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Obesity among middle school kids on the rise

August 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A study of more than 6,000 middle school children has found nearly 7 percent of sixth graders are severely obese. Doctors say that's a major red flag, because carrying around so much extra weight in childhood is linked to higher risks of diabetes and heart disease as adults. Nathaniel Caratachea, 7, never thought much of eating a potato chip, that is until he learned just how much exercise it takes to burn it off.

"So it takes about three minutes of continuous movement and elevating the heart rate to burn up those nine calories from one chip," said registered dietitian Ruth Pupo.

Pupo is bringing "HELP" to parents who have overweight and obese kids. "Help" is White Memorial Medical Center's six week Healthy Eating Lifestyle Program.

A team of educators show the participants how good nutrition, physical activity and other positive lifestyle choices can lower body mass index and improve overall health.

Nathaniel is already showing signs of pre-diabetes.

"This is why I came to this class because I want to prevent anything else from happening to him," said Maria Caratachea, Nathaniel's mom.

You might think if a child is obese the point of would be to lose a lot of weight. But experts say the whole idea is for a child to stop gaining. And then the rest will take care of itself.

"If we can hold him at the weight and have him grow into his weight, his chronic disease risk will dramatically decrease," said Pupo.

Participants are referred by their pediatricians. The most important thing Nathaniel's mom has learned is to skip fast food and look for healthier ingredients when she shops.

"Even though the other brand is a little more expensive it is worth it," said Maria. "It doesn't contain as much saturated fat as the other brand."

So far Nathaniel has dropped about two pounds, but he's gained a lot of knowledge that he's willing to share with other kids.

"I'm eating no fast food, chips, candies, chocolates or ice creams," said Nathaniel.


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