Did you know Tuesday was World Obesity Day? Me neither, although I suppose someone with my weight and size should. And no, I’m not going to produce a two-page document from my doctor revealing everything. There’s enough fat-shaming to go around these days.
What I am going to do is confront that mammoth in the room (I thought elephant sounded a bit puny given the context) and discuss it up front vis-à-vis candy consumption.
So let’s get to the core of the issue: obese children. According to the World Obesity Federation (WOF) — the folks that designated Oct. 11 as Obesity Day — this year’s focus would be on “ending childhood obesity.”
In an article in WOF’s journal, Pediatric Obesity, published Sept. 29, the authors T. Lobstein and R. Jackson-Leach estimated that “by 2025 some 268 million children aged 5-17 years may be overweight, including 91 million obese. Their estimate also includes the following numbers of children who will have “obesity-related comorbidities [the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient]: impaired glucose tolerance (12 million), type 2 diabetes (4 million), hypertension (27 million) and hepatic steatosis (38 million).
These new projections on overweight children represent continued increases from estimates made in 2013 (223.8 million) and 2010 (218.7 million) The obesity percentages have also jumped, going from 4.6 percent in 2010 to 4.9 percent in 2013 and 5.4 percent in 2025.
These are not pretty numbers to look at. Those of us who are in the confectionery business may feel a bit uneasy digesting those figures, perhaps even a little guilty. But let’s get one thing clear: eating candy in moderation doesn’t make you obese, particularly children.
So what causes childhood obesity? According to the World Health Organization, the fundamental cause of childhood overweight and obesity is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended.
It cites two major causes for its growth:
• A global shift in diet towards increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other healthy micronutrients;
• A trend towards decreased physical activity levels due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of recreation time, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.
Moreover, as the National Confectioners Association (NCA) continues to remind everyone who cares to listen, candy’s a treat. And most Americans get that as the NCA points out: 81 percent of Americans agree that candy is a treat; 90 percent plus of parents discuss balance and moderation with their children.
Moreover, the numbers support that. According to the NCA, on average most Americans enjoy candy twice a week, which equals less than 50 calories a day or one teaspoon of added sugar. That’s less than 2 percent of an average American’s caloric intake.
Even the Journal of Pediatric Obesity found that restricting sweets is not an effective approach to helping children learn moderation.
I recognize I may be preaching to the choir here. Nonetheless, just wanted to remind everyone in this wonderful industry that no one needs to feel guilty and withdraw into the shadows because someone starts discussing childhood obesity.
The voluntary efforts by major candy producing companies to embrace front-of-pack labeling, as well as responsible marketing to children, underscores the leadership role the industry has taken to recognizing the childhood obesity issue.
Can we do more? Naturally. Supporting engagement in educational nutrition and physical activities for kids are two possible areas for improvement. Creating healthier confections? That’s already ongoing, with much more new product launches on the way.
And what about getting the word out about what the industry is doing? That’s ongoing. Just thought that World Obesity Day was a good way to remind us of that.