Posts Tagged ‘Obesity’

Mixing Adolescence and ABCs

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

We were all vaguely aware that kids reach puberty earlier now than in the past. Research from Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital puts shocking numbers to the trend.

In second grade (age 7) 23% of African American, 15% of Hispanic, and 10% of Anglo girls have started to develop. By third grade, almost half of African American girls and a third of Hispanic girls have entered puberty.

Why is this happening? It’s not crystal clear. However, experts point to two factors. First, more kids are heavy, and there seems to be a connection between being overweight and early sexual maturity.

Second, there are a number of common chemicals that mimic or interrupt human hormones. Some scientists speculate that low levels of exposure over time are upsetting hormonal balance and leading to early development.

What are the implications? Will parents recognize the issues with early sexual development and rally behind “right sizing” kids? Will this heat up the debate about how to control chemicals like BPA and phthalates? Should marketers rethink their target market and messages for products currently targeted at girls, teens, and young women? What do you think?

Obesity CAUSES Lack of Exercise

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Lack of exercise DOES NOT cause obesity. Despite everything we’ve heard, it’s exactly the reverse.

People, especially kids, gain weight first, and then they reduce their activity. In fact, a child’s percentage of body fat can be used to accurately predict how much they will exercise in the following three years. Kids’ current activity levels do not correlate with their future weight changes. An 11 year study of 202 kids reported in the Archives of Disease in Childhood revealed these surprising findings last month.

The research also uncovered that eating habits established prior to age five are the biggest factor in determining a person’s future weight trajectory. The weight of the kids’ parents, especially their same-gender parent, is also a factor.

These findings will undoubtedly cause a lot of heated discussion. Should our healthy eating initiatives be much more targeted to parents of babies and toddlers? Should we increase the focus on establishing correct eating patterns for pre-schoolers?

The implications for how society should approach the obesity epidemic are staggering. Do you think health professionals will listen? Will consumers?

Eating 41,245 Extra Calories

Monday, June 14th, 2010

A great debate rages about whether kids are getting heavier because they are eating too much or not exercising enough. I don’t have a definitive answer to that question. But, I just saw some interesting facts that show we can’t blame it all on videogames and TV.

The University of North Carolina looked at the eating habits of 31,337 kids (you can’t argue with that sample size!) and concluded that kids eat roughly 113 more calories per day now than they did in 1977. If activity levels have stayed constant, that means the average kid will gain 12 pounds more per year vs their 1970s peer. If kids are less active than they used to be, I don’t even want to think about how high the number could be.

How do kids consume these extra calories? The majority are coming from desserts and sweetened beverages—both soda and fruit juice.

What do you think we should do to help kids stay the right size?

Eating Too Much Organic Food?

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

The organic health halo is so strong that consumers on average believe an organic cookie has 40% fewer calories than a “conventional” one. They also believe that organic snacks have more fiber and other health benefits than traditional ones. These misperceptions are leading Americans to unknowingly overeat, according to an intriguing new study from Cornell University. Click here to read more

Sick to Death of Being Fat

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

It’s official. Obesity reduces America’s quality of life more than smoking. It also contributes as much, if not more, to our nation’s mounting health care costs.

Enge Hose / Tight jeans

Researchers from Columbia University surveyed 3.5 million consumers, asking them to rate their quality of life and to provide information on their lifestyle behaviors and health concerns. They found that smoking is the direct cause of more deaths than obesity. However, obesity leads to a much greater reduction in people’s quality of life. Obese people are likely to live longer than smokers, but those years are filled with significantly more sickness, more physical limitations, and less enjoyment.

Between 1993 and 2008 the number of smokers decreased by 18%, while the number of obese Americans increased by 85%. Those changes tipped the balance making obesity a bigger public health burden than smoking. If Americans’ weight gain trend continues, obesity’s contribution to misery and medical costs will increase further.

As this news spreads, will it motivate our society to work collectively towards a healthy weight?  What do you think?

Large Scale Consumer Denial

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Consumers realize that the majority of American adults have health issues—from chronic diseases to obesity. At the same time, most consumers are happy to report that they personally are very healthy. According to a recent study by Mintel, the differences between consumers’ perceptions and reality are staggering.Scale

  • 71% say they are in “excellent health.” Actually, over 40% of the population has a chronic health condition
  • 25% admit they are overweight or obese. Statistics show that 65% of Americans should  lose significant weight
  • 89% say it’s a priority for them to live a healthy lifestyle. Only 18% workout anywhere close to 20 minutes a day

This reminds me of a study done three years ago in Australia where they found that 90% of parents with overweight kids strongly believed their kids were “normal sized.”

It also makes me wonder if current efforts to reduce obesity and increase healthy living are flawed. Most programs are based on teaching people new behaviors they should adopt. But, as long as consumers are convinced they don’t have a problem, why would they listen or seriously make changes? Shouldn’t we instead  start by gently helping people understand that yes, they personally have issues to address? Once they agree, then education and behavior modification will have an impact.

What do you think?