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Unintended Consequences: Children’s Health and Diet

If you have young children or grandchildren, you should be aware of a number of important recent developments in children’s health. Please read this article to learn more.

A couple of years ago I had a very unusual call from a prospective patient. This 22 year-old woman wanted to know if acupuncture could help with the sudden onset of feeling ill. I asked her to tell me the symptoms. After she described them to me, I said, “It sounds like you had a stroke!” Then my rational brain kicked in and I found myself thinking that I must be wrong, 22 year-old people don’t have strokes…

As it turned out, this young woman had, in fact, had a stroke. It took a second visit to the emergency room for them to finally figure out the correct diagnosis.

This episode got me to thinking and doing some research. Among the disturbing trends I found were:

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1/3 of the children born in 2000 will develop diabetes. The ratios are even higher for black and Hispanic children.
  • The number of obese children has steadily grown (no pun intended) worldwide over the past 20 years. Childhood obesity is a well-established precursor for heart disease and type-2 diabetes in adulthood. That number is estimated to now be 15.3% of children in the U.S. alone.
  • The combined percentage of overweight and obese children in the U.S. is 30.3%. That means that almost 1 child out of 3 is heading for future health problems.
  • The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that showed that 25 percent of obese children under 10 years had either blatant or pre-adult onset type-2 diabetes.
  • The worldwide estimate is that over 22 million children are obese. In certain parts of Africa, obesity is 4 times more common that malnourishment.
  • Nine out of ten children are addicted to sugar and refined flour by age 4. The primary difference between refined sugar and flour and hard drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin is that the sugar and flour are much cheaper and easier to get. All of them are addictive and very hard on the body, especially over time.
  • The number of children diagnosed with behavioral and attention problems such as ADD and ADHD has grown astronomically since 1995. A reported 5-20% of school-age children are affected and over 2 million children take the drug Ritalin.

What do all of these childhood statistics have in common? Aside from the fact that they have emerged in relatively recent times, the other common feature is that they all are directly affected by diet.

As an example, the young woman I first mentioned in this article ate primarily sweets and highly refined foods. Her description of a typical meal was something like bread, cereal, coffee and a sweet roll. During the day she would drink sodas and juice – both very concentrated sources of sugar. And she practically ate no protein at all.

Sadly, this is not that different from how many children eat. And, because the most serious childhood health problems listed above are diet-related, this is a totally preventable and reversible trend.

Another clear example is the predominance of ADD/ADHD (behavioral and mental focus problems). The leading medical experts on this subject have found that diet has a profound impact on 5 out of 6 types of ADD/ADHD.

The only warning against supplementation with EFAs is if you are on blood thinning medications or have a bleeding disorder. EFAs tend to naturally thin the blood and should only be used under direct medical supervision in such cases.

Although it’s difficult to get children to stop eating sweets and refined carbohydrates, it’s not impossible. If your children or grandchildren have difficulty with school, have been diagnosed with behavior problems or don’t seem to have the energy and mental focus they should, look to diet as an important component of this process.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • KarenMarch 24, 2011, 6:58 pm

    Thanks. This is very interesting. In the book I told you about, The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith, she mentions that humans “got high” from eating grains and that’s what drove the Agricultural Revolution. They were all getting stoned on grains and this is the result!

  • Dr. BruceMarch 24, 2011, 8:43 pm

    Karen,

    That’s a great book for unmasking some of the popular misconceptions about vegetarian and vegan eating. Of course since everyone is different, some people actually do very well on a very high vegetable diet. But the number of them is very small in the overall population.

    I find the idea that grains made people high really funny, and don’t doubt it for a moment. After all, there’s a reason we call these, “comfort foods.” However as you know, the comfort is short-lived at best…

    Take care,

    Dr. Bruce

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