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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.

Childhood obesity is an epidemic

By Anastasia Niedrich

In my last column, I wrote about the negative effects being obese or overweight, living an unhealthy lifestyle or eating a poor diet have on adults.

But what about kids?

American kids are fatter and unhealthier than ever before and we have no one to blame but ourselves–the adults and businesses of America.

It is estimated that a minimum of 17 percent of children are overweight or obese. Maximal estimates are, in some cases, as high as 33 percent.

That means as many as one-third of our nation’s children are on track to develop high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease–the No. 1 cause of death in America today–stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, respiratory problems and several types of cancer unless dramatic changes are made soon.

I don’t believe for a second that children would be overweight if they knew how to be healthy, as well as all of the risks involved with being overweight and unhealthy.

If adults are overweight or obese because of their poor, unhealthy lifestyle choices–and not because of unavoidable disabilities or medical conditions–then that’s their choice. If they don’t want to change their lifestyle to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, they will eventually face the consequences of suffering and possibly dying from those choices. Those are their decisions to make, but children can’t make such decisions on their own. If their parents aren’t making the right decisions for them, then someone else needs to. Recently, someone has taken that initiative.

On June 14, Kellogg Company–the world’s largest cereal maker–announced that it won’t advertise foods on TV or via any other method of communication where the ads would reach audiences “at least half of whom are under age 12,” unless a single serving of their product meets the following dietary standards: no more than 200 calories; no trans fat and no more than two grams of saturated fat; no more than 230 milligrams of sodium, except for Eggo frozen waffles; and no more than 12 grams of sugar, not counting sugar from fruit, dairy and vegetables.

Kellogg also pledged to “reformulate products to meet these criteria or stop marketing them to children under 12 by the end of 2008.”

It’s about time. American kids have eaten what I would call “sugary crap cereals” for too long.

If parents care so much about their children and their health, why have they been feeding them these cereals and other foods that aren’t good for them?

Many parents relent when their kids ask for them because a popular cartoon character is advertising the product. There’s more good news in that regard–Kellogg’s has also agreed to do away with that type of cross-promotional advertising. You’ll still see Tony the Tiger and other Kellogg’s-owned characters, but you won’t see Tony and Shrek combinations anymore.

Why, after feeding America’s kids “sugary crap cereals” and other insufficiently nutritious products for so many years, is Kellogg’s all of a sudden changing its ways for the better? Why else–the threat of a lawsuit by several concerned parent, nutrition and health groups. Thank goodness for the power of law–it gets results and forces correct action in instances of blatant, irresponsible or wrong inaction.

Let’s be clear: The error of Kellogg’s ways in intentionally advertising unhealthy foods to kids and manufacturing those foods in the first place is not just its error. Plenty of other companies have done the same thing for many years. These changes, being the result of threatened litigation or not, are to be commended. I laud Kellogg’s for changing its ways for the betterment of American children and setting an example that the rest of the cereal and other food industries should follow.

It’s up to Kellogg’s to follow through on its pledge, but we as adults have a responsibility to change our ways in a collaborative effort for the sake of America’s children, too.

Parents should consider the costs and benefits of their health decisions in the context of the benefit or detriment they cause to their children.

Whether you have kids of your own, nieces and nephews or just younger friends, ask yourself whether what you’re doing is setting a good example for them.

I implore all of you to think about the consequences of your health decisions and actions and the impact they have on America’s children–our future generation. They’re paying attention to what you do and what’s on TV more than you think.

For more information on how to make healthier eating decisions for yourself as well as any kids in your life, check out The site has nutrition advice, information and help for adults and kids alike.

As Helen Lovejoy from “The Simpsons” always says, “Please, won’t somebody please think of the children?” Now that Kellogg’s has taken a necessary and commendable first step to make American children thinner and healthier, the rest of us need to think of and act for the children, too.

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