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Junk Food isn't the bad guy by itself

Since the start of the rise in overweight and obesity there has been a perfect storm in place that we have not been able to stop. First and foremost is the dramatic changes in technology that have led to significant sedentary time. Who is going to be willing to give up all these things? Probably no one, so that has to be addressed.
Second, physical education became a second class subject in schools which has led to several different concerns: Not enough activity time during the school day; not enough of a curriculum to teach why it is important to remain active and eat right; and not enough curriculum teaching the skills needed to be competent in lifetime activities and healthy eating so it is possible for someone to be active after school is done and know how to eat for him or herself and a family later. For food, yes there has been an increase in the types of what you are calling junk food, but as I can tell you being from the state of Washington in the US, based on the various different lobbies, it will be almost impossible to make an effective definition of junk food - we have lots of wheat growers, so any candy which has flour in it cannot be called junk food. But back to the point, at the same time as junk foods have become more available, so have portion sizes increased. This means greater calorie intake no matter if it is the healthiest food, if you are taking in more calories than is needed (see the comments above about the decrease in physical activity) you will gain fat weight. In 2007 in a study reporting the relationship between BMI and all cause mortality, those with the lowest risk of death from lifestyle related diseases were those in the overweight category, so there isn't even a direct cause and effect relationship between weight and risk either except at the two extremes of underweight and extreme obesity or morbid obesity. Some suggestions for these results are those in the overweight group may have changed activity to benefit health, but are not doing enough to cause weight loss, those in the normal BMI might be "normal" because of dieting, but are not active enough for health. In essence we cannot generalize about BMI categories and health risk anymore. As was stated in the article where interventions have happened it hasn't made a significant difference, especially when the intervention focused on a single factor such as junk food - it was a very expensive proposition for little to no return. To summarize, we have to focus on education, but it must be comprehensive, and articulated between activity, eating, and health and wellness, and we will probably need to be willing to wait a generation for the change to take place - the fact that obesity rates are stable in schools may be an indication that we are having some success already.

Posted by Wendy Repovich
06 November 2012 | 00h01

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