Contemporary Culture

The Cost of Childhood Obesity (Article)

Tackling the obesity problem has been on the forefront of the minds of politicians, doctors, and parents. Childhood obesity, defined as a BMI greater than 99% of the population, affects 20% of the children between the ages of 6 to 19 years old. This rate has doubled during the last two decades. A US Task Force on Childhood Obesity has set an ambitious goal to reduce that number to 5% by 2030. With the help of everyone who cares for children, I believe this is both achievable and cost effective.

Continue reading

Childhood Nutrition Improving in U.S. (Article)

Finally some good news about childhood nutrition in the United States; children are eating more fruit! Recently published statistics from the Center for Disease Control show the daily intake of fruit by U.S. children has increased by 67% in the past 10 years. Even better, a drastic shift has occurred between the amount of fruit juice consumed and actual whole fruits. Fruit juice has seen a 30% decline in consumption, and whole fruit consumption increased proportionally. This is an important trend since dieticians and nutritionists strongly recommend a child consume whole fruit instead of fruit juices to lower the child’s sugar intake and afford them the full benefit of other nutrients found in whole fruit.


Other news in the same report is not as encouraging–even though fruit juice consumption is down and whole fruit consumption has risen among US children, diets among children remain critically deficient in both whole fruits and especially vegetables. The Vital Signs study, conducted by the CDC, revealed that children still aren’t reaching the ideal level of fruit intake, and vegetable intake is looking even more dismal. Though fruit intake doubled during the study period, only 40% of children were getting the recommended fruit intake and a dismal 7% were getting the recommended vegetable intake. Vegetables and fruits supply vital nutrients to a developing child, ensuring that they grow healthy and strong.


So how do we continue to improve healthy eating habits in today’s children? Since 60 million kids spend much of every day in schools and daycares, the CDC recommends that these institutions begin implementing healthier eating options as a force for change. The CDC suggests that school districts and childcare centers begin training their food preparation workers on ways to make fruits and vegetables more tasty, and provide educational nutritional programs that make fruits and vegetables fun. Ultimately, a child’s parents play the most critical role in encouraging the consumption of vegetables. If parents committed themselves to eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables themselves, involving their children in shopping for whole food, teaching their children how to cook, and involving them in growing their own produce, many of the problems we see with the terrible diet many American children eat would quickly become a bad memory. Let your kids get their hands in some dirt, learn to shop for fresh produce, and sauté some vegetables, so they can be healthy eaters!

Your comments are welcome at Until next time.


Smo Notes:



Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Paul Smolen M.D.


Infertility Rate among Women in the U.S. Drops (Article)

Starting a family remains one of the central tenets of the ‘American Dream.’ A common image that comes to mind is the pitter-patter of an toddler’s feet as they dart across the kitchen floor during an afternoon game of hide-and-seek. Unfortunately for some potential mommies, infertility can prevent this happy picture from coming to fruition. Fortunately, recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows there may exist light at the end of this dark tunnel; the odds are improving for expectant parents. These data come from a recent report showing a 17% drop in infertile married women, ages 35-44 years, from 1982 to 2010. While this may sound small, this percentage translates to a drop from 2.4 million infertile women in 1982 to 1.5 million women!

How is this information measured? The National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) provides measures of fertility for both women and men. According to the NSFG, the two measures for infertility in women are “a lack of pregnancy despite having unprotected intercourse with the same husband or partner” and “difficulty in getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to live birth,” with the latter known as ‘impaired fecundity.’ Among mothers in the 35-44 year age bracket, a common age for first pregnancy in United States, the infertility rate has dropped from 44% to 27%. This is a vast improvement and has allowed many more women to pursue both their careers and family aspirations.

Overall, it appears infertility is on the decline across American married women. I am sure there are many reasons behind the drop in infertility rate which statisticians and healthcare researchers will determine. Isn’t it great to hear about one health statistic of Americans that is improving?  Let’s not stop making things better until everyone who wants to can enjoy the glorious sound of pitter-pattering of little feet running across their kitchens floors.

Your comments are welcome at my blog, Until next time.

Smo Notes:

Infertility and Impaired Fecundity in the United States,
1982–2010: Data From the National Survey of
Family Growth

by Anjani Chandra, Ph.D., and Casey E. Copen, Ph.D., National Center for Health Statistics; Number 67 n August 14, 2013and Elizabeth Hervey Stephen, Ph.D., Georgetown University

Written collaboratively by Norman Spencer and Paul Smolen M.D.

Sugar in Children’s Cereals (Article)

We all know that children love sugar. Children burn a lot of fuel because of their near-constant need to run around. Maybe sugar provides them with the necessary fuel to keep moving? Could this insatiable craving have biologic roots? Quite possibly, this the reason. Unfortunately in a culture like ours, where sugar is easy to get and plentiful, the rate of type 1 and 2 diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic disorders among children continues to rise. When a child’s craving for sugar coincides easy availability, trouble begins. Nowhere is that more evident than on the cereal aisle of any grocery store in the US.

Recently, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington DC health information non-profit, analysed 181 cereals marketed toward children and found them very high in sugar; on average, children’s cereals were more than 40% sweeter than adult cereals. The EWG estimates that if a child eats one serving of children’s cereal daily, they will eat 10 pounds of sugar annually. Ironically, they found that the cereal highest in sugar per serving was Kellogg’s Sugar Smacks. At least The Kellogg’s Company gave this cereal an accurate name.

As a society, we are finally beginning to realize just how destructive allowing children to consume large amounts of sugar is. Grandma instinctively new when sugar crept into the diet of Americans in the twentieth century that this would be harmful to children. Turns out she was right. Soda, candies, and sweetened cereals in large amounts lead to obesity and many other long-term health problems among children.

How do we promote healthier eating among today’s children? At a minimum, parents need to have access to non-deceptive food labels that give them accurate estimates of how much sugar their children will be getting from their children’s breakfast cereal. Telling parents that a box of cereal has 24 servings really doesn’t help them figure out how much sugar their child will be getting at breakfast, does it? Neither does not revealing how much extra added sugar has been put in a food during production. I think manufacturers of food marketed toward children should carefully study the history of tobacco marketing in the US. If they did, they would voluntarily stop the aggressive marketing of their product directly to children before society forces them to cease the practice.

As always, your comments are welcome on my blog,  Until next time.

Smo Notes: