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Minnesotans Kids "Growing" the Wrong Way

June 21, 2007

Eagan, MN. - State health officials say they're concerned about growing childhood obesity because of its short-term effects and long-term consequences, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. They say lack of exercise and bad diets have led to an epidemic of childhood obesity. Barbara Ducharme is Minnesota spokeswomen for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. She warns that it's a medical problem with life-long consequences.

"Eleven million children right now are overweight, and an additional 13 million are at risk. When they are overweight, they are at risk for adult-type conditions such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and 'Type 2 Diabetes.'

Ducharme notes that there are things parents can do to help their children get in shape.

"Limit TV, video and computer time. Encourage physical activities. We recommend a minimum of 30 minutes a day. And, limit the snack foods and junk foods that kids consume on a daily basis. And, kids are less likely to eat sugary, fatty foods if there aren't any around to eat. The long-term bottom-line is that overweight kids are more likely to become overweight adults."

Ducharme says there are various reasons for the increase in childhood obesity.

"We certainly have more food choices. We have an abundance of foods. There's certainly more choices for kids to not be active with the Internet, with I-Pods, and television. It's a much more wired generation now. All of that does add up to increased inactivity and increased eating."

She says another factor is all the junk food advertising aimed at kids. Parents should talk to their children about the goal behind commercials and teach them to read and understand food labels. Government statistics say 15 percent of kids age six to 11 are overweight or obese.

More information is online at www.heathiergeneration.org and www.igohugo.org. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation is a partnership between the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation.

Jim Wishner/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - MN