The Dangers of Childhood Obesity and the Inadequacy of Our Solutions

The dangers of childhood obesity should electrify parents and concerned citizens.

Dangers of Childhood Obesity in America
What if everything we thought we knew about the cause of childhood obesity was wrong?

According to the CDC, since 1980, obesity rates among teens have tripled. The CDC estimates that around 112,000 people die every year from obesity and its complications.

Over 70% of kids who are overweight will grow up to be obese as adults.

NHANES data show that in the 1960s, about 4% of kids ages 6-11 were overweight. By the early 2000s, that number had skyrocketed to nearly 20%. Of new diabetes cases in our country, 45% involve children.

Obesity predisposes to problems such as:

  • sleep apnea
  • elevated cholesterol levels
  • problems with joints
  • diabetes (Type 2)
  • coronary heart disease
  • sleep apnea
  • liver and kidney trouble
  • early-onset puberty
  • an array of stomach and intestinal problems
  • hypertension
  • pre-diabetes
  • depression
  • low self esteem
  • poor performance in school
  • risk for remaining overweight and obese into adulthood
  • on and on and on -- this barely scratches the surface

Given the ample dangers of childhood obesity, you might think that solving this crisis would be a top goal for public health authorities. Indeed, First Lady Michelle Obama recently made combating childhood obesity her signature issue. And obviously she is to be commended for this.

But if we are going to talk about combating the dangers of childhood obesity, we first need to understand what’s making everyone so fat and sick.

The conventional explanation

Most of us are brought up believing that overeating and sedentary behavior make us fat. Fast-food restaurants and supersized portions drive our kids to overeat. Video games and TV stultify our kids and make them inactive. These and other environmental factors conspire to make our kids fat and sick.

The alternative explanation

A different theory, the carbohydrate hypothesis, says that the root problem is dietary factors that cause hormonal imbalances.

By feeding our kids tons of sugar -- not just sugar sugar but also sugar in the form of carbohydrates like breads, cereals, fruits and fruit juice -- and by denying them dietary fat (which turns out to be a lot healthier than most people realize), we’ve essentially poisoned our children.

The hypothesis also tells us that the carbs and sugar in our kids’ diets not only cause obesity but also cause the vast majority of the other so-called “diseases of civilization,” like heart disease and cancer.

Okay, this hypothesis sounds extreme and radical when you first hear it. When we (this site’s authors) first learned about it, we were very skeptical, too.

But the carbohydrate hypothesis is by no means new. It has a long and rich history. In the 19th Century, a coffin maker named Banting published a pamphlet on the low carbohydrate diet known as Letters on Corpulence. This tract became a best seller in its day, much like low carb diet books like Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution and Protein Power are so popular today.

If the carbohydrate hypothesis is true, then we are on a very wrong track in terms of combating the dangers of childhood obesity.

The obesity epidemic is driven not by overconsumption of calories or inactivity but rather by an epidemic of hyperinsulinemia driven mainly by all the refined carbs and sugars in our diets.

Thus, while the First Lady’s program to combat the dangers of childhood obesity (and other programs like it) are obviously well intentioned, they likely will NOT solve the problem because they fail to address the fundamental issue.

We need to STOP encouraging kids to eat foods that drive up their insulin levels.

For instance, fruit juices, sugary fruits like raisins, vegetables like corn and beets, and whole grain starches like wild rices and quinoa all contain copious amounts of carbohydrates. When you digest these foods, they become sugar in your body, and they can cause massive destructive surges in insulin.

In addition, by telling kids to avoid fatty foods--such as bacon and cheese burgers and pork chops and the like--these anti-obesity campaigners may be doing more harm than good, since ample scientific evidence suggests that dietary fats are not only NOT bad for you but that they happen to be essential for a healthy diet.

Return to our Low Carb and Loving It essay collection to read more about the dangers of childhood obesity

Return to our Home Page on Low Carbohydrate Diets

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