Facts You Should Know

Saturday, May 17, 2008 8:23 PM


1. The average 10-year-old girl weighed 77 pounds in 1963; today, 88. The 10-year-old boy weighed 74; today, 85.

2. A 2006 study tracking 2,000 low-income children in 20 cities found that a third were overweight or obese before age 4. Most at risk: Hispanics.

3. Even more than smoking or drinking, obesity triggers significant health problems and pushes up health spending.

4. Children and teens consumed 110 to 165 more calories than they burned each day over a 10-year period ¿ adding up to 58 pounds of extra weight, according to a Harvard University study.

5. Only 2 percent of U.S. children eat a healthy diet as defined by the USDA.

6. "Husky" car seats were developed several years ago. In 2006, more than 250,00 children under 6 exceeded the weight standards for regular seats.

7. Soft-drink consumption has increased 300 percent in 20 years, and is the leading source of added sugars for adolescents.

8. One-fourth of all vegetables eaten in the U.S. are french fries or chips.

9. One-fourth of all Americans eat fast food at least once a day.

10. We consume 20 percent more calories than a generation ago; most comes from fats and oils (up 63 percent), grains (up 43 percent), sugar (up 19 percent).

Sources: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2006 annual report; American Journal of Public Health; Roland Sturm, UCLA/Rand; Obesity journal; Harvard University; Center for Science in the Public Interest; National Association of School Nurses; "Fast Food Nation"; USDA.


1. America's weight problem can be fixed. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation points out:

* In 1965, 43 percent of Americans smoked. Today, 21 percent do.

* In 1982, drunk drivers killed 22,000. Today, 12,000 do.

* In 1983, 24 percent of U.S. drivers used seatbelts. Today, 82 percent do.

2. Trans fat bans or limits were proposed in 15 states last year. None passed.

3. For 32 years, the U.S. Women, Infants and Children program subsidized eggs and cheese for poor children, but no vegetables. In 2007, vegetables, fruits and whole grains were added.

4. James Hill of the University of Colorado has found the "energy gap" ¿ the difference between what's consumed and what's burned off¿ to be 100 calories daily for the average American adult. That's about equal to: two-thirds of a can of Coke, or one-fourth of a McDonald's Quarter Pounder. Walking a mile would burn off roughly 100 calories.

5. A quarter of teens drink an average of four colas a day ¿ the equivalent of an extra meal.

6. "A pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. To lose 1 pound a week you will need to expend 3,500 more calories than you eat that week, whether through increased activity or decreased eating or both. Losing 1-2 pounds of fat a week is a sensible goal."

Sources: Institute of Medicine; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; University of Colorado; Science News; About.com.


1. African-American and Hispanic children ages 6 to 11 are twice as likely to be overweight as Caucasian children.

2. A study of 200 neighborhoods showed that white neighborhoods have four times as many supermarkets as African-American ones.

3. Families eat a third of their calories out, and eating out is correlated to obesity.

4. Obesity is linked to the top 10 causes of death, depression, absenteeism at school and, later, work, lower marriage rates, lower household income.

5. Nearly one-third of children in Northern Virginia had a fast-food snack or meal on a typical day. A typical child in Northern Virginia eats breakfast every day, eats a home-cooked dinner six nights a week and dines out once per week.

6. The majority of Northern Virginia children and teens spent four or more hours at a computer, TV or video game screen on a typical weekday ¿ twice what is recommended.

Source: Kristen Kurland research team, Carnegie Mellon University; American Journal of Preventative Medicine; American Public Health Association; Inova Health System


1. Parents blame school lunches, but the American Public Health Association reports that kids gain more weight in the summer, when parents are in charge of what they eat.

2. Forty percent of parents with obese children ages 6 to 11 say their kids are "about the right weight," according to the National Poll on Children's Health by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

3. Kids will eat healthy: School cafeteria servers in Guilford, Conn., were trained to ask elementary students if they wanted fruit or juice with lunch. Ninety percent of kids said yes, and 80 percent of those consumed it.

4. McDonald's advertised on report cards in Seminole County, Fla., until the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood objected in December.

5. It Can Be Done

Some tips for parents from Keith Ayoob, registered NYC dietician.

* Practice the Rule of One: Limit children to one of each item served ¿ one scoop of potatoes, one piece of meat ¿ but unlimited vegetables.

* Get moving: Make sure children have a physical activity every day ¿ walk the dog, do errands on foot or bike. Start with 20 minutes and build to an hour.

* Limit screen time: two hours or less for TV and computer.

6. It Can Be Done, Part II

Tips for parents from Lisa Harnack, public health columnist for University of Minnesota:

* Make family meals a model.

* Steer you child away from a la carte and vending items and work with schools to eliminate them.

* Monitor your child's meals --ask them what they had for lunch.

* Pack well-balanced lunches--avoid prepackaged convenience lunches.

* Ask for your school's wellness policy.

7. A majority of 1- to 2-year-olds eat a sweet a day; only 1 in 10 eat a dark-green vegetable.

8. A television in the bedroom is correlated to overweight in children.

9. Nutritionists at Children's National Medical Center recommend:

* No more than 3 grams of fat per serving.

* No more than 12 grams of sugar per serving.

* High fiber: 5 grams plus the child's age.

Sources: American Public Health Association; Yale University; Harvard University.


1. Three to 5 percent percent of U.S. medical spending goes to prevention; the rest, to treatment. The public health community wants more for prevention.

2. A Canadian study found that 83 percent of doctors are less likely to perform exams on obese patients, according to University of Alberta researcher Tim Caulfield, research director in public health sciences.

3. Only 36 percent of parents with heavy children say their doctor suggested their child lose weight, a Consumer Reports poll found; 64 percent say the doctor didn't mention it.

4. Liposuction among teens has tripled, to 5,000 last year, according to U.S. News and World Report.


1. Nine out of 10 food commercials shown during Saturday morning children's television programming are for foods of poor nutrition, according to a study just released by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the University of Minnesota and reported by Science Daily.

2. A study published in last August's Archives of Pediatrics& Adolescent Medicine found that 3- to 5-year-olds preferred anything wrapped in a McDonald's label to plain white paper ¿ burgers, fries, carrots, milk.

3. Eighty-three percent of Montgomery County schools have posters or signs with food or beverage marketing messages, and less than half (42 percent) market healthier categories such as dairy, according to a study in January by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

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