Monday, January 4, 2010

Children's Health

This post is inspired by my two adorable nephews that I spent the last two weeks with. I hope that by learning about how the food we eat affects our  health, that we will make changes for the next generation. 

Children are suffering from a growing epidemic of obesity and other food-related health problems.  One out of four children ages five to ten years have early warning signs for heart disease, such as blood cholesterol or high blood pressure. Obesity rates have tripled in children (aged 6 to 11) and doubled in adolescents (aged 12 to 19) over the past three decades. One in seven young people is obese and one in three is overweight. Childhood obesity is particularly disconcerting given that overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. Dietary changes over this time span include an increase in soft drink consumption, sugary foods and beverages, and the consumption of processed, high-calorie foods.

Children also pay a high price in terms of exposure to pesticides used in conventional agriculture. According to the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Academy of Sciences, standard chemicals are up to ten times more toxic to children than adults. They absorb more chemicals, relative to body weight, than adults and their organ systems are still developing and therefore, are more vulnerable to exposure and have difficultly detoxing. Given their vulnerability, it is startling that laboratory tests of eight industry-leader baby foods contained sixteen pesticides, including three carcinogens. Also, blood tests of children aged two to four revealed that the concentration of pesticide residue is six times higher in children who ate conventionally farmed fruits and vegetables compared with those who ate organic.  Organophosphate pesticides (OP) account for half of the insecticides used in the United States and according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, were found in the blood of 95 percent of Americans that were tested. OP leves were twice as high in children than adults and exposure is linked to hyperactivity, behavior disorders, learning disabilities, developmental delays, and motor dysfunction.

One of the main sources of pesticde exposure for children in the United States comes from the food that they eat. Sixty-two percent of food products that were tested contained at least three different pesticides. Despite the health risks associated with exposure to pesticides, more than 400 chemicalscan be regularly used in conventionalfarming and more than 300 synthetic food additives are allowed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in conventional foods. None of these chemicals or additives are allowed in foods that are USDA organic. If you have children, please feed them organic whole foods.

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