Background: Zero calorie sugar substitutes are a prime example of low calorie not directly equating to good health. This study examines the unnatural changes that occur in the gut microbiome as a result of consuming artificial sweeteners. However, no official action, such as label warnings to the public, have been implemented.
How I Used It: This article served as direct evidence to support my thesis, as zero calorie sugar substitutes are simply not healthy and pose the potential for a variety of possible health risks. When young people are encouraged to limit their caloric intake, it is easy to resort to foods and beverages containing artificial sweeteners. These sugar replacements falsely advertise themselves as healthier alternatives to foods and drinks containing real sugar, and thus higher calories. In an attempt to follow healthy eating advice learned in a classroom, adolescents could inadvertently be creating other health issues.
- Drewnowski, A., & Fulgoni, V. (2008). Nutrient profiling of foods: creating a nutrient-rich food index Nutrition Reviews, 66(1), 23–39.
Background: This article highlights the importance of prioritizing the quality of the food that is consumed, rather than hyper fixating on only eating low calorie foods. The process of nutrient profiling categorizes foods based on the healthy vitamins and minerals that they provide, regardless of their caloric density. It is discussed if weather labeling foods by the benefits that their nutrients provide, rather than by calorie count would result in overall healthier diets. Another important concept discussed is the toxic categorization of “good” and “bad” foods.
How I Used It: The stigma developed by society that there are “good” and “bad” foods has created an inaccurate overgeneralization about various food groups, resulting in restriction. It must become a priority to properly educate society that the nutritious quality of the food they are consuming is much more important than the calorie count. The concept of what is truly “healthy” has become skewed in society’s gross obsession with promoting a thin physique and a diet that contributes to this goal.
- Golden, A. & Kessler, C. (2020). Obesity and genetics. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 32 (7), 493-496.
Background: This article emphasizes the prominent influence that genetic predisposition has on childhood obesity. An individual may be placed at an overwhelming 70% greater risk of obesity simply due to their genetic makeup—a factor simply out of any mortal being’s control.
How I Used It: These statistics allowed me to demonstrate the uselessness of encouraging dieting habits to children in school. It is tremendously unfair to imply that all overweight children are at fault for their condition. Informing them that limiting their calories will help them to lose weight is harmful to both their physical and emotional well-being. Furthermore, if a child does begin to limit their calories and fails to see the results that they are told are desirable, it is likely that they will abuse the ability to limit their calories, as well as feel an overwhelming sense of failure.
- Halpern-Felsher, B. (2009). Adolescent decision making: an overview. The Prevention Researcher, 16(2), 3+.
Background: Adolescents are undergoing changes of great magnitude as they develop cognitively, physically, and emotionally. Their abilities to make sound decisions is underdeveloped and can result in impulsive and dangerous behaviors. Rather than following a fully developed decision making framework, there are various psychosocial and emotional factors during adolescence that impact their ability to fully process information and make informed choices. Furthermore, adolescents are extremely impressionable and base many of their decisions on social norms or how they desire to be perceived by others. Another contributing factor to an adolescents poor decision making is a false sense of invincibility, as they weigh the possible consequences of their actions. The prefrontal cortex of the brain, responsible for impulse control and executive functions needed for decision making, is greatly reduced during adolescent years.
How I Used It: This article allowed me to demonstrate the disadvantage adolescents have when it comes to decision making. It is abundantly clear that adolescents are often incapable of making sound decisions when they are properly informed, much less when toxic and inaccurate information is being disseminated to them in a classroom where they are surrounded by their highly influential peers.
- Kapsak, W. R., DiMarco-Crook, C., Hill, J. O., Toner, C. D., & Edge, M. S. (2013). Confusion on All Sides of the Calorie Equation: Lessons… : Nutrition Today Nutrition Today (Annapolis), 48(5), 195–202.
Background: This article discusses the importance of calorie balance—the relationship between how many calories are consumed each day and how many are expended through basic body functions. Each individual has different caloric needs that are dependent on factors such as their physical activity level and their basal metabolic rate. Consumers have been slowly driven away from understanding the idea that calories are fuel for the body, a concept that must be instilled back into society.
How I Used It: The obsession our country has with combating obesity has created a hyperfixation on calories. This has created confusion and has skewed our perception of what is an appropriate amount of calories to consume daily. As teachers continue to preach the benefits of a low calorie diet, they are perpetuating this false and dangerous belief. It is not the goal of every individual to lose weight. In fact, some individuals struggle to consume enough calories to maintain or gain necessary weight. A low calorie diet certainly should not be promoted to this demographic. A “one size fits all” mindset regarding caloric intake is simply irresponsible teaching.
Background: Scientifically speaking, during the adolescent years, the brain prioritizes peer approval. Teenagers value peer approval much more than their child and adult counterparts, which greatly influences their decision making. This study discusses the physical decrease in the brain’s “gray matter” and the formation of “white matter” that takes place during adolescence. This change in matter speeds up communication between nerve cells, ultimately making teenagers more impulsive.
How I Used It: This scientific truth means that teens need firm guidance to help them make sound decisions, during this time when their own brain is working against them. It is simply inevitable that during adolescence the brain is capable of considering the most important factors that prioritize the safety of an individual. Rather, social factors and the desired light in which teens wish to be perceived, become the primary motivating factor for all of their actions and decisions. If teenagers are told that eating less calories is good, there are no limits to the extent in which they will take this faulty advice.
- Nestle, M., & Nesheim, M. (2012). Why calories count : From science to politics. ProQuest Ebook Central https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Background: This book provided me with an in-depth scientific look at the consequences of restricting calories to an insufficient rate, which is extremely hazardous and in some cases lethal. Due to the even greater importance of children consuming an appropriate amount of calories each day to fuel their developing bodies, the effects of this unhealthy practice are even more serious among youth. The human body is designed to send uncomfortable hunger pains to act as a request for calories. When these hunger cues are forcibly and repeatedly ignored, the body begins to go into a state of starvation. There are countless negative effects that the body suffers during a period of malnutrition, both physically and mentally. The body resorts to breaking down important carbohydrates stored in the liver as well as protein stored in various muscles in an attempt to find another energy source in the absence of much needed calories. As the body continues to break down important proteins, muscles and enzymes begin to deteriorate, as a vast amount of the body’s systems decline in function. The result is an incredibly lethargic, dizzy, disoriented, and zombie-like individual who is incapable of functioning and unable to perform daily tasks. Eventually, extreme starvation may lead to the complete shutdown of all the body’s major systems, resulting in a coma or death.
How I Used It: In our country’s ongoing battle against childhood obesity, public school health education programs have become an advocate for limiting and restricting caloric intake. Promoting a low calorie diet is not healthy and necessary for all children. The dietary needs of growing children cannot be generalized as “low calorie equals a healthy diet.” It is presumptuous to assume that all children are in a situation in which they need to limit their calories. Health educators are not medically trained individuals capable of providing health care advice.
- O’Dea, J., & Maloney, D. (2000). Preventing Eating and Body Image Problems in Children and Adolescents Using the Health Promoting Schools Framework. Journal of School Health, 70(1), 18.
Background: This study examines the effectiveness of a framework developed by the World Health Organization that can be used in schools to prevent eating disorders among adolescents—proper nutrition education within the school curriculum, creating a positive school environment, and building a relationship between the school and the community. When implemented properly, they can successfully prevent fad dieting, various eating disorders, and low self esteem related to body image. However, the study emphasizes the fact that many school programs cause more harm than good by labeling foods to be “good,” “bad,” or “junk.”
How I Used It: Indoctrinating students with this attitude leads to an unhealthy relationship with food. Additionally, educators commonly and subconsciously project their personal prejudices toward food and body image onto the students, further aggravating the issue. The framework encourages a cross-curricular education that not only encourages diet prevention and positive self esteem, but educates students to the dangers of propaganda techniques used by the diet industry. Furthermore, the framework addresses the need for an overall healthy school climate and support from the community at large. Without effectively implementing a framework of this nature, excessive damage continues to be made by teachers who lack proper education and awareness to what they are actually preaching.
- Oude Groeniger, J. , de Koster, W. & van der Waal, J. (2020). Time-varying Effects of Screen Media Exposure in the Relationship Between Socioeconomic Background and Childhood Obesity. Epidemiology, 31 (4), 578-586.
Background: This study emphasizes the direct correlation between children with a low socioeconomic status and obesity. Common factors in these children’s lives such as little access to healthy food choices, poor healthcare, and negative childhood experiences often contribute to weight gain. Furthermore, children of low socioeconomic status are often unable to afford participation in organized activities, such as sports and extracurriculars, which are both common ways for children to expend energy.
How I Used It: I found it essential to highlight these facts to those who believe it is beneficial to promote a low calorie diet to children in schools to combat childhood obesity. These are other variables that often contribute to childhood obesity that are much deeper rooted than many may anticipate. Individualized therapeutic work is often necessary to properly address the issue. An isolated lesson in the classroom is not beneficial or effective.
- Skouteris, H. , Bergmeier, H. , Berns, S. , Betancourt, J. , Boynton-Jarrett, R. , Davis, M. , Gibbons, K. , Pérez-Escamilla, R. & Story, M. (9000). Reframing the early childhood obesity prevention narrative through an equitable nurturing approach. Maternal and Child Nutrition, , doi: 10.1111/mcn.13094.
Background: Childhood obesity is a real issue that should not be ignored. However, the current approach to instilling children with the belief that “calories should be limited,” as a way to fight this issue is not only ineffective, but hazardous. This study highlights the deep rooted causes of childhood obesity that surely cannot be fixed through a simple health class lesson. Underlying causes of childhood obesity typically begin during early childhood development. Many children begin to rely on food as a source of comfort that they were deprived of from their caregivers. Additionally, many children from families with lower socioeconomic status struggle with obesity. This can be attributed to their inability to afford healthy food options or lack of involvement in organized sports and activities, where energy would be expended. Furthermore, genetic predisposition is often overlooked, but can play a large role in determining the body fat composition of a child. A child’s genetic makeup is a factor that is simply out of their control. These children should not be lectured on the benefits of a restrictive diet to “fix” their overweight build, when it may be just out of their control.
How I Used It: With all of these possible factors considered, it is abundantly clear that childhood obesity can not always be attributed to a simple surplus of calories. There are a variety of influences, some of which may be extremely traumatic, that can result in obesity. Attempting to address this subject in a classroom setting, where children may feel shamed by their peers, is not only pointless, but can impose a tremendous amount of self esteem issues.