The BMI battle: Increasing rates of global childhood obesity can mean bigger battles in adulthood


It’s been a while. Ok, maybe a super long while.

The last time that I posted, I’d just moved across the country, started a new job, and was learning to navigate a new city.

Fast forward (almost) two years, and I’m still living in Vancouver, still working in Food Product Development, and still picnicking with sweet pals and frolicking in the mountains. Some things never change I guess!

I’ve had loads of adventures, have made some pretty great friends, and have done a bit of travelling here and there. Though Ontario will always be home, British Columbia has grown on me, and the non-stop outdoor adventures have me hooked.

Due to some recent requests from dear pals, I’ve decided to dedicate a little more time to the blog again, and am hoping to bring it back (semi) full swing. I’m giving the people what they want! Or, at least, trying to 🙂

So, to kick things off once again, here’s a little article I wrote for OptiMYz magazine that’s published in one of their latest issues. If you haven’t picked up your copy, you can read the article below. It features one of my old university Professors, Dr. Jess Haines, and dives into one of my favourite topics – adult and childhood obesity.

Happy reading, happy spring, and thanks for the words of encouragement!



Obese kids today, unhealthy adults tomorrow:

Increasing rates of global childhood obesity can mean bigger battles in adulthood

Healthy kids with good health habits have a good chance of becoming healthy adults. Conversely, poor habits early in life can be hard to break, with severe consequences down the road.

One common index of overall health is body mass index (BMI), which is a crude measure of bodyweight and therefore of overall health. However, even if the accuracy surrounding BMI is still a bit foggy, data from recent studies on childhood obesity paint a clear picture of what many youngsters worldwide will face in their years ahead: struggles with obesity, nutrient deficiencies, and overall long-term health issues.

A new report, published in the medical journal, The Lancet, declares that by 2022, there will be more overweight than underweight children in the world. If that isn’t shocking enough, it also notes that in the past 40 years, the number of children and adolescent who are obese has increased tenfold.

So why this drastic shift, and what can Canadian parents do to ensure their little ones are nutritionally sound?

Dr. Jess Haines, Associate Director of the Guelph Family Health Study and Associate Professor in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph, is concerned about the study’s new findings. The compiled study noted the accelerated rise in child obesity in low and middle income countries, but that doesn’t mean that Canada is excluded from this upwards trend.

“We are in an interesting time. It appears that for many Canadian children, having insufficient food is not as much of a problem as is the quality of the food. More than 70% of Canadian children are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and there is an increased intake of and easier access to nutrient poor, calorically dense food, which can result in inadequate intake of nutrients that are essential to the health of growing children.” This is, in fact, a form of malnutrition, the term which is often associated with insufficient caloric consumption. The type of malnutrition now seen in many countries is on the opposite end of the spectrum. While eating nutrient-poor foods may be partly responsible for the global jump in BMI, factors such as low levels of physical activity and too many hours spent in front of screens suggest that the reported BMI status is indeed higher due to a shift in lifestyle and food choices.

Furthermore, the increase in screen-time of today’s children means greater exposure to food advertisements, which is a cause for concern. “Research has shown that marketing to children can influence food choice early in life; companies know and understand the unique brand loyalty of young children, and spend a lot of money marketing to them. The vast majority of this marketing, unfortunately, is for unhealthy foods,” explains Haines.

However, Haines is hopeful. Recently, bill F228 limited the amount of food marketing of unhealthy foods to children in Canada. “I would argue for banning all food marketing towards children, as it would make it a lot easier for parents”, furthers Haines, who says that children can exert a lot of pressure onto parents when making dietary choices. (Quebec, the province with the lowest childhood obesity rates in the country, has regulated marketing to children under 13 years of age for the past 30 years.)

According to Haines, understanding early-life risk factors will help researchers understand weight gain and healthy out-comes later in life. Her study works with Canadian families to develop effective ways to promote healthy behaviours in children.
“We hope our results will help inform policy makers and health care providers on how to support families in improving healthy eating habits, sleep patterns, and behaviours overall in children,” she says.


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