The estimated to be overweight or obese (Nihiser et

The expanding
waist lines of Americans has led to a national health crisis that has dangerously
trickled down to children—this epidemic is childhood obesity. The United States
is suffering from an epidemic that is continuously getting worse each decade.
Childhood obesity is characterized by the excessive accumulation of body fat,
in children. The National Center for Health Statistics, states that, “one-third
of school-aged children” were estimated to be overweight or obese (Nihiser et
al. 27). Childhood obesity not only affects children, but will continue to
affect future generations unless preventive measures are taken. In order to
prevent the childhood obesity epidemic from escalating, parents should be
educated about proper nutrition and big food corporations should be regulated
to combat obesity.

Matt Young,
an expert on human behavior and genetics, believes that America has a broken
system. He explains that the daily recommendation for sugar is six teaspoons;
however, the average American child consumes twenty-two teaspoons of sugar
daily. In his Ted Talk, he explains
that children usually consume most of this sugar from ordinary items such as
breakfast cereals and fruit juice. Parents are oblivious to the dangers just
one bowl of cereal can have overtime (Young 00.05.36).

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

Sugary
and Fatty foods are also addictive. According to Pediatric Nurse Amartey, many parents
will buy fast food not only for the convenience, but also because they are
unknowingly addicted to the trans-fat and sugary ingredients. She states that sugar can stimulate the same part of the
brain as cocaine. This means sugar can easily become addictive and children are
most vulnerable. Common foods at grocery stores can contain copious amounts
of sugar. Many companies hide their content of sugar by labeling it with deceptive
names such as maltose or sucrose. One of the most deceptive forms of sugar is high
fructose corn syrup. According to the American Heart Association, high fructose
corn syrup is cheaper than ordinary sugar and is in almost every processed food
and sweetened drink (Werner 61). Substantial amounts of this ingredient can be
toxic and highly addictive. Childhood is a vital time to focus on nutrients and
healthy food because children are growing and still developing. If children are
fed fast food, processed ingredients, and too much sugar, it increases their
chances of becoming obese.

            Lack
of physical activity prevents burning calories and promotes the over
accumulation of fat. According to
the American College of Sports Medicine, they estimated that, “today’s generation
of youth will be the first in our history not to outlive their parents” (Werner
61). This is because of high calorie foods with little nutrition and sedentary
lifestyles. Parents have the most authority in a child’s life; therefore, this should
encourage them to set the best examples. If children see their parents sitting
in front of a television screen every day, they will likely do the same. Parents
are the first adults in a child’s life to set an example for a healthy
lifestyle. In a child’s eyes, their parents can do no wrong and they are
constantly analyzing their parent’s lifestyle. If they are active, their
children will most likely mimic their actions. Unfortunately, many parents do
not realize this and continue to live a sedentary lifestyle. As a result, many
children will see this and do the same. In a 2012 study, 92% of elementary school parents considered
physical education as important as math and science; yet, only 4% of elementary
schools provide daily physical education (Kahn and Mckenzie). The inclusion of
physical activity in schools can also combat obesity; however, it is overall
the parent’s responsibility to encourage physical activity.

The lack of federal involvement in
physical education makes enforcing policies pertaining physical exercise up to
the states discretion. This leniency makes physical education  guidelines in America vague and flexible
depending on the state. This means states such as Alabama may have certain
school districts implement fifty minutes of physical education daily; however,
in thirty-one other states, there may be no physical education requirement. “In
California, 72% of school districts failed to provide the recommended physical
education requirements” of sixty minutes of daily exercise (Kahn and Mckenzie).
This shows that several states fail to incorporate effective physical education
courses.

            People who
are obese heighten their chances of inheriting chronic diseases such as high
cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease (Nihiser et al. 30). Exercise
lowers a child’s chances of getting these diseases. The Food Drug and Administration
(FDA), recommends at least sixty minutes of exercise for children. According to
studies conducted by John Hopkins University, it showed that physically active
people are less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who are
inactive (“Risks of Physical Inactivity”). Enforcing physical education to
students in schools would allow them to continue these healthy habits throughout
life. By engaging in activities such as walks, family exercise, club sports,
and being physically active in a child’s life is crucial to promote healthy
values.

            However,
many parents would refute this recommendation by stating they are too busy to
monitor their children’s diet all the time. Today, most parents work full time and
find themselves juggling responsibilities. These parents often rely on the
schools to provide healthy meals and rely on meal options that require little
preparation. Working mothers sometimes are forced to value convenience over
nutrition.  It is also difficult for
low-income families to afford fresh food. According
to CNN, parents in low income areas
are more likely to pay less attention to their child’s health (Firfer). This is
because these parents focus on issues such as financial stability and other
family issues. Low income areas usually contain unhealthy food which may be
cheaper and more convenient. This leads to parents providing poor nutrition.
Pre-packaged foods and fast food is also more convenient. This can make eating
healthy difficult, but it is the best many parents can do.

            Although
parents may be busy with work and providing financial support; it is still
imperative and a responsibility for parents to focus on providing their
children a nutrient balanced diet. For busy parents, meal prepping is
convenient for the whole family. Meal prepping is the weekly preparation of healthy
and balanced meals. This method makes providing fresh food during the week
easier to manage and easily accessible for children. For low-income parents, there
are farmers markets that may provide cheaper options for fresh produce. Instead
of buying boxed meals with preservatives or fast food, fresh produce is one of
the best ways to provide quality nutrition.

            Monitoring a
child’s diet is crucial to combating obesity. Since it is impossible for
schools to monitor every child’s diet, relying on schools to provide necessary nutrition
is not wise. Parents can always encourage healthy habits and promote balanced
eating. Engaging in exercise and outdoor activities with children is also a
bonding activity and a healthy way to prevent obesity. By children engaging in
physical activity at a young age, they begin to associate exercise as something
positive and it becomes a habit. Some parents may be busy; however, parents
encouraging sports and physical activity can be enriching for the student and
encourages healthy habits. 

Secondly, big food
corporations should be regulated. It
is imperative that the community realize that big food corporations target children.
If the community comes together to rally for change against this epidemic,
change will occur. The government can pass federal policies that will encourage schools to
implement healthier habits. The
Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 was passed to strengthen local school
wellness policies and require the United States Department of Agriculture to
provide nutritious produce to schools (Nihiser et al. 29). This act
provided millions of children with nutritious fresh produce. First Lady Obama established the
campaign, Let’s Move, which provided
salad bars and introduced whole grain to schools across the country. It also
eliminated unhealthy food products from school lunch lines. Federal policies
such as these, regulate food decisions of children should be improved upon and
promoted in order to see a difference in obesity rates.

Without regulation,
big food corporations can add as many grams of sugar or trans-fat as they want. Doug Werner, a health advocate
interviewed from USA Today, suggests warning labels should be put on
products such as fast food, and products high in preservatives. Preservatives
are used to prevent the rotting of food. Artificial preservatives, which is
used in many foods, can increase risks of developing chronic diseases.
Trans-fat is one of the major problems. Trans-fat is convenient, low-priced to
produce, and lasts a long time. It also provides food with desirable taste and
texture. Because of this, several fast-food outlets and restaurants use trans-fats.
Unfortunately, this can negatively affect cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is
carried through the blood attached to proteins called lipoproteins. There are
two main forms of these lipoproteins, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density
lipoprotein (HDL). Trans-fat raises the LDL cholesterol levels and lowers the good
HDL cholesterol levels. High LDL cholesterol is dangerous and can lead to several
diseases such as coronary heart disease, type two diabetes and an increased
risk of stroke (Werner 62).

For this reason, Werner
is adamant about regulating food corporations. He explains that if communities
are persistent enough to enforce warning labels on harmful foods, laws can be
implemented to enforce them. For example, cigarette boxes contain warning labels
because they can have dangerous and addictive effects. Fast food and high sugar
products should also have these warnings for the same reasons. Pediatric Nurse
Amartey agrees. She stated in a personal interview that if she could implement
one law to combat obesity, it would be to regulate big food corporations. “I
would make a law targeted towards food industries such as McDonalds and
Kellogg’s that load their products with harmful ingredients” (Amartey). She is
right. Food corporations are hardly regulated and use as much trans-fat and
sugar as they deem necessary. “They should let the parents know the risks, not
just the benefits. What’s the point of having cereal with whole grain if it has
twenty grams of sugar per serving. Parents should know the risks” (Amartey). Unfortunately,
many parents do not know. They trust in corporations that oftentimes hide
ingredients in order to appear more marketable to parents and more appealing to
children.

In one particular case, the community
and federal government came together to create solutions. Weight of the Nation 2012 was
an event in Nashville created to provide interactive training sessions to over
two hundred health providers in schools as well as researchers. Their goal was
to teach leaders in this school district how to implement national health
guidelines and to learn to interpret food labels (Nihiser et al. 32). This program educated over two
hundred school health providers in their district. A minor event created a big
change for that community. The Tennessee school district can serve as a model
for the country. This program would be beneficial and could combine community
leaders to government officials across the country.

Television
advertisement towards children is another unregulated business using children
as a marketing ploy to
sell their food. Television
advertisements have a surprisingly major impact on children and have certainly
impacted childhood obesity. According to a study by nutrition expert, Lennert
Veerman,  “US children aged two to eleven
years see an average of eleven minutes of food-related TV advertising per day.”
Much of food advertisements seen on TV by American children and adolescents are
for food with poor nutritional value and high in sugar and fat content. Food
promotion has a profound effect, particularly on children’s preferences,
purchase behavior, and consumption. There is a direct correlation of food based
television advertising and childhood obesity. The American Academy of
Pediatrics advocated a ban on junk-food advertising during programming that is
viewed predominantly by young children in 2013. Several countries including Sweden,
Norway, Greece and the province of Quebec have restricted fast food advertising
directed towards children. Unfortunately, in America, these advertisements are
normalized. Fruit loops cereal contains fourteen grams of sugar per serving,
even though the daily recommendation for sugar, according to the FDA, is six
grams of sugar (Veerman 366). When a child sees these advertisements with the
famous cereal mascot, Toucan Sam, advertising Fruit Loops, the last thing on that
child’s mind is the sugar content. These children end up eating cereals filled
with artificial colors and loaded with sugar. Parents are oblivious to what
they are feeding their children.

            These
corporations believe that it is not the advertisements fault, nor their
ingredients, that affect childhood obesity. Many of these food corporations
believe it is the parents responsibility to provide healthy nutrition and
physical exercise. It is the parents that should decide what they should give
their children and how to eat in healthy amounts. In 2004, Morgan Spurlock, a
health advocate and filmmaker, filmed a documentary titled,  Supersize
Me. He filmed his thirty-day period of eating only McDonalds food to reveal
the dangers of eating their super-sized fast food. He experienced several
problems over the thirty-day period affecting his physical and psychological
well-being. McDonalds fought back in a statement claiming Spurlock, “intentionally
consumed an average of five thousand calories per day and did not exercise,”
and that the results “would have been the same regardless of the source of
overeating” (Spurlock 46). McDonalds and several other fast food corporations would
agree that it is the consumers fault if customers consume too much of their
fast food products and experience problems. 
If parents decide to give their children fast food, they should know there
are damaging consequences for overeating. Food corporations should not be
blamed for this lack of discipline. If parents decide to buy fast food for
children, it is not the food corporations problem. Many corporations also
believe that fast food is a convenient option for parents to provide food for
children.

            Several
corporations believe their advertisements and large amounts of harmful
additives are not the problem; however, there are many flaws with this stance.
Marketing towards unsuspecting children, who do not know the risks of eating
fast food is overtly unethical. Children are oblivious to the fact that they
are targeted and simply want the food because their interests are being
targeted. Most parents are attracted to the convenience and many times do not
recognize the damaging ingredients. It is the parent’s responsibility to
regulate a child’s eating, but fast food should have warning labels and should
be regulated because of its harmful ingredients. According to the World Health
Organization, fast food is highly processed and usually contains copious
amounts of added sugar, trans-fats, and high amounts of sodium (Werner 62). These
foods are almost always high in calories and offer little nutrition. Not only
is it dangerous to consume because of the lack of nutrition, but it is also
addictive. If a child is exposed to high amounts of sugar and high sodium at a
young age, they may form unsuspecting addictions to the food (Veerman 367). Parents
are also unaware of how harmful some food corporations may be. Most parents
know Taco Bell and McDonalds is unhealthy; however, foods such as Kellogg’s and
General Mills, are also loaded with sugar. These companies should be honest
about the sugar content and high fructose corn syrup risks so that parents can
make educated decisions for their children.

            There is
still much work to be done. Parent
intervention will always be the best way to prevent childhood obesity. By
providing children with healthier foods and encouraging exercise, obesity can
be reversed in children. Proper nutrition is the root to combat obesity. A diet
rich in fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables, can greatly decrease
diseases associated with obesity. By incorporating fresh produce and healthier
meals, obesity can be prevented. Food company regulations can help parents make
an educated decision for children. Thirty years ago, obesity was not an epidemic
because of high physical activity levels. Food was less harmful and contained
less additives. If food corporations are regulated
and parent’s learn about their child’s nutritional options, the nation’s
obesity epidemic can be prevented.