Kids are all going to die of obesity!

Quick, make ‘em sweat it all off!


by Dr. Kwame M. Brown


Brian and Pat asked me to review and write something on this article


Premature death is more likely in obese children


To begin, I am sure that kids that spend their lives being obese from a young age will shorten their lifespan overall, and more importantly will decrease quality of life.  I am also sure that most people think that. 


However, I have some real problems with this study.  Sensational title, then when you read further….uhhh…


“Scientists could not determine how many years obesity may shorten lives because most of the participants were still alive, so the average life span of the group wasn’t known yet, he says.”


So, you are making the conclusion that people die early, when none of them have died!  This is the problem with some of our research and how prematurely we now report data. We are now predicting death before it happens. 


There are other reservation specific factors ranging from higher rates of alcoholism to greater unemployment that complicate matters when discussing obesity. 


Now we have a very fear based headline.  Why does this matter?  Because when humans let fear be the impetus for solving a problem, the thought process becomes immediately superficial and reactionary.  Promoting and fostering desire to play among kids is so obviously the answer, but this view requires a focus on enjoyment and a positive outlook.  Fear does not provide for this.  What happens from the fear perspective? 


-Programs that have kids running on treadmills until they drop
-Restrictive diets
-Programs targeting (and therefore isolating) obese children. 
-Diet pills for kids


Please don’t think that I am completely condemning this research, there is some valuable information especially in the write up article.  It’s just that we have to start thinking about implications, and being more careful about sensationalized headlines that belie what’s underneath. 


Much like with Reefer Madness (look it up), people are in such a hurry to get the truth out, they end up lying.  Instead of just acknowledging this huge health risk, and spending energy to do something about it, many just continue to name and rename a problem, hoping someone else will solve it.  


I would submit that it’s because most have no idea how to solve it.  Part of this is because we have literally set up our whole society to sit, and then watch the elite play.  Because we routinely eradicate spaces and opportunities for free play in childhood.   


Read the article.  What’s your take? 


7 Responses

  1. Phil Hueston says:

    Great work, Dr. Kwame! We’re always shocked at how little thought goes into these “scientific” studies. Did these researchers do there qualifying work at the School for Sub-Par Results?

    Maybe they’re right. Maybe obese kids WILL die younger. But why focus so heavily on the negative? When was the last time USA Today or any other mainstream news outlet ran a story on kids (or adults) who are seeing the amazing POSITIVE results of healthy eating and consistent, FUN exercise?!?

    Instead we get “yellow journalism” (if you’re old enough to remember that phrase, then you’re OLD like me…) that results in:
    Programs that have kids running on treadmills until they drop
    Restrictive diets
    Programs targeting (and therefore isolating) obese children.
    Diet pills for kids

    In other words, the same idiotic, knee jerk reactive behaviors that adults dash for at the sight of these kinds of foolish “results” and headlines.

    How about this? How about we all just focus on the positive? Why not try bringing joy and fun to the process?

    Of course, THAT’S the process and the message WE are promoting and educating on!
    Here’s a crazy suggestion…let’s run a scientific study across the membership of the IYCA to track the effects and results of our style of exercise for kids (and adults…I want to play, too!) Then let’s see which news outlets will run THAT story.

    Ghandi said “Be the change you would see in the world.”

    I ask, when would NOW be a good time to start?

  2. Larry Wood says:

    I do believe that IYCA is going to be a big factor in the defeat of obesity in our children due to the quality of education this organization offers in a user friendly format. It is time to give our children the chance to be children and with that goes providing direction and support from parents and coaches. Not every kid is going to have an athletic body nor will a lot of them even care to be an athlete. That doesnt mean they want to be fat and lazy because from what I see with kids is just the opposite. What happens so many times to kids if they don’t play sports is they get left or pushed out and they rebel to the idea of being in shape since they associate this with athletics. We with the IYCA can change this attitude and win back these kids and help create in them what they truly want to be. Go coaches and IYCA.

  3. Dave Gleason says:

    We do live in the land of extremes and hyperbole.

    Fear or fear of loss is a very strong marketing tool. It pains me to see when it used to target kids. In my opinion this is another attempt to bring light to the symptom of childhood obesity and not the root or actual problem – inactivity and malnutrition.

    My personal fear is that this will continue to worsen as we create more beaurocracy and/or institutions to ‘study’ youth obesity. We do not need mandates stating nurses in elementary schools calculating BMI’s during class time (like PE) and sending a not home to the parents stating their child is chubby.

    School systems, private companies, media…we (fitness professionals) have our work cut out for us considering as an industry we have contributed to the problem.

    That is my take on the issue.

    My take on the article is an extension of my take on the issue. Trying to prove the health risks associated with childhood obesity and the relation those have to morbidity via science has some merit…but it is not where the priority should be.

  4. Toby Brooks says:

    So true, Dr. KB, so true. Unfortunately, we both know that the evil that is tenure and promotion triggers some real dogs of research. I am looking forward to the day when I am tenured so I can work on the longitudinal studies that matter instead of these low-hanging fruit vita boosters!

  5. Dr. Kwame M. Brown says:

    Agreed, Dr. Toblerone! Exactly why I got out of science. I couldn’t stomach it anymore (partly due to my own impatience). That’s not to say that there isn’t great research out there – there is plenty (which I will be sharing soon), but the trend is toward these little half thought packets.

    The other trend, with NIH having such a huge influence and share, is toward disease care instead of prevention. To be fair, NIH is making SOME efforts to change that, but the climate is still heavily skewed toward having to have a disease connection to get any research funded.

    The underlying problem is that our research and care models in the health field are based on the effort to combat infectious disease. That has produced some amazing efforts in combating polio, influenza, and even cancer, but does NOT work here.

    We need new leadership (or new thinking) on these issues globally.

  6. Liz Shiels says:

    I’m new to this site–but I am not new as a parent or a fitness educator. One of my big concerns regarding kids and activities is things not under their control–like insurance underwriters. Case in point: their school took out the old playground equpiment that required attention to climbiing and pulling and jumping and all kinds of great physical and developmental movement–because these underwriters that this was “unsafe.” The new equipment is so “safe” it is BORING and the kids don’t really use it!! This is an absolute tradedy! Who are these insurance people? Don’t they get that obesity is for more dangerous? Kids needs to move. Boo-boos are part of the package. Scrapes heal–diabetes??NO!!! As fitenss professionals we need to take serious looks at what the insurance industry is doing to our kids. No body wants traumatic brain injuries, but I think the “safety and fear of getting sued” pendulum has swung too far.

  7. Liz Shiels says:

    Sorry for the typos–I will edit better next time.

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