Junkfood Science: Compulsory weight program for 3-year olds

July 05, 2008

Compulsory weight program for 3-year olds

Just when you thought you’d seen everything when it comes to the hysterical panic over baby fat...

This might be the most potentially dangerous government anti-obesity initiative yet. It disregards sound medical and scientific evidence on normal child growth and development, let alone the most fundamental principles of nutrition and the essential nutrients needed by children for normal growth. And it’s all to address a crisis that the government’s own health statistics have shown doesn’t exist.

The Australian news reports that its government is introducing compulsory exercise for all preschoolers from the age of three as part of its new “healthy lifestyle” policy. These little children are to be put through two hours of structured exercise regimens a day and taught the basics of sports skills, rather than just be allowed to run around and play. [The program director actually said that!] The New South Wales government’s anti-obesity program also removes all foods deemed fattening or “bad” for them and recommends toddlers and preschoolers be given only water and watered down juice and low-fat milk to drink. It gets worse.

As The Daily Telegraph also reports:

Workouts to become compulsory for toddlers

...The New South Wales Government's anti-obesity program also phases out junkfood with kids now drinking watered down juices and low-fat milk and parents receiving a list of recommended foods for their children's lunchboxes...

The Munch 'n' Move blueprint aims to bring down the rocketing rates of childhood obesity in NSW with one in five preschoolers now either overweight or obese. Nearly 1000 preschools will implement the new healthy lifestyles policy within the next 18 months, with childhood teachers in 14 centres receiving their initial training this week...

"A lot of three to five-year-olds have started these bad habits early," Ms Liz Develin [NSW Health's Centre for Health Advancement director] said. "If children are well equipped in fundamental movement skills they are more likely to participate in physical activity and sport later - they'll have the basic skills of how to run, throw and jump rather than just running around erratically."

Early childhood teachers will receive a 188-page manual outlining the details of the new exercise and food program, which includes giving children water rather than fruit poppers and cordials so that kids don't develop a sweet tooth. It also recommends limiting giving juice to once a day and to the 100 percent variety, which is then diluted by water by at least half, and suggests reduced-fat milk for children over two.

NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher said the program was devised to combat the growing number of overweight preschoolers as well as educate parents. "There is clear evidence that the number of people who are overweight or obese is increasing," she said.

It was only last December when Australian government health officials announced it had committed $450 million for universal government preschool for all children and earmarked another $1.7 million for its community based “Romp and Chomp” anti-obesity program for preschoolers, billed as the largest concentration of community projects in the world. Now, these toddlers who’ve been put into government preschools, are going to be subjected to these mandatory government interventions.

There is no credible support for forced exercise regimens and restrictive diets for 3 to 5 year olds to teach them “healthy” habits and reduce their size or prevent obesity. All evidence suggests such interventions put children at considerable risk for harm. The medical literature, and every credible expert review of the evidence, has continued to show that obesity in children is not caused by them enjoying childhood foods or being inactive.

A review of the evidence for children’s physical activity in the U.S. and internationally, conducted by Adelaide, Australian researchers and published in a recent issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, concluded that the data does not support the view that today’s generation of young people is less active. Population survey data primarily shows little, if any, change for decades.

This program is founded on myths of sedentary coach potato children, proposes solutions for increasing physical activity in children as if they were little adults and disregards their physical development and the subsequent risks for injuries, while ruining their inherent joy in movement. It fails to recognize their cognitive development and ability to understand and appropriately respond to weight concerns and "healthy" eating messages. Putting preschoolers on low-fat, low-sugar diets and trying to fill them up with water jeopardizes their nutritional health and physical growth in unfathomable ways.

Not only are government bureaucrats ignoring their own statistics showing that there is no epidemic of children ballooning in size, and that today’s kids are the among the healthiest in the world; they are ignoring the most troubling health data of all. Just a year ago, news from Australia was reporting of a shocking rise in children as young as five years old being treated for anorexia. Since 2001, there had been a 20 percent rise in the number of children and teens being hospitalized for anorexia. Experts blamed the national obsession with obesity and the stress of these unsound programs on young children.

These poor kids. Will childhood ever again be a time for kids to just be kids? At what point will parents say “Enough!” and realize that they are far more capable of raising their children, feeding them, and helping them to grow up healthy and happy?

Perhaps, Australian politicians are working from our blueprint.

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