business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that a growing trend in pediatric medicine is to manage children’s weight from a very young age, in the hope that early attention can help them avoid a lifetime of dealing with obesity issues.

“The jury is still out on whether obesity programs for toddlers work or are even desirable,” the Journal writes. “Because such programs are so new, their effectiveness hasn't been well-documented and the limited research that exists is mixed. Experts also caution that children need a balanced diet and should be able to eat unlimited amounts of nutritious foods, like vegetables. Children up to about the age of 5 need a higher percentage of fat in their diet than do adults, so following professionals' nutrition advice is critical for parents who want to manage their children's weight.”
KC's View:
Seems to me that within reason, such programs make a lot of sense. You don't want to create a climate that breeds eating disorders, of course, but if you can start talking to children about intelligent choices from a very early age, it strikes me as the smart move…since they’ll be more receptive at that age than when they are teenagers.

There’s also another advantage. If a doctor is paying attention to such things – and since obesity is a health issue with both long-term and short-term implications, it almost would be malpractice to ignore a child’s weight – then it also is an opportunity to educate parents about obesity issues and perhaps open their eyes a bit. Are some going to resist or resent such efforts? Sure, and you have to respect that. But as one of the most critical health issues facing this country, obesity deserves attention from the earliest of ages. It deserves attention from parents and doctors, and it offers an opportunity to food stores looking to do some innovative marketing to shoppers looking for guidance.

By the way, I say this with some personal experience. When I was born, the general reaction was that I was so skinny that I looked like a “plucked chicken” (in retrospect, an unfortunate choice of words for a person with the last name of Coupe). But my sainted Irish grandmother was so worried about me that as soon as I could consume real food she started feeding me mashed potatoes made with heavy cream. By the time I was two, not only did I not look like a plucked chicken, but in the right striped shirt I bore an unfortunate resemblance to the average beach ball. (This is not an exaggeration. I’m still trying to lose some of that weight.)

Now, this was a half-century ago. (I’m sorry. I have to stop a minute to wipe the tears off my keyboard. I can't believe I just wrote that this was a half-century ago. Sniff.) Times were different then, and people didn’t know then what they know now. Not only was my grandmother fattening me up, but my mother had a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit that she didn’t even abandon while pregnant. (Amazing I’ve survived this long…)

But we do know more now. And not to use the knowledge that we’ve gained, and apply it at every possible juncture, strikes me as ridiculous.