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Weight Issues In Children-Experts Take Stock

Childhood obesity has never occupied so high a priority in the minds of concerned health professionals and lawmakers, as of now.//

There are moves to do away with regular school snacks such as colas and chips, which experts believe are contributing to ungainly as well as dangerous pounds on youngsters. A committee from the Institute of Medicine has been set up by the US Congress to look into the matter.

Says Virginia A. Stallings, head of the committee: "Making sure that all foods and drinks available in schools meet nutrition standards is one more way schools can help children establish lifelong healthy eating habits. Such foods will include whole grain biscuits, low fat yogurt, fruit and water.

In Ottawa, Canada a child health summit has agreed upon making healthier lifestyles for children a national priority. The hosts of the summit, the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Pediatric Society and the College of Family Physicians of Canada, aim to make the country one of the top five in the world for healthiest children.

The summit organizers drafted a Child Health Charter and Challenge that calls for children to have a safe and secure environment, good health and development, and a full range of health resources available to all.

According to Canadian official figures, obesity in children has tripled in the last 20 years. A 25-year-long Canadian Community Health Survey, which looked at obesity in children and adults, has come out with results that call for drastic change in lifestyle choices.

At the beginning of the study, three per cent of children between the ages of two and 17 were considered obese. Among adults, the rate was 14 per cent. By the end of the study in 2004, those rates soared. Among children, nine per cent were considered obese. Another 20 per cent were considered overweight, meaning that almost 30 per cent of youngsters had weight problems.

Among adults, the obesity rate soared to 23 per cent. Another 36 per cent were overweight. According to the study, almost 60 per cent of Canadian adults deal with weight problems.

The survey also found that children and adolescents who reported eating fruits and vegetables five or more times a day were substantially less likely to be overweight or obese than those who consumed them less frequently. Forty-one per cent of children and adolescents reported they ate at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

The survey found kids between the ages of six and 17 were more likely to be obese if they spent a lot of their spare time watching TV, playing video games or using the computer.

Meanwhile, another study funded by the non-profit Canadian Population Health Initiative, found that Old Order Mennonite children tended to be fitter, stronger and leaner than other Canadian kids – even despite a lack of phys-ed classes or organized sports.

These children do not have access to video games, computers and television. What they do have access to is up to 18 minutes more of moderate or vigorous physical activity per day compared to most other children, as well as daily chores.

"They help out with things," said Dr. Mark Tremblay, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan who led the study. "Whether it's in the barn, or baling hay or milking cows. They walk or bicycle to and from school."

Says Lisa Sullivan, manager of research and policy at the Canadian Population Health Initiative: "This research gives us a unique glimpse into the past that may help to explain the rising rates of obesity over the past few decades."

The health consequences of excess weight are well known. It is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, some cancers and gallbladder disease.

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