Tag Archives: obesity

America “super sized” (Pedcast)

Welcome to another edition of DocSmo.com, the pediatric blog  that gives parents practical, portable pediatrics on their time framework. I am Dr. Paul Smolen, your pedcast host. Today, I am going to bring you a different type of pedcast. Usually I try to bring you mostly factual information about a pediatric topic sprinkled with some observation from my doctor chair along with a few opinions. Not today… this is going to be “pure opinion.” I am going to get a little preachy about a topic that I feel very strongly about… childhood obesity. I am not going to candy coat the message; it’s coming straight at you like a fastball over home plate… straight and fast. So sit back and listen. Hopefully the message will come through clearly.

Oh boy, do we have our work cut out for ourselves. The obesity epidemic shows no signs of abating anytime soon. Processed foods crept into the American landscape during the 20th century slowly but surely, one soda and sweet cereal at a time. Food companies saw new markets, and they met the need. They created new foods faster than your great-grandmother could darn your parents’ socks. We became enamored by easy, fast, and satisfying. Boy have we paid a price for all this “innovation.” Yes, nutrition on the fly let us spend less time shopping and preparing, but it also has made heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension a way of life in the western world. What I read says these maladies are all about lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle, not genes, genes, genes. What I find ironic is that for all the money we spend on antihypertensive medicines, cholesterol lowering drugs, and insulin for our diabetics, we could probably buy groceries for every American. One of the saddest things about my job is that I see many children who have never been and probably will never be in good physical or nutritional condition. I fear that these children will become adults thinking that good food is a side salad with their value meal at the drive thru and exercise is walking to the store to get a candy bar.  What will they provide for their children when they become parents? Less than optimal food, I suspect, and little activity. They won’t know any better… and  the cycle continues. It’s easy to eat junky processed food and it’s hard to buy, cook and serve real food. Providing wholesome food is one of the most important parenting tasks facing parents.

So how are we going to get ourselves out of this nutritional mess we have created? Here is what I suggest: Start by teaching your children the difference between whole food and processed foods…and repeat the message often until they get it! Make sure you are setting a good example of eating for your children by eating the way your grandmother would have wished you would. Make it a priority to have as many family meals as possible with real food. If you have the space, plant a small garden and involve your children in cultivating vegetables. Get your children involved with the shopping and cooking process; it’s fun and you will cherish the time you spend together in the kitchen someday…I promise. Vow to get all the sweet drinks out of everyone in your families diet…no soda, no sports drinks, no sweet tea, no energy drinks, no calorie laden coffee drinks. Limit fast food to no more than once a week… No, make that “eating out anywhere” no more than once a week. And finally, lets stop making every holiday a candy fest, every fund raiser a chance to sell sweets, every celebration a gluttonous festival of food, every sporting event a sugary slurry of drinks, and every accomplishment rewarded by something to be consumed.  We can find other ways of saying good job without insulin levels off the scale. Let’s start paying more attention to what children need rather than what they want. Only then will we get it right. Well, thanks for joining me today. I feel better getting all that off my chest. Who knows, maybe I will inspire a few people to make some big life changes. I always welcome comments from my listeners. To comment, leave your thoughts on Facebook, iTunes or at my website, www.docsmo.com. Who knows, you might see them in print. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, thinking it would really dandy  if our children got less candy. Until next time.

From the desk of Doc Smo: Not all sugar is the same! (Article)

I was browsing some recent medical articles the other night, and I came across one that I found particularly interesting about the metabolic effects of glucose and fructose on our brains. Sounds boring, right? WRONG. This study may provide part of the answer to why Americans are getting so fat. Up until recently, the sugar we ate came in the form of cane sugar. Cane sugar is a mixture of two simple sugars called glucose and galactose. Food scientists back in the 60’s discovered that sugar derived from corn syrup was much sweeter and cheaper to produce than cane sugar; consequently, in came the high fructose corn syrup that is so ubiquitously used by the food industry in America. The combination of cheap and satisfying fructose based sugar was just what the processed food industry had been looking for.

I have written before about the tremendous increase in sugar consumption by much of our population during the 20th century. Sugar consumption of all sorts has gone from an occasional treat to the mainstay of our diets. We can all see the results: 60% of Americans being overweight and 30% considered obese. Sugar consumption, especially in the form of liquid beverages, is thought by many experts to be at the heart of much of this obesity. Unbelievably, one in four adults in America is now a diabetic.

Back to the study I was reading this week: the researchers found that fructose, the sugar derived from corn, biochemically reacts differently with our brains than does glucose, the sugar in cane sugar. These researchers concluded from their data that our brains are not as “satisfied” by fructose ingestion and therefore hunger is not reduced by fructose (corn sugar) as with glucose (cane sugar). Could it be that by going back to old fashioned sugar, our obsession with sweets in America might begin to go away? If something simple like putting babies to sleep on their backs can dramatically reduce crib death, why couldn’t an equally simple thing like changing the ingredients of sweetened beverages end the obesity epidemic? Something to think about.

I welcome your comments at www.docsmo.com.  While you are there, subscribe and get all my new content.  Until next time, from Dr. Paul Smolen.

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Lunchroom Lowdown: Nutrition (Article)

I started this week’s lunchroom lowdown by posing the following question to my partners: “How is the diet of your patients different than yours as a child?” This question generated a lively discussion among the doctors and nurse practitioners. What came through loud and clear was the fact that almost all the food that we consumed as children was prepared at home home, not made in a restaurant, and certainly not in a fast food restaurant. Drs. Moorman and Plonk were raised in rural towns whose economies revolved around agriculture. Neither had any regular access to restaurants, so home-cooked meals were all they got.  Everything was prepared by hand from freshly grown or produced “whole foods.” As Dr. Plonk noted, “Everything we ate was free range and much of it was raw, including the milk we drank.”  Even the doctors who grew up in more urban environments like myself ate mostly home prepared foods. Melissa Davis, one of the pediatric nurse practitioners, said her mother even made all the pastas that the family ate. Everything was homemade. Eating out was an incredibly unusual event during all of our childhoods. As far as fast foods, they just didn’t exist. We all carried our lunches to school and had family dinners every night. Doesn’t sound like today’s world, does it?


Next I posed the question, “How can parents improve the nutrition of their children?” All the providers felt that reducing “eating out” and eliminating “processed foods” like sugary cereals, white flour based breads, and sugary drinks are definitely good first steps towards improving children’s nutrition.  Dr. Moorman said succinctly, “No potatoes and no sugary drinks.” Dr. Plonk felt that the national “no white foods” (eliminating foods made from white flour, white rice, and sugars) campaign makes a lot of sense and could really help. Melissa Davis believes strongly in the benefits of home cooked meals. She suggests making this process more feasible by preparing certain meals ahead of time; when she is cooking on the weekend, she makes extra portions that the family eats on days when she works and doesn’t have time to cook.  Dinner is essentially ready before she ever gets home, because she made it last weekend! She loves her crockpot! Melissa also had another good tip that I thought was worth passing on: she starts teaching her 3 children from a very young age what is whole food by describing the food as “healthy” to her children as she serves it. Finally Beth Haynes, another of our great nurse practitioners, thinks that parents need to lead by example.  She says that if parents are active and eat a balanced diet, their children will follow. “Exercise as a family and eat as a family,” she says.


My final question for the group was the following: “Do you have hope that the obesity epidemic will get better in the near future?”  I felt this was a fair question since we all spend almost all our waking hours talking to families about health and diet issues, and thus we should have a fairly good sense of whether parents are willing and able to do what it takes to reduce the epidemic of overweight children in our society. Dr. Plonk and I were hopeful that change is coming. We can feel it in our daily experience. The other providers weren’t as optimistic. They  were somewhat pessimistic on the subject; they feel things may get worse before improving. I certainly hope they are wrong. Eating a traditional, whole food diet is something that has taken mankind thousands of years to perfect, and to lose it in one generation because of cheap and convenient processed foods would be a terrible state of affairs.  Can you imagine a generation of children who don’t know what real food is? I certainly hope we never get to that point.

Why Your Child Should Avoid Sugary Drinks! (Pedcast)

A teaspoon of sugar may make the medicine go down but frequent consumption of sugary drinks can ruin your child’s health. Get Doc Smo’s input on the subject with some practical advice on how to manage soda in your home.

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An interesting article from the New York Times:

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