If the meal size is too large, parents should remove the excess and put it out of sight, as most people, including children (and me) can’t resist eating what is put in front of them.

    More and more studies show that exercise, especially a sport that the child enjoys, is complementary to good nutrition and importantly, it helps children’s cognitive development, – they think more clearly, achieve better grades at school and grow into more balanced, self confident and happier adults. See http://fitnessforum.us

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