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Overweight yet Undernourished Children

Obesity and overweight has grown to epidemic proportions in the United States. An average of 13 percent of children from the ages of 6 to 11 and 14 percent of adolescents from the ages of 12 to 19 are estimated to be overweight. It is also estimated that 70 to 80 percent of overweight adolescents will become obese adults. Overweight in children is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States, especially among African Americans and Hispanics. One consequence of this growing problem is the emerging epidemic of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. However, and despite of this increasing overweight, there is a parallel undernourishment among children of this generation. They consume almost 20 percent of their calories from the tip of the food pyramid, which includes food devoid of essential nutrients but high in fat and calories. It is estimated that only 2 percent of school-age children eat properly from the five food groups, consuming nutrients of all the types required (iron, vitamin A, vitamin B, and calcium).

Calcium is especially important in children’s development. Yet, USDA data shows that 71 percent of females and 62 percent of males from the ages of 6 to 11 fail to meet calcium requirements for a healthy development. Among 12 to 19 year old adolescents, 88 percent of the females and 68 percent of the males do not meet these requirements either. Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt, contribute to the calories available in the food supply only on 9 percent, but they supply a 73 per cent of the calcium needed. Low intake of milk and other dairy foods by children is the primary reason for their low calcium. Only 36 percent of females and 47 percent of males in the ages of 6 to 11 consume the recommended amount of dairy foods servings per day. Calcium is necessary for the growth of healthy bones and teeth. Dentists and dietitians recommend eating dairy foods and having a balanced diet. Calcium deficiencies can result in diseases like rickets and can develop into osteoporosis in the adulthood.

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