Saturday, 20 March 2010

Mrs. Obama on Childhood Obesity

Mrs. Obama on childhood obesity

By Dr. Ananya Mandal, MD

Consider this –

  • More than one third of American children are obese and barely reach adulthood before they are plagued by Type II Diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease.
  • The number of obese children has tripled over the last three decades.

Who is to blame?

While lack of exercise is a cause of such alarming trends, unhealthy and non-nutritious diet is one of the major villains in this scene.

So what do we do now?

Let’s Move

Last month First Lady Michelle Obama launched a programme called “Let’s Move” aiming at reducing and eradicating the childhood obesity epidemic in the existing generation so that the nation as a whole attains a healthy adulthood in the coming decades.

She said that the major role players in this effort are not only parents, teachers and government officials but also the food industry as a whole.

Need for More

Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) Chairman Richard Wolford, said "In recent years, our companies have reduced calories, sugar, fat and sodium in more than 10,000 products". "They have also enhanced the nutritional profile of many products with the addition of whole grains, fiber or other nutrients and created the informative and convenient 100-calorie pack.”

She commended the initial efforts made by the food industry but said that there is sill a long way to go to provide healthy food alternatives to children. She said "we need you not just to tweak around the edges but to entirely rethink the products that you're offering, the information that you provide about these products and how you market those products to our children." Replacement of unhealthy alternatives like trans fats with more unhealthy options like salt or high calorie fibers, she said is not the solution. She said unhealthy foods are not only responsible for obesity but also have a negative impact on the child’s productivity at school.

Take the pledge

She called on the big food industry giants to pledge their marketing strategies to manufacture and sell only healthy foods to children. She went on to say that food labels should have exact information about the quality and quantity of foods and how much of it was safe for the child. The First Lady pointed out that food manufacturers are aware of the impact their advertisements have especially on children and urged them to promote healthy eating among children by constructive marketing.

Her words were greeted warmly and have drawn a healthy response from the food industry which has unanimously agreed to rethink and reformulate their products and also make labeling more parent-friendly.

"We have not ever had this kind of leadership from the White House. Changing the way we make and market food isn't enough to end childhood obesity in a generation," said Sean McBride, GMA's vice president of communications. "Now we have a leader to help make the cultural change that is required."

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