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The Standard American Diet Is Shortening Our Children's Lives

Mourning the loss of a child is every parent's greatest fear. But as a society we have created an environment where the current generation of children may NOT outlive their parents!1

The poor dietary habits of today’s children is contributing to their obesity, chronic illness, and ill-health. It is also laying a foundation for poor academic performance, chronic disease later in life, violent behavior, and premature death. But children are not making these choices on their own; children’s dietary habits are ingrained by their parents.

Our children deserve more from us. It is time to stand up as a society and take proper care of them! Let's not destroy their future with food, something that we can control. Better yet, let's give them the best fighting chance for the brightest future.

Poor nutrition gravely impacts children's health throughout their lives. Junk food IS life-threatening!! Take a look at the numbers.

  • Overweight and obesity rates have doubled among children and quadrupled among adolescents in the past 30 years.2 These children also suffer the social stigmatization associated with being overweight.
  • Obesity in children increases their risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, joint problems, sleep apnea, early puberty, and several cancers.2
  • About half of overweight teenagers (and 37 percent  of normal-weight teenagers) had one or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including diabetes, high LDL cholesterol, and hypertension.3 Signs of atherosclerosis can be seen in childhood.4
  • The rise in obesity is predicted to cause today’s children to live shorter and less healthy lives than their parents.1
  • The CDC estimates that 1/3 of children born in 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.5
  • Childhood obesity has been found to be the greatest risk factor for premature death due to chronic disease.6
  • Many adult cancers are linked to poor childhood nutrition.7,8

The effects of poor nutrition on the brain are dramatic too—research has linked poor childhood dietary habits to adult violence. The Cardiff University study involving 17,500 people found 10-year-olds who ate sweets daily were significantly more likely to have a violence conviction by age 34. The researchers found that 69% of the participants who were violent at the age of 34 had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during childhood, compared to 42% who were non-violent.9 Frequent consumption of fast food and baked goods in particular has been associated with an increased risk depression, and in children and teens, poor nutrition is linked to lower IQ scores, depression and diminished academic performance.10-13

When it comes to something so simple and basic that so greatly impacts the quality of a child's life, there is no excuse to be negligent. Just as a doctor takes an oath to "do no harm" with the course of treatment for his patients, so should parents have to take an oath "to do no harm" with the food choices they offer their children. Somehow we overlook that allowing our children to indulge in junk food creates an environment setting them up for childhood illnesses, later life cancers, and an overall poor quality life. We ignore the hazards of some of their food choices and, worse, actually condone behavior that is potentially very harmful to them—even life-threatening!

We are the parents, and we must take control of our children's health! Indeed, we are in full control of the meals that we provide and the examples that we set. The bottom line is that we can have a major impact on the future health of our children. Our goal should be to instill healthy habits in our children so that they grow up at a healthy weight, enjoy healthful foods and exercise, and hold on to these habits as adults. Please arm yourself with the critical information about how to protect your children's health, both mind and body, by feeding them right and educating them about the power of food.

All of the science and the basic how-tos are addressed in my book, Disease Proof Your Child.


1. Olshansky SJ, Passaro DJ, Hershow RC, et al: A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century. N Engl J Med 2005;352:1138-1145.
2. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood Obesity Facts. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm. Accessed
3. May AL, Kuklina EV, Yoon PW: Prevalence of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among US Adolescents, 1999-2008. Pediatrics 2012;129:1035.
4. Berenson GS, Wattigney WA, Tracy RE, et al: Atherosclerosis of the aorta and coronary arteries and cardiovascular risk factors in persons aged 6 to 30 years and studied at necropsy (The Bogalusa Heart Study). Am J Cardiol 1992;70:851-858.
5. Narayan KM, Boyle JP, Thompson TJ, et al: Lifetime risk for diabetes mellitus in the United States. JAMA 2003;290:1884-1890.
6. Franks PW, Hanson RL, Knowler WC, et al: Childhood obesity, other cardiovascular risk factors, and premature death. N Engl J Med 2010;362:485-493.
7. Frazier AL, Li L, Cho E, et al: Adolescent diet and risk of breast cancer. Cancer Causes Control 2004;15:73-82.
8. Maynard M, Gunnell D, Emmett P, et al: Fruit, vegetables, and antioxidants in childhood and risk of adult cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort. J Epidemiol Community Health 2003;57:218-225.
9. Moore SC, Carter LM, van Goozen S: Confectionery consumption in childhood and adult violence. Br J Psychiatry 2009;195:366-367.
10. Hoare E, Skouteris H, Fuller-Tyszkiewicz M, et al: Associations between obesogenic risk factors and depression among adolescents: a systematic review. Obes Rev 2014;15:40-51.
11. Sanchez-Villegas A, Toledo E, de Irala J, et al: Fast-food and commercial baked goods consumption and the risk of depression. Public Health Nutr 2012;15:424-432.
12. Smithers LG, Golley RK, Mittinty MN, et al: Dietary patterns at 6, 15 and 24 months of age are associated with IQ at 8 years of age. Eur J Epidemiol 2012;27:525-535.
13. Yau PL, Castro MG, Tagani A, et al: Obesity and metabolic syndrome and functional and structural brain impairments in adolescence. Pediatrics 2012;130:e856-864.

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