So entrenched is the idea that high-fat junk foods and computers are the
major cause of obesity in children, that it's now hard to convince people that this almost certainly an inaccurate theory.
In 2002, the World Health Organisation issued the results of extensive surveys taken in 94 countries.
Those with the highest rate of childhood obesity being in the Third World - where fast foods and PCs are rare or unknown.
Uzbekistan, has a three times higher rate of pre-school obesity than the USA. Next on the list come
Kiribati, Mali, Algeria, Egypt, Argentina, Chile, Morocco, Malawi, South Africa and Qatar. The USA is 36th in this league
The data is on line, but you won't see it in the media unless it is misused to imply that "the obesity
epidemic" is spreading to the Third World!
In 1976, a team of researchers investigated the history of 300,000 Dutch military recruits all of whom showed signs
They had been born just after the Second World War when Holland (and their mothers) suffered severe rationing. Researchers
discovered that women subject to famine ("maternal nutritional deprivation") before and during the first tri-mester of pregnancy
give birth to children with a tendency to put on weight faster, even when fed less than normal amounts of food.
These children also appeared to have a higher than normal tendency to develop cardio-vascular problems and Type 2 diabetes.
Research into this phenomenon continues to the present day, the results are always the same.
Wherever there is famine, babies are genetically programmed, in the womb, to gain weight (or thrive) on less. The mother's
body effectively says: 'There's not enough food out here, if there was, Mom would be eating it, so you, dear baby, must develop
a metabolism which allows you to survive on less.' And survival is the name of the game with all our biological systems, it
over-rides everything else.
But how is this relevant to us in the affluent northern hemisphere where the numbers of
larger children is also increasing? Richer Moms in the developed world aren't starving are they?
Well, yes they are - and their kids are also programmed in utero with exactly the same genetic message - gain weight fast
on less. But this time it is not through famine or war; maternal nutritional deprivation is produced by the insane social
behaviour we call dieting.
These babies, born into a world of plenty with a metabolism geared to cope with famine, have no chance of avoiding
According to recent UK government figures, over 80% of women believe it is normal, acceptable, even healthy,
to deprive themselves of food in order to lose weight. Many doctors advise patients to diet prior to conception or even when
already pregnant if Mom-to-be has gained too much weight.
The body makes no distinction between famine and dieting
and in a 1986 study, it was found that genetic changes are not only passed to the next generation but can be cumulative.
So if the child of a dieting mother grows up and also diets, her kids have a double propensity for weight gain.
Because this genetic inheritance also affects boys, father too can adds his genes to that of his kids, increasing even
more the childs ability to get fat fast.
Given that dieting as an acceptable practice began with the Baby Boomers, present days children can have an 8-fold
tendency for weight gain and sadly, the same predisposition towards Type 2 diabetes and cardiac problems.
why is this not more widely known and why have we come to believe that fast foods and computers are really at the root of
Well, if we believe Pizza Hut and Playstation are to blame, we won't look for the real culprit
It's known that organisations with the most to gain financially seek to influence public opinion
via blanket coverage in the media. We know that all big business use spin doctors to tell us their version of the story when
the truth would damage their profits. A case in point is the tobacco industry who, for the past 50 years fielded doctors
and other experts to tell us smoking wasn't harmful, was chic and sophisticated. Only when it was too late for millions
did we begin to learn the truth.
In a leading article about obesity, women's health researcher Gill Sanson says: "There is a history of pharmaceutical
companies hiring PR firms to generate fear about a disease amongst a healthy population, in order to create sales for their
The diet and drug industries have the most to gain from our fear of fatness. It is they who are behind the hysterical and
exaggerated scare stories about obesity, just as they are responsible for the specious 'Junk Food Theory'.
They are also aware of the detrimental effects of dieting on mothers and children in the womb but it's in their
best interests to create more fat children and then scare parents into enrolling them in the many weight loss programmes for
We may call it reprehensible, they call it good business.
There are many causes of overweight and
obesity, few of them directly attributable to excessive food intake. Too much fast food and time spent in front of the screen
is indeed unhealthy, but for everyone, not just bigger kids, who should be encouraged to see themselves as talented, resourceful
and marvellous, with every bit as much potential as anyone else.
The war on fat has turned into a war on fat
kids - that can NEVER be right.
For those interested in the papers mentioned they are as follows.
and trends of overweight among pre-school children in developing
countries." De Onis, M. and Blossner, M. (2000). American
Clinical Nutrition 72: 1032-1039.
"Why are nutritionally stunted children at increased risk of
Studies of metabolic rate and fat oxidation in shantytown children from São
Daniel J Hoffman,
Ana L Sawaya, Ieda Verreschi, Katherine
L Tucker and Susan B Roberts. Federal University of São Paulo, Escola
de Medicina, São Paulo, Brazil, and the Jean Mayer US Department
of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging
"Obesity in young men after famine exposure in utero and early infancy" GP
ZA Stein, and MW Susser .New England Journal of Medicine Volume
295:349-353 August 12, 1976 Number 7
heart disease after prenatal exposure to the Dutch famine 1944-45."
Roseboom TJ, Van Der Meulen JH, Osmond C, et al. Heart
"Glucose tolerance in adults after prenatal exposure to famine".
Ravelli, Van der Meulen,
et al. Lancet 1998; 351: 173-77
"Reduced rate of energy expenditure as a risk factor for body- weight gain." Ravussin,
E., Lillioja, S., Knowler, W.C., Christen, L., Freymond, D., Abbott, W.G.H., Boyce, V., Howard, B.V., & Bogardus, C. (1988).
New England Journal of Medicine, 318, 467-472.
If you would like to buy "Healthy Kids, Happy Kids" packed with information on how to keep your child
active, confident and healthy, e-mail the author at HK2NZ@hotmail.com