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The Link Between Childhood Obesity and Sleep Apnea

Did you know that 13 percent of children aged 6 to 11 and 14 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 are overweight?

In a recent article penned by Dr. Rebecca Gelber, an Incline Village resident and graduate of The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the topic of childhood obesity is tackled head on.

In our sleep world we know that many children suffer from sleeping problems and that the results are devastating. We know that lack of sleep and poor sleep habits can be the root cause of childhood disorders such as ADHD, depression and the a fore mentioned childhood obesity.

Gelber writes What’s most difficult is that although society is increasingly educated about the issue, the causes seem too entrenched for anyone to tackle. That’s hard to believe, as this epidemic is so recent. Thirty years ago, obese children were rare exceptions. What’s changed?

It’s nice to say kids just need to eat less and exercise more. Although this is part of the problem, it’s facile and misses the truth: kids aren’t eating many more calories per day than they were thirty years ago. Really. The big change has been in what we eat, not how much.

We’ve been duped into believing that sugary fruit and energy drinks and coffee milkshakes are healthy, leading us to drink more calories. They’re not healthy. Unfortunately, children who drink a single sweetened beverage a day double their risk of obesity and diabetes. If a doctor gave a child that much sugar we would call it a glucose tolerance test, and we’d be trying to overwhelm their insulin system to test for diabetes.

We eat outside the home more, and restaurant foods are high in fat and cheap refined carbohydrates. The few fruits and vegetables we eat are reduced to nutritional worthlessness, and meat is usually processed keeping costs down, while increasing fat content and reducing healthy protein to a minimum.

So how do we get kids on the right path? The National Institutes of Health offers these tips:

  • Be supportive. Children know if they are overweight and don’t need to be reminded or singled out.
  • Plan family activities that involve exercise. Instead of watching TV, go hiking or biking, wash the car or walk around the mall. Offer choices and let your children decide.
  • Eat meals together as a family and eat at the table, not in front of the television. Eat slowly and enjoy the food.
  • Don’t use food as a reward or punishment. Children should not be placed on restrictive diets unless done so by a doctor (for medical reasons). Children need food for growth, development and energy.

Read the rest of Dr. Gelber’s article.