Sponsored by the American College of Sports Medicine, September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.
With one in three children either overweight or obese in the United States, it is more important than ever to highlight the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise. Childhood obesity puts kids at risk for health problems that were once seen only in adults, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Overweight and obese children are five times more likely to be obese during adulthood than children of normal weight.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children (6-17 years-old) should participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Aerobic activity, such as running or brisk walking, should make up the majority of the allotted 60 minutes. However, muscle-strengthening activities such as push-ups and bone-strengthening activities such as jumping rope should also be incorporated 3 times each week. This requirement may be easily met by participating in sports such as soccer, basketball, softball, tennis or gymnastics.
The CDC recommends that parents provide fruits and vegetables as healthy snacks rather than processed foods. Most children in the United States do not consume the daily recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables or whole grains, and generally consume well over the sodium, sugar and solid fat recommendations. Eating fast food and drinking sugary beverages both increase a child's risk for becoming overweight or obese and may lead to energy imbalances that affect both mood and cognitive function.
A balanced diet and regular exercise are crucial to maintaining a healthy weight. While there is no cure-all therapy for obesity, many integrative therapies have been studied for their potential benefits. Natural Standard celebrates this month by highlighting the available research on several integrative therapies for obesity.
Beans: The common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is grown in semitropical areas of the world. Beans vary in color and shape and are a cheap and nutritious food. They are typically high in protein, fiber, and nutrients, and are usually low in fat. Some studies have found that bean extract may lower body weight, body fat and waist size in overweight and obese people. Beans may act as "carb blockers" to slow the absorption of carbohydrates in the body. More studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Macrobiotic diet: Macrobiotics is a popular approach to diet that stresses vegetarianism and consumption of whole, healthy foods. Proponents of macrobiotics advocate a flexible approach that allows supplementation with dairy, fish, or other complements as needed on an individual basis. Evidence indicates that a macrobiotic diet may lead to reduced body size and obesity and to increased leanness in preschool children compared to children on a normal diet. However, caution is warranted as the use of macrobiotic diets in children has been associated with multiple nutritional deficiencies. More studies are needed to determine whether or not these changes contribute to good health in children.
Whey protein: Whey protein is one of the two major groups of proteins found in milk. It is a highly digestible source of protein. As a source of high nutritional quality protein, whey protein has been found to reduce short-term food intake and may aid in reducing appetite. Additional studies are required before firm conclusions can be made.
For more information about integrative therapies for obesity, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.