From Head to Toe: Obesity Is Unhealthy

Baby Eating Chocolate Chip Cookie

An astonishing number of medical conditions coexist with childhood obesity, or show up later — sometimes not even until adulthood — but can be traced back to an overweight start in life. Of course, children and youth are notorious for not worrying about the future. It’s probably not a good idea to let scary stories make up too large a portion of any education program designed to help kids stay slim, for the simple reason that they’re just not oriented to think into the future.

But the grownups are allowed to worry. It’s our job to look out for the one-third of American kids who are overweight or obese. They’re well on their way to reversing the trend of increased longevity for the first time ever. However long we manage to live, it’s beginning to look like our children won’t reach the same numbers that we do. If you live to be 70, your kids will be lucky to make it to 60.

It’s that bad, according to chef and nutrition educator Jamie Oliver. Speaking about childhood obesity, Oliver laid it all out in his talk at one of this year’s TED conferences. These events bring together some of the world’s most advanced thinkers. A link to the video version of Oliver’s talk is at the end of page six of the transcript.

Fast food has taken over the world, Oliver says, and we’re burying people in coffins that have to be hoisted with forklifts because pallbearers can’t cope. Food is processed beyond recognition and pumped up with additives. Portion size and labeling are obviously two fields ripe for intervention. Children can’t identify common vegetables by sight. Schools are feeding kids crap, and nobody is learning how to cook at home anymore. Worst of all, Oliver says,

[d]iet-related disease is the biggest killer in the United States… [O]besity and diet-related disease doesn’t just hurt the people that have it; it’s all of their friends, families, brothers, sisters… This is preventable disease. Waste of life.

Below are a few selected locations where information about specific obesity-related medical problems can be found.

Obesity and Dementia:
“‘Beer belly’ link to Alzheimer’s Disease”

Obesity and Diabetes:
“Childhood Obesity and Diabetes: Two Sides of the Same Coin” by Andrea Sachs

Obesity, Dementia, and Diabetes:
“Link Between Diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease Strengthened”

Obesity and Brain Concussion:
“Kids’ emergency-room visits for concussions double over 10 years” by Kristen Gerencher

Obesity and Calcaneal Apophysitis:
“What is Calcaneal apophysitis?”

Obesity and Limb Injuries:
“Obese Kids Are More Likely to Limb Injuries in Car Crashes”

Obesity and Acid Reflux:
“Childhood Obesity Boosts Risk of GERD”

Obesity and Early Onset Puberty/Delayed Puberty:
“Study Suggests Obesity May Delay Boys’ Puberty” by Joseph Brownstein

Obesity and Leukemia:
“Obesity linked to leukemia progression, finds study” by Yashika Kapoor

Obesity and High Blood Pressure:
“Childhood Obesity, Glucose Intolerance, and Hypertension Increase Risk for Premature Adult Mortality” by F. Bruder Stapleton, M.D.

Obesity and Bedwetting:
“Does eating too much lead to urinary incontinence?” by Amy Norton

Obesity and Asthma:
“Childhood diet linked to asthma prevalence, adult diet linked to asthma severity” by Deana Ferreri, Ph.D.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Chef Jamie Oliver: Why the U.S. Is One of the Unhealthiest Countries in the World,”, 03/27/10
Image by Pink Sherbet Photography, used under its Creative Commons license.

5 Responses

  1. You state: “…they’re just not oriented to think into the future.” – referring to kids. You might as well make the same statement for adults. And, to compound the problem, adults do not get the food – health connection.

    And when the bad health news finally comes to the adult, frequently, it’s too late to make a positive change. And of course, the downward spiral begins with meds.

    BTW, I believe it is a scare tactic to tell people that our children will live shorter lifespans than their parents. Current medical advances keep sick people alive very long. It’s a safe bet that future medical advances will assist people in the same manner.

    Ken Leebow

    1. Ken,

      You “believe it is a scare tactic to tell people that our children will live shorter lifespans than their parents.”

      What makes it scary is that it’s true. To quote Oliver, “We, the adults of the last four generations, have blessed our children with the destiny of a shorter lifespan than their own parents. Your child will live a life ten years younger than you because of the landscape of food that we’ve built around them.”

      For the first time in “a thousand years,” medical advances are not keeping pace with mortality, and the lifespan of Americans is not keeping pace with other industrialized nations. To say that “adults do not get the food – health connection” is a cop out. They know that eating less will reduce weight gain. But if they’re addicted to certain foods (or foodlike substances), something stronger than information might be needed to reverse the overweight epidemic.

      Medical advances should keep successive generations alive longer. The fact that they cannot really is scary, and not a “scare tactic.”

      News Editor, Childhood Obesity News

  2. I saw a news report about a program that both brings fitness into the classroom and promotes awareness for the need of physical activity in the lives of children. Many kids today are not getting the amount of exercise they need and are also uneducated about the health risks of eating poorly. The campaign helps to reinvent recess by increasing students’ activity through alternative and creative movements, with the help of dance instructors.

    The program initially was only implemented in Connecticut schools, but with its success and the overall concern of the issue at hand, it is now available to schools across the country. As part of the launch program, a video contest has been announced for children and young teens in grades 2-8 with efforts to address childhood obesity. I found this information on their site,

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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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