The Rise of Childhood Obesity in America

-- Marc A. Neff, MD, FACS, FASMBS

In America, we have an unhealthy relationship with food.

Food is a social activity. Food is a billion dollar industry. Food is how we say "hello", show our affection on Valentine's Day and root for our favorite football team. There are cable networks and television shows dedicated to food, like "Chopped" and "The Chew".

Inevitably, we are teaching this obsession with food our children. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past 30 years. According to the Surgeon General, due to increasing rates of childhood obesity, we may see the first generation that will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

In school, children are taught about the dangers of smoking, drug addiction and alcohol abuse; but they aren't taught about the dangers of drinking soda or eating a hamburger and French fries every day. In fact, more young adults in their 20's are being prescribed cholesterol medications than ever before.

As a surgeon who performs weight loss surgery, I understand the importance of this when I see the children of my patients come into my office. Without proper education, the childhood obesity epidemic will continue to the next generation.

Helping kids have a healthy relationship with food and exercise is just as important as helping children with their homework.