I find it devastating that we continue to eat our way to chronic illness. But worse, by far, is the fact that we’ve led our children down this tragic path alongside us.
There’s not a parent alive who wouldn’t say that they want the best for their children—for them to live the happiest, healthiest, longest lives possible. Yet, when it comes to food, that wish almost always takes a backseat to sugary treats.
I have been writing about this problem for years—in fact, my very first book, as you may recall, was called Feed Your Kids Well. But I’m sorry to say that, despite my best efforts, things have only gotten worse.
Disability by the numbers
In case you’re wondering what sparked my rant this morning, allow me to break the bad news: New research shows that teens who struggle obesity, low fitness levels, or both are more likely to wind up chronically disabled as adults.
This was a population study featuring more than one million adolescent boys. And it took place in Sweden, where you really have to search for obese people, much less obese kids. (Unlike the U.S., where obesity is more the rule than the exception.)
The median follow-up was roughly 30 years. And in that time, about 55,000 men received a disability pension.
Low fitness levels were a strong predictor of this fate. Researchers used something called
“cardiorespiratory fitness” as a benchmark. In simple terms, this refers to the ability of your heart and lungs to keep up—and keep you going—during physical activity.
Just to give you an idea, compared to teens with the highest fitness levels, the least fit were more than four times as likely to receive a disability pension for any cause.
Meanwhile, adolescents with severe obesity—that is, a BMI greater than 40—were three times more likely to receive a disability pension for any reason compared to teens of normal weight.
I must ask: Is this the kind of “better life” we were hoping to secure for our children? Call me presumptuous, but I certainly don’t think so.
A scary trend, in more ways than one
When we talk about the key causes of disability, we’re talking about any number of chronic diseases—heart problems, joint and back problems, mental illness, and cancer, just to name a few.
And the one thing all of these illnesses have in common is that they’re all at least partly self-inflicted—whether it’s through a steady diet of junk food or chronic couch potato tendencies. Which is why all doctors—and not just docs like me—should be preaching the gospel of simple lifestyle changes.
But they aren’t—and it shows. The burden disability places on the public is heavy, and is steadily growing. Our food choices and sedentary lifestyles are destroying us, and we haven’t even begun to see the worst of the fallout yet.
There’s no silver lining here, so I can’t spin this to make it sound like less of an epidemic. And as a public health practitioner, this trend is scary for a lot of reasons.
For one thing, it drives up the cost of healthcare (and taxes) for everyone. It also shrinks the pool of people who are physically able to work. And with less people active in the workforce, the burden then falls on healthier people to carry the weight—literally and figuratively.
In other words, everyone suffers—especially our children, who could have been spared this terrible fate.
As I discussed in the June 2017 issue of my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter, there’s no such thing as “healthy” obesity—at any age. (Not a subscriber? Click here to learn how you can get started today.)
So tell me… are you ready to replace those sugary treats with the far greater gifts of love and health? If we must indulge our kids, let’s do it with healthy lifestyle choices instead. And remember, it’s never too early—or too late—to get started.
“Fitness, BMI in Adolescence Tied to Subsequent Disability.” Medscape Medical News, 02/11/2019. (medscape.com/viewarticle/908946)