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Overweight Teens’ Life Expectancies Not Increasing?


It’s common knowledge that people’s life expectancies in developed countries have increased in the last 50 years, as science has uncovered new ways to prevent, treat and cure illnesses. But a study has found that people who were obese or overweight as teenagers are not living longer than similar people did five-plus decades ago.

The life expectancy of an American born in 2011 was 78.7 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the average lifespan has increased by more than 10 years since 1950. But the death rate for people in the study who had been obese or overweight as teens did not show improvement during that time.

The study, conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical School, was recently published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM). It analyzed records for more than 2.1 million people who had been medically evaluated for mandatory military service in Israel. All subjects had been born between the years 1950 and 1993, and were between 16 and 20 years old when they were evaluated.

Researchers calculated what the subjects’ body mass index (BMI) had been at the time of evaluation. They then examined death records, to determine mortality rates among the study population.

Mortality rates were 41 percent lower for subjects of normal weight who had been born in the 1980s, compared to people of the same age and similar weight born 30 years earlier. But there was no significant improvement in four decades in the life expectancies of those who were obese or overweight as teens: the mortality rate for these subjects in the years 2000 to 2010 was as high as it had been for similar individuals in the 1960s and 1970s.

The study also found that overweight and obese teenagers had a higher risk of dying before age 50; particularly in the case of males, who had a threefold higher risk of death before 50, compared to females. Among males, even those whose weights had been at the upper end of the normal range as teens had a greater risk of dying relatively early in adulthood.

While we have known for some time that overweight and obesity increase the risk of many illnesses in people, this study was unique in that it also yielded information about the connection between teenage overweight or obesity, and reduced life expectancy.

What Can Parents Do to Help Their Teenagers Lose Weight?

Losing weight, or maintaining an adequate weight, is easier than many people might suspect. Losing weight does not involve going hungry or denying yourself the foods that you love. It’s all about re-training your family’s palates to enjoy the foods that will truly nourish the body and will not promote excess weight gain. Once you start putting good foods in your family’s bodies, their bodies will not want to go back to eating the junky stuff!

The key is to get back to nature. You have to avoid processed foods, for the most part, and buy foods in their whole, natural states (unprocessed, raw meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy foods, nuts, seeds … things that grow naturally from Earth!).

Is there anything more important than our health? You have to value your health enough to take the time to cook meals from scratch, or make wise choices when you buy your food at a restaurant. A pizza with a single topping of processed pepperoni is nowhere as nutritious and healthy as a pizza topped with mushrooms, green peppers, diced tomatoes and so forth.

Many restaurants, including nearly all fast-food chains, cut corners and expense by using breads, salad dressings and even meats that have preservatives in them. What you get there are toxic chemicals that can only poison your system and even interfere with the body’s absorption of what nutrients the foods do possess.

Only by being very selective when you buy ready-made meals (reading ingredients’ labels or asking merchants about ingredients), or by making your own meals at home, can you know that you are giving your family the nutrients that it needs, while avoiding what it doesn’t need.

Your Children’s Snacks:

The snacks your children eat will have a lot to do with their weight also. Instead of allowing them to buy Cheetos, Doritos, candy bars galore and sodas, insist on buying healthy choices for your family, and have those ready to go when your child leaves for school or comes home.

Think apple wedges or a banana with some all-natural peanut butter or vanilla yogurt. Plain yogurt is great with corn chips or potato chips (but avoid chips that have artificial ingredients). Natural cheese chunks are great with cut vegetables, fruits, bread, chips, etc. Plain popcorn and some juice with carbonated water make a satisfying snack, as do all-natural granola bars and milk. Baby carrots dipped in natural lemon juice are delicious, nutritious and very filling.

Instead of drinking any sodas, insist that your child drink natural fruit juices diluted with plenty of water, or just plain water. Milk is also highly nutritious and important for a growing child and grown adults alike; a child trying to lose weight should drink low-fat milk.

Balancing Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats in Your Meals

One of the more common mistake that people who have excess body weight make is that they eat a lot of starches and sugars, and maybe a lot of fats; but they don’t eat enough protein, vegetables or fruits. You want to balance your meals by adding non-starchy vegetables, fruits, and plenty of lean proteins (lean meats, fish, beans) to the starches that you eat. By balancing your meals, you give your body a much greater variety of nutrients, which will help regulate its metabolic processes.

So, don’t go hungry! Just make smart, natural choices.

All that said, also of great importance is to move enough. In today’s age, many kids spend a lot of time sitting in front of an electronic screen; encourage your children to participate in sports and to help around the home. Work into your schedule family activities that will help the whole family be more active.

By Lisa Pecos

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