The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

March 1, 2014

Holy broccoli! Obesity may be dropping among toddlers

By Lynn Saternow

- — I’ll have to admit that I was a bit excited to read a recent story in The Herald that carried the headline: “National drop in obese toddlers, study suggests.”

My wife baby-sits our granddaughter Kara on weekdays and she is definitely not obese. Among her favorite things to eat are cantaloupe, grapes and get this – broccoli.

How many 2-year-olds love broccoli? (Remember when President George H.W. Bush created a national uproar when he said he hated broccoli?)

If you could convince every little kid to eat a bowl of broccoli every day, there probably wouldn’t be any obese youngsters.

But it is extremely encouraging that obesity for children between 2 and 5 years of age has dropped from 14 percent a decade ago to 8 percent. That is a huge move in the right direction since eating patterns are established early in life of many kids.

We can only hope that the trend continues, but don’t bet on it. As the state and federal governments talk about cutting funding for food stamps and other poverty programs, the ability to buy healthier foods will decline for some people. So we’ll have to keep an eye on how that affects the obesity rate.

However, it is still discouraging that the level of obesity for school-age children has not declined. It is almost scary that a third of United States children and teens are obese or overweight, while that raises to two-thirds for adults.

Yikes. No wonder our health insurance rates are so high. Obesity contributes to a lot of ailments, including diabetes, heart problems and cancer.

Every youngster needs to take a serious look in the mirror, because if you are overweight, that trend will probably continue. Not only are you going to have a shorter life, boys are going to have a hard time getting dates with good-looking girls. Think about that if you need more motivation to lose weight.

Studies have shown that young men who are obese at age 20 will die 20 years sooner than other men. That means they probably won’t even reach the age of 60.

That is serious stuff. Especially when you consider that studies also show that people who are 65 today can expect to live another 20 years. That makes sense because when so many people die young, the rest of us can expect to live far beyond the average life expectancy of around 77 years of age.

Every one of us who has reached the age of 65 knows that as we age, it is important we maintain good health to really enjoy our lives. That’s why the “senior circuit” may be even more aware of how exercise and a good diet is so valuable to quality of life.

Unfortunately, young people think they will live forever. That’s why too many eat too much, smoke or don’t wear seatbelts. And that’s why too many will die a horrible death from accident or cancer far before the normal life expectancy.

However, just maybe if the lower obesity rate for toddlers translates into a lower rate for school kids, it may eventually translate into a lower obesity rate for everyone. And that would be a true victory for everyone, since we all pay higher insurance rates because of the obese.

The Herald’s Lynn Saternow writes this column each Saturday in The Herald. He can be reached at