An unhealthy diet in childhood can lead to poor health both in childhood and in adulthood. The evidence base with regard to the long-term consequences varies in strength, but the impact of childhood overweight/obesity is now becoming more apparent, both for the individual and society.
It is important to establish a healthy eating pattern early in life. Good nutrition is important for all, and especially for those younger than 5 years as these years are demanding for the developing child. They are the years in which children acquire many of the physical attributes and the social and mental structures for life and learning. National diet and nutrition surveys of children show low levels of micronutrient intake and excess macronutrient intake. Certain major adult health problems, such as coronary heart disease (CHD) and diabetes, are linked to excess consumption of energy dense, micronutrient poor foods. Physical activity is also essential for good health at all ages, and is fundamental to energy balance and weight control. It has a range of benefits during childhood, including healthy growth and development, their wellbeing, and a lessoning of risk factors such as hypertension and high cholesterol.
The best research on non-biological influences is that relating to parental feeding practices. A young child will eat what it is fed and will develop tastes for certain foods. So if the parents are weening the child of bottles or breastfeeding and substituting those with pancakes, bacon, syrup, and sugary drinks, the child will tend to demand those foods. And lots of it because their bodies are not getting the nutrients to grow. It’s natural for the body to demand more food intake to attempt to get those nutrients. As the child gets older, and I mean about 2 years old, he works out ways to avoid certain foods given by the parent and demand those sugary foods it likes because of taste. I saw a 2 years throw a fit when its mother tried to feed her properly. This child jumped up from the table and wanted to play. She came back to the table when the main course was finished because she knew it was dessert time. She then proceeded to stuff her mouth with chocolate and marsh mellows.
I feel it is never too late for parents to wake up to the fact that the food being sold in most restaurants and in the supermarket are causing their children to grow to abnormal proportions. I watched a movie the other night filmed in 1968 in San Francisco and I made a point of looking for obese people as the camera panned the crowded streets. I didn’t see one person who was even mildly heavy. And I don’t believe all those people were chosen to be in the film. Funny thing is that I thought the main actors and actresses were too thin looking. Obviously my view of what is healthy looking has been warped over the years. I’ve also looked in school books from the late 1800s and all the children in the school pictures and classroom scenes were rail thin. Now I look at school photos and observe people in general and wonder where all the thin people went.
And what will people look like in 20 years if the rate of obesity continues to worsen?