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Should childhood obesity be considered a form of child abuse?

Childhood Obesity
Childhood Obesity
Childhood Obesity

We all know that parents who starve their children or malnourish them can be referred to child protective services. Good child care requires good feeding. So what happens if children are malnourished in a different way? Like when they are overfed, or fed foods that are bad for them. Where do we draw the line on that?

Not all chubbiness is permanent. Case in point is a breast fed baby, that often goes through a chubby phase with no lasting effects on future weight. The problem arises when a child enters the 2-5 year old phase and is obese. Research has shown a child's lifetime obesity risk is established by age 5. What then should be done when we see children at age 2 and 4 that are obviously and grossly obese? Not only is their health impacted, now and into the future, but there is a major social impact. Rather than being viewed as cute like most others in their age group, they could be viewed as "monster babies" by people in their environment and be affected psychologically.

Fortunately, there is some good news on this front. Between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012, researchers saw a 43% decline in this group's obesity rates -- from 13.9% to 8.4%, according to a recent study published in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

Where Nancy Reagan instituted the Dare to say NO to drugs program, Michelle Obama started a similar program against unhealthy foods. Yesterday marked the 4th anniversary of her Lets Move! initiative to combat childhood obesity.

If we have a war on drugs, a more limited war on junk food is just as important. Admittedly it's a pet peeve of mine, since I never allowed my children to drink sodas. Though I allowed my children to choose to be carnivorous, vegetarian or vegan, I made sure they knew sodas were sugar water, and bad for them. I also taught them to stay away from processed foods as much as possible. It's really that simple.

Progress is being made in the war on junk food:

The Obama administration laid out new restrictions on the marketing of junk food and sugary drinks in schools on Tuesday.

The new rules from the White House and the Department of Agriculture prohibit advertisements for unhealthy foods on school campuses during the school day, including sugary drinks that account for 90 percent of such ads in school. An ad for regular Coca-Cola, for example, would be banned from appearing on a scoreboard at a high school football game.

Michelle Obama explains:

“The idea here is simple—our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food,” First Lady Michelle Obama said in a statement. “Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.”

Does society have the right to direct our freedom of choice to health and safety with the foods we eat, as it has done with speeding limits in our transportation? I think so. We can't let industry's quest for ever higher profits allow our children to be brainwashed into using junk food, at a major expense to our society. Just like we can't allow cars to drive any speed they want, just because they can.

What do you think?

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