Childhood Obesity and Government Regulation

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The editors of Scientific American have compiled an interesting article about childhood obesity, which appears in the May issue. The stark reality is that one out of every three kids in America is overweight, and many people believe the government must do something about it. Those of us whose memories of our school days include jumping around to Meredith Willson’s “Chicken Fat” might wonder what happened. Well, two-thirds of us somehow managed to grow up overweight anyway, and thus we have set a lousy example for the succeeding generations.

Every American, in every age group, is besieged by a constant barrage of images of sugary, salty, fatty food, via TV commercials, billboards, print publications, and every other imaginable way of showing us pictures of things we really ought to avoid. Speaking of television, new research shows that it’s not so much the couch-potato aspect of watching TV that contributes to becoming overweight — although it certainly doesn’t help — but being subjected to the unremitting stream of food commercials.

Commercial television sells kids the idea of eating, eating, eating — every minute of the day — and we’re not talking about carrot sticks. Plus, junk food is marketed with all the trimmings of cartoon characters, bright colors, shiny wrappers, and toys. There is a strong belief that,

Protecting children from junk-food marketing would help create conditions conducive to achieving a healthy weight.

Several government agencies have banded together to come up with some recommendations that they will pass on to Congress this summer, and already it looks like a battle is shaping up between the “voluntary” and the “government-enforced” camps.


A couple of days ago, the Seattle Times published an interview with Dr. Pretlow, in which one of the points he makes could be succinctly phrased as, “Enough information, already!” Kids are bored with being told that apples are good and doughnuts are bad. A lot of them can even score an “A” on a test about healthy choices. Many kids, as proven on Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website, where kids anonymously spill their guts (excuse the pun), are even self-aware enough to know that they use food for non-nutritional purposes. What they need are tools to resist the constant temptation of the ever-available junk food and fast food.

The interviewer is Mark Rahner, a staff reporter for the venerable Seattle newspaper, whose work has also appeared in Wired and many other pop-culture publications. He and Dr. Pretlow throw around ideas about home schooling, discuss the influence exerted by both overweight parents and normal-weight parents, and weigh on the concept of “food porn.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Underage, Overweight: The Federal Government Needs to Halt the Marketing of Unhealthy Foods to Kids,” Scientific American, 05/10
Source: “Q&A with author of ‘Overweight: What Kids Say,'” Seattle Times, 05/02/10
Image by benimoto, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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