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Experts Study Childhood Obesity

Posted - Sep. 29, 2003 at 9:20 a.m.



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The number of children in America who are overweight or obese has doubled in the last 25 years. That's bringing together health experts from across the country to try and find out why, and what can be done about it.

One in five children in this country is either overweight or obese. Because of that, type 2 diabetes, that used to be found only in adults, is now found in children.

That's why experts in childhood obesity gathered in San Francisco recently to try and come up with some solutions.

With so many children leading sedentary lives and eating a high fat diet, it's no wonder that more children than ever before are overweight.

"Part of our culture is we eat all the time."

But at the conference at UC San Francisco, experts said obesity is a lot more complicated than just poor diet and lifestyle choices.

Dr. Robert Lustig is the director of UCSF's weight assessment for teen and child health. He says our own body chemistry often works against losing weight.

Dr. Robert Lustig/ UCSF Children's Hospital: "The question is why are we all geared up for energy storage? Why is it that when we eat something it would rather go to fat than to your muscle for burning? That's the question."

Dr. Lustig says there is so much happening between our brains and our bellies that we don't understand, such as what hormones regulate appetite, what ones control fat storage.

He says we need to do more research on the biochemistry of obesity.

In the meantime, experts say there are some things parents and children can do now. While eating healthier foods is not the whole answer, it is a start.

Pat Crawford/ UC Berkeley Center for Weight & Health: "We know that parents are role models, and if parents set the stage for the kind of foods they like to see their children eat by eating them themselves, then that's a first step. So low fat dairy products in the home, fruits and vegetables, meats, grains, whole grains."

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