Birgitta Lauren, August 6th 2012,
Today, with 30% of U.S. children overweight –the war on childhood obesity is mostly centered on what children eat, the marketing and availability of unhealthy, processed foods and parental choices, rather than the much easier prevention of it. And as important as healthy school lunches and PE is for children, not starting healthy habit programs until school, like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign is too late for prevention. The problem has already been created, both genetically and in habits – habits can be hard to change. Since obesity leads to all other diseases, from physical to mental, pediatric obesity experts now say intervention must begin early – very early, as risk factors begin before birth, necessitating changing the diet and lifestyle of the mothers themselves, before, during and after pregnancy and with very young children. It’s an interesting note that “pediatricians” are doing this as opposed to “gynecologists”…..
The Obesity Problem is Multipronged:
Statistics from the CDC, show that Hispanic, black, poor, publicly insured, and kids living in the southeastern states and those lacking outside school activities have the highest obesity rates. This tells us culture and environment matters, and may be difficult to change. But we also know that less expensive food is much less healthy. The latter is the fault of Big Food, Big Pharma (hormone, vaccine and anti-biotic injections of animals) and Big Chemicals (preservatives, additives, colors and flavors, fertilizers, pesticides & GMO’s etc…) manufacturers wanting to keep people addicted to their foods and also the government subsidizing processed foods to keep them less expensive. The collaborations between Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Chemicals, and the FDA, the USDA, the EPA and the government are keeping America fat. According to The Guardian, obesity is getting worse, not only due to too much food but, what’s in the food we eat – or not. Fixing this would require tossing out the entire Congress, or voting with your money, buying only fresh, organic and locally farmed foods, avoiding nutrient void, and chemically processed foods.
Obesity Starts in the Womb.
Too many women gain excessive amounts of weight during pregnancy as they use pregnancy as an excuse to eat too much, says researchers in a Division of Nutrition in Ithaca, N.Y Cornell University study that showed that 38% of normal-weight women, 67% of overweight women, and 46% of obese women gained too much weight while pregnant. 56% of the women who became obese during the study could have avoided it by staying within guidelines. But a Dutch study this year found that even after counseling 16% of obese women about to get IVF, refused to lose weight36. Since 96% of IVF patients face multiple risk factors – This is a big problem.
The 2009 Institute of Medicine advised weight gain during pregnancy is 11 – 40 lbs. depending on woman being obese, normal or underweight. “Get to a healthy weight before you conceive”, says the IOM, but with 55% of childbearing age women overweight, uncommon preconception care, half of pregnancies unplanned, and half of women don’t follow advice – it’s unfortunately a tall order. This is a problem as a child’s fat cells increase in number from 30 weeks of gestation through 18-24 months old. Over eating during pregnancy and nursing or formula feeding may increase the child’s number of fat cells.
Poor nutrition in the womb causes permanent genetic changes in the offspring – says study published in the FASEB Journal 4.13.09, increasing risk for diabetes, growth retardation, CVD, obesity, and neurodevelopmental delays, autism, among others, affecting multiple healthcare issues across generations. Study reiterates that prenatal care is far more important than anyone could have imagined a decade ago. Too much body fat, during pregnancy often puts too much stress on the uterus, leading to premature delivery. However obese pregnant women that exercise can prevent prematurity. However, a child will develop tastes and eating habits depending on moms eating habits. Everything mom does gestationally, will affect the baby’s future health for better or worse.
Causes of obesity in children:
Before & During Pregnancy:
- Lack of exercise
- Processed food, (high fructose corn syrup, soda, sugar, High GI foods)2
- Genetically Modified foods (GMOs), I.e.: corn & soy
- Excessive prenatal weight gain
- Insufficient prenatal weigh gain / Dieting around time of conception and early pregnancy3
- High-fat diet16, – fried foods.
- Chemicals like BPA, Phthalates11, diesel and petrochemicals exhausts12, and pesticides4.
- Medications, especially anti-depressants5
- High birth weight (whether from overeating or diabetes)
- Low birth weight, (whether from early delivery or undernourishment)
- Lack of Vitamin D6, 10
- Lack of probiotics, good bacteria and therefore vitamin K production in the gut7.
- Premature Delivery
- Babies born too close together8 (< 12 months between labor and conception).
- Mom’s lack of sleep5, as insufficient sleep may affect cortisol production35
- Chronic stress via Cortisol production.
- Labor complications and C-sections.
- Thyroid problems and Iodine deficiencies9 or toxicity.
Epigenetic Metabolic Reprogramming:
Maternal diet and physical activity during pregnancy has a profound effect on both placental and fetal development17. Nutritionally deprived newborns are at stem cells level “programmed” to “conserve energy” (store fat) and eat more by developing less neurons in the region of the brain that controls food intake, according to an article published in the Journal Brain Research, from a study by Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Altered brain development suggests that fetal growth restriction may lead to cognitive and/or behavioral problems.
These findings that dieting at conception causes obesity and diabetes shows obesity is not inherited, it’s manufactured. – “It also shows that epigenetics is the ‘new genetics’: …our DNA is susceptible to binge eating and dieting — we are what our mother’s ate.” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal. Interestingly, infants born large, have less health problems than infants born too small despite both leading to obesity13.
Obesity may also have roots in 1950s when pregnant women smoked, spurned breast-feeding and restricted their weight during numerous, closely spaced pregnancies; says Melinda Sothern, leading fitness and nutrition expert at Louisiana State University.
Weight gain is a known side effect of many drugs, including powerful anti-psychotics, anti-histamines, anti-depressants, diabetes drugs, beta blockers, corticosteroids and contraceptives5.Except the later, all of which seems to be freely doled out to pregnant women despite side-effects. As well as anti-nausea medication, which prohibit moms Folate absorption – with resulting ill effects and growth retardation of baby. I even see moms using serious painkillers like OcyContin (sick). With these painkillers now being the biggest cause of accidental deaths, and the constant exposure to chemicals through environment, household and body products and the food supply – is there any wonder children have problems…?
But metabolic epigenetic changes also extend to what fathers and grandfathers eat. If your paternal grandpa went hungry, or your dad ate a low-protein diet, you are more likely obese, according to the 12.23.2010 issue of Cell. This University of Massachusetts study also linked dad’s high-fat diet to their daughter’s health problems. Another study of the Swedish Sami population a century ago showed an 11 year old boy going from famine to feast prior to puberty caused a propensity for higher weight in his future children34. This means we are never off the hook of eating healthy.
- Lack of Exercise
- Formula feeding14
- Early introduction to solid foods before 6 months14.
- Baby’s lack of sleep14,35
- Processed food, GMOs, or a high-fat16 diet consumed by mom while nursing or baby later.
- Dieting (insufficient calories and nutrients)
- Chemical exposure to BPA, Phthalates, diesel petrochemical exhausts, fertilizers and pesticides.
- Medications, especially anti-depressants
- Lack of Vitamin D
- Lack of probiotics
- Eating too fast15
- Mom & baby’s chronic stress (including neglect & abuse)
- Thyroid problems and Iodine deficiency9 or toxicity.
The growing obesity epidemic, will double diabetes and triple medical costs by 203420, costing $168 Billion annually (individually $2800) says Cornell University 2010. These medical costs will rise 36% a year. This is double the cost of smoking33 and bankrupting America.
How do We Prevent Obesity?
Excellent nutrition of fresh, natural and organic foods and sufficient intake of all micronutrients at all times from preconception through nursing is crucial to establish baby’s proper metabolism, as baby growths and develops throughout. Extra prenatal supplements are vital to help baby’s metabolic system. Mom needs to be “fully stocked up” nutritionally, preferably one year before conception says the FDA. All nutrients work together, and with DHA and EPA from fish-oil; there are 32 necessary nutrients for proper health. Prenatal nutrition is like baking a cake: if you omit one ingredient or more, the cake or baby won’t be as healthy, so with most prenatals being incomplete, moms must be choosy.
Fit Moms Make Fit Babies
Exercise is a must during pregnancy. Moms who exercise produce children that are healthier on all levels: physically, mentally, better academically and athletically and are 5% leaner, says James F. Clapp MD Professor of OB/gyn Cleveland Metropolitan Health Medical Center.
Before & During Pregnancy & Nursing
- Loosing weight prior to conception if overweight.
- Exercise (3-6 x a week, 30-60 minutes a day).
- Avoid ALL processed & fried foods, white carbohydrates, sugar, soda and GMO’s.
- Eat ONLY FRESH FOODs (lean meats, fish, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables), preferably ORGANIC whenever possible.
- Sufficient Vitamin D3, preferably from sun exposure. (Whites: 10 min/day, blacks: 45 min/day minimum).
- Avoid all medications, drugs and chemicals if possible.
- Eating nuts like almonds21
- Apple peel’s ursolic acid may curtail obesity by increasing muscle mass and boosting calorieburning22
- Green Tea improves metabolic rate and reduces fat accumulation24.
- Proper protein intake above 15% of daily calories25
- Taking a good comprehensive prenatal supplement26
- Getting enough sleep (7-9 hrs.)35 and going to bed before 11 pm to allow for Melatonin production (hormone secreted by the pineal gland 27 and found inmustard, Goji berries, almonds, sunflower seeds, cardamom, fennel, coriander and cherries).
- Colder weather activates brown fat burning28.
- Eat slowly15
- Reduce stress with meditation, breathing and naps.
- Breastfeeding prevents obesity.
- Positive Parenting through Parent Corps and other programs that promote effective parenting and prevent behavior problems.
With 90% of women deficient in vitamin D, iron 40%, Folate 24% and B12 4%, supplementation, dietary and lifestyle interventions31 in pregnancy is vital before conception30 for reducing weight gain, to reduce risk of preeclampsia, diabetes, hypertension, prematurity, still birth29,birth-defects and poor growth of babies31.
Breastfeeding is crucial in obesity prevention. Yet, breast-milk is only as good as moms’ diet.
Solid Food Introduction:
After 6 months introduce a little rice cereal mixed with breast milk. A few weeks later, oat cereal, then cooked & pureed vegetables & fruits. Later chicken or beef can. An ideal serving size would start with 1-3 tbsp.… offer toddlers a variety of fruits, vegetables, and freshly cooked foods. Avoid using food as a reward. Children will not get a “taste for foods” they aren’t introduced to. Keep TV watching to a minimum32 and get kids active joining you in exercise or take advantage of kid’s gyms and parks. Introduce kids to many sports until they find what they like so they stick with it.
Creating healthy kids is a parent’s responsibility, and will improve your family’s health for generations to come. There are NO excuses.
- 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health
- British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology April 2009
- FASEB Journal 4.1.2012
- FASEB Journal 7.2012
- Dr. Julie Lumeng, University of Michigan, 2007
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 7.2012
- British Journal of Nutrition 2.2010.
- LA Times 12.19.11
- Newstarget 2005 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 7.2012
- Presented at The Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting 7.2012
- The Research Council of Norway’s Program on Environmental Exposures and Health Outcomes
- American Academy of Pediatrics 10.4.2004
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2007
- British Medical Journal 2008
- The International Association for the Study of Obesity
- OHSU School of Medicine
- UC Davis MIND Institute 4.2012
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 11.2007
- Diabetes Care 12.2009
- North American Association for the Study of Obesity
- PLoS ONE 6.2012
- A Danish study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- Polish Research, Naturalnews.com April 2011
- University of Sydney, Australia 11.11
- Multivitamin International Journal of Obesity 2.2010
- Journal of Pineal Research 5.2011
- National Institutes of Health 6.12
- BMJ 5.17 2012
- Journal Seminars in Perinatology, 12.2011
- Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC 5.5.2003
- Mayo Foundation 1.2010
- American Journal of Preventative Medicine 12.2009Origins
- Uppsala University, Sweden study 8.12
- Journal of Advanced Nursing 5.12