New Orleans, LA — In a first person paper published in the August 27, 2010 issue of Childhood Obesity, Dr. Melinda Sothern, Director of Health Promotion and Professor of Public Health at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, provides three ways to de-program the 1950s obesity trinity underlying the current obesity epidemic in the United States and protect future generations from its health consequences.
“The combination of prenatal tobacco use, infant formula, and frequent pregnancies —
i.e., the obesity trinity — synergistically created the first generation of nutritionally programmed youth, the baby-boomers,” writes Dr. Sothern. “Suburban living, value-priced fast food, cable
TV, and computers sealed their fate. Now in their 50s and 60s, this generation has the highest prevalence of obesity in history, triple that of their parents. Of more concern are their obese children, many programmed due to maternal obesity and gestational diabetes.”
Dr. Sothern is most concerned about the vulnerability of the grandchildren of baby-boomers.
“These are the preschoolers with significant obesity, the 6-year-olds with metabolic syndrome and the obese adolescents with hypertension, type 2 diabetes or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, so resistant to treatment that the only solution may be bariatric surgery,” notes Dr. Sothern. “More alarming are the severely obese, insulin-resistant teenage girls who will ultimately provide the optimal fetal environment for the next generation of metabolically programmed newborns.”
Dr. Sothern believes that efforts should focus on three opportunities for change — at the beginning of pregnancy, prior to puberty when metabolism may likely be set for life, and in the years leading up to motherhood. She advises that:
- intense nutrition and physical activity behavioral counseling begin at the first obstetrical visit and continue until the child enters preschool
- preschoolers be provided opportunities at home, in school, and throughout the community to engage in free play most of their waking hours, offered appropriately portioned, nutrient dense foods in designated areas away from media distractions
- high quality weight-management programs with intense behavioral counseling be available to families with already obese youth.
Dr. Sothern’s research is widely published in a multitude of peer-reviewed scientific journals and she is the author of The Handbook of Pediatric Obesity: Clinical Management and The Handbook of Pediatric Obesity: Etiology, Pathophysiology and Prevention. She is also the senior author of a popular press book for parents to use in conjunction with their pediatrician or family physician entitled Trim Kids (2001, Harper Collins). The Trim Kids program is recognized by the National Cancer Institute as a Research Tested Intervention Program and was acknowledged by a U. S. Surgeon General for its community dissemination in YMCA centers in Louisiana. Dr. Sothern was the 2009 recipient of the Obesity Society’s Oded Bar Or Award for Excellence in Pediatric Obesity Research. She co-founded the Louisiana Childhood Obesity Research Consortium and currently serves as its Chairman. Dr. Sothern is also the Principal Investigator on two National Institute of Health (NIH)-sponsored studies.
The full paper is available online at http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/chi.2010.0406.
LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans educates Louisiana’s health care professionals. The state’s academic health leader, LSUHSC comprises a School of Medicine, the state’s only School of Dentistry, Louisiana’s only public School of Public Health, and Schools of Allied Health Professions, Nursing, and Graduate Studies. LSUHSC faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout the region. In the vanguard of biosciences research in a number of areas in a worldwide arena, the LSUHSC research enterprise generates jobs and enormous economic impact, LSUHSC faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, advance treatment, or cure disease. To learn more, visit http://www.lsuhsc.edu and http://www.twitter.com/LSUHSCHealth.