Are you seeking better health and means to fight obesity in your children? The solution is antioxidants and phytonutrients—abundantly found in non-starchy vegetables and fruits. This program has been developed with the philosophy that balanced nutrition can be tailored to level of physical activity on a meal-to-meal basis with stress reduction as an important additional component. The approach is based on an understanding of the benefits from antioxidants and phytonutrients— that prevent free radicals from damaging healthy cells, genes and proteins.
Over-production of free radicals in the body occurs when the availability of antioxidants and phytonutrients are low—this triggers oxidative stress and low-grade silent inflammation—which is the underlying cause of chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even obesity, including loss of energy and premature aging. It’s a concept that is accepted by scientists globally, and is helping to give us new perspectives and tools to fight chronic diseases and obesity.
We are all aware that eating more vegetables and fruits can help protect us from chronic diseases and obesity. But the evidence is clear that children are not eating enough fresh vegetables and fruits. This may be in part due to cost, convenience, taste or even cultural dietary habits. When children do eat fruits and vegetables, they are the usual suspects that do not contain a high level of antioxidants: French fries, ketchup, corn, iceberg lettuce, peas, bananas, oranges and grapes.
Because of their diet, children may not be getting enough antioxidants and phytonutrients to neutralize the high levels of free radicals produced from eating foods grossly deficient in essential nutrients. As a result, they are more likely to be at the lower end of the health and energy spectrum—which is associated with an expanding waistline and increase in abdominal fat producing more inflammatory hormones and chemicals in their bodies. Inflammatory hormones trigger craving and compulsive eating, and loss of energy.
Despite the dietary preferences of children, their health can benefit significantly from the proper intake of the right variety and balance of other foods. One of the most effective ways to increase your children’s antioxidant levels is to serve them foods high in antioxidants, such as spinach, broccoli, kale, blueberries and cranberries. They should eat a broad spectrum of vegetables and fruits with rich colors and pigments. The brightly colored and pigmented vegetables and fruits naturally contain high levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients waging war against the damaging free radicals and inflammation responsible for causing chronic diseases and obesity.
The Link Between Obesity & Silent Inflammation
The link between obesity and chronic disease is strong. As you may have already suspected by now, some foods that children eat as well as their lifestyle habits can promote damaging oxidative stress and low-grade silent inflammation in their bodies destroying healthy cells and their components. This perhaps is the reason why obesity itself is a very complex disease that must be addressed at its root cause, the oxidative stress and low-grade silent inflammation.
The best way you can equip yourself to help your children fight obesity is to understand the various causes that trigger more oxidative stress and inflammation in their bodies. It’s also important to know that you don’t have to adopt the strategy of eliminating every bad food they are eating. If you just get some modest reductions in their intake of foods triggering silent inflammation—saturated fats, trans fats, sugars and high fructose corn syrup—it will have a big impact on their weight and help lead to success.
Root Cause of Obesity
The word inflammation should draw your immediate attention because of the pain and suffering associated with it. But low-grade silent inflammation, which is the root cause of chronic diseases and obesity does not cause obvious symptoms, and that’s why it’s said to be silent.
Silent inflammation is in fact a normal immune response triggered by free radicals produced by environmental causes or when food is converted into cellular energy in our body. When there is a lack of adequate amounts of protective antioxidants and phytonutrients to counteract the free radicals, they can interact and cause oxidative damage to the genes and DNA, lipids (fats), proteins, and cell membranes.
The oxidative damage can trigger a low-grade silent inflammation throughout the body that lingers for years or decades leading to production of inflammatory hormones and chemicals, which turn on genes causing fat storage and disease, and simultaneously turn off genes reducing inflammation and health risk. This weak immune response is the root cause of chronic degenerative disease such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
This is the reason why chronic diseases of adulthood are showing up in kids twenty to thirty years earlier than expected—this trend is steadily rising in America and around the world. However, the good news is that you could protect your kids from these trends by providing them with foods able to lower the inflammation in their bodies, such as salmon, tuna, vegetables and fruits. When your kids are not getting adequate amounts of anti-inflammatory foods, the levels of Omega—3 fatty acids in the cells and tissues are low. As a result, their body is more vulnerable to attack by environmental poisons and chemicals in foods triggering destructive free radicals.
For instance, in Westernized diets, the consumption of Omega-6 fatty acids associated with inflammation in the body is about 20 times greater than the Omega-3 fatty acids—this imbalance in the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is believed to be responsible for the level of high inflammatory hormones and chemicals in the body. By comparison, in Japan, the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is 4 to 1, favoring a much healthier balance.
Furthermore, Westernized diets are also low in vegetables and fruits that are the major sources of protective antioxidants and phytonutrients that help fight damaging free radicals. Antioxidants and phytonutrients also directly or indirectly assist the body to heal and repair itself by lessening the course of oxidative stress and inflammation. They provide the body with a natural defense system and in essence our body needs antioxidants and phytonutrients to repair and rejuvenate itself.
Inflammation Comes From Many Sources
Silent inflammation has many sources that you may not even suspect— in addition to food and gum disease and tooth decay. The overgrowth of bacteria, yeast, viruses as well as environmental pollutants can cause oxidative stress in the body triggering silent inflammation. Even a minor upper respiratory infection, such as a cold, flu or cold sore can trigger silent inflammation throughout the body—leading to obesity, diabetes and heart disease—long after the infection had been successfully treated. However, your involvement in teaching your kids proper hygiene and making sure they get the appropriate vaccinations against childhood infections can reduce the risk of inflammation and chance of childhood obesity and chronic disease.
Another source of inflammation is your child’s digestive track. It’s a major source of environmental and food allergens triggering inflammatory hormones and chemicals causing severe bowel irritation and dysfunction, such as nausea, indigestion, bloating and heartburn. For example, when children are not moving their bowels properly, it can lead to a weakened immune system and increased inflammation throughout their bodies causing fat storage and childhood obesity.
Is Your Child At Risk Of Obesity?
If your child is obese and at risk of chronic disease, the right time to focus on diet and physical activity is now. You can help prevent the development of a full-blown disease by reducing the silent inflammation responsible for damaging healthy cells, tissues and genetic materials involved in health and longevity. On the other hand, if your child is already a victim of a chronic disease, you can still help to reduce the progression and complications associated with the disease. It’s never too late to start helping children have a better quality of life through proper nutrition regardless of their specific situation. With proper and immediate interventions, it may be possible to reverse the trend towards obesity in children and improve the outcome even for children who are already sick.
Healthy Body Fat
Trying to teach your children about long-term weight loss and health requires that you first change your mindset about traditional approaches. In other words, your focus should be on reducing the inflammatory body fat, as well as being healthy and full of energy. Concentrating on the scale instead of health could take the focus away from what is truly important—developing a long-term view that is built on a solid foundation of healthy eating and physical activity habits.
This article was excerpted from:
New Prescription for Childhood Obesity
by Billy C Johnson, MD, PhD.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, iUniverse. Copyright 2008. www.iuniverse.com