With a new school year opening next month, we should think about the health and nutrition of children. Whether kids bring baon or buy food from the canteen or sellers near the schools, parents and teachers should make sure they are eating right and getting all the nutrients they need.
It has already been pointed out how children can be better and more effective learners if they are properly nourished. But recent reports call attention to obesity, a worrisome condition among children which can lead to chronic ailments.
Consumers International (CI) reports that “the number of overweight and obese children is rising, particularly in low and middle income countries.”
It says the rate of increase in less developed nations “has been more than 30 percent higher than that of high-income countries.” CI adds, “Unhealthy diets now rank above tobacco as a global cause of preventable non-communicable diseases (NCDs).”
High blood pressure
If current trends continue, the organization says 70 million children will be overweight or obese by 2025. Overweight children are at risk of developing certain diseases. High blood pressure, for instance, is beginning to be seen in more young people.
CI says, “They (overweight kids) are more likely to be obese in later life and are more at risk of developing other health problems.” The organization calls attention to a problem that should already be obvious to parents and other adults who care for children.
“There is a well-established connection between food marketing and children’s food preferences, purchase requests and consumption patterns,” CI says.
Consumption patterns, CI adds, are now influenced not just by media (“television is still the predominant media”), but techniques that “also include product placement via toys, educational materials, songs, and movies; character licensing and celebrity endorsements; word-of-mouth campaigns, text messages, website, and ‘advergames.’”
To help reverse the trend of childhood obesity, CI proposes:
Schools should be free from unhealthy food marketing;
Safe, free drinking water should be provided in all schools;
Rules should be set on nutritional content of food sold in canteens, vending machines, etc.;
Purchasing and commissioning activities should be undertaken to promote the consumption of healthier foods and limit the consumption of unhealthy foods.
Too much salt
On another issue, CI says: “If salt consumption were reduced by 6 grams per day, an estimated 2.5 million deaths could be prevented each year.”
CI explains: “Most people eat too much salt, nine to 12 grams a day, which is around twice the recommended maximum level.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 5 grams maximum daily salt intake for an adult. For children aged 2-15, the recommended maximum daily salt intake is only 2 grams per day.
Too much salt increases risk of developing high blood pressure or hypertension, which accounts for 60 percent of all strokes and 50 percent of all heart diseases, among other things.
To protect and promote healthy diets, CI calls for national targets for the gradual reduction of salt content in processed foods, and for education, communication and public awareness programs.
CI is campaigning for a global convention to protect and promote healthy diets “using a similar mechanism to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.” It says a global convention would commit governments to a package of policy measures designed to help consumers eat more healthily.
The United Kingdom-based Consumers International is the world federation of consumer rights groups with over 250 member organizations in 120 countries.
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