Chew on This-Are We Responsible for the Actions of Others in the Obesity Story?

Nutrition Unscrambled

Last week I was able to attend a seminar that reviewed part of the 3rd International Forum on Food and Nutrition with the theme “The Importance of a healthy Diet During Childhood” with other health professionals in the Chicago area. We were able to listen to recorded sessions from Aviva Must, Robert Lustig and Marion Nestle. Lisa Sutherland moderated the day and led us to discuss ideas, implications and more.

I’ve summarized some key points from the seminar:

Dr. Aviva Must, Tufts, gave us insight to the stability of fruits and vegetable intake. There was an interesting slide showing with the Double Pyramid “how to feed children, selves and the environment.” Childhood obesity is known to be “tracked” through adulthood and is associated with the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, reduced fruits/vegetables, increased portion sizes and meals away from home. Another key discussion was how fruit and vegetable intake in childhood correlates to intake as an adult. The evidence in this area remains overall weak regarding stability of fruit and vegetable intake. Fruit and vegetable intake does tend to decline from childhood to adolescents and then increase, but overall absolute fruit and vegetable intake is low.

Dr. Robert Lustig, University of California at San Francisco, gave us startling statistics – 165 million Americans will be obese by 2020 and 100 million Americans will have diabetes by 2050 (CDC Division of Diabetes Translation, 2011). A key point of this discussion was that obesity is not the problem; the problem is actually metabolic syndrome (for people of all sizes).He also mentions chronic fructose exposure promotes metabolic syndrome and hepatic functions were discussed as it related to this issue. It was noted that we ingest much more sugar than necessary and recognized the AHA Scientific Statement to reduce sugar intake from 22 tsp/day to 9 tsp/day (males) and 6 tsp (females). It was tied together by referring to the Maillard reaction- “instead of roasting 1 hour at 375 degrees, we slow cook at 98.6 degrees for 75 years”.

Dr. Marion Nestle, New York University, discussed food system issues and marketing came out loud and clear and the impact it has on choices for children. In addition, she spent some time discussing influential initiatives like Let’s Move and other programs including Jamie Oliver, Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes and yes there was mention of pizza as a vegetable in the school lunch program. There also have been recent movements of Occupy Big Food and Occupy the Food System.

Three speakers with different viewpoints, but it is clear that the main outcome was to not point the finger and one “reason” for obesity and continue to think of it as a comprehensive solution to fight the battle. We did foster some great conversations and ideas from the day. Check out the video archive of the event for more information.

The question of the day was “Are we responsible for the actions of others?” Lisa Sutherland started us with the question and I think it gives us something to “chew on”.

Anna Shlachter MS, RD, LDN

Anna Shlachter, MS, RD, LDN is the Program Manager, Nutrition Research and Communications at the Egg Nutrition Center

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