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Childhood Obesity and Carbohydrate Intake: Review of a Recent Study

It’s obvious that obesity is a major problem in our country. We can sometimes deny the severity of this problem, but if you really pay attention to what is going on around you, you will see that we are facing an epidemic. This will lead to rising healthcare costs and inability for workers, as well as a lack of joy and vitality. It’s not only expensive but also sad.

Scarier still is the fact that thousands of children are already facing this horrible scenario. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and prediabetes are all common conditions in children. It is often a direct correlation with their weight. This is not only for older children. These high lab results are visible in children as young as three or four years old. It begs the question: What do we do?

After graduating, I worked for a time in the WIC (women infants and children), clinic. My job was to provide advice on healthy eating for parents and high-risk pregnant women. It was for some the first time they had received this type of individual education. It was a rewarding experience. We have seen children grow quickly on their growth charts, unfortunately. These people would be flagged by the system and we would be reminded each time to talk about ways to reduce our calorie intake. This would often mean that they were advised to drink less juice, switch to low-fat milk or reduce their portion sizes. Sometimes these answers worked and sometimes they didn’t. We weren’t always certain what the best solution was. Our main goal was to get parents to understand that there had to be a change. It was not enough to simply tell parents “eat well”.

This is why I was so interested in the new study that was published recently. This brought me back to WIC days and made me reflect on how I would approach clients differently if I knew a more direct, positive recommendation with known health outcomes. People often forget that recommendations in public health should be easy to remember and simple. While I don’t believe people are stupid or oblivious to the importance of public health, they may not be willing to come into my office. They had to be there so I kept them in my office for a few minutes. They could be convinced if we are able to convince them with simple and firm solutions that work.

We are now back at the study. It was intended to determine if changes made in sugar intake, but not in macronutrients or calorie composition, could have an impact on basic biochemical markers of health. They looked at fasting blood sugar levels and insulin levels as well as cholesterol levels.

The study design was the following. They took a group of children, ages 6 to 18, with a high BMI and at least one other comorbidity (hypertension, hypertriglyceridaemia, impaired fasting blood sugar, hyperinsulinemia, elevated alanine aminotransferase, or severe acanthosis negricans) and assessed their typical macronutrient and caloric intake. This was to ensure that their weight and BMI remained stable throughout the entire study.

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