Today’s “baby fat” is tomorrow’s prison sentence

Here’s a frightening statistic that really fired me up when I read it: If current trends continue to prevail, more than half of America’s kids will be obese by age 35.

This, despite the fact that only 17 percent of US children are currently obese. (Though that’s hardly a reassuring number, since that means nearly one in five kids have serious weight problems.)

Aren’t you tired of hearing about this yet? Because I am. But that won’t stop me from reporting on it. If anything, I am going to keep talking about it — louder and louder — until we finally do something to stop it.

Am I really the only medical professional that thinks the childhood obesity epidemic is a problem of apocalyptic proportions? It’s certainly felt that way over the last two decades.

I blew the whistle on this horrifying trend with my first book on kids’ nutrition, Feed Your Kids Well, all the way back in 1998. And sadly, it feels as if I’ve been screaming into a black hole ever since.

No one really wanted to hear my predictions back then. And now look where we are. To say the situation has only gotten worse would be the understatement of the century.

So let’s dig into some specifics, shall we? As I mentioned above, about 17 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese. But projections estimate that 57 percent of American kids will meet the clinical criteria for obesity by their mid-thirties.

The likelihood of already obese kids staying that way just gets higher as they get older. If they’re fat at age two, the likelihood that they’ll be fat at age 35 is a whopping 75 percent. If they’re fat at age 19, the outlook is even worse — the odds of obesity at age 35 is a staggering 88 percent.

Only kids who have a healthy weight now have a fighting chance of escaping this fate. And by that, I mean that their odds of becoming obese down the line are under 50 percent — not exactly the rosiest outlook, either…

But for severely obese kids, there’s no getting around it. At age 2, these children have mere one in five odds of escaping obesity at age 35. And if they’re still fat by age 5, those odds drop to an even lower one in ten.

The writing is on the wall: Early weight problems point directly to weight problems in adulthood. Which means that those rolls so many parents wave off as “baby fat” equate to a lifelong prison sentence.

The fact is, if a school-aged child hasn’t “grown out of it” yet, they’re not likely to at all—especially if they don’t have a serious support system in place.

But that’s the problem, now isn’t it? No one seems to want to take this problem on in earnest. Similar to the way that no one wanted to take on Big Tobacco.

And we only addressed that giant elephant when it could no longer fit in the room… Yet here we are, barreling down an eerily similar path again. Because much like addiction, obesity is a trajectory that’s incredibly difficult to change.

But it’s not impossible.

And regardless of the hurdles, we’ve got to find a way of stemming this tide.

We’ve seen some modest declines in obesity among two- to five-year-olds recently. And a stabilization of rates among kids between the ages of 6 and 11 years old. But obesity among teens and adults continues to spiral out of control.

There’s no shortage of factors to account for this. But the one thing that stands out as the foremost foundational pillar of the obesity epidemic is — you guessed it — sugar.

It took decades just to get Big Tobacco to admit their web of deceit. Let’s not make the same mistake with Big Sugar. It’s time for our government to stop subsidizing this industry — and to start holding it accountable for its lethal lies — now.

If not for us… then for our children.

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