Childhood obesity drops in Chicago kindergarteners

As thousands of Chicago Public School kids sit anxiously waiting for trick or treat time, the city offers some good news and some bad news.

First the good news: New figures released today by the Chicago Department of Public Health suggest that childhood obesity among CPS kindergarteners has dropped by five percentage points, from 24 percent in 2003 to 19.1 percent in 2012.

Yay, right?

Well, don’t break out the king size Snickers yet. That figure still puts their obesity levels well above the national average (12 percent) for kids their age, and even the average (14 percent) for low-income kids.

Additionally, the latest figures don’t show any statistically significant improvements among older students who are measured at 6th and 9th grade.  Instead, those levels seem to be hitting a plateau, which mirrors overall obesity figures in the U.S. during the last decade.

Despite these qualifiers, the news was greeted with some optimism by local folks who have been working on this issue for years.

“I think the new numbers are promising,” said Adam Becker, who heads the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children. “For decades we’ve seen major increases in the rates and so to see the rates going down, even in small increments at a time, is an indication that we are moving in the right direction.”

The improvement among CPS kindergarteners follows modest progress in 21 states across the country among very young children, and improvements in other big cities including New York and Los Angeles. But Chicago still posts higher childhood obesity numbers than those big cities for reasons researchers are not quite able to explain.

“I think we are starting to see what we all hope will be an ongoing national decline in obesity levels for all kids,” Becker said. “And this should just encourage us to step it up.” 

Most researchers agree that tripling of childhood obesity in the U.S. over the last 35 years was a result of several converging factors.

To combat them, the city has recently taken a multifaceted approach that has included adding more fruits and vegetables to school lunches and ditching the daily nachos. Other initiatives have involved offering grocers incentives to open in underserved neighborhoods, supporting fresh produce cart vendors, restoring recess to schools and finally gathering and calculating these CPS obesity figures to begin with.

“Obviously I’m really excited about seeing these numbers headed in the right direction,” said Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair. “But we’ve still got a lot of work to do.” 

Another Angle on Childhood Obesity — Empower the Child …

We know the statistics. Childhood obesity has become a national public health challenge, with rates of childhood obesity doubling in the past 30 years. (1) According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 approximately 1/3 of children were obese or overweight. (2) A study released by the American Heart Association just this month found 5 percent of American teenagers were severely obese.

With a national focus on childhood obesity this month, teaching children to manage their weight and eat consciously should play a significant role in empowering children to prevent obesity. Children are capable of learning about food, nutrition and movement. The American Academy of Pediatrics has found that children are starting to eat more vegetables and move. While these results are encouraging, significant gains are still needed to combat this national health crisis.

Having sent my own child off to school recently, I realize that access to the right food prevents children from making poor food choices, but empowering children with the tools and knowledge to make healthy decisions is a life skill that can be taught. Children can learn to budget calories, sugar and fat. We just need to teach them.

In our house, we budget sugar by creating our own system of sugar finance. The children are allowed so many “sugar dollars” per day and have learned to use addition and subtraction to decide if they can eat that second cupcake or lollipop. They think about the number of sugary drinks they may have had and they count their servings of fruits and vegetables. They actually treat the whole system like a game and are determined to win everyday by banking their sugar dollars for real money at the end of the week. They are, by the way, 5 years and 4 years of age, respectively.

I have seen many great initiatives trying to bring the concept of nutrition into the schools. Vending machines with healthy foods, improved food service, and community gardens are becoming a part of our children’s schools. While this is encouraging, I still do not see a national curriculum on nutrition that teaches children to budget and measure food, calories and sugar on a daily basis. We need a curriculum that empowers the child. Sugar dollars may be a start, but we need more creative tools to help kids help themselves.

In developing such a curriculum, children will also learn the more intangible lessons of self control, discipline and respect for one’s body. These are skills that will determine success later in life. Short term, self gratification does not lead to success of any kind. Strategic thinking, planning and impulse control will. Having observed my own children and many others, these are early learning lessons. They should begin in preschool and advanced through elementary education.

While we work on food deserts, movement and genetically modified food, lets include the child at the center of the childhood obesity concept. As a mom, pediatrician, integrative health expert and living healthy naturally M.D., I know that children can do this. They can beat the obesity crisis if we can create the right curriculum. We need to empower the child.


1. Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010. Journal of the American Medical Association 2012;307(5):483-490.

2. National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2011: With Special Features on Socioeconomic Status and Health. Hyattsville, MD; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2012.

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New Inquiries into Eating Disorders and Obesity



Last week, there was some media coverage of a new study, published in Pediatrics (the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics), that highlights the concurrence between obesity/overweight and eating disorders. The study sheds light on the fact that a significant number of young people who seek clinical treatment for eating disorders come from a history of overweight or obesity. At the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center, where Dr. Leslie Sim, one of the authors of the study, works, 45% of adolescents seen for ED treatment in the last year came from a history of obesity. The study makes a case for recognition of obesity as a common precedent to disordered behaviors. It also illuminates the very tendency of primary care providers to overlook symptoms of disordered eating in people with history of obesity. It highlights two case studies: a fourteen-year-old boy and an eighteen-year-old girl whose eating disorders were misdiagnosed in large part because they had previously been obese.

As I read this article, I felt an enormous sense of disappointment at the way both obesity and eating disorder treatment are failing young people in this country. Because our emphasis is on weight loss at all costs (rather than the fostering of healthy habits), obese adolescents often transition directly into anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, and EDNOS. At least half of the men and women I know who have struggled with eating disorders were overweight or obese growing up, so it comes as no surprise that what I’ve observed is borne out in the 45% statistic. Still other individuals who have shared their stories with me say that the eating disorder began when they were advised to lose weight by a health care provider or school nurse. In their dutiful attempts to obey that mandate, they quickly turned to extreme forms of restrictive eating or exercise.

Sim, Lebow, and Billings’ study details the history of a fourteen-year-old boy who had lost over 87 pounds. Possessed of a significantly higher than average BMI through childhood, he’d begun dieting at the age of 12, first by eliminating sweets, fats, and carbohydrates, and ultimately resorting to eating 600 calories per day. He developed hallmark symptoms of an eating disorder: difficulty concentrating, low moods, bloating, constipation, social withdrawal, fatigue, and intolerance to cold. His health care providers tested him for a number of GI disorders (celiac sprue, GiardiaH. pylori), and thyroid abnormalities. In spite of the fact that he began to show heart irregularities and dehydration, eating disorders weren’t suggested.

The study states,

In spite of having lost over half of his body weight, the medical documentation associated with the evaluation stated, ‘there is no element to suggest that he has an eating disorder at this particular time.’ At the request of his mother, however, Daniel was referred for an ED evaluation. Of note, Daniel’s weight was a focus of discussion at all medical appointments throughout his childhood. However, during the 13 medical encounters that took place when he was losing weight, there was no discussion of concerns regarding weight loss.

Italics are mine.

The next case study is equally disturbing. An eighteen year old girl was sent to an ED evaluation because she was demonstrating extreme fear of weight gain, amenorrhea, intolerance to cold, stress fractures, excessive exercise, food restriction, and binge eating. She, too, came from a history of obesity. She had begun dieting at the age of fourteen, ultimately going from 97th percentile for weight to the 10th percentile in only three years. After the first year of her weight loss, she developed amenorrhea, but the suggested explanations were PCOS or her long distance running, and she was put on birth control pills. She was referred to a dietitian after her stress fractures developed. The dietitian didn’t suggest ED treatment or express concern over her severely low fat diet, even when the girl’s mother suggested that she might have an ED. According to the study, the girl’s physician noted, “‘given that her BMI is currently appropriate, it is reasonable to do a trial off the birth control pill and see if her menses resume.’”

Italics are mine again.

In our green recovery discussions, we have often touched on how flawed BMI is as a marker of health. The USA Today coverage of the new study discusses this problem. It notes that many of the people who need ED treatment aren’t immediately identified as being at risk because they aren’t underweight:

It’s a “new, high-risk population that is under-recognized,” says Hagman, medical director of the eating disorders program at Children’s Hospital Colorado, who was not involved in the new report.

The kids she sees in this condition “are just as ill in terms of how they are thinking” as they are in terms of physical ailments, she says. “They come in with the same fear of fat, drive for thinness, and excessive exercise drive as kids who would typically have met an anorexia nervosa diagnosis. But because they are at or a even a little bit above their normal body weight, no one thinks about that.”

These cases are no surprise, says Lynn Grefe, president of the National Eating Disorders Association. “Our field has been saying that the more we’re pushing the anti-obesity message, the more we’re pushing kids into eating disorders” by focusing on size or weight instead of health and wellness.

Medicine is not a perfect science. BMI can help physicians to quickly identify someone who is very overweight or underweight, but like any diagnostic tool, it has limitations. One way to circumvent these limitations is to use multiple diagnostic criteria when it comes to complex conditions like EDs. Weight may be telling, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Listening to a patient’s symptoms, history, and habits is equally, if not more, crucial. It’s time for treatment providers to stop equating eating disorders with the state of being underweight. People who are not underweight by the books can have eating disorders, and–as one of my commenters noted–people who are underweight don’t necessarily have them.

What struck me most about this study was the bias it unearthed. It is the idea that there are two types of people– people who have been overweight, and people who are, or could become, restrictive– and that those two types of people are not and cannot be one in the same. This is the bias that leads a primary care physician to miss overwhelmingly evident ED symptoms in a kid who used to be obese. It is the bias that, left uncorrected, may allow countless adolescents and adults who are in need of care to go unnoticed.

US News and World Report interviewed Dr. David Katz as a part of its coverage. Katz is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Childhood Obesity, President-Elect of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, founder and President of the non-profit Turn the Tide Foundation, and the founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. He has devoted much of his career to combating childhood obesity through education about healthy eating and a comprehensive approach to patient care. He echoed the dangers of treating obesity and disordered eating as mutually exclusive phenomena, and underscored the fact that there is quite a bit of fluidity between them:

“First, obesity itself is a risk factor for eating disorders,” Katz said. “This link is well established for binge-eating disorder, where obesity is potentially both cause and effect…Second, while weight loss in the context of obesity may appear beneficial, there is a point at which the methods used — or the extremes reached — may indicate an eating disorder,” Katz said.

“Effective treatment of obesity cannot simply be about weight loss — it must be about the pursuit of health,” Katz said. “An emphasis on healthful behaviors is a tonic against both obesity and eating disorders. By placing an emphasis on diet and activity patterns for health and by focusing on strategies that are family based, we can address risk factors for both eating disorders and obesity.”

Just as weight restoration alone cannot remedy anorexia, neither is weight loss, in and of itself, an adequate treatment for obesity. In both cases, changes in weight should be accompanied by an emphasis on the importance of nourishing foods and an attempt to foster lasting, positive body image.

✵          ✵          ✵

Between the ages of eight and ten, right after my parents’ divorce and during a turbulent moment in my childhood, I gained some weight. My pediatrician remarked on it during an annual checkup when I was eleven–he wasn’t overly worried, he said, but a diet might help me get back to a more “appropriate” weight for my frame. He left it at that, and I took matters into my own hands. This was that summer that I discovered rules and restriction. It was the summer I realized that I could make my body “behave” itself. It was also the year that my weight took its first major plunge, and the roller coaster in and out of my ED began.

In bringing up my own story, I don’t mean to draw a direct or easy comparison between what I remember and what the two individuals profiled in the study experienced. Nor am I putting all of the blame on my physician, because he was acting in good faith, and there were many, many factors involved with my ED. But I couldn’t help but feel a sense of recognition as I read, an empathy that having comes from having once felt as if someone–someone who was supposed to be taking care of my health–had given me the message that I ought to reject my body. While I recognize the seriousness of childhood obesity, and support all healthful measures undertaken to treat and prevent it, I believe that the onus is upon health care practitioners to do so in a way that will encourage children to embrace their bodies, rather than renounce them. I’m hopeful that it can be done.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the study, which can be found here (Sim LA, Lebow J, Billings M. Eating disorders in adolescents with a history of obesity. Pediatrics. 2013 Sep 9. [Epub ahead of print]).

In the meantime, I wish you a happy Sunday, and a great start to the week ahead.


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Are we really making headway with childhood obesity?


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(NaturalNews) The “fall” in obesity rates among low-income, preschool-aged children in the United States from 2008-2011 that was recently reported by the CDC is making headlines, and Michelle Obama is taking credit, but have we really made any progress?

The decline may be considered scientifically significant, but in reality, not much has changed. The “significant downtrend,” as the CDC calls it, is barely more than one percentage point in most cases. In only five states (Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey and South Dakota) and the U.S. Virgin Islands did obesity decline by more than or equal to 1%. Only three of these states saw a decrease that was more than 1%. Here are the percentage rates for the absolute decrease in obesity prevalence from 2008 to 2013 in the states that saw a decline:

Florida: 14.1 to 13.1
Georgia: 14.8 to 13.2
Missouri: 13.9 to 12.9
New Jersey: 17.9 to 16.6
South Dakota: 16.2 to 15.2

Only in the U.S. Virgin Islands does the decrease seem significant enough to be considered progress. Their rate fell from 13.6% in 2008 to 11.0% in 2011. And what about the other states and territories? In 21 states and territories the rates remained the same, and three states, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, even saw an increase in obesity rates! As the director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, told reporters, “It’s encouraging news but we’re very, very far from being out of the woods.”

Many states and territories experienced a fluctuation in rates in the years tested. For example, Puerto Rico’s rates have not been declining steadily. They began in 2008 with a rate of 17.9%, spiked to 18.1% and 18.3% in 2009 and 2010 respectively and finished back where they started at 17.9%, hardly much progress. Other states have followed similar patterns, according to the CDC study. And, of course, no results have been released about 2011 and 2012.

One in eight preschoolers in the United States is obese; among low-income children, it is one in seven. About one in five black children and one in six Hispanic children between the ages of 2 and 5 are obese. We should not rest on our laurels by any means. As CDC Director Tom Frieden put it, “The fight is far from over.”

Given the health risks associated with obesity, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer and other chronic illnesses, American parents need to take weight gain in children very seriously. Neglecting to take action sets children up for a lifetime of disease, as children who are overweight or obese as preschoolers are five times as likely as normal-weight children to be overweight or obese. Children do not purchase the food in their cabinets and refrigerators. Adults do. Preventing young children from becoming obese constitutes responsible parenting; allowing young children to become obese borders on abuse.

Instead, parents should encourage and model a healthy diet. As the Mayo Clinic’s website states, “One of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the diet and exercise habits of your entire family. Treating and preventing childhood obesity helps protect the health of your child now and in the future.” Cutting out processed and packaged foods and making half of a child’s plate fruits and vegetables, as the government website (formerly recommends, is a certainly a step in the right direction.

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Jeff Hillenbrand and Hillary Feerick have been married for eighteen years and have two children, ages eight and nine. Jeff holds a BS in exercise physiology and nutrition. Hillary has been a teacher of writing and literature for twenty years and holds a BA and MA in English. Their combined expertise and experience raising healthy children prompted them to create a superhero that gets superpowers from fruits and veggies and solves mysteries at his elementary school. The Mitch Spinach Book Series has been featured across the country on numerous radio and television programs, and, according to NPR, “Mitch Spinach is to nutrition what Harry Potter is to wizardry.”

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Are we really making headway with childhood obesity?

The Obesity Conspiracy | In Their Own Words | Big Think


I think we’re facing, unfortunately, a loosely organized conspiracy to promote disease and obesity.  By default or by design, one-third of our economy profits from people being sick and fat. So big food, which is industrial food, big farming, which is agribusiness, and big pharma all profit from making people sicker and fatter. 

It’s hard to fight that battle.  We see, for example, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation spends $100 million fighting childhood obesity in this country.  The food industry spends that in four days to promote junk food and processed food, and the worse the food is for you the more they advertise and promote it. 

It’s hard to fight that when government subsidies are supporting high fructose corn syrup production and trans fats, when you’re standing at the fast food restaurant and the government is standing there with you buying your cheeseburger or French fries and soda but they’re not standing with you at the produce aisle because there are no subsidies for fruits and vegetables. 

So we’re providing an obesogenic environment and we need to think about how we can change that by changing some of our policies, by changing how we market foods.  The government requested, the FTC requested, that the food industry change its marketing around food and basically restrict marketing for foods that had high salt, fat and sugar.  But this was only a recommendation to change.  It wasn’t a demand or a regulation.  And they only suggested they do it in five years, so that’s like saying to tobacco let’s stop marketing cigarettes to kids in five years, and, by the way, you only have to do it if you really want to.  That’s not how we’re going to create change in America.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


Obese Preschooler Numbers Declining in Some States, Says CDC …

Obese Preschooler Numbers Declining in Some States, Says CDC

The U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today released its newest Vital Signs report on childhood obesity. Despite the high numbers of American children who are obese, the agency was able to show that many states have falling obesity rates for low-income children between the ages of three and five.

“Although obesity remains epidemic, the tide has begun to turn for some kids in some states,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “While the changes are small, for the first time in a generation they are going in the right direction. Obesity in early childhood increases the risk of serious health problems for life.”

The CDC found that 18 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands saw decreases in their childhood obesity rates from 2008 to 2011. Florida, Georgia, Missouri, new Jersey, South Dakota, and the Virgin Islands all saw their rates drop at lease one percentage point. Twenty other states maintained their rates of childhood obesity, and only three – Colorado, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania – saw increases in their rates.

CDC childhood obesity map

The report looked at almost 12 million low-income children involved in U.S. maternal- and child-nutrition programs. Around one in every eight preschoolers was found to be obese.

The CDC is attributing the drop in childhood obesity rates in some states to healthy eating and active lifestyles for children. The agency is suggesting that local and state governments take action to promote healthy living for children. Some of the suggestions provided by the CDC include making healthy foods more affordable and available; providing more free drinking water in public areas; making school recreational facilities available after school hours or during the summer; and educating child care providers.

“Today’s announcement reaffirms my belief that together, we are making a real difference in helping kids across the country get a healthier start to life,” said Michelle Obama, First Lady of the U.S. “We know how essential it is to set our youngest children on a path towards a lifetime of healthy eating and physical activity, and more than 10,000 childcare programs participating in the Let’s Move! Child Care initiative are doing vitally important work on this front. Yet, while this announcement reflects important progress, we also know that there is tremendous work still to be done to support healthy futures for all our children.”

(Image courtesy Robert Lawton/Wikimedia Commons)

Study finds no link between kids' obesity and DDT, PCBs …

July 4, 2013

U.S. children who were exposed in the womb to high levels of DDT, PCBs and other chlorinated chemicals in the 1960s were not more likely to be obese, according to new research.

One substance, dieldrin, was linked to higher odds of obesity in children but the number of children studied was small.

Fhardseen/flickr Multiple causes of childhood obesity may include prenatal exposure to chemicals.

It is the largest study examining the link between organochlorine chemicals and childhood obesity, and the first to associate obesity with prenatal exposure to the pesticide dieldrin. Previous studies have reached conflicting conclusions.

Organochlorines were widely used as pesticides and industrial compounds in the 1940s through 1970s. Most uses have been banned for decades. However, traces of these chemicals are still found in most people’s bodies today because they persist in the environment and accumulate in fatty tissues.

Childhood obesity is an increasing problem worldwide. In the United States, 4 percent of children aged 6 to 11 were obese in the early 1970s compared with 20 percent in 2008. Researchers have been examining the role that prenatal exposure to potentially hormone-altering chemicals – such as organochlorines – may play.

The epidemiologists used data from the U.S. Collaborative Perinatal Project, which enrolled pregnant women from 1959-1965. The women’s blood was measured in their third trimester for DDT, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other chlorinated chemicals. Then the researchers checked records for 1,915 of the women’s children to determine how many were obese at the age of 7.

Prenatal exposure to all but one of the chemicals was not associated with obese or overweight children. However, for dieldrin, children in the two groups of highest exposure were 3.6 and 2.3 times more likely to be obese than those in the lowest exposure group.

Only 89 children were in the two highest exposure groups. “The suggestive association between dieldrin and childhood obesity was perhaps a chance finding given the number of analyses we performed,” the authors wrote in the paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Dieldrin was widely used as a pesticide from about 1950 to 1974 but was banned from almost all uses in the United States in 1985, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The pregnant women in this study had much higher levels of all the chemicals tested (hexachlorocyclohexane, DDE, DDT, dieldrin, heptachlor epoxide, hexachlorobenzene, trans-nonachlor, oxychlordane and PCBs) than people do today.

The researchers controlled for mothers’ race, education, pre-pregnancy weight, smoking status and the child’s birth order.

Previous research linking the chemicals to children’s body weight has been inconsistent. DDE exposure was linked to a higher body mass index for children, according to a 2011 study, but the link was dependent upon maternal smoking. HCB exposure was linked to obesity and higher body mass index for children in a 2008 study. The children were exposed to higher levels than in the current study.

On the contrary, PCBs were linked to decreased weight among exposed children in studies in 2002 and 2006. This association was not found in the present study.

It is unclear how organochlorine chemicals might affect a child’s body weight. But previous research has suggested that they could alter the hormones that regulate growth or alter the functioning of the central nervous system.

Most studies have focused on high levels of exposure. In light of this, the authors of the current study said they could not rule out the possibility that prenatal exposure to low levels of organochlorines could spur obesity. Some research has shown that small doses of hormone-like substances can have effects that large doses do not.

The study was a collaboration of scientists from Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and Ohio State University.


Fitly launches pilot program to tackle America's growing obesity …

American children are getting fatter.

Fitly launched its pilot program today that takes on the childhood obesity epidemic by making it easier for families to eat healthy. Parents subscribe to Fitly’s weekly healthy meal planner and choose from a list of nutritious meals. They can order their groceries through Fitly’s website, and Fitly sends the order to a nearby store. Groceries are delivered (for free) every week to a pickup location like an office, school, or recreation center.

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years, and more than one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Obese youth are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes as well as bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems. These are alarming statistics, and yet obesity is highly preventable through healthy eating and physical activity.

Founder Anthony Ortiz was inspired to start Fitly after witnessing two of his nephews become at-risk through bad eating habits, his brother and sister-in-law struggle with their weight, and his father go through a triple bypass surgery. He wanted to make it as easy as possible for families to adopt healthy eating habits together.

Fitly also offers featuring dietitian-approved meals that promote a 50 percent plant-based diet. Parents select meals and have their groceries delivered with simple preparation instructions. All they have to do is prepare the meals.

Fitly also applies gamification techniques to make maintaining a nutritious diet more fun for kids, with weekly competitions and prizes for making healthy choices.

Fitly participated in DreamIt health accelerator and has established partnerships with Independence Blue Cross and Penn Medicine. It is also working with The Fresh Grocer, an online supermarket chain to deliver the groceries, and Ortiz said that the cost is comparable to going to a local grocery store. The pilot program will be available in the mid-Atlantic region, and the goal is to expand nationally within a couple months.

Food startups are attracting more attention from consumers, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists as people are beginning to make better choices about what they eat and are looking for technology solutions to help them do so. VCs like Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers and noteworthy folk such as Bill Gates and Dave McClure have called for innovation in this area. Along with Fitly, there are other startups out there like Good Eggs, Farmigo, and Relay Foods that are working on more new models for a sustainable food system.

These models can be difficult to set up and scale, however. They deal with complicated supply chains, perishable products, and every market has different retailers to work with. Plus the profit margins are often slim. But the obesity epidemic is looming larger and larger and the American population is increasingly concerned about the dangers of Monsanto and processed food. The organic, local, seasonal food movement has taken off and consumers are more interested in buying quality ingredients  and eating well.

There are certainly challenges, but this is an issue that can’t be ignored.

More Evidence Links BPA to Childhood Obesity – WebMD

More Evidence Links BPA to Childhood Obesity

By Brenda Goodman

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) — There’s fresh evidence that the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, may play a part in childhood obesity.

BPA is a chemical that is widely used in food packaging. Government studies have shown that 92 percent of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies.

There’s intense scientific interest in BPA because it is chemically similar to the hormone estrogen, and there’s some concern that it may mimic estrogen’s effects in the body, causing harm to the brain and reproductive organs, particularly in children.

Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration formally banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups, though manufacturers had already stopped using it. The agency declined to ban it from other food containers, pending further research.

In a new study published online June 12 in the journal PLoS One, researchers measured BPA levels in the urine of more than 1,300 children in China and compared those levels to their body weights.

The study authors also asked the kids about other things that may influence body weight, such as how often they ate junk food, fruits and vegetables, how much exercise they got, whether their parents were overweight and how long they played video games, on average, each day.

After taking all those factors into account, the investigators found that girls aged 9 to 12 who had higher-than-average levels of BPA in their urine were about twice as likely to be obese as those with lower-than-average levels. The researchers didn’t see the same association for boys or for older girls.

One explanation for the results may be that girls who are entering puberty are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals, said study author Dr. De-Kun Li, an epidemiologist at Kaiser Foundation Research Institute and the Stanford School of Medicine, in California.

“Human studies are starting to confirm animal studies that show BPA can disrupt energy storage and energy metabolism,” said Li.

One of the most recent questions raised about BPA is whether or not it may be an obesogen, or a chemical that contributes to the development of obesity.

In laboratory studies, BPA produces many of the molecular hallmarks of obesity. It makes fat cells bigger, it blocks the function of a protein called adiponectin, which protects against heart disease, and it disrupts the balance of testosterone and estrogen — hormones that are important for maintaining a healthy body mass.

One expert found the study results troubling.

“Clearly, unhealthy diet and physical activity are still the leading causes of the childhood obesity epidemic worldwide, but this study adds further concern to the notion that environmental chemicals may be independent contributors,” said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine and health policy at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.