By Dr. Mercola
Teens are among the most likely to engage in high-risk behaviors like careless driving, binge drinking, unprotected sex and drug abuse. Campaigns aimed at curbing these behaviors often focus on the negative consequences that can come of them, like getting into a car accident or getting lung disease from smoking.
New research suggests, however, that these risk warnings are falling on deaf ears or, rather, are simply not impacting the younger members of society. Why? As you might remember, and as research has now shown, teenagers tend to believe that they’re invincible…
The Good-News-Bad-News Effect
Humans have a tendency to believe they’re more likely to experience positive events than negative ones, a phenomenon known as the ‘good-news-bad-news effect.’
It seems this is especially pronounced in teens, who not only tend to discount their likelihood of experiencing negative life events, like being in a car accident, but still tend to discount them even when they’re told about the actual risk.
The study, which involved young people between the ages of 9 and 26, showed that those of younger ages did not change their beliefs about their risk of negative life events even after being shown real statistics for such events.1 The authors noted:
“In the ages tested (9-26 y), younger age was associated with inaccurate updating of beliefs in response to undesirable information regarding vulnerability. In contrast, the ability to update beliefs accurately in response to desirable information remained relatively stable with age.”
It seems, in other words, that teens simply do not believe they will succumb to negative consequences associated with risky behaviors, even if the facts suggest otherwise. As reported by Medical News Today:2
“Even when they became aware of the risks, the younger participants were less likely to learn from the information showing that the future could be worse than expected. …the new findings help explain why kids are not able to learn from bad news in order to apply it to future events.”
Positive Messages May Be More Powerful for Teens
If you want to get a message across to your teen, the study suggests that using a positive association is likely to be the most effective. For example, rather than reminding your teen that excess alcohol is damaging to their health, teach them that avoiding alcohol will help them reach their peak fitness level and excel at sports. As the study’s lead author said: 3
“Our findings show that if you want to get young people to better learn about the risks associated with their choices, you might want to focus on the benefits that a positive change would bring rather than hounding them with horror stories."
In light of these findings, it may be a good thing that the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) campaign to put graphic images of people dying from smoking-related disease on cigarette packages has been abandoned. It also raises concerns that warnings to teens about prescription drug abuse are also being ignored…
Teens May Not Take the Risks of Prescription Drug Abuse Seriously
One in four teens has misused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime, according to survey results from the partnership at Drugfree.org and the MetLife Foundation.4 This represents a 33 percent increase in the past five years!
Even though prescription drugs can lead to slowed breathing, dangerously high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms and death if too much is taken, many teens regard them as a ‘safe’ way to get high. In many cases, parents only add to this assumption,
Not only because they may take multiple prescription drugs themselves but also, as the survey reported, because close to one-third of parents believe prescription stimulants can improve their teen’s academic performance.
Sadly, some teens pay for this one “bad” decision to abuse prescription drugs with their lives. Drug fatalities more than doubled among teens and young adults between 2000 and 2008, and these drug-induced fatalities are not being driven by illegal street drugs but rather by prescription drug abuse.
In this case, it’s important to sit down and talk to your teen about the dangers of taking prescription drugs just “for fun.” Far from being “safer” than illegal street drugs, they can sometimes kill in just one pill. However, given the study findings, you may also want to try a positive approach, such as focusing on other ways to have fun with friends and how avoiding recreational use of such drugs shows respect for their body and mind.
Is Your Teen Engaging in High-Risk Behaviors? Here’s What Really Helps
The teenage years shortly after puberty coincide with some of the greatest risk-taking behaviors among teens. As written in Slate Magazine:5
“During the years of greatest risk-taking, which peak somewhere around the age of 16 and during which the presence of peers greatly increases risk-taking, the adolescent brain is like a car with a powerful accelerator (the sensation- and peer-seeking social-emotional system) and weak brakes (the risk-containing cognitive-control system).”
Yet, studies have shown that educational programs in schools, pledges not to engage in risky behaviors and even reasoning with your child are not effective ways to change behaviors in teens.6 Yelling at your teen, especially if it includes harsh words, name-calling or other put-downs, is also counterproductive and likely to make your child even more disobedient, according to new research.7 So what’s a parent to do? Following are proven ways to help see your teenager safely through the highest-risk years:8
1. Know Who, What, Where, When and Why
Simply monitoring your teen, including knowing who he is with, what he is doing and when he’ll be home, greatly reduces risky behaviors like sexual activity and drug abuse. It may even be that the reason why boys tend to engage in more high-risk activities than girls is because parents tend to keep closer tabs on their daughters than their sons.
This also ensures you’ll know your child’s friends, which is important because peer influences cannot be underestimated at this age. If your child is associating with risk-taking friends, he’s more likely to engage in the behaviors as well. Encourage your teen to have his friends over to your house, where you can casually keep an eye on them.
2. Instill Traditional Values in Your Child
Starting early, show your child the importance of family time, taking pride in schoolwork and being involved in community and extracurricular activities. Family traditions and rituals like holiday meals and even running weekly errands help establish strong family bonds and reduce risk-taking in teens.
3. Help Your Teen Develop Competencies
The extended development of a skill, such as playing a musical instrument or taking care of horses, establishes a way for your child to be positively involved with an activity and, ideally, also their peers. Such structured activities, such as rehearsals, practices and recitals are typically under the supervision of an adult and help your establish protective influences around your child.
4. Build the Parent-Child Relationship
A child who feels loved, wanted, listened to and close to their parents is much less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Likewise for children whose parents are home at key times of the day – before and after school, at dinner and at bedtime. Avoid being either too strict or too lenient with your child and establish consistent expectations while being open to compromise and letting things go when you can.
These Types of Children Have an Increased Risk of Suicidal Thoughts
Survey Finds Teen Misuse And Abuse Of Prescription Drugs Up 33 Percent Since 2008
By Dr. Mercola
Despite a strong and vocal opposition, genetically engineered (GE) Roundup-resistant alfalfa was approved in late 2011. At the time, many environmental and organic experts spoke out against it, warning that its approval could be devastating not just for the environment in general, but also for conventional alfalfa growers, and organic farmers in particular.
This includes organic animal products, as dried alfalfa is the hay they’re typically fed during winter months.
Phil Bereano, a co-founder of AGRA watch, argued that by deregulating the planting of GE alfalfa, the USDA was in direct contravention to its obligations under law and court decisions.
A 2007 trial judge had already found that alfalfa farmers had established a reasonable probability that their conventional alfalfa crops would be contaminated with the engineered Roundup Ready gene if deregulation occurred.
Toxicology and plant pathology expert Dr. Don Huber also pointed out that once you insert new genes into a perennial insect-pollinated plant like alfalfa, there’s no way to prevent cross-fertilization and contamination, and it cannot be eliminated once it’s distributed throughout an area.
Of course, the possibility of cross-contamination between GE alfalfa and non-GE crops was downplayed as insignificant. But it didn’t even take two years for this possibility to rear its ugly head.
Washington State Testing Alfalfa Crops for GMO Contamination
On September 11, the Baltimore Sun1 broke the news that Washington State agriculture officials were alerted that GMO contamination was confirmed after a farmer’s hay was rejected for export.
Alfalfa is the fourth-largest crop in the US and a staple feed for livestock—including organically-raised livestock—so contamination is not to be taken lightly. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), more than 17 million acres of alfalfa were grown last year, worth about $8 billion. A total of $1.25 billion-worth of hay, including alfalfa, was exported.
As reported by the featured article:2
“If it is confirmed that the alfalfa in question was genetically modified, it could have broad ramifications, said Hector Castro, spokesman at the Washington State Department of Agriculture. "It's a sensitive issue," Castro said.
Biotech alfalfa is approved for commercial production in the United States. But many foreign and domestic buyers require that supplies not be genetically modified, and the possible presence of GMO modified alfalfa in export supplies could result in lost sales for US farmers.
... ACX Pacific - a major exporter of alfalfa and other hay off the Pacific Northwest to countries that include Japan, Korea, China and parts of the Middle East - will not accept any GMO because so many foreign buyers are so opposed to it.
And domestic organic dairy farmers have said that any contamination of the hay they feed their animals could hurt their sales. "This is terribly serious," said Washington state senator Maralyn Chase, a Democrat who fears alfalfa exports could be lost if it is proven that GMO alfalfa has mixed in with conventional supplies.”
Washington State Readies for GMO Labeling Vote
The news of potential contamination couldn’t come at a more crucial time as Washington State readies to vote on GMO labeling in November. Initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients.3
As in last year’s California Proposition 37 GMO labeling campaign, the opposition from industry is fierce. According to the Public Disclosure Commission,4 the “No On 522” campaign has already raised more than $11 million. Monsanto leads the charge, having donated close to $4.8 million to the anti-labeling campaign, followed by Dupont and The Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Again, the success of this ballot initiative is dependent on public donations, so please, help us win this key GMO labeling battle and continue to build momentum for GMO labeling in other states by making a donation to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA).
GE Glyphosate-Resistant Food Crops Promote Human Disease
One of the primary concerns about GE crops has to do with its resistance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. About 85 percent of all our genetically engineered plants are herbicide-tolerant—designed to tolerate very high levels of herbicides, glyphosate in particular. These are the so-called Roundup Ready crops, alfalfa included.
As a side note, glyphosate-resistant alfalfa was approved even though more than 93 percent of the alfalfa crop at the time was NOT being treated with herbicides. There really was no need to make it Roundup resistant in the first place.
The Oregoneans for Farm & Food Rights5 estimates that Roundup Ready alfalfa results in the application of another 200,000 pounds of Roundup annually by American farmers. Monsanto is truly the only winner in this scheme, boosting sales of Roundup and selling GE alfalfa seeds for twice the price as other proprietary seed varieties.6 The decision was also a “perfect” one if the intent is to eventually decimate organics, as contamination is inevitable—both of organic alfalfa crops and organic livestock.
The decision to promote the use of Roundup on what was basically an herbicide-free crop to begin with matters a great deal when it comes to human health.
Research reveals that glyphosate is unlike other conventional herbicides. Like many other herbicides it’s a mineral chelator. This means it immobilizes nutrients, making them physiologically unavailable for your body, or the body of an animal, in the case of livestock feed. But glyphosate is also patented as an antibiotic against a large number of organisms, and this is where it veers away from other agricultural chemicals. Like all antibiotics, it kills indiscriminately, so it also decimates critically beneficial soil bacteria, as well as animal - and human gut bacteria.
In fact, groundbreaking research by Dr. Seneff and Samsel reveals that your gut bacteria are a key component of glyphosate’s mechanism of harm, as the microbes in your gut have the same pathway used by glyphosate to kill weeds and are decimated by the glyphosate! So please recognize that virtually every GM food you eat will harm your precious gut bacteria.
Glyphosate was patented and introduced as an herbicide by Monsanto in 1974. Twenty two years later, in 1996, genetically modified Roundup Ready crops hit the market. Since then, there’s been a steep and steady uptick in the usage of Roundup, because you can apply it multiple times without damaging your crop. Making matters worse, they’re now also using glyphosate as a ripening agent—even for non-GMO crops. And, as just mentioned, they made alfalfa glyphosate-resistant even though the vast majority of alfalfa growers didn’t have the need for such a product in the first place.
Now, groundbreaking research suggests that glyphosate is probably the most harmful chronic toxin we’ve ever encountered, and may be the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become so prevalent in Westernized societies. Dr. Seneff and Samsel’s research shows that two of the key problems caused by glyphosate in the diet are:
- Nutritional deficiencies, and
- Systemic toxicity
Glyphosate—Destroyer of Human Health and Biodiversity
Another important paper titled: Glyphosate: Destructor of Human Health and Biodiversity,7 compiled by Rosemary Mason, MB, ChB, contains information from a global network of independent scientists, toxicologists, beekeepers, environmentalists, governments and more. In it, she presents evidence showing that glyphosate interferes with many metabolic processes in plants, animals and humans, and that glyphosate residues have in fact been found in all three.
“Glyphosate is an endocrine-disruptor (as are many herbicides) it damages DNA and it is a driver of mutations that lead to cancer,” the paper states. “We present graphs from the US which correlate glyphosate application and the percentage of GE soy and corn crops to the incidence and prevalence of various diseases in those on a Western diet.
The Pearson's correlation coefficients are very strong and highly significant for obesity, diabetes, autism, thyroid cancer, liver cancer, deaths from Parkinson’s, Senile Dementia and Alzheimer’s, inflammatory bowel disease and acute kidney failure. We present Cancer Research UK graphs of upward trends in cancer incidences between 1975 and 2009, which are in line with the US graphs. Other consequences are gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, depression, infertility, birth defects and other cancers.”
Statistics Expose Health Hazards of Glyphosate
Then there’s the papers published by former US Navy staff scientist Dr. Nancy Swanson. She has a Ph.D. in physics, holds five US patents and has authored more than 30 scientific papers and two books on women in science. Ten years ago, she became seriously ill, and in her journey to regain her health she turned to organic foods. Not surprisingly (for those in the know) her symptoms dramatically improved. This prompted her to start investigating genetically engineered foods.
She too has meticulously collected statistics on glyphosate usage and various diseases and conditions. The graph below illustrates the perfect match-up between the rise in glyphosate usage and incidence of autism for example. To access her published articles and reports, please visit Sustainable Pulse,8 a European website dedicated to exposing the hazards of genetically engineered foods.
According to Dr. Swanson:9
“Prevalence and incidence data show correlations between diseases of the organs and the increase in Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the food supply, along with the increase in glyphosate-based herbicide applications. More and more studies have revealed carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting effects of Roundup at lower doses than those authorized for residues found in Genetically Modified Organisms.”
“The endocrine disrupting properties of glyphosate can lead to reproductive problems: infertility, miscarriage, birth defects, and sexual development. Fetuses, infants and children are especially susceptible because they are continually experiencing growth and hormonal changes. For optimal growth and development, it is crucial that their hormonal system is functioning properly.
The endocrine disrupting properties also lead to neurological disorders (learning disabilities (LD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder). Those most susceptible are children and the elderly.”
The Case Against Coexistence of GMO and Non-GMO
In 2011, when the approval of genetically engineered alfalfa was still under discussion, there was quite a bit of talk about whether or not GMO crops could coexist with non-GMO crops. In the end, the White House directly intervened with the USDA and told them in no uncertain terms that they didn’t want any restrictions on Monsanto's alfalfa, which made the notion of coexistence a moot point.
Anyone with any kind of understanding of how it works fully expected, and still expects, cross-pollination to occur10 as a matter of course. Honey bees can transfer pollen several miles. Birds can carry seed even farther... As plant pathologist Dr. Huber recently told me:
“We know how to get these genes in; we don’t know how to remove them. I don’t see any opportunity for coexistence with the current technology that we have because of that promiscuous nature of the genes. If you have a gene that is spread by pollen, like Roundup Ready alfalfa, it’s just a matter of time before those bees or the wind will transfer that particular pollen to every alfalfa crop that you’re going to grow. There’s a high enough probability that you’re going to see that genetic component in it.”
So what’s the answer? For starters, Americans need foods to be labeled, indicating whether or not a food contains genetically engineered ingredients. At that point, the market place will likely help shift farmers away from GE crops as more people will opt for non-GMO fare. But to get there, we need your help.
Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide May Be Most Important Factor in Development of Autism and Other Chronic Disease
Doctors Warn: Avoid Genetically Modified Food
By Dr. Mercola
The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act was enacted in 2011 as a supposed way to ‘better protect public health by strengthening the safety of the food system.’
The Act came in response to a rash of recent deadly foodborne-disease outbreaks involving spinach, peanuts, eggs and other foods. According to the FDA, about one in 6 Americans get sick, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases.1
Unfortunately, the FDA does not readily admit the fact that most deadly food outbreaks can be traced back to foods raised on industrial concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
The FSMA, which requires extensive mandatory compliance with new FDA-approved production, growing, harvest and other safety standards, also does not distinguish between the massive CAFO and the small, family-run organic farm... and therein lies the problem.
The FSMA Could Force Small Farmers Out of Business
It is quite possible, perhaps even most probable, that the FSMA is designed to halt the growing trend of small organic farms – not through a direct, frontal assault on organic farming, but rather by insidiously creating rules and laws that make it extremely difficult, and incredibly expensive, for small farms to comply.
And in this case, the rules and regulations created by this proposed bill are mandatory, not voluntary, meaning they apply equally to a tiny farmer with half a dozen cows as to a massive CAFO.
This wasn’t supposed to be the case, as the Tester amendment, which was adopted by Congress in 2010, said the FDA’s new federal requirements would not apply to food producers that have less than $500,000 per year in sales, or who sell the majority of their food directly to consumers or within a 275-mile radius of where it was produced.
This, for instance, would protect small farmers who just sell their fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets or to a local food coop from the extensive new regulations. Unfortunately, it seems this exemption is not what it had originally appeared to be, as small farmers are still seriously at risk.
FDA Seems to Want a One-Size-Fits-All Food Safety Law
As reported by the Cornucopia Institute, the FSMA is not only designed to protect public health; it’s designed to protect industrial agriculture and CAFOs. For starters, they are making it clear that small farms may, in fact, be forced to comply with the new regulations. According to the Cornucopia Institute:2
“In reality, these small farms are not really exempt. The FDA is proposing that the agency can, without any due process, almost immediately force small farms to comply with the same expensive testing and record-keeping requirements for factory farms.
The added expense and record-keeping time will potentially force many small farms — those selling to local farmers markets, co-ops and restaurants — out of business instantly.
Just as important, for farms over $500,000 in volume (and there are plenty of excellent medium-sized organic farms in the $1-$3 million range or larger), some of the provisions will not only be economically damaging (some farmers might not survive this) but actually prohibit some basic practices in the
Organic Food Production Act. Yet if all farms, conventional as well as organic, had to follow the organic regulations for manures/composts, we’d have safer produce.”
CAFOs Are Responsible for the Most Dangerous Foods...
Small family farms are rarely responsible for major food outbreaks – CAFOs, however, are, and this is why they should be more strictly regulated, if not eliminated entirely. For instance:
- In 2010, over half a billion eggs from two Iowa CAFOs were recalled due to Salmonella poisoning
- The massive spinach recall in 2006 was due to E. coli commonly found in CAFO cattle
- In the largest meat recall in US history, 143 million pounds of CAFO beef were recalled because the company did not prevent sick animals from entering the US food supply
Yet the FDA’s draft regulations designed to implement FSMA are not only targeting the CAFOs guilty of the most serious abuses and risks to public health. As the Cornucopia Institute put it:
“...the FDA’s draft regulations designed to implement the new law appear to ignore the will of Congress. Instead, the regulations would ensnare the country’s safest family farmers in burdensome regulations in a misdirected attempt to rein in abuses that are mostly emanating from industrial-scale factory farms and giant agribusiness food processing facilities.”
The FDA’s Draft Guidelines Ignore the Root Causes of Foodborne-Disease Outbreaks
The riskiest pathogens are found on CAFOs, and it is on these giant industrial farms where nearly all pathogenic pollution that contaminates groundwater, fertilizers and the air come from. But the FDA’s draft guidelines do not address the rampant disease on CAFOs, nor their pathogen-filled manure, which contaminates surrounding communities, farms and the food supply, spreading antibiotic resistance in its wake.
The regulations should be targeting high-risk areas to food safety, including CAFOs, and often the processing stage of food production. Yet these are the very practices being ignored or given leniency. The Cornucopia Institute expands on a handful of other issues with the proposed guidelines:3
1. The FDA draft rules do not address a major root source of pathogenic contamination of produce: intensive feeding/confinement of livestock (CAFOs).
2. The draft rules fail to target risky practices, such as fresh-cut produce (bagged spinach and lettuce, etc.), which is inherently riskier, causing over 90% of the E.coli O157:H7 (a particularly deadly strain) illnesses stemming from contaminated produce, according to CDC/FDA data. Yet fresh-cut is not covered in the Produce Rule: it is exempt because it is "processed."
3. The draft rules show a bias against biodiversity.
The proposals would "sterilize" farmland removing habitat for wildlife and beneficial insects which offer biological controls of pests (rather than using toxic agrichemicals). The FDA tends to view farms as food processing facilities: closed controlled environments which need to be sterilized.
4. The draft rules show a strong bias against organic farming methods.
The draft rules fail to discuss how scientific evidence demonstrates that increasing organic matter and biodiversity in the soil can help control pathogenic bacteria. The rule denigrates the effectiveness of thorough manure composting while allowing sewage sludge (banned in organics) in fresh vegetable and fruit production.
5. Agribusiness/government regulation may economically crush our country's safest family-scale farms.
The FDA's own economic analysis of the draft rules acknowledges that certain produce farms and food processors will be driven out of business, and that the cost to a small farm might be as much as $12,000 per year. Large industrial operations already have, as they should, quality control staff and laboratories. Small and medium sized operations do not, due to limitations in terms of economy of scale.
6. The FDA is engaging in "food safety theater" rather than investing in hard research to focus limited resources on the riskiest farms and processors.
The FDA lacks the data to properly assess the risks on organic farms - or on any farms for that matter - yet insists on applying uniform standards, favoring a sterility paradigm based on inadequate science, to all farms. Adequate research is imperative before placing widespread regulatory burdens on family farmers!
7. The egg guidance lacks scientific merit and will hasten a shift of organic production to CAFOs.
The draft guidance makes it expensive and impractical to provide legitimate outdoor access for commercial-scale organic flocks. At the same time, in consort with the USDA, the FDA institutionalizes tiny screened structures as meeting the legal requirement for "access to the outdoors." The FDA has ignored published research that suggests public safety would be improved by addressing giant older buildings, caged production and forced molting.”
You Can Help Protect Small Farmers: Let Your Opinion Be Heard
Do you enjoy purchasing your food from a local farmer’s market, food co-op or community-supported agriculture (CSA) program? Do you believe small organic farmers should be able to continue to provide food to their communities? The Cornucopia Institute has developed a proxy letter that you can print out and sign. They are going to hand deliver these letters to the FDA. They said:
“We have heard time and again that regulators and lawmakers, who have no problem blowing off online petitions, sit up and take notice when they receive hard-copy communications – especially when they’re hand-signed and hand-delivered!”
Download your proxy letter now, feel free to add additional comments and concerns on the back of the letter, and mail it to:
The Cornucopia Institute
PO BOX 126
Cornucopia, WI 54827
The Real Power Is in Your Hands
You may feel that there’s little you can do to change the corrupted food system in the US. But the truth is, if every American decided to not purchase food that comes from CAFOs, the entire system would collapse overnight. It doesn't take an act of Congress to change the food system. All that is required is for each and every person, or at least a majority, to change their shopping habits.
Sourcing your foods from a local farmer is one of your best bets to ensure you're getting food that is wholesome and that is grown in a sustainable fashion. I encourage you to visit your local farm directly, if you have one nearby, and also take part in farmer's markets and community-supported agriculture programs.
Ask the farmers how they grow their food, bring your children so they can see it first-hand, and revel in the connection you re-establish between yourself and your source of food; it’s a connection that is in many ways a representation of life itself. You can find an ever-increasing number of "eat local" and "buy local" directories, in which local farms across the US will be listed. The following organizations can also help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area:
- Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
- Farmers' Markets-- A national listing of farmers' markets.
- Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
- Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
- FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
Walmart Plans Grocery Push: Not Good for Small Farmers
U.S. Farm Subsidy Policies Contribute to Worsening Obesity Trends
By Dr. Mercola
In the US, one-third of children aged 2 to 19 are overweight or obese. It’s an epidemic that reaches far beyond US soil, however.
In the documentary Way Beyond Weight, childhood obesity around the globe is explored via interviews with parents, government officials, school representatives, nutrition advocates and the children themselves.
Brazil, where one-third of children are overweight, is highlighted, but other countries, such as Kuwait, are also seeing younger and younger generations struggling with their weight. Though the terrain is significantly different, the underlying causes of childhood obesity appear to be largely the same.
Many Kids Are Hooked on Soda and Sugary Fruit Drinks
Many of the children interviewed for the film said they drink soda every day. Many were also drinking ‘fruit juices,’ some of which contained little, if any, actual fruit juice and hundreds of grams of sugar in a liter.
Parents often believed that the fruit drinks were healthy for their kids, and that is precisely what the manufacturers want them to believe.
As recently reported in the Guardian Express,1 kids are 40 percent heavier today compared to just 25 years ago, and a growing number of studies have linked rising childhood obesity rates to increased consumption of sugary beverages (including those sweetened with no- or low-cal sweeteners).
As a general rule, the beverage industry has denied or strongly downplayed its role in the childhood obesity epidemic, despite the fact that beverage companies spend over $1 billion annually on youth-targeted marketing—especially in school settings.
According to the Guardian Express, 80 percent of American schools have contracts with Coke or Pepsi to stock their products in school vending machines.
It’s an untenable position, really. Clearly, marketing WORKS, or else they wouldn’t be doing it, and when ads target an audience of 2- to 17-year-olds, it’s hardly an accident that kids in that age range opt for soda whenever they’re given a choice.
TV: Letting Food Marketers Into Your Living Room
Marketers have unfettered access to children via advertisements on television. So when your child watches TV, not only are they not engaging in the type of free play that provides exercise and mental stimulation, but they are simultaneously being exposed to strong messages urging them to eat junk food.
Toys, giveaways and movie characters are commonly used to lure kids in, and the messages work so effectively that many kids are actually embarrassed to eat healthy foods in front of their friends.
The documentary reveals that many families see the ability to provide juice boxes and chips as a sign of higher status and the kids may regard salads and vegetables as ‘poor people’ food. One expert even recalled children who would hide in the bathroom at their school to eat a banana, lest their friends seem them eating it.
Junk Foods May Be Cheaper, Easier to Access
For some families, access to fruits and vegetables is very limited, forcing them to rely on the processed foods at their local markets. Others realize that they can get a value meal at numerous fast-food restaurants for far less money than it takes to purchase foods to make a healthy meal for their family.
The proliferation of junk food extends even into school cafeterias, where children are further exposed to supposed ‘healthy’ meals that are actually comprised of processed meats and other concoctions with very limited, or no, whole foods.
Unfortunately, some parents are also unaware that feeding their kids fast-food meals is like feeding them a chemistry experiment, or they are simply lured in by the low prices and tasty (albeit artificial and addictive) flavors. Many fall victim to the food industry’s misleading ads, as well, believing that the foods they sell are wholesome when in actuality they’re little more than sugar and essential toxic additives. Around the globe, there were similar reasons behind children’s poor eating habits and subsequent obesity:
- Not believing the junk food is harming their children
- Battling with a picky eater and believing it’s better for your child to eat something, even if it’s unhealthy
- Parents eating junk foods and role modeling this behavior to their kids
- Giving in to kids’ demands for unhealthy foods to keep them ‘happy’
- Lack of access to healthy foods, or lack of education about which foods are truly healthy
Is Your Child Overweight? Try These Top 5 Solutions
1. Replace Sugary Juices and Soft Drinks with Pure Water
Children can easily cut down on the amount of sugar they eat by eliminating soda and juice and only drinking water. This step alone can have a dramatic effect on your child’s weight and health, since every daily soft drink or sugar-sweetened beverage consumed increases the risk of obesity by a whopping 60 percent.
2. Offer Plenty of Whole Foods
It’s important for parents to encourage their children to eat healthy, nutritious foods, focusing on fresh whole foods (preferably organic whenever possible). This does not mean you should not allow your child to eat when he’s hungry, however. Children need calories and nutrients to grow and develop -- just make sure to encourage healthy foods and bypass junk and processed foods.
Remember that any meal or snack high in carbohydrates or sugars generates a rapid rise in your child’s blood glucose level. To adjust for this rise, the pancreas secretes insulin into their bloodstream, which lowers glucose (sugar) levels. Insulin is essentially a storage hormone, which is used to store the excess calories from carbohydrates in the form of fat.
Insulin, stimulated by excess carbohydrates in over consumption of grains, starches and sweets, is responsible for your overweight child’s bulging tummy and fat rolls. Even worse, high insulin levels suppress two other important hormones -- glucagons and growth hormones -- that are responsible for burning fat and sugar and promoting muscle development, respectively. So insulin from excess carbohydrates promotes fat, and then wards off your body's ability to lose that fat.
3. Decrease or Eliminate TV and Screen Time and Remove the TV from Your Child’s Bedroom
TV is often a destructive influence on children. As mentioned, not only does it encourage inactivity, but it also exposes them to commercials promoting worthless foods. Just as you don’t want your child exposed to ads for cigarettes during Saturday morning cartoons, neither should your kids be bombarded by non-stop commercials for sugary foods and snacks. Alternatively, you can implement a rule that allows your child one minute of video (TV or game) time for every minute of exercise. Or, join millions of families that use services like Netflix primarily because you choose each piece of media you or your child watches and it is always advertisement free.
4. Increase Exercise
Exercise is extremely important for all children. Your overweight or obese child needs at least 30 minutes of activity a day, which should ideally include some higher intensity activities (such as sprinting after your dog or playing a game of tag). Any activity that gets your child up and away from the television set, video game or computer is a good idea. Encourage physical activity that you can do together as a family, such as bike rides, hikes or a family game of softball.
5. Help Your Child Address Emotional Eating
Emotions play a major role in childhood obesity and often, weight loss efforts get sabotaged by emotional eating. Your child may also feel depressed or anxious about their weight, adding to the vicious cycle. And, sugar is highly addictive, making giving up soda, sweets and carbs difficult even for adults.
This is where the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) comes in. EFT can be profoundly helpful in alleviating not only food cravings, but also the underlying emotional challenges, such as low self-esteem, that can lead your child to eat unhealthy food or overeat.
More Tips for Creating a Healthy Eating Environment for Kids
Ultimately, teaching your child the importance of healthy foods and exercise is the key to maintaining health. With that in mind, after watching the documentary, here are some tips to foster a healthy view of food and self-esteem in your child.
- Lead by example and seek to maintain optimal body weight for yourself and your spouse
- Refrain from making jokes about your child’s weight, even if no harm is intended
- Explain the health risks of being overweight to your child, but avoid comparing your overweight child to other children, including thinner siblings
- Cook healthy meals for your family, and let your child be involved in making dinner, but avoid making your child eat different food than the rest of the family
- Encourage your child to make healthy food choices and praise them when they do instead of putting your child down about weight or eating habits
- Instead of using food as a reward or punishment, have healthy snacks available at all times, and explain to your child the benefits they’ll get from eating these fresh, whole foods; use non-food items, such as stickers or special outings/activities as rewards instead
If you need more help getting your family on the right track, my nutrition plan offers a step-by-step guide to feed your family right, and I encourage you to read through it now. You can find even more help in the book I wrote on the subject, Generation XL: Raising Healthy, Intelligent Kids in a High-Tech, Junk-Food World.
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By Dr. Mercola
Most parents have raised their voices when disciplining their children, but new research suggest that doing so – especially if it involves shouting, cursing or using insults – may be counterproductive and end up making your child more disobedient.
The study, which involved nearly 1,000 13-year-olds and their parents, even found that the effects of harsh verbal punishment may be just as harmful to kids as physical discipline.1
These Were Not ‘High-Risk’ Families
The researchers stressed that their findings likely apply to many average American families, where the parents love their children, care about them and want them to avoid problem behaviors. The study’s lead researcher stated:
“There was nothing extreme or broken about these homes. These were non ‘high-risk’ families. We can assume there are a lot of families like this…”
In short, the study found that when parents used harsh verbal discipline it predicted an increase in conduct problems and depressive symptoms in the child between ages 13 and 14. Furthermore, the children were more likely to continue their misbehavior and demonstrated behavioral problems such as vandalism or anti-social and aggressive behavior.
The damaging effects were similar to those seen with physical punishments and they continued even if parents were yelling ‘out of love’ and also showed warmth and emotional support. In other words, the study’s lead author said:2, 3
"Even if you are supportive of your child, if you fly off the handle it's still bad.
…Our findings offer insight into why some parents feel that no matter how loud they shout, their teenagers do not listen… Indeed, not only does harsh verbal discipline appear to be ineffective at addressing behavior problems in youth, it actually appears to increase such behaviors."
Criticizing, Insulting and Berating Will Backfire
Experts recommend that parents communicate with their children on an equal level, and explain the reasons for consequences or concerns about their behaviors calmly.
As punishment, you may have more success taking away their video games or car keys than shouting at the top of your lungs, especially if you’re using shaming or berating words.
Ideally, you should be able to firmly set limits and establish open communication with your child without having to resort to yelling insults or name-calling. Of course, if you’ve raised your voice to your child on occasion, there’s no need to feel guilty or worry about the long-term consequences; the study is referring more so to harsh verbal discipline than simply raising your voice.
Rahil Briggs, director of pediatric behavioral health services at Montefiore Medical Center, told WebMD:4
" …it's important to point out that we're not just talking about shouting in frustration, which everybody has done. It's one thing entirely to raise your voice at your child. That happens. But it's another thing entirely to say to your teen 'you're dumb' or lazy, or issue vulgarities.
The issue is that your parents are supposed to be on your side, on your team. But here we're talking about verbal intimidation and humiliation, which is in many ways the most damaging to children trying to find their way in life.”
Giving Children an Effective Emotional Outlet Is Important
Children feel stress, too – often intensely. They worry about making friends, succeeding at school or sports, and fitting in with their peers. They may also struggle with the divorce of their parents or feel anxious about war and violence they see on the news.
While a child’s natural state is to be happy, vibrant and curious, it’s estimated that up to 15 percent of children and teens are depressed at any given time,5 and this could certainly be contributing to problem behaviors.
Many of the same worries that make you feel anxious and sad have the same impact on your children, and just as you need emotional outlets and time for relaxation and stress-relief, so, too, does your child.
One important way to do this is by offering unstructured playtime for kids or free time for teens. This is essential for kids to build their imagination, relieve stress and simply be kids.
Yet today, many kids are so over-scheduled that they scarcely have time to eat dinner and do homework, let alone have any free time for play. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics states that free, unstructured play is essential for children to manage stress and become resilient, as well as reach social, emotional and cognitive development milestones.6
Children and teens can also engage in other forms of stress relief that adults even enjoy, like yoga, reading, writing or drawing. They can also learn to use the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which is a form of do-it-yourself psychological acupressure. This simple technique can help clear your body and mind of self-defeating emotions so you can implement positive goals and habits more easily in your life, and kids can learn to do it themselves.
Have You Addressed the Basics to Improving Problem Behaviors?
‘Mental disorders’ are loosely defined as “serious changes in the ways children handle their emotions, learn, or behave,” and run the gamut from mood disorders and substance abuse to learning disorders and more serious mental illness. While there are no easy remedies for more problematic issues like autism, a wide variety of mood, learning and behavioral problems in children are related to improper diet, emotional upset or stress, and exposure to environmental toxins.
I have successfully treated many hundreds of children with behavioral and mental challenges and have consistently seen them improve once the underlying toxicities and food changes were addressed, so parents let me assure you that there is hope! To address these underlying factors in your child, without resorting to verbal shouting matches or even drug treatment:
Dramatically reduce or eliminate grains and sugars in your child’s diet -- yes, even healthy organic whole grains (especially wheat) can cause problems. Try eliminating them first for 1-2 weeks and see if you notice a radical and amazing improvement in your child’s behavior. Replace soft drinks, fruit juices, and pasteurized milk in your child’s diet with pure water. Give your child plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats like krill oil. Also limit their intake of vegetable oils, as they are loaded with damaged omega-6 fats. Make sure your child gets plenty of exercise and outdoor playtime in the sunshine, ideally walking on the earth barefoot. Avoid giving your child ANY processed foods, especially those containing artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Instead, focus their diet on whole, ideally organic, foods to avoid both pesticides and genetically engineered ingredients. Provide your child a way to address his or her emotional stressors. Again, even children can benefit from the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which you or an EFT practitioner can teach them how to use.
Tips for Building Up Your Child’s Emotional Well-Being
As a parent, you certainly want your child to grow into a confident, well-rounded and happy adult. Surrounding them with negativity and criticism is not likely to achieve this end, but surrounding them with positive, unconditional support, and firm limits, will. If you have a hard time relating to your child without yelling, you may need to work on your own emotional health first before you can help theirs, and the tips that follow are a good start. You can also teach your older children and teens about these directly, and have them begin the life-long beneficial practice of emotional nurturing:
1. Be an Optimist
Looking on the bright side of things increases your ability to experience happiness in your day-to-day life while helping you cope more effectively with stress.
2. Have Hope
Having hope allows you to see the light at the end of the tunnel, helping you push through even dark, challenging times. Accomplishing goals, even small ones, can help you to build your level of hope.
3. Accept Yourself
Self-deprecating remarks and thoughts will shroud your mind with negativity and foster increased levels of stress, not to mention increase the likelihood that you will indeed live down to your own lowered expectations. Seek out and embrace the positive traits of yourself and your life, and avoid measuring your own worth by comparing yourself to those around you.
4. Stay Connected
Having loving and supportive relationships helps you feel connected and accepted, and promote a more positive mood. Intimate relationships help meet your emotional needs, so make it a point to reach out to others to develop and nurture these relationships in your life.
5. Express Gratitude
People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their goals. The best way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or list, where you actively write down exactly what you’re grateful for each day. Doing so has been linked to happier moods, greater optimism and even better physical health.
6. Find Your Purpose and Meaning
When you have a purpose or goal that you’re striving for, your life will take on a new meaning that supports your mental well-being. If you’re not sure what your purpose is, explore your natural talents and interests to help find it, and also consider your role in intimate relationships and ability to grow spiritually.
7. Master Your Environment
When you have mastery over your environment, you’ve learned how to best modify your unique circumstances for the most emotional balance, which leads to feelings of pride and success. Mastery entails using skills such as time management and prioritization along with believing in your ability to handle whatever life throws your way.
8. Exercise Regularly (or Play Actively for Kids)
Exercise boosts levels of health-promoting neurochemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress and also relieve some symptoms of depression. Rather than viewing exercise as a medical tool to lose weight, prevent disease, and live longer – all benefits that occur in the future – try viewing exercise as a daily tool to immediately enhance your frame of mind, reduce stress and feel happier.
9. Practice Mindfulness
Practicing “mindfulness” means that you’re actively paying attention to the moment you’re in right now. Rather than letting your mind wander, when you’re mindful you’re living in the moment and letting distracting or negative thoughts pass through your mind without getting caught up in their emotional implications. Mindfulness can help you reduce stress for increased well-being as well as achieve undistracted focus.
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