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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Obese kids: Are drugs, surgery the answer?

Nearly 20 percent of U.S. children and teenagers were obese by the start of the pandemic, a rate that's quadrupled since the 1960's. Closing playgrounds, canceling sports and telling kids to stay home to do school on a screen made it even worse.

Obese children are at high risk for depression, anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more.

Worried about the rise in child obesity, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued controversial new guidelines calling for intensive treatment including weight-loss drugs and surgery for teenagers, reports Catherine Pearson in the New York Times.

"Obesity should no longer be stigmatized as simply the result of personal choices, but understood as a complex disease with short- and long-term health implications," the pediatricians declared.

Critics say "fat shaming" doesn't work. But waiting for kids to outgrow obesity doesn't work either, say the doctors.

The guidelines call for obese children and their families to receive at least 26 hours of face-to-face behavior and lifestyle counseling over three or more months at a treatment center. However, obesity is far more common in lower-income families who are less likely to be able to access or afford such treatment.

Changing eating and exercise habits is very difficult, reports Gina Kolata in the New York Times. Two large, rigorous studies in the '90s "asked whether weight gain in children could be prevented by intervening in schools by expanding physical education, offering more nutritious cafeteria meals, teaching students about proper eating habits and the need to exercise, and involving parents."

Two years later, researchers found no effect on students' weight.

School lunches are supposed to contain less sugar and sodium and more whole grains under new federal regulations, reports Laura Reiley in the Washington Post. But kids will still get chocolate milk.

The nonprofit School Nutrition Association called the new standards “unrealistic” and unachievable for most schools. Kids won't eat just anything, said SNA President Lori Adkins. “We see children choose not to eat at all if a meal is not familiar or appetizing to them."

I don't think kids gets fat from eating school lunches. It's what they eat at home.

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