If health is wealth, a lot of us are poor with growing obesity...

If childhood obesity is not tackled, we face losing a generation of children to obesity-related diseases, says Colette Sheridan
If health is wealth, a lot of us are poor with growing obesity...

OBESITY ISSUE: People favour a crackdown on fast food ads in children’s online games and apps.

THEY say a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

When it comes to health, it seems everyone is a bit of a physician, doling out advice, sharing tips with neurotic friends and almost bypassing doctors.

We’re all guilty of consulting ‘Dr Google’ when we’re diagnosed with a particular condition. But unless the source of the medical information available online is trustworthy, we really should be sticking to our GPs.

No doubt, they are used to patients coming in, armed with information (sometimes dubious) and questions about their health.

It’s good that we have easy access to medical information that in the past, was the precious domain of doctors. But let’s not dispense with orthodox diagnoses.

However, that hasn’t stopped me from gathering intelligence from friends about my health. It’s not as if I seek out their advice. Rather, it’s proffered willingly and comes with enthusiastic endorsement by people who swear by the efficacy of, say, some fresh ginger in warm water in the morning which is full of antioxidants. It promises to lower the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. I’ll take that.

But I’m also taking a fair bit of medication - for the head, the cholesterol, the hiatus hernia (don’t get me started) the osteoporosis and the anaemia. If you shook me, you just might hear tablets and capsules cascading through my body.

However, I have friends who can trot out solutions for various conditions with enthusiasm. They want me to consume kefir, a fermented drink that is good for the gut. But it tastes like yogurt which I abhor. There are people that swear by apple cider vinegar. I bought a bottle of it but haven’t yet opened it as I’m put off by the cloudiness in the liquid. It just doesn’t look very inviting.

A friend makes her own sauerkraut which provides probiotics. It can strengthen the immune system and even help in losing weight. I’ll take that. I actually like the stuff, eaten with sausages, a la the Germans.

The friend has also give me the name of a prebiotic bacterial fertiliser. Google tells me prebiotics are specialised plant fibres that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Google also tells me that kale is the number one “healthiest food out there.” And you thought its popularity was just down to a trend dreamt up by hipster marketers, a bit like avocado.

Despite having so much health info on tap, what the really vigilant health checker needs is wearable technology such as a blood pressure monitor. It’s estimated that one in four men and one in five women around the world have high blood pressure which can put them at a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Medics don’t always have the time or ability to monitor blood pressure over multiple readings. Now, wearable blood pressure monitors help fill this gap by allowing users to measure their blood pressure over longer periods and in different conditions. They can share this data with their doctor. I’d fancy one of those.

You’d imagine that arming ourselves with health tips and availing of the technology on hand to monitor potential trouble would make for sickeningly healthy people. But good habits all start in childhood. And we have a childhood obesity crisis. So much for progress.

In 1975, childhood obesity in Ireland affected just 1% of children. But by 2016, 30% of girls and 31% of boys were overweight. Some 9% of girls and 10% of boys were obese. And the pandemic is not helping. Children, particularly girls, have been eating more junk food during restrictions.

Three out of four people in Ireland say they want to see celebrities banned from endorsing unhealthy food and drinks.

The Irish Heart foundation says research carried out by Ipsos MRBI also shows that even more people favour a crackdown on fast food ads in children’s online games and apps.

If childhood obesity is not tackled, we face losing a generation of children to obesity-related diseases. In disadvantaged areas, one in four children are overweight or obese. That stats are depressing. The Irish Heart Foundation says the Government needs to wage war on the marketing of unhealthy food. It needs to keep abreast of the growth in unregulated digital marketing which reaches youngsters on their smart phones. It’s time the State smartened up when it comes to endangering children’s health.

As for celebrities endorsing junk food, shame on them. Maybe they should take a leaf out of Victoria Beckham’s book. She likes toast with salt (ugh) and steamed vegetables (how dreary.) The former Spice Girl is clearly anti-food - and the signs are there to see on her size zero body. Nobody needs to be as extreme as her. But it beats endless Big Macs.



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