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Another Public Health Experiment?

 When the US health authorities demonized fat intake decades ago they were warned that there could be unintended health consequences. The critics of that decision were right. We not only have a population of overweight and obese adults, weíre now working on the kids. That decision led us to a public health nightmare with sky-rocketing health care costs that will bankrupt this country. However, the decision made the food industry very happy. They were able to create and market so-called ďhealthyĒ foods and reap enormous financial rewards. 

A recent decision by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending that some kids as young as 8 years old be given statins to lower cholesterol may be another public health experiment, one that will make the drug industry happy. The pharmaceutical industry would love to create another life-long group of pill-poppers.

More than the financial ramifications of this recommendation are the unknown health consequences for the use of statins in kids so young. Even though the use of these drugs in this age group has not been studied, fear of future heart disease is behind the move. Why are we not mobilizing to address the real reason why kids are at risk? Its obesity and the Western diet! Yes, statins will lower LDL cholesterol but will not prevent premature type 2 diabetes that ultimately leads to cardiovascular disease. Nor will statins address high triglycerides or improve low HDL levels- risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Proper lifestyle changes will address all of these issues, not simply put a band aid on a blood test. And do so significantly less expensively.

Things to Think About

By resorting to drug therapy for dealing with the risks of being over-fat are we admitting that this is the best we can do?

Since cholesterol is used to make adequate levels of hormones including sex hormones do we know the long term effects of suppressing cholesterol production in one so young?

Since statins hit the market millions of prescriptions have been written with serous, occasionally fatal or permanent side effects being reported. Where is the evidence rather than opinion that these drugs are safe in an immature body?

Think Outside of the Box

Admit that USDA guidelines have failed and support more than a one-size-fits-all approach to maintaining or regaining health? The diet that can become a lifestyle is the one that should be supported as long as it relies on real food.

Provide significant support for lifestyle changes especially in this toxic food environment.

Better educate parents who need to be realistic about their kidsí weight issues and make health a family affair. Of course that means parents need to set an example and address their own poor dietary choices for the sake of their kids. Are they willing to?

One misguided approach to the obesity problem is insisting that kids consume low fat or fat free milk as if US kids got fat drinking whole white milk. Educate the public that natural fats have value and provide satiety that can make controlling food intake easier. Stop the silliness about natural fat.

Stop scaring the public about eating too much protein. A regular intake of protein has been shown to manage hunger. When hunger is controlled by consuming high quality protein, calorie intake is lower.

Stop pushing a high carb intake as healthy for everyone. It doesnít work. It simply drives more hunger and cravings leading to higher food consumption.

Donít think that drugs can make up for an unhealthy lifestyle.

The use of drugs should be the last resort especially since there is no evidence that treating kids now will prevent disease later. Will we realize 30 years down the road we made another bad decision?

 

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