Childhood Obesity and Foster Care: Ethnic Voices


Can childhood obesity be related to sunlight? It just might be, according to several studies considered by Reuben Chow in Natural News. Several bodily organs and functions intimately related to obesity are influenced by vitamin D.

The reporter says,

These adolescents had… a staggering 3.99 times the likelihood of having metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes; these include high blood pressure, heightened levels of triglycerides, decreased levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, elevated levels of fasting blood glucose, as well as wider waists…

Childhood obesity is related not only to sunlight, but to race. Chow says,

Not surprisingly, due to the fact that dark-skinned persons require more sunlight to synthesize the same amount of vitamin D as fair-skinned persons, non-Hispanic black Americans were found to have the lowest levels of vitamin D, while white Americans had the highest — almost twice that of black Americans.

While it has been shown that breastfeeding reduces childhood obesity, especially when the mothers are diabetic, the CDC has determined that the practice of breastfeeding is less popular than ever among minority groups in the U.S.

Writing about this for ParentDish, Paula Palumbo quotes Michelle Obama:

… [W]e’re also working to promote breastfeeding, especially in the black community — where 40 percent of our babies never get breastfed at all, even in the first weeks of life, and we know that babies that are breastfed are less likely to be obese as children.

During the 2010’s inaugural Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation tweeted an interesting fact every day, which are collected in a PDF document available online (at the link above). Here is the one for September 22:

In less than a decade, the number of young American Indians and Alaska Natives with diagnosed diabetes increased by 71 percent; type 2 diabetes, which is directly linked with obesity, made up most cases.

On September 3, we learned that:

… 38 percent of Latino children and 36 percent of African American children ages two to 19 are overweight or obese.

Around the same time, the Foundation announced its intention to do something about the disparities between different populations in the area of childhood obesity. It created an event that brought together representatives of five leading civil rights organizations…

… with the prominence and strength to help reverse childhood obesity, especially in African-American and Latino communities where the epidemic continues to hit hardest.

About a month ago, the Latino Childhood Obesity Education Summit took place in San Antonio, leading participants to expect the publication of a policy report that will frame the issue in a civil rights perspective.

In the words of Elaine Ayala,

The summit promised to explore how $4 billion in state budget cuts to public education will impact the ability of school districts, specifically poor ones, to combat childhood obesity, a problem that disproportionately impacts them.

What this all adds up to is, non-white kids are more likely to be obese, and, due to societal reasons, they also often come from unstable families. If any children are to be removed from their homes because of obesity and put into foster care, the odds are good that they are more likely to be African-American and Latino children.

The website of the Black Entertainment Network recently published a piece by Kellee Terrell on this very subject. She makes the assumption that in their controversial article, “State Intervention in Life-Threatening Childhood Obesity,” Drs. Lindsey Murtagh and David S. Ludwig were recommending wholesale abduction of kids into foster care, which they weren’t.

Terrell says,

And in the end, this will just unfairly impact children of color in the same way that the system does now. I think Ludwig may have the best intentions as a means to help obese children, but he is going about it the wrong way. Education and support is best way to deal with the obesity crisis, not separating families.

Health columnist Kevin Moser, in a piece titled “Foster care fails to solve child obesity problem,” insists that the solution must surely be worse than the problem. He says,

Being separated from one’s parents is no walk in the park, and there are a number of emotional side effects that often result. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, these can become severe. Foster children often blame themselves and feel unwanted, insecure and helpless… Another reason this is a backwards solution involves stress… eating can become an easy activity to relieve stress.

Kids “in the system” as young as three years old are vastly overmedicated to keep them docile. Seroquel, for instance, is an anti-psychotic drug that has been known since 2004 to promote obesity and diabetes. It’s not approved by the FDA for any pediatric use. And yet, in one recent year, $6.5 million worth of Seroquel was fed to 3,418 kids in foster care in Texas, according to investigative journalist Emily Ramshaw.

In a long and exquisitely detailed report for The Dallas Morning News, Ramshaw says,

One in three Texas foster children has been diagnosed with mental illness and prescribed mind-altering drugs

In Portland, Oregon, Peter Korn interviewed a doctor who had to make a hard choice and initiate the removal of a morbidly obese young patient from his father’s custody. In that same article, in case you missed it, Korn also interviewed Dr. Pretlow about his paper, “Addiction to highly pleasurable foods as a cause of the childhood obesity epidemic,” recently published in the journal Eating Disorders.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Health Conditions in Adolescents,” Natural News, 04/01/09
Source: “Does This Formula Make Me Look Fat? Breast-Feeding and Childhood Obesity,” ParentDish, 02/24/11
Source: “30 Facts for Childhood Obesity Awareness Month September 2010” (PDF),
Source: “Leading Civil Rights Organizations Unite to Fight Childhood Obesity,”, 09/07/11
Source: “Experts lament lack of lasting support for obesity programs,”, 07/15/11
Source: “Should Severely Obese Children Be Put in Foster Care?,” BET, 07/19/11
Source: “Foster care fails to solve child obesity problem,” UWIRE, 07/20/11
Source: “Some Texas foster kids’ doctors have ties to drug firms,”, 08/17/08
Source: “Obesity Wars Hit PDX,” The Portland Tribune, 07/08/11
Image by barockschloss, used under its Creative Commons license.

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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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