Overweight Kids Face the Grim Reaper - Or Just 'Mass' Hysteria?

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens

Fast-food culture isn't helping our kids' hearts. Credit: David McNew/Getty Images

"The round, roly-poly boys are the jolly boys and make the best providers, psychologists believe. Is it true that, 'Everbody loves a fat man?' " -- "The Feature Writer's Handbook," 1958

Welcome to the 21st century, jolly boy. You're not that popular anymore -- especially if you're among the Legion of Tubby Teens. (And no, that's not a new comic book.)

You obese young'ns out there are apparently quite the national epidemic. All sorts of researchers want you to know you are waddling down the road to face everything from depression and diabetes to learning disabilities and lower incomes.

Now you can add heart disease to the list.

Canadian researchers studied 63 ample adolescents and found that, well, let's just say Kevin James called. He wants his arteries back. Kids as young as 13 had the blood vessels of middle-aged men.

This obviously puts teens at risk of heart attack and stroke. In fact, leaders of the British Heart Foundation tell the British Broadcasting Corporation the researchers' findings mean a "ticking public health time bomb."

The BBC reports researchers measured the elasticity of kids' aortas with ultrasound to tell how fast their blood is moving through their hearts. Not so fast, it turns out. Compared with 55 kids of average weight, the Uh-Oh Factor spiked.

Researchers were even more worried when they found the differences in obese kids' arteries were not reflected in similar differences in blood pressure and cholesterol. This means these kids could already be digging their own graves by getting started early on cardiovascular problems.

"We must rethink the lifestyle standards we have accepted as a society to protect the future health of our kids," Beth Adamson, from the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, tells the BBC.

Then again, maybe this whole child obesity "epidemic" is a bit bloated.

Paul Campos, a professor of law at the University of Colorado, has written the book "The Obesity Myth" that claims our current obsession with child obesity is as exaggerated as an opera singer's waistline.

"By every objective measure, including life expectancy and rates of chronic disease and disability, American children, like American adults, are both bigger and healthier now than they were a generation ago," he wrote last April in The New Republic. "Despite claims to the contrary, Type II diabetes among children remains quite rare."

Yeah, you say, but wait until all those ticking time bombs grow up.

"A new comprehensive meta-analysis of data from more than a dozen countries, including the U.S., reveals that, for a decade now, obesity rates all over the world among both adults and children have been largely flat or actually declining," Campos wrote.

"The study points out that alarmist claims from public health officials about an 'obesity epidemic are all explicitly based on the mistaken assumption that obesity rates are continuing to rise," he added. "In particular, the claim that life expectancy in America is going to decline is unsupported by any demographic or epidemiological evidence."

Bottom line? No one says being fat is good for you. But that doesn't mean the grim reaper is squeezing your love handles.


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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.