The US Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Minority Health recently interviewed Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, Medical Advisory Board Member of the non-profit Nutritional Magnesium Association regarding the issue of school food and childhood obesity. Here are the questions and answers from this interview.
1. How does the issue of “food deserts” (neighborhoods where there aren’t fresh food markets) factor into childhood obesity? Solutions?
“Just like everything else in this world, kids have to “learn” about good food. Most children never see fruit or vegetables in their original state and the closest they get is french fries and tomato ketchup for potatoes and tomatoes.”
“Teachers may not even consider that kids don’t know anything about fresh produce…some of the teachers are young enough to have never known them themselves.”
“So, without fresh food knowledge and access, kids are just going to eat processed foods and instead of water they will opt to drink soda which has 10 tsp of sugar per can.”
2. How does fresh food availability factor into childhood obesity? Solutions?
“We have to get the schools involved to teach kids about produce and local farms involved to bring fresh produce into the schools. I ran a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) in New York and it was wonderful showing kids heirloom plants and veg and fruit beyond french fries and ketchup.”
“We have to teach parents and teachers about the importance of magnesium. Obesity, syndrome X, and diabetes are part of a continuum of illness that may progress to heart disease if not headed off by good diet, supplements, exercise, and stress reduction. They are not really separate diseases, as we may think, and underlying all this misery we find magnesium deficiency.”
3. How does reduction of physical education classes in schools factor in? Solutions?
“Absolutely factors into the creation of an obese childhood population. We have to reinstate them. Have physical activity competitions. Get all those high profile athletes involved in creating ads and programs for kids. If they don’t use their bodies, they lose them.”
4. Is personal responsibility on the part of the parent, child, teacher a factor? Solutions?
“Everyone, the media, society…there is no encouragement on any level for physical activity and eating properly. Media ads should give equal time free of charge to counter the negative health messages that are allowed in the media.”
5. Why aren’t more schools making an effort to supply students with a healthy lunch?
“They make money off vending machines etc. Even the Girl Scouts still sell sugar cookies for their fund-raising, while diabetes soars.”
6. How do you see the role of school, students, PTA, etc…, in addressing childhood obesity?
“They have to get involved, but when parents are taking meds, eating junk food and drinking soda and beer, what hope is there for the kids. We’re a society of mice swimming in a pot that’s continually heating up and we don’t even know to jump out. When it reaches the boiling point, we’re all going to be dead.”
“As long as the food industry is making LOTS of money on selling us unhealthy foods, and lobbying govt with LOTS of money to keep doing so, then it’s pretty hopeless to expect any help from those sectors. People have to take responsibility individually and pass on that information to family and friends.”
“Encourage parents that have some knowledge of healthy foods to teach their kids and then lobby schools to get involved. Don’t wait for the body count to escalate.
“Learn more about the importance of magnesium supplementation – a mineral that is involved in over 325 vital enzymatic reactions in the body including the digestion, absorption, and utilization of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates and in the secretion and function of insulin; without it, diabetes is inevitable.”
Carolyn Dean, MD. ND