A new U.S. study just released on February 6, 2013 says that the health of Baby Boomers is worse than seen in past generations. As the mom of two baby-boomers, the food available to Boomers had been very different from the food available to parents of Baby Boomers before fast-food places appeared every few blocks in urban areas.
In the study, in comparison approximately16 percent of baby boomers had diabetes, compared to 12 percent of the previous generation. And Boomers were more likely to have high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Was it the fast-food generation that did the Boomers in so to speak on the medical scores? Or was it the hippie generation that we parents of Boomers encountered in our 1963 college diets of salads and brewer's yeast sprinkled over yogurt?
Our parents shopped at mom and pop grocery stores before the supermarkets moved in next to the launderette store. But parents of Boomers now mostly in their 70s and 80s were much less sedentary than their children at the same age, Boomers who are now aged 46 to 64.
There weren't many fast-food eateries other than doughnut shops and those malted milk and ice cream sundae diners in the 1950s while most parents of Boomers were growing up, at least not until the early 1980s. Missing were the proliferation of health food stores you see today. But a combination of sedentary life style and fast-food burger eateries compete with great grandma's roasted potatoes, not fried. The transfats in supermarkets were a big health problem in the 1950s that felled so many seeking alternatives to butter and bacon fat.
What makes the health of Boomers worse than that of their parents at the same age?
You can check out the February 7, 2013 news article from Reuters News by Andrew Seaman at Reuters Health with editing by Elaine Lies, "Baby Boomers' health worse than past generation's." As the parent of two Boomers born in the 1960s, and nine grandchildren born between 1987 and 2003, what we were never shown by our parents were nutritional supplements and dark green leafy vegetables.
We learned about those in the early1980s when we were in our middle age years and were introduced to vegetarianism and macrobiotic diets. What we learned from our Boomer kids was they were very sedentary in front of their computers most of the day or sitting for hours. See the latest Reuters news article on the latest study about the health of Baby Boomers,
And what we learned from our own parents were how active the were on their feet all day at work or cleaning the house for hours and cooking from scratch. What our parents never saw were fast-food eateries, but what hit our parents the hardest was the solid white fat shortening, those transfats used in frying, replacing the old world extra virgin olive oil and dark green vegetables of their immigrant parents.
By the time we come down to the Boomer generation, there's more sedentary sitting all day followed by video games or TV after work hours. And the concept of a chicken in every pot of the 1940s has melted down the generations to chicken nuggets daily, deep fried in fats.
Meanwhile, the parents of Boomers are arranging potlucks of vegetarian foods such as parsley and red quinoa and arugula salads with sliced red bell peppers, celery, garlic, and onions. Our generation learned about tempeh and tofu from the Boomers who watched their grandparents eat deli cold cuts, rejected by our generation for salads or wild-caught salmon. Now our kids, the Boomers are back to eating grass-fed red meats with fermented cod liver oil and butter oil in a back to the farm movement. The only problem is their sedentary lifestyles requiring 80 hour work weeks are showing up in medical records.
What our generation, the parents of Boomers saw were kids in classrooms who were underweight. None of our teachers looked what you'd call obese. But the new study reports that about 13 percent of baby boomers - the generation born in the two decades after World War Two - reported being in "excellent" health in middle age, compared to 32 percent of the previous generation who said the same thing at the same stage of life, researchers reported in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The Boomer generation is under more economic pressure than their parents
Parents of Boomers paid far fewer dollars, and a lower percentage of their small incomes to buy a house than did Boomers. The image of Boomers in 1969 eating their yogurt and granola contrasted sharply with the image of their parents eating their chicken soup and dumplings or meat and potatoes, eggs and ham, or the earliest health foods began in the 1950s by the parents of Boomers, such as the Jack La Lanne generation followers of the 1950s and 1960s. Boomers grew up with the sexual revolution after 1970, compared to parents of Boomers, many of which married in the mid 1950s and had larger families than the Boomers whose own children may have grown up on fast-foods, depending on the area where the Boomers grew up.
Parents of Boomers retired at the familiar retirement age of 65, when they could receive full social security retirement benefits. Many parents of Boomers had to rely on that income as their only form of money coming in to pay for food, rent, or if they owned their home, other expenses of living such as gasoline and other transportation expenses. Parents of Boomers may not have traveled or taken vacations if they couldn't afford those luxuries. Some parents and/or grandparents of Boomers were the children of impoverished immigrants with little or no formal schooling in the old country and blue-collar jobs in the U.S.A.
The Baby Boomer generation has a reputation of being active and putting off retirement
The new study showed different statistics when looking at those Boomers showing up in medical offices with various health issues. Lead author of the study is Dana King, from the West Virginia University School of Medicine. The researchers compared Boomers to the previous generation at the same age at the time.
For example, parents of Boomers from ages 46 to 64 had different health issues at those ages from the current Boomers of ages 48 to 65 when you look at the medical records of both generations at each time frame -- when they were the same age. Our family are parents of kids in the 46 to 48 age range with more health problems related to obesity than our very slim generation raised on different foods and now vegan. Our Boomer kids eat lots of red meat and white rice no matter how often you introduce dark green leafy vegetables. They still buy the pale green iceberg lettuce, and of course, have different issues.
In the latest study, King and his colleagues used data from an ongoing national health and nutrition survey to compare the answers of people who were 46 to 64 years old between 1988 and 1994, and the baby boomers who were in the same age range between 2007 and 2010. The study revealed that about 39 percent of the Baby Boom generation members were obese, compared to about 29 percent of the previous generation. Baby boomers were also less likely to get regular exercise. Our generation as parents of Boomers walked about two miles daily and didn't use cars. We used the bus, train, or walking the few blocks daily to shopping and using our personal shopping carts as nondrivers.
Or is health mostly controlled by the genes? If it's the genes, why are the children of Boomers so much heavier than their parents? Or could it be the global spread of fast-food eateries and deep-fried foods? Or is the phenomenon spread across the U.S.A. including the deep-fried belt in the Southeast compared to those living on the coast eating more vegetables, fruits, and sometimes seafood? Then why is the effect different in the part of the country that eats mostly red meat, such as the cattle raising areas of the nation?
King and his colleagues also found that more than twice as many Baby boomers walk with a cane or walker, compared to the previous generation. Our previous generation takes Tai Chi and Qi Gong lessons. Did that have anything to do with not using a cane or walker at a similar age two decades ago? Or did too much exercise affect the Boomers and wear out their joints and bones earlier?
The magnitude of change was great
Why was there such a big change in disability and obesity between the two generations? Boomers were said to have a healthier diet than their parents. As increasingly nonsmokers, their emphysema rate is lower. And something they are doing right makes them less likely to have a heart attack at the same age as their grandparents or parents.
Then again the grandparents may have been smokers and eating high-fat diets full of white flour and sugar, drinking lots of coffee and eating doughnuts as compared to the Boomer's emphasis on eating more fruit than cake. Parents of Boomers living through the late sixties learned more about whole grains and amazaki liquid sweetener instead of white table sugar, macrobiotic diets of the 1980s, and looking at food varieties. Their parents may have survived on bread, coffee, and pastries.
And some grandparents of Boomers poured bacon fat in a can to save for the next batch of fried foods. Their children may have substituted olive oil. And the kids of the Silent Generation born between 1929 and 1942, many parents of Boomers, seemed to be the first generation to grow up without copying their own parent's smoking habits and eating bacon grease when they could try walnut oil.
Parents of Boomers may have outlived their own parents, especially if their own parents were immigrants who lived on TV dinners, ice cream, and lots of trans fats in the baked goods instead of butter or rice bran oil. It could depend on the ethnic cooking comeback seen in the children of Boomers.
Previous research has shown that baby boomers are known to live longer than earlier generations, but that may be a mixed blessing
What happens when you live longer, but those extra years you bought - you're sick with clogged arteries? Compare that to the grandparents of Baby Boomers who had a shorter lifespan and clogged arteries at a much earlier age for some, depending upon their genes, the number of cholesterol receptors on their liver, and other inherited factors. Grandparents of Boomers didn't take statins.
And their children may not have connected what you eat with your general health in middle age. Ice cream was favored over nonfat yogurt. The children of that generation, the Silent Generation, which include some of the Boomers can't explain, as the new study shows, why Baby Boomers seem to be in worse shape than their predecessors, King thinks it shows they sit more and don't exercise.
If sitting is the new smoking, Boomers sit in front of their computers more than their parents who never had computers at their age. The solution may be to begin healthier habits such as walking more. Parents of Boomers didn't have digital technology. Being active and eating healthier makes a difference. But the real solution seems to be to find a way to override your predisposition, your genes that raise your risk regardless of what you eat or how much you walk.
Being active may help as much as diet, but being happy also kicks in. Check out the site, All Grown Up: Hollywood's Fittest Former Child Stars. And see the Reuters news source on the new study about the health of Boomers compared to their parent's.