Food for Thought

18 01 2010

Food is important. Without food we starve, but too high caloric intake or eating too much of certain foods can result in diabetes type 2, cardiovascular diseases and other health problems. On the other hand foods can also protect us against  diseases. For instance cauliflower and broccoli can reduce the risk to get certain cancers.

Nowadays, obesity is a major health problem, not only among adults, but even among children and teenagers.

According to the CDC:

The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 more than doubled in the past 20 years, going from 6.5% in 1980 to 17.0% in 2006. The rate among adolescents aged 12 to 19 more than tripled, increasing from 5% to 17.6%. Obesity is the result of caloric imbalance (too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed) and is mediated by genetics and health.

Childhood obesity also rising rapidly in the Netherlands, as well as in other countries all over the world.

Fat often gets the blame for obesity and health problems.

As a result some parents are avoiding fats in their food and keep fats from the diets of kids as well. Elise Buiting, chair of the youth service medical association (Artsen Jeugdgezondheidszorg Nederland , AJN) urges that the low-fat trend is disadvantageous for young children. This causes them to be to thin and too short for their age. A child’s diet should contain 30–40% of energy from fat. Furthermore, children need fat for their developing brain. And too low fat intake may lead to a too low intake of certain fat-soluble vitamins. (see recent interview in “de Pers“[NL]

In one other interview [EN] she said:

‘Children under the age of six need fat. We recommend full-fat yogurt for example,’ (..) ‘Children who are given the same light products as their parents eat do not get enough.’

Some parents not only omit butter and full-fat diary but may use low-fat products with relatively large quantities of artificial sweetener, but children should keep away from the  aspartame that they contain.

Buiting bases her ideas on the reports from child health centers and from the The Dutch National Food Consumption Survey (DNFSC). In their 2005/2006 report the authors of the DNFSC conclude:

A food consumption survey of young children (2 to 6 years of age) in the Netherlands has shown the diet to be adequate in terms of the proportions of total fat, carbohydrates and protein. However, the fatty acid composition of the diet is unfavourable, because fish consumption (rich in fish fatty acids) is low, and saturated fatty acid intake especially in 4 to 6 year-old children is high. Only a small proportion of children meet the recommended vegetable intake. For fruit the situation is slightly more favourable (one in four). Furthermore, one in seven children was found to be overweight or obese.

So the latter data do point in another direction for the majority of young children in the Netherlands: high energy-intake, an unbalanced diet and too much saturated fat. A healthy balanced diet would also mean sufficient fat intake, in particular of the unsaturated kind.

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5 responses

18 01 2010
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18 01 2010
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18 01 2010
Lisa Neal Gualtieri

Great post. I am reading Walk Willet’s book, Eat, Drink, and Weigh Less, after hearing him speak about Harvard Public Health’s revised food pyramid. I am curious if you think there are significant differences in the eating habits in the Netherlands and the US, also in the obesity and related health issues.

26 01 2010

Interesting question, but one I cannot immediately answer. First I’m not an expert in this field and second I’m not familiar with the two US pyramids. I think there might be food for another post: isn’t it strange that food pyramids differ per country and organizations and in time? And how good are they? And do they have any major effect on what people eat?

Regarding difference between the Netherlands and US in eating habits. There sure were great differences. Obesity reached epidemic proportions in the US first, mainly because the fast food eating habits, but it is a global problem now. Thus it is also a problem here. Fats have been blamed and sugars have been blamed, but it all depends on which fats and carbohydrates you take and their relative proportions (next to other nutrients).

By the way is this the old pyramid (little fat on top), and does the Harvard pyramid look like this?

11 05 2010
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