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    More Instant Karma Danger

    December 2nd, 2016


    Yesterday, we looked at examples of the “instant karma” effect, which is what happens when child obesity is accompanied by a co-morbidity that doesn’t even have the decency to lie in wait for a few years, hoping to ambush the unsuspecting victim, but begins to cause problems sooner rather than later. This definition is from Matt Discombe:

    A person is considered to be morbidly obese if they have a BMI of 40 or more or 35 or more if they are also experiencing obesity-related health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

    Of British children in their sixth year of schooling, only eight have a BMI of over 40. But a rather more alarming group of 560 kids have a BMI of over 35, and also suffer from a related medical problem. These unfortunate young people are, in other words, well on their way to morbid obesity.

    Of their number, at least seven live in Gloucestershire, a county in the south-western part of the country. The reporter quotes cabinet member Andrew Gravells:

    In Gloucestershire our health and wellbeing board tackles obesity as a local priority. Our public health team is working with health colleagues, district councils and the community and voluntary sector to deliver a countywide programme to prevent obesity, and to help people who are obese to manage their weight… Gloucestershire is one of four areas in the country to be working with Leeds Beckett University on a whole-system approach to tackling obesity.

    One possible consequence is cardiovascular pathology. Blood clots can form in the veins, a condition known as venous thromboembolism, and when recognized, it needs to be treated because it can lead to stroke, heart attack, and damage to other organs. Prof. Elizabeth Halvorson of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center reminds us that “the incidence of pediatric VTE has increased dramatically over the last 20 years.”

    Kids are showing up at Irish hospitals with cardiovascular systems that, if you didn’t know better, you would swear belonged to a middle-aged person. A cheerful headline warns, “Unfit teens show risk of heart disease typically seen in people aged 55-60.” An unacceptable number of teens also have high blood pressure and alarming levels of blood lipids, and are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. Only 12% of kids in Ireland observe the weekly exercise guidelines.

    Another ominous headline states, “Excess Body Fats of Obese Children Found to Be Deposited in the Muscles and Could Possibly Endanger Their Bones, Study Says.”

    University of Georgia researchers have found that body fat and bone growth are directly linked, and not in a good way. Muscles influence the bones to form properly, but if the muscles are infused with fat this could be a problem. It all has to do with bone geometry and density, and bone minerals, and the spatial distribution of various elements. Science does not know everything there is to know about these relationships, but knows enough to know that the matter needs to be looked into.

    As always, the moral of this post is that childhood obesity is to be avoided if at all possible, and Dr. Pretlow believes that it is possible.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Seven children at risk of morbid obesity last year in Gloucestershire,”, 11/25/16
    Source: “Obesity ups the risk of developing blood clotting disorder in children,”, 01/17/16
    Source: “Unfit teens show risk of heart disease typically seen in people aged 55-60,”, 09/22/16
    Source: “Excess Body Fats of Obese Children Found to Be Deposited in the Muscles and
    Could Possibly Endanger Their Bones, Study Says,”, 03/08/16
    Photo credit: CDC Global Health via Visualhunt/CC BY

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    Obesity, Hypertension, and the Forming Brain

    December 1st, 2016


    There may at the moment be a relatively small number of morbidly obese kids, but the number of potential morbidly obese children grows every day for three solid reasons. First, so many never have a chance of a normal-weight childhood, their obesity guaranteed by maternal behavior. Often, it’s not even something the expectant mother did out of carelessness or even ignorance, but a factor she had no control over. Science has not yet identified all the factors that can cause harm to a developing fetus.

    Second, the younger obesity starts, the more likely it is to develop into the category we call morbid. Third, the longer obesity exists, the more difficult it is for the body to adapt back to a normal, healthful weight. So, some kids are born with three strikes against them. Also, in the minds of many people, if they think about it at all, morbid obesity is understood as a problem with a later-life onset, a condition that will catch up with a person some day.

    The accelerated future

    But more and more, “some day” is now. We seem to have entered a new era of “instant karma,” where fate catches up sooner, and the co-morbidities can kick in before the person is out of high school. For instance, it has been known for some years that children who are overweight or obese are at a much greater risk of developing high blood pressure. Between 1997 and 2006, hospitalizations for hypertension-related pediatric illnesses almost doubled.

    A study found that “convulsive disorder, headache, obesity and systemic lupus erythematosus were the most common secondary diagnoses when hypertension was the primary diagnosis,” which is kind of a roundabout way of spotlighting a problem, but the study was looking at other things, too.

    As if the situation were not worrisome enough, it was recently discovered that in children and adolescents, high blood pressure comes along with cognitive issues. In other words, they can’t think straight. Led by Marc B. Lande, MD, MPH, researchers from eight highly respected institutions studied hypertensive young people between 10 and 18 years of age. The subjects did not include any children with other problems acknowledged to affect cognitive function.

    Here is the bad news:

    The children with hypertension performed worse on the cognitive tests that measured visual and verbal memory, processing speed, and verbal skills. Additionally, more children with sleep issues had hypertension, which intensified the effect of poor sleep on cognition and executive function.

    Okay, to say they can’t think straight is a bit harsh and hyperbolic. The average test scores of the high-blood-pressure group and the control group were both pretty much within normal limits. Although the hypertensive kids didn’t test badly enough to be technically characterized as cognitively impaired, the sad fact is that they performed worse than their compatriots with normal blood pressure. In a highly competitive world where academic success is so vital, every little bit of edge counts.

    This was not the first study to notice “instant karma” effects on the growing brain, and sadly, it will not be the last.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Kid hypertension hospitalizations double,”, 06/19/12
    Source: “Childhood hypertension associated with cognitive issues,”, 09/29/16
    Photo via Visualhunt

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    Obesity and the Legendary Philosopher’s Stone

    November 30th, 2016


    Long-term weight loss seems to be a goal as elusive as the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. Actually, the two are very similar. says of the Philosopher’s Stone:

    It was sometimes believed to be an elixir of life, useful for rejuvenation and possibly for achieving immortality.

    Long-term weight loss is absolutely rejuvenating, and while it doesn’t bring immortality, it is believed to add years to a person’s life. Of course there is no way to know if any individual lives longer than they would have if morbidly obese — the possibility of being hit by a bus still exists — but the statistical trend does seem to point that way. Let’s look at what scientists call an anecdotal account, the self-reported story of a single person — not a medical professional, but a writer and entrepreneur.

    In 2007, Kimanzi Constable weighed in at 332 pounds. He cut his nutrient intake to 1,200 calories a day, and exercised for four hours out of each 24. Just as the traditional diet-plus-exercise paradigm would predict, in six months he was down to a nice round 200 pounds. Ta-dah!

    But no. For Constable, the victory was short-lived. He gained back that 132, plus an additional 38, and it only took a year to pile all that weight back on. Eventually, thanks to significant lifestyle revisions, he lost the entire 170 and got back down to a tolerable 200 pounds, a process which also occupied a year. As he told

    June 17 of 2013 I didn’t start my weight loss journey, I started the journey to create healthy habits that ultimately changed my life.

    In condensed form, we list the seven healthful habits to which credit is due. The first is patience, because sustainable weight loss takes time, and it’s more like a marathon than a sprint. “One day at a time” is the name of the game. Of course, the cultivation of patience brings benefits to other areas of life, which become more functional, so there is less to be stressed about, and less reason for emotional eating.

    Another biggie is sacrifice. Constable gave up soft drinks, fast food, junk food, and TV. He gave up heedless automatic eating and instituted portion control (which is, as we have seen, an important component of Dr. Pretlow’s W8Loss2Go program.)

    Realistic planning is important too. If you give yourself a year to lose 170 pounds, is that realistic? Apparently so, if you break it down to 15 pounds per month. That comes out to half a pound per day, which is doable with the right plan.

    Also, while diet and exercise are undeniably parts of the plan, they do not make up the whole enterprise, which is lifestyle change. That means incorporating healthful habits into every moment of the day. The thing about exercise is to be consistent, which Constable says “gives you more energy and teaches you discipline that you can use in every other area of your life.”

    Accountability means picking a positive, supportive person to whom you will be responsible by keeping them informed of your progress. And perseverance means, “Keep on keepin’ on.” It is a trait, Constable says, shared by all successful people in every walk of life.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “The Philosopher’s Stone,”, undated
    Source: “7 Healthy Habits That Helped Me Lose 170 Pounds in One Year,”, 09/14/14
    Photo credit: Nico Time via Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

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    The Symbolic Eating Peril

    November 29th, 2016


    Dr. Billi Gordon has written extensively about the conjunction of family and holidays, and about holiday binge eating, and about what he calls “intricate symbolic involvement in our feeding habits.” This is the root of both the beauty and the craziness of family holidays. Things that are carved into ancient grooves become exposed. Unwelcome surprises show up.

    Some families traditionally go to the country club for Mother’s Day Brunch and to Vail for Christmas. Other families only have one big blowout per year — Thanksgiving or maybe Independence Day. So there are class differences. But a vast majority of the time, family holidays cause stress, and it is very much a shared experience among cultures. Who will host a certain event? Who is expected to, and who wants to? Who makes the decision not to travel to a family gathering, and why?

    Dr. Gordon points out that “compulsive symbolic eating is global.” He gives the example of how, in American Thanksgiving tradition, a person’s position at the table is meaningful, and the privilege of carving the turkey signifies rank. But all types of cultures and societies have equivalent customs. A great deal of our behavior and interactions are symbolic during these holiday periods, and that’s not all.

    We eat symbolically and we eat comfort foods for nostalgia because they have personal meaning. Sometimes comfort foods are comforting because of the neurochemical benefits of the carbohydrate or fat content. That’s a different discussion. Today, we’re talking about the foods that comfort us because of their symbolic association with people or events in our lives.

    That drive is intense, and Dr. Gordon explored its origin in intricate detail for Psychology Today, describing the human brain as “a Walmart cashier on Black Friday.” He goes deep. Considering the roles played by different brain regions, he concludes:

    Conceivably, symbolic eating is not processed as a hedonic experience that satisfies a goal-directed behavior, but as gestures (eating event behavior) and objects (food and related utensils and fixtures). This raises the question: when food or an eating event is used to symbolically communicate, is it processed in the anterior and posterior perisylvian language area as language?

    Dr. Gordon then goes on to explain why any of this matters. Because in order to understand compulsive eating there are things that must be considered. He takes the reader through a logic chain to arrive at the conclusion that emotional eating is very closely tied up with a life full of aversive experiences:

    Emotional eating is always symbolic eating and among the chief architects of compulsive and binge eating. The probable source of conditioned fear is the associative, collateral context of aversive objects and events. It’s also likely that compulsive overeaters have more conditioned fears than normal eaters because they have more aversive experiences.

    In other words, this eating disorder is a sequel of abuse, or relentless ongoing misery of other kinds. It is one of the ways in which the body expresses post traumatic stress syndrome. Despite the grim subject matter, Dr. Gordon imbues this essay with lyrical language and a feeling of hope.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Symbolic Eating,” PsychologyToday, 11/23/13
    Photo credit: PrescottFoland via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

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    Fairness and Sugar Tax in the United Kingdom

    November 28th, 2016


    Childhood Obesity News has mentioned how the public health director of Wolverhampton wants to remove sugary treats from the hospital vending machines because of the danger to diabetics and potential diabetics. The other side of that indisputable fact, voiced by proponents of individual liberty, is that everyone has their problems and their triggers, and we can’t go around “nerfing” the world just to protect people with serious illnesses who nevertheless have no self-control.

    There may even be someone on staff who can prove that loss of the minuscule profit generated by the candy machines could cause a whole wing of the hospital to close, with the consequent firing of many people. Any time a sugar tax is proposed, anywhere, the same arguments are heard endlessly. Who benefits? Who gets hurt? Where does a government’s decent and appropriate concern for the citizens’ welfare end and the “nanny state” begin?

    The beer lobby

    One aggrieved party is the British Bar and Pub Association, or BBPA, which claims that beer taxes and general business taxes are already more than sufficient, and, furthermore, the drinking establishment industry already pays six times its fair share. Any time the subject of a sugar tax is broached, headlines pop up saying “Pubs face closure.”

    The chief tenet of tax avoidance is, if anyone doubts that the protection of business should be the first priority, just mention the loss of employment and they will be silenced. BBPA-commissioned research has determined that a single brewery job generates one job each in agriculture, the supply chain, and retailing, plus 18 jobs in pubs.

    In this typical example of the perceived need to look after the interests of profitable enterprises, the story follows the pattern. The headline is, “Pubs and restaurants oppose sugar tax over job loss fears.” It describes a study which showed that soft drink sales would fall by 1.6%, resulting in the elimination of 4,000 jobs in the Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

    Think of the children

    As with any other business, industry copywriters weave tales to show how the product serves the public good, especially if it involves kids. In March, when the British government announced that a soft-drink tax is coming, Coca-Cola hastened to deliver a scolding about how this is the wrong way to end childhood obesity.

    A company bigwig said there is “no evidence in the world” that taxing sugar can bring about behavioral change in consumers. At most, people might exchange their sugary drink habit for a sugary food habit, which would be sad for Coca-Cola.

    When the tax kicks in, a couple of years down the road, the British government plans to use the money for school sports. So, children will benefit in two ways, by not consuming as much soda and by receiving more exercise opportunities.

    Getting back to the drinking establishments, an industry argument is seldom laid out before the public all at once. Instead, popular sentiment is built on a patchwork of cultural bits and pieces that are stitched together in the minds of the people.

    Complete with underlying psychological nuances, this is the explanation of why it is good for civilization to leave soft drinks untaxed. Anyone who will be operating a motor vehicle is not supposed to drink. But people like to congregate in the pubs, and they have to drink something.

    If sugar-sweetened beverages were to cost more, then people would figure, “What the heck, might as well have a beer” and there would be more road accidents, and children would die. So, no sugar tax. Meanwhile, diseases that are pretty generally recognized to result from sugar put non-hypothetical children in real danger every day.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Local Impact of the Beer and Pub Sector — The Vital Statistics,”, 08/27/14
    Source: “Pubs and restaurants oppose sugar tax over job loss fears,”, 08/16/16
    Source: “Coca-Cola says sugar tax will not reduce childhood obesity,”, 03/17/16
    Photo credit: Mike Mozart (JeepersMedia) via Visualhunt/CC BY

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    In Merry Old England

    November 25th, 2016


    It’s hard to ignore the fact that the United Kingdom has been something of a hot spot in the controversy over the taxing of sugar products. For purposes of this post, the U.K. comprises Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Wales is also part of the Queen’s realm, but will be covered separately.

    As part of a five-year effort, the city of Wolverhampton has put several measures into operation, with others in planning stages. The approach concentrates on increased fitness opportunities, the provision of good information, and the regulating of fast-food menus.

    A program called Sugar Smart City has strongly influenced policy in Brighton and Hove (which, despite its conjoined name, is a single city). Its childhood obesity record was pretty good already, but they had been seeing 300 kids hospitalized for tooth extraction every year. The city authorities got together with the widely-known chef and tireless advocate of healthful eating, Jamie Oliver, to promote the idea of a voluntary sugar tax.

    Just over a year ago, Brighton and Hove became the first British city to institute the voluntary sugar tax, which apparently involves asking businesses to charge extra for fizzy drinks, but not sending the law after them if they don’t. Any revenue collected goes to charity. The next step would be the abolition of sugary junk food in hospital vending machines.

    For The Guardian, Sarah Johnson quoted public health director Dr. Tom Scanlan:

    It’s ridiculous if you’re a diabetic, you’re sitting there in the waiting room and there’s a vending machine along the corridor offering you what got you in the problem in the first place.

    Another morbidly obese boy

    Kardel Wilson became a media sensation as one in a seemingly never-ending series of notoriously obese children. At six years old, he weighed around 110 pounds and was about twice the size a boy his age should be, a condition described by Rebecca Hardy as “frighteningly obese.”

    She goes on to say:

    In fact, plug his height (3ft 10in) and weight into the NHS’s body mass index (BMI) calculator and Kardel is in the 99th percentile, meaning if you stick him in a room of 100 boys of his age, he’ll be the fattest.

    Two years before, a marble slab fell on the little boy’s foot and broke three bones. At first unable to walk, and then unwilling to, he started to get fat, although his mother Sam didn’t notice anything. She told the reporter:

    He had a plaster cast and wouldn’t walk. He said it hurt him all the time. So he sat with his colouring books or watching TV and I’d give him sweets, candy floss, popcorn and stuff. He looked so forlorn you wanted to cheer him up.

    She overlooked his increasing girth until the school sent a letter home. Sam refused the offer of free healthy parenting classes and told Hardy:

    I didn’t go because I do know what’s healthy, what isn’t and what portion sizes to give. I know tinned stuff has a lot of salt and sugar in it.

    For a documentary, Sam allowed the reporter to examine the contents of her refrigerator and kitchen cabinets where, Hardy observed, snacks and empty calories abounded, but not so much as a floret of broccoli could be found.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Sugar tax, fat fines and gold coins: new ways cities are tackling obesity,” The, 10/22/15
    Source: “A boy aged six weighs EIGHT STONE and his mum says she can’t stop him eating,”, 11/02/15
    Photo credit: Les Chatfield (Elsie esq.) via Visualhunt/CC BY

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    Happy Thanksgiving!

    November 24th, 2016

    Childhood Obesity News would like to wish you a safe and joyful holiday.

    We will return tomorrow with a regular post.

    Image source: pixelsaway/123RF Stock Photo

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    All Hail the Lord of Misrule

    November 23rd, 2016


    In many ancient societies, winter was the time to abandon all restrictions, with the excuse or justification of celebrating various holidays like the feast of Saturnalia. A Lord of Misrule would be chosen to preside over a period of time when slaves would act like masters and even take over official government positions. Meanwhile, the rich and powerful had to play the roles of slaves. Orders issued by the Lord of Misrule had to be carried out, no matter how nutty, and regardless of whose dignity was wounded.

    There was also a New Year feast day, where children used to go from house to house and give the owner a piece of fruit wrapped in silver foil, receiving a gift in return. This somehow transmogrified into Halloween’s trick-or-treat custom. In other times and places, vagrants and hooligans would group up and surround respectable houses, making hellish noise until the inhabitants tossed them a satisfactory amount of loose change and valuables. In later, more civilized times, this seems to have morphed into the custom of singing Christmas carols.

    In various societies, the period of misrule lasted as long as a month, and one thing that particularly disturbed some upright citizens was the tendency of manly men to dress up in women’s clothes and speak in falsetto voices. Later, in England during the Tudor era, the season of craziness might last as long as three months, during which the Lord of Misrule arranged and directed all kinds of entertainments, processions, masked balls, stage plays, and banquets.


    Here is the point. Human history contains solid precedent for choosing a stretch of time in the winter to toss propriety aside. This tendency seems almost to be imprinted on our DNA, and certainly permeates the social environment. From now until after New Year, it is fully authorized and officially sanctioned binge time, and rather than one Lord of Misrule, we have thousands.

    If a person decides to quit eating sensibly, validation is out there. In a single day you can find 20 people who say things like, “What the heck, it’s the holidays,” and “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Live a little!”

    Even if people in real life don’t sent that message, advertising certainly does. Merchants want us to feel obligated to throw caution to the winds, spend every cent we own, go into debt for more, eat everything that’s put in front of us, and come back for second helpings.

    For many Americans, there are multiple and overlapping social requirements. You have a certain kind of good time with the family, and another sort of celebration with your friends, and yet another with the work crew and another with the church group, and so on. But they all involve either food or drink or both. The numbers on the calorie counter spin wildly, as the device sends up a shower of sparks and a wisp of smoke.

    Holiday madness

    Psychologically, to stay on a sane path can be brutally difficult. As a host, you feel compelled to buy and serve items you never touch the rest of the year, that you know are not good for people. But (especially if cultural heritage is involved) expectations need to be met, at the risk of causing interpersonal ruptures that could take until next holiday season to heal.

    As a guest, you must partake fully or risk giving offense. On a deep subconscious level, people need to prove that they have a lot, and that they are generous with what they have. To validate the abundance and generosity, you have to eat eat eat, or figure out a really smooth exit line.

    No matter how well prepared we think we are, some awkward situation always waits to pounce. A successful person who goes back to the old home town might be the only individual in the room under 200 pounds. Deep inside, most humans harbor that little bit of schadenfreude, the resentment that wants to see others fail.

    That afflicted person will generously feed you a week’s worth of nutrients at one sitting, as punishment for leaving the old neighborhood and getting skinny. The scenarios vary, but everyone faces challenges.

    Childhood Obesity News recommends “Fitting Into the Winter Food Festivals,” which discusses the work of the very interesting Dr. Billi Gordon. “The Day After Thanksgiving” offers a few suggestions on how to cope with the inevitable Diner’s Remorse, and “Clean Up After Thanksgiving” is more of the same. Happy Holidays!

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Photo credit: mike1727 via Visualhunt/CC BY

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    Some Morbidly Obese Children

    November 22nd, 2016


    Two years ago a very sad story came out of Australia, concerning the investigation of the death of a hospitalized child four years earlier. The 10-year-old boy (not identified by name) weighed over 70 kg., or nearly 155 pounds. He suffered from sleep apnea, and cardio-respiratory arrest led to fatal brain injury. The narrative is not totally clear, but apparently the youngster was found unconscious, and stopped breathing on the way to the hospital, where he was put on life support and died 12 days later.

    When he was hospitalized, the boy had missed 103 days of the current school year, and 101 days of the previous school year. At age 7 he had weighed 110 pounds. Officials who reviewed the case came away feeling that not enough had been done to help. Recommendations were made for the establishment of a “dedicated childhood weight management and child protection units” at John Hunter Hospital, which does not seem to have happened so far.

    A news story says:

    Deputy state coroner Elaine Truscott […] outlined the litany of failures that led to the death including the parents’ failure to take the child to doctors’ appointments and a breakdown in communication between health officials and the Department of Family and Community Services.

    Earlier this year, the United Kingdom’s National Child Measurement Programme found that the heftiest child in its jurisdiction weighed more than 220 pounds, with a BMI of 41.2. In West London alone, 19 children were found to be at risk of morbid obesity.

    In all of England, 475 6th-graders were identified as having a BMI of 35 or higher. Kim Roberts, of the anti-obesity charity known as HENRY, expressed concern for the national budget and told reporters:

    It is vital that programmes like HENRY that are proven to successfully help families live healthier lifestyles don’t fall victim to local government spending cuts or we will be storing up a ticking time-bomb for the NHS to deal with and pick up the bill once these children have become adults and develop health problems commonly associated with obesity such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

    Benjamin Judd describes how a 1935 British newsreel…

    […] shows that healthy eating, diets and food awareness has been an issue long before things like Pokemon and Happy Meals were invented and enough of a cause celebre to be the source of sensationalist news.

    Leslie Bowles, the heaviest baby in the world, was unable to walk at age 3 because his legs could not hold up the rest of his body. Yet he was said to be in “perfect health,” according to some unspecified standard. His segment was called “A Ten Stone Baby,” which translates to 140 pounds on this side of the Atlantic ocean.

    It is not the child’s size that is so disturbing, says Judd, but…

    It’s how quickly the narrator’s tone becomes mocking, and even cruel, with Bowles the subject of jokes and innuendos regarding his size. One particularly grim moment towards the end when what is presumably a doctor makes Bowles jump for a chocolate bar and pats him on the head like a pet.

    At age 42 Bowles died at his workplace after an accident involving a crane. If he was still obese, this comes as no surprise, because aside from possible difficulty in moving quickly, he might have been afflicted by hearing loss.

    Another “World’s Biggest Boy” also disappeared from the news after brief notoriety. One very large teenager, the singer Justin Williamson, seems to be doing well. An October 19 “Saving Justin” Facebook page update written by his mom, Julie Crawford Williamson, thanks a great number of people, and says:

    Justin was 580 lbs the day of surgery and today one year later, Justin weighs 384 lbs and is a healthy, happy college student majoring in Music performance.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Coroner calls for childhood weight management after obese boy’s death,”, 09/26/14
    Source: “Morbidly obese at the age of 11: Childhood obesity in west London,”, 03/09/16
    Source: “Vintage newsreel shows childhood obesity not only a modern condition,”, 04/08/16
    Source: “Saving Justin,”, 10/19/16
    Image source: “Saving Justin,” Facebook

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    A Few Things About Youth and Co-Morbidities

    November 21st, 2016


    We have been looking at the two different time frames connected with childhood obesity. One is “some day” and the other is “now.” Growing up obese can have all kinds of consequences in later life, including less of that life as measured in years. However, consequences don’t always wait for later.

    For instance, JAMA Pediatrics published a report titled “Influence of Obesity on Clinical Outcomes in Hospitalized Children.” This was a meta-study, a survey of 28 other studies of humans age 2-18 years of age, who were hospitalized for various urgent reasons. The researchers, led by Lori J. Bechard (MEd, RD, LDN) were looking for three things: “all-cause mortality, incidence of infections, and length of hospital stay.” Of the studies that mentioned length of stay, almost half showed that obese kids were hospitalized longer.

    The team found a meaningful relationship between obesity and infections, and more:

    Studies of critically ill, oncologic or stem cell transplant, and solid organ transplant patients showed a relationship between obesity and mortality.

    Hospitals are known to be full of infectious agents. For this and other reasons, obese patients do not fare well in the average hospital. In this way they are like newborns. On a related note, births by Caesarean section are losing favor in the eyes of many practitioners, because the baby doesn’t pick up essential microbes from the mother, and instead becomes colonized by the microbiota of hospital workers, other patients, and random strangers.

    Maybe this is why siblings can be so different, and not even seem like they come from the same family. It could be that their lives were shaped by, first, deprivation of their rightful share of maternal bacteria; and second, by taking on board a mixture of bacterial species that would not insure optimal health.

    The gut microbiome is increasingly recognized as an organ in the human body. A baby literally builds for itself this important, major organ, out of whatever types of gut microbes happen to be available, by whatever means. Even if they are the same bugs you would have gotten from Mom, you’re not getting Mom’s immunities.


    Recently we looked at a study of hearing loss, as related to obesity. At the time of that paper’s publication, it was already known by scientists in other fields that 80% of the adolescents who have hearing loss don’t even realize it. When tested according to traditional protocols, they are surprised to learn that their hearing is not normal.

    In many ways and places, lack of awareness is rampant. A 2013 survey asked Americans what they knew about major health risks of obesity, and learned that most people only know about heart disease and diabetes, but are clueless about other co-morbidities such as cancer, sleep apnea, and arthritis.

    Last year, researchers in London questioned 5,000 kids between ages 13 and 15. Among overweight and obese adolescents, around 40% of them figured they were at “about the right weight.” How to cure this delusion without causing even more harm is the eternal question.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Influence of Obesity on Clinical Outcomes in Hospitalized Children,”, May 2013
    Source: “Obesity survey suggests many Americans don’t know fat can cause cancer, infertility,”, 01/07/13
    Source: “Overweight teenagers in denial about obesity at risk of up to 10 different types of cancer,”, 07/09/15
    Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images via Visualhunt/No known copyright restrictions

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Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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