Dietary Training Might Work After All
> 8/14/2007 12:26:24 PM

In sharp contrast to the diminishing returns of the taxpayer-funded nutrition campaigns aimed at American pre-teens, a longitudinal Finnish study shows that early intervention may indeed lead to better dietary health among children.

A major determining factor in the current obesity "epidemic" is an unsatisfactory education that encourages convenient, unhealthy eating habits. Even when kids believe that they are heeding repeated calls to eat better, they are almost certainly not, because the foods they believe to be healthy are anything but. Making a conscious decision not to choose burgers, pizza or fried chicken at every opportunity seems like a move toward better health, but the alternatives are simply not much better, and physical exams do not support the claims of kids who truly believe that they are living healthier lifestyles.

So how can we address this problem? By starting with the most powerful influence in the dietary equation: upbringing. This new study's key variable is the fact "the researchers have been following the 1,062 children since the age of 7 months." Long before these children could process the information on their own, researchers advised their parents on the multitudinous virtues of low-fat, lean-protein diets. The kids began receiving direct advice from researchers at the age of 7, and by the time they turned fourteen, the children of parents who were urged toward diets based on the healthy fats present in fish, nuts, seeds and plant oils had notably lower cholesterol levels than those of their control-group peers. Fears that restricted diets would result in lower rates of physical and neurological development proved to be unfounded, as related studies found no differences in average height or brain capacity.

The most encouraging element of this study is the positive influence that's merely implied - by the time these kids are 40 or 50, the health benefits of the intervention-fueled diets will become even more obvious - lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer will almost certainly be observed during the middle and late stages of adulthood among those who maintained their commitment to better eating habits. The reason that the American dietary education efforts have failed is that dietary preferences have already been firmly established by the age of 7, 10 or 13. As evidence of this fact, American children who received free fruit or got rewards for eating more vegetables as part of a larger nutrition campaign were actually less likely to choose healthy produce after the program ended due to a resounding rejection based on taste alone.

The larger message on display here: teach them to eat right before it's too late - the earlier the better. If education efforts focus on parents and mom and dad get the message, they will pass the knowledge on to their children. New parents will most likely listen to experts extolling the quality-of-life benefits of fresh produce and lowfat milk for their new addictions; impulsive 12-year olds on the other hand will most likely leave the lecture searching for their next sugar fix.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy