For over a century, the American lifespan has steadily increased. Now, with one in three children clinically overweight, that trend may actually reverse. Every week new studies announce more alarming consequences of childhood obesity, from juvenile diabetes to acid reflux, joint deterioration, and emotional or mental health issues. The latest findings tie childhood obesity to signs of early heart disease. In other words, overweight children are facing the same health problems in their tender years that one would expect to find in a middle-aged, out of shape adult.
Not surprisingly, big money is being poured into research on the causes and possible solutions to address the problem. Experts routinely cite lack of outdoor playtime as one of the biggest contributors to expanding waistlines in childhood, particularly when that results in children mindlessly watching television and “sleep eating” — binging calorie-laden foods without notice.
According to some experts, those viewing hours during which our youngest consumers are force-fed streams of ads for fast food meals may account for a significant chunk of our childhood obesity problem. As a result, some claim a ban on fast food ads could help as many as 18% of our overweight children to slim down. Others recommend a daily “green hour” during which parents turn off the television and compel their children to play outdoors.