Today I saw an astounding statistic: In the year 2000, seven states reported that more than 20 percent of residents were obese. In 2009, just one decade later, 43 states reported an obesity rate of 25 percent or more - even among children!
We are quickly becoming a nation of porkers!
When I was a kid, no adult ever jogged or worked out in a gym. There were no fad diets and no food labels showing fat content, yet less than 10 percent of adults were overweight, and overweight kids were almost unheard of. There were not more than two or three in our whole school of 500 kids. Why is it so different today?
Basically, two things have changed.
One: When I was young, kids were more active. We spent nearly all day, every day, outdoors. In summer we were running, climbing, riding bikes, playing tag, dodge ball and kick-the-can. In winter, when not in school, we ice skated, built snow forts and played fox and geese. In school, an hour of P.E. every day was mandatory from kindergarten through 10th grade.
Today, kids are not safe outdoors without constant adult supervision. Consequently, they are lucky to spend one hour a day doing anything other than sitting - sitting at a desk in school and in front of a TV or computer at home. P.E. is an elective, if offered at all, in most of our nation's schools.
Two: When I was young, our food was simple, basic and prepared at home from fresh ingredients. We didn't have Hamburger Helper, TV dinners, nor McDonald's drive through. Since Mom made all our meals, including the lunches we carried to school, we knew exactly what was in them. Even canned and frozen foods were pure, without chemical additives to extend shelf life and make the food appear more appetizing. If you kept a loaf of bread more than two days, it grew green mold. Today, thanks to chemical preservatives, you can keep it two weeks before mold even begins to appear.
Milk was milk, from local cows that grazed on real grass in local pastures or were corn-fed from locally grown crops. Today, cows are pumped full of antibiotics and chemically enhanced vitamins which pass through their milk to us and our children.
Today, the list of ingredients on food labels reads like a pharmaceutical inventory. Many of the ingredients are totally unknown chemicals that most of us can't even pronounce, let alone know whether we ought to be eating them.
Other food additives, that at least sound like real food and therefore ought to be harmless, can be the worst of all. For instance, wheat gluten, a natural substance which most women over 45 are actually allergic to, is added to almost everything we eat because it happens to enhance the consistency of many foods. The effect of wheat gluten on the body? - bloating, weight gain and decreased ability to absorb nutrition. Now that's helpful!
I wonder if it has ever occurred to anyone that the abundance of food additives we ingest might be the cause of, not only our obesity, but also the skyrocketing rates of all sorts of problems in children such as ADHD, allergies and even autism.
Food additives should also be investigated as possible contributors to adult diseases such as lupus, multiple sclerosis and fibro myalgia, all of which are dramatically increasing in frequency in the U.S. I'm no scientist; I'm just a concerned citizen, mother and grandmother. But if even I can see the correlation here, isn't it worth investigating?
Our government recently apportioned several million dollars in pork barrel spending to research the eating habits of ancient Vikings who briefly visited our shores in the year 1000. (Yes, that really was a provision of the budget just approved by our congress.)
Come on FDA, isn't it about time to put our children's health first?