Girls are reaching puberty earlier than ever

Today in the U.S., about 16% of girls enter puberty by the age of 7, and about 30% by the age of 8 – A recent study determined that the number of girls entering puberty (defined by breast development) at these early ages has increased markedly between 1997 and 2010.1 

Girl looking at ocean. Flicrk: sskennel

Trends in Age at Menarche

The average age at menarche in Western countries began declining during the early part of the 20th century due to increased consumption of animal products and  increasing calorie intake; the decline slowed in the 1960s, and now in the U.S. there has been a more recent surge in early puberty starting in the mid-1990s.2 In Europe, in 1830, the average age at menarche was 17.  Similarly in the 1980s in rural China, the average age at menarche was 17.3 In the U.S. in 1900, the average was 14.2.  By the 1920s, average age at menarche in the U.S. had fallen to 13.3  and by 2002, it had reached 12.34.Similar trends are occurring in other Western nations.5,6 For example, age at menarche in Ireland has declined from 13.52 in 1986 to 12.53 in 2006.7 In Italy, a recent study showed that girls’ age at menarche was on average 3 months earlier than their mothers’.8  

Taking all this data together, we can estimate that the normal, healthy age at menarche under conditions of excellent nutrition without caloric excess, would probably fall somewhere between 15 and 18.  But today in the U.S., about half of girls begin developing breasts before age 10, and the average age at menarche is less than 12 ½ and still declining. 

Why is this happening? 

The neurological and hormonal systems that regulate pubertal timing are complex, but research has identified a number of environmental factors that may be contributing to the decline in age at puberty:

Increasing rates of childhood overweight and obesity

Several studies have found associations between higher childhood BMI and earlier puberty in girls.4, 9-11

Excess body fat alters the levels of the hormones insulin, leptin, and estrogen, and these factors are believed to be responsible for the acceleration of pubertal timing by obesity.  Also, physical inactivity may decrease melatonin levels, which can also affect signals in the brain that trigger pubertal development.4, 12 

Increased animal protein intake

Higher total protein, animal protein, and meat intake in children age 3-7 have been associated with earlier menarche in multiple studies.13-15  In contrast, higher vegetable protein intake at age 5-6 is associated with later menarche.15  High protein intake elevates IGF-1 levels and promotes growth, which could accelerate the onset of puberty – IGF-1 contributes to pubertal development on its own and in part by its involvement in estradiol signaling.4,16  Meat and dairy consumption in children may also reflect ingestion of environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that have accumulated in animal tissues (see EDCs below).

Other dietary factors: 

High dairy consumption is associated with earlier than average menarche.17  Soft drink consumption is associated with early menarche.18

Children with lower nutrient diets (based on analysis of macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and certain whole foods) tend to enter puberty earlier.19  Overall our modern diet rich in processed foods, dairy, processed meats and fast food is disruptive to normal development and aging.  Early puberty is an early sign of premature aging.  

Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs)

EDCs are hormonally active synthetic chemicals that either mimic, inhibit, or alter the action of natural hormones.  These chemicals are ubiquitous in our environment, and are considered by scientists to be a significant public health concern. Although EDCs are thought to pose a threat to adults as well, children’s bodies are more sensitive to exposure to exogenous hormones.20 Chemicals are not currently tested for their endocrine disruption potential before they are approved for use and enter our environment, and there are endocrine disruptors in a vast array of products we come into contact with every day, including organochlorine pesticides, plastics, fuels, and other industrial chemicals.21 

The substances of most concern currently are BPA and phthalates. BPA is one of the highest volume chemicals produced in the world.  It is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics, such as rigid cups, water bottles and food storage containers; BPA is also found in the linings of food cans and dental sealants.  BPA can leach from containers into food and beverages, especially during heating and washing.4  BPA exposure is associated with early puberty in girls.22

Phthalates are chemicals used to make PVC plastics more flexible, and are found in a variety of products including toys, food packaging, hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hair spray, and shampoo. Phthalates are associated with early breast development in girls.22,23 They are considered chemicals of concern to the EPA and may be phased out – some phthalates have already been removed from children’s toys and cosmetics.24

Additional EDCs that have been associated with dysregulation of pubertal timing include industrial chemicals such as PCBs, pesticides such as DDT and endosulfan, the flame retardant PBB, and dioxins and furans, which are formed during incineration of waste, chlorine bleaching of paper, and chemical manufacturing. 22,23,25,26

It is important to note that EDCs break down very slowly and accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals, so animal foods contain higher levels of these chemicals than plant foods.

 

Why is this troublesome?  

The most significant and alarming consequence of early maturation is an increased risk for breast cancer in adulthood.  Early menarche is an established risk factor for breast cancer, and this is believed to be due to the extended lifetime exposure to ovarian hormones.10,27,28  Similarly, exposure to EDCs during childhood is associated with hormonal cancers, such as breast and testicular cancers.29-31

Seven, eight and nine year old girls are not emotionally or psychologically equipped to handle puberty.  As such, earlier puberty is also associated with a higher risk of psychological problems during adolescence such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.  Girls who mature earlier are also more likely to take part in risky behaviors like smoking and alcohol use.4,12 

What can parents do to protect their children?

  • Children’s diets should focus on whole plant foods rather than animal foods – this will keep protein intake in a safe range and reduce their consumption of EDCs.  

  • Minimize dairy products in children’s diets – use almond and hemp milks instead of cows’ milk
  • Encourage children to exercise and exercise with them.
  • Minimize processed foods – these are calorie-dense and nutrient-poor, and they promote obesity and other diseases.
  • Children’s diets should include a wide variety of natural plant foods as possible including, green vegetables, squashes, corn, carrots, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, avocados, beans, fruits and whole grains.  This means that healthy eating is a lifetime event.  
  • Buy organic produce when possible to avoid synthetic pesticides.
  • Minimize children’s exposure to BPA: 
    • Avoid using of rigid polycarbonate plastics (recycling label #7) whenever possible. 
    • Do not use plastic water bottles if they are old or scratched. 
    • Do not microwave in plastic containers.
    • Minimize the use of canned foods and avoid canned infant formulas.32
  • Minimize children’s exposure to phthalates
    • Avoid plastics marked with recycling label #3 (PVC) whenever possible.
    • Check ingredient lists on personal care products for phthalates. Also be aware that “fragrance” listed as an ingredient often means that the products contains phthalates. For more information, visit the Environmental Working Group’s guide to children’s personal care products.

 

To conclude, the earlier occurence of puberty is an ominous event that we can stop.  We can even win the war on breast cancer in America and prevent millions of young females from developing it.   The answer however, must begin in the way we feed ourselves and our children.  The most effective type of health care is vigilant and excellent self care.  

 

References:

1. Biro FM, Galvez MP, Greenspan LC, et al: Pubertal Assessment Method and Baseline Characteristics in a Mixed Longitudinal Study of Girls. Pediatrics 2010.

2. Biro FM, Khoury P, Morrison JA: Influence of obesity on timing of puberty. Int J Androl 2006;29:272-277; discussion 286-290.

3. Gates JR, Parpia B, Campbell TC, et al: Association of dietary factors and selected plasma variables with sex hormone-binding globulin in rural Chinese women. Am J Clin Nutr 1996;63:22-31.

4. Steingraber S: Tha Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls: What We Know, What We Need To Know. In Breast Cancer Fund; 2007.

5. McDowell MA, Brody DJ, Hughes JP: Has age at menarche changed? Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2004. J Adolesc Health 2007;40:227-231.

6. Anderson SE, Must A: Interpreting the continued decline in the average age at menarche: results from two nationally representative surveys of U.S. girls studied 10 years apart. J Pediatr 2005;147:753-760.

7. O'Connell A, Gavin A, Kelly C, et al: The mean age at menarche of Irish girls in 2006. Ir Med J 2009;102:76-79.

8. Rigon F, Bianchin L, Bernasconi S, et al: Update on age at menarche in Italy: toward the leveling off of the secular trend. J Adolesc Health 2010;46:238-244.

9. Aksglaede L, Juul A, Olsen LW, et al: Age at puberty and the emerging obesity epidemic. PloS one 2009;4:e8450.

10. Vandeloo MJ, Bruckers LM, Janssens JP: Effects of lifestyle on the onset of puberty as determinant for breast cancer. Eur J Cancer Prev 2007;16:17-25.

11. Kaplowitz PB: Link between body fat and the timing of puberty. Pediatrics 2008;121 Suppl 3:S208-217.

12. Burt Solorzano CM, McCartney CR: Obesity and the pubertal transition in girls and boys. Reproduction 2010;140:399-410.

13. Berkey CS, Gardner JD, Frazier AL, et al: Relation of childhood diet and body size to menarche and adolescent growth in girls. Am J Epidemiol 2000;152:446-452.

14. Rogers IS, Northstone K, Dunger DB, et al: Diet throughout childhood and age at menarche in a contemporary cohort of British girls. Public Health Nutr 2010:1-12.

15. Gunther AL, Karaolis-Danckert N, Kroke A, et al: Dietary protein intake throughout childhood is associated with the timing of puberty. J Nutr 2010;140:565-571.

16. Veldhuis JD, Roemmich JN, Richmond EJ, et al: Endocrine control of body composition in infancy, childhood, and puberty. Endocr Rev 2005;26:114-146.

17. Wiley AS: Milk intake and total dairy consumption: associations with early menarche in NHANES 1999-2004. PloS one 2011;6:e14685.

18. Vandeloo MJ, Bruckers LM, Janssens JP: Effects of lifestyle on the onset of puberty as determinant for breast cancer. Eur J Cancer Prev 2007;16:17-25.

19. Cheng G, Gerlach S, Libuda L, et al: Diet quality in childhood is prospectively associated with the timing of puberty but not with body composition at puberty onset. J Nutr 2010;140:95-102.

20. Aksglaede L, Juul A, Leffers H, et al: The sensitivity of the child to sex steroids: possible impact of exogenous estrogens. Hum Reprod Update 2006;12:341-349.

21. Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Bourguignon JP, Giudice LC, et al: Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: an Endocrine Society scientific statement. Endocr Rev 2009;30:293-342.

22. Roy JR, Chakraborty S, Chakraborty TR: Estrogen-like endocrine disrupting chemicals affecting puberty in humans--a review. Med Sci Monit 2009;15:RA137-145.

23. Den Hond E, Schoeters G: Endocrine disrupters and human puberty. Int J Androl 2006;29:264-271; discussion 286-290.

24. Chemical Families: Phthalates. In Environmental Working Group.

25. Schell LM, Gallo MV: Relationships of putative endocrine disruptors to human sexual maturation and thyroid activity in youth. Physiol Behav 2010;99:246-253.

26. Massart F, Parrino R, Seppia P, et al: How do environmental estrogen disruptors induce precocious puberty? Minerva Pediatr 2006;58:247-254.

27. Leung AW, Mak J, Cheung PS, et al: Evidence for a programming effect of early menarche on the rise of breast cancer incidence in Hong Kong. Cancer Detect Prev 2008;32:156-161.

28. Pike MC, Pearce CL, Wu AH: Prevention of cancers of the breast, endometrium and ovary. Oncogene 2004;23:6379-6391.

29. Cohn BA, Cirillo PM, Christianson RE: Prenatal DDT exposure and testicular cancer: a nested case-control study. Arch Environ Occup Health 2010;65:127-134.

30. Cohn BA, Wolff MS, Cirillo PM, et al: DDT and breast cancer in young women: new data on the significance of age at exposure. Environ Health Perspect 2007;115:1406-1414.

31. Maffini MV, Rubin BS, Sonnenschein C, et al: Endocrine disruptors and reproductive health: the case of bisphenol-A. Mol Cell Endocrinol 2006;254-255:179-186.

32. Consumer tips to avoid BPA exposure. In Environmental Working Group.


 

 

 

Inspired by Dr. Fuhrman's nutrition message: Food for Life teaches children and families how to enjoy healthy foods

 by Natalie Obermeyer

Vegetables consist of less than 2% of American children’s diets, and the CDC predicts that for the first time in history the current generation of children will have a shorter lifespan than their parents.1,2

Jennifer Taylor and Theresa Roden of the Wellness Foundation are aiming to improve the health of children and their families by inspiring them to eat nutrient rich diets. Students learn the how they can prevent diseases such as heart disease and diabetes and live long, healthy lives through what they eat. In each class students learn a lesson about a specific topic such as the benefits of the phytonutrients in vegetables, the “not so sweet truth” about sugar, and the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. Then, students get to prepare and eat their own nutrient-rich foods including green smoothies, fruit salad with cashew cream, and avocado bean dip. The children love the fun, interactive class and discovering many new healthy foods.

 

“We have a choice and I choose to be a healthy kid. Thank you Food for Life!”– Luis, student

Children

“I never thought eating healthy and learning about nutrition could be so much fun. I do not want to have heart disease or type 2 diabetes when I grow up, so I pledge to lead a healthier life. This program has really changed my life.” – Ben, student

Children drinking green smoothies

Food for Life has dramatically impacted the entire families of its participants. Students are encouraged to invite their parents and even grandparents to attend the classes, and students beg their parents to attend. Parents join the classes over their lunch hour, and it is not uncommon for the class to have almost 100% parent participation. With the whole family learning together, the nutrition students learn in school can be implemented at home as well. Parents themselves are experiencing the benefits, and many no longer need insulin or other drugs.

Food for Life is now expanding its program to other schools and is in the process of creating a curriculum for pre-school and 3rd graders. Eventually they plan to provide the program for pre-school, kindergarten, third, sixth, ninth and twelfth graders. They want to empower as many students as possible to take control of their health by developing habits that will last a lifetime.

Children can learn to love healthy food, and the Food for Life program is proof of this. Well done, Wellness Foundation, for exposing children to nutritional knowledge and healthy cooking!

 

References:

1Fox MK, Pac S, Devaney B, Jankowski L. Feeding infants and toddlers study: What foods are infants and toddlers eating? L Am Diet Assoc 2004;104(1 Suppl):s22-s30

2Olshansky SJ, Passaro DJ, Hershow RC, Layden J, Carnes BA, Brody J, Hayflick L, Butler RN, Allison DB, Ludwig DS. A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century. N Engl J Med. 2005 Mar 17;352(11):1138-45. PubMed PMID: 15784668.

 

Prediction: Breast cancer rates will skyrocket in the next 20 years

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I want to raise awareness that childhood diets are the major cause of adult cancers, including breast cancer. [1] I also want to raise awareness that women are not powerless against breast cancer – mammograms for ‘early detection’ are not the only defense and do not even offer significant benefits. The most important thing to be aware of is that women can achieve meaningful risk reduction with powerful preventive lifestyle measures.

The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that 40% of breast cancers are preventable through diet and lifestyle measures. I propose that we could prevent much more than 40% of breast cancers in the future, if we can ingrain healthy habits in our children at a young age.

Early studies found wide international variations in breast cancer rates, originally generating the hypothesis that nutrition is a major determinant of breast cancer risk. Obesity is a significant risk factor for breast cancer:

  • Gaining one pound per year during adulthood can double breast cancer risk after menopause.
  • Obesity alone is thought to be responsible for 17% of breast cancers.
  • Obesity is associated with greater tumor burden and poorer prognosis in breast cancer patients. [2, 3]
  • Production of inflammatory molecules and estrogen by body fat, as well as elevated insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) levels are thought to contribute to obesity-related breast cancer risk. [2]

Plenty of experts have predicted that the explosion of childhood obesity we have seen in recent years will result in crisis proportions of heart disease and diabetes in the future, but cancer seems to be ignored. Today, over 30% of children are overweight or obese. [4] Clearly, with all the research demonstrating that obesity is a major risk factor for breast cancer, our young girls are in danger.

The prevalence of early puberty, another established risk factor for breast cancer, has been consistently increasing over the past 100 years. Today, by the age of 8, 18.3% of Caucasian girls, 42.9% of African-American girls, and 30.9% of Hispanic girls have already entered puberty. Obesity, soft drinks, and excessive animal protein are the likely culprits (Read more).

This is a grim indication of things to come – when these girls reach adulthood, tragically we will see an upsurge in breast cancer cases. With the increases in fast food and processed food consumption in America in the last 20 years, I predict a tragic explosion in pre-menopausal breast cancers in our country in the next 20 years.

Breast tissue is most vulnerable to carcinogenic influences when it is growing and developing – during childhood and adolescence. Children are also especially susceptible to weight gain during adolescence. [5] Thus, this window of time is when a healthy diet is absolutely crucial. Animal studies have demonstrated that a high-fat diet or a body fat promoting diet during puberty promotes abnormal development of breast tissue and production of inflammatory molecules, which in turn may promote tumor growth.[6, 7] Adolescent diet was examined in the Nurses’ Health Study – greater consumption of vegetables during high school was associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer, and high glycemic index foods were associated with an increased risk. [8]

The typical American childhood diet of chicken fingers, French fries, and mac and cheese is not harmless – it is creating a cancer-friendly environment in children’s bodies.

As parents, we must feed our children healthful foods from an early age. This is the most effective protection from future chronic disease that we can provide for them. Healthy eating is a lifetime commitment, and we can give our children a head start. Our goal should be to instill healthy habits in our children so that they grow up at a healthy weight, appreciating healthy food and exercise, and hold on to those habits as adults. In order to do this, we must set a positive example, focusing on nutrient-dense, health-promoting foods.

New research is revealing the protective effects of natural foods against breast cancer. For example, mushrooms have anti-estrogenic activity, and regular mushroom consumption is associated with a 60% decrease in cancer risk. [9] Cruciferous vegetables such as watercress, other leafy greens, and broccoli contain compounds known to inhibit cancer cell growth. [10, 11]

Instead of wearing a pink ribbon, eat vegetables, onions and mushrooms – and make sure to feed some to your kids.

 

References:


1. Maynard, M., et al., Fruit, vegetables, and antioxidants in childhood and risk of adult cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort. J Epidemiol Community Health, 2003. 57(3): p. 218-25.
2. Cleary, M.P. and M.E. Grossmann, Minireview: Obesity and breast cancer: the estrogen connection. Endocrinology, 2009. 150(6): p. 2537-42.
3. Abrahamson, P.E., et al., General and abdominal obesity and survival among young women with breast cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2006. 15(10): p. 1871-7.
4. Ogden, C.L., et al., Prevalence of high body mass index in US children and adolescents, 2007-2008. JAMA, 2010. 303(3): p. 242-9.
5. Jasik, C.B. and R.H. Lustig, Adolescent obesity and puberty: the "perfect storm". Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2008. 1135: p. 265-79.
6. Olson, L.K., et al., Pubertal exposure to high fat diet causes mouse strain-dependent alterations in mammary gland development and estrogen responsiveness. Int J Obes (Lond), 2010. 34(9): p. 1415-26.
7. Michigan State University: High-fat diet during puberty linked to breast cancer risk later in life. 2010; Available from: http://news.msu.edu/story/8233/.
8. Frazier, A.L., et al., Adolescent diet and risk of breast cancer. Cancer Causes Control, 2004. 15(1): p. 73-82.
9. Zhang, M., et al., Dietary intakes of mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women. Int J Cancer, 2009. 124(6): p. 1404-8.
10. Clarke, J., R. Dashwood, and E. Ho, Multi-targeted prevention of cancer by sulforaphane. Cancer Letters, 2008. 269(2): p. 291-304.
11. Higdon, J., et al., Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacological Research, 2007. 55(3): p. 224-236.

 

Introducing Mitch Spinach!

Mitch Spinach

Introducing the new, healthy super-kid on the scene, Mitch Spinach™! With colorful illustrations and multicultural characters, this innovative and timely new children’s books series introduces Mitch Spinach™, a smart, cool role model who gains super powers from the nutritious plant foods he eats and solves exciting mysteries at Sunchoke Elementary.

 

We all know that it can be a struggle to get children to eat healthy foods, especially when their peers are so often eating junk food. Geared towards children ages 3-10, the first book in the series, The Secret Life of Mitch Spinach™, is unique because it prompts kids to eat healthy foods independently.

Mitch Spinach seems to be an ordinary kid, but his classmates have begun to suspect something. The notes in his custom-made, temperature- controlled Nutripak™ lunchbox appear to have been written in code. While other kids eat their usual chicken fingers and pepperoni pizza, Mitch Spinach mixes up his meal in a battery-powered blender before their curious and envious eyes. Although he is the smartest, nicest, strongest kid in Ms. Radicchio's class, he often misses recess when he is called to Principal Lycopene's office. The truth is that his high-powered fruit and vegetable smoothies give him special powers, such as super- sonic hearing and amazing night vision, to tackle problems and solve mysteries at Sunchoke Elementary.

The Mitch Spinach™ books include an additional Teaching Points section, written in collaboration with Dr Fuhrman, as well as bonus recipes. Dr. Fuhrman presides over the nutritional and medical aspects of the Mitch Spinach mission, ensuring that the information presented in the book and on the website are based on sound medical and nutritional evidence.

Oh, and, by the way, the website is really cool! It contains more nutrition facts, recipes, and fun, educational games and is a great resource for parents, kids, and educators.

Grab your own copy of The Secret Life of Mitch Spinach™ before it sells out!

Even if you don't have young children, this book is a perfect gift for
grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and any other kids who like mystery stories!

Check it out. It's truly a ground-breaking book series.

 

Like Mitch Spinach on Facebook

Follow Mitch Spinach on Twitter

Avoiding cow's milk may alleviate chronic constipation in children

The idea that cow’s milk is an essential component of the diet for young children is one of the biggest nutritional myths. Decades of marketing by the dairy industry has convinced most parents in the U.S. that milk and cheese are indispensible for childhood health, but this is simply not true. Cow’s milk was designed by nature to be the perfect food for baby cows – not for human children.

Since allergy to cow’s milk has been postulated to cause of chronic constipation in children, a gastroenterology research team in Spain evaluated a cow’s milk-free (CM-free) diet as a therapeutic measure for this condition. Sixty-nine children suffering from chronic constipation underwent alternating periods of a CM-free diet followed by reintroduction of cow’s milk. During the first CM-free phase, 51% of the children showed improvements in their symptoms. After cow’s milk was reintroduced, 39% of children developed constipation and then improved during the second CM-free phase. The improved symptoms were not the simple result of a cow’s milk allergy in the children who were ‘responders’ to the CM-free diet – there is some other mechanism at work, which is yet to be discovered.1

As discussed in Disease Proof Your Child, several adverse health effects in children have been attributed to dairy products:

  • There is a strong correlation between early exposure to cow’s milk and type 1 diabetes in children.2-8
  • Early (12 months of age) dairy consumption is also associated with excess body fat in children.9
  • Milk consumption in teenagers is associated with acne.10-12
  • Childhood diets rich in dairy products are associated with cancer in adulthood.13
  • Additional conditions associated with cow’s milk consumption include allergies, Crohn’s disease, ear infections, heart attack, multiple sclerosis, and prostate cancer.14

These are serious concerns, especially when you consider the huge amount of dairy products that some children consume, regardless of whether a child is a ‘responder’ with respect to the digestive complaints associated with cow’s milk. Dairy foods may supply needed calcium in those not eating any vegetables, but when you use less dairy and more high-calcium plant foods, you get lots of anti-cancer nutrients in the bargain. The modest micronutrient content in dairy can’t compare to vegetables and is vastly outweighed by its calorie content and associated health risks. Less animal source products and more vegetables is the secret to an anti-cancer lifestyle, and not merely to resolve constipation.

 

References:

1. Irastorza, I., et al., Cow's-milk-free diet as a therapeutic option in childhood chronic constipation. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, 2010. 51(2): p. 171-6.
2. Soltesz, G., Worldwide childhood type 1 diabetes epidemiology. Endocrinol Nutr, 2009. 56 Suppl 4: p. 53-5.
3. Dahl-Jorgensen, K., G. Joner, and K.F. Hanssen, Relationship between cows' milk consumption and incidence of IDDM in childhood. Diabetes Care, 1991. 14(11): p. 1081-3.
4. Savilahti, E., et al., Increased levels of cow's milk and beta-lactoglobulin antibodies in young children with newly diagnosed IDDM. The Childhood Diabetes in Finland Study Group. Diabetes Care, 1993. 16(7): p. 984-9.
5. Virtanen, S.M., et al., Diet, cow's milk protein antibodies and the risk of IDDM in Finnish children. Childhood Diabetes in Finland Study Group. Diabetologia, 1994. 37(4): p. 381-7.
6. Kostraba, J.N., et al., Early exposure to cow's milk and solid foods in infancy, genetic predisposition, and risk of IDDM. Diabetes, 1993. 42(2): p. 288-95.
7. Gerstein, H.C., Cow's milk exposure and type I diabetes mellitus. A critical overview of the clinical literature. Diabetes Care, 1994. 17(1): p. 13-9.
8. Gerstein, H.C. and J. VanderMeulen, The relationship between cow's milk exposure and type 1 diabetes. Diabet Med, 1996. 13(1): p. 23-9.
9. Gunther, A.L., et al., Early protein intake and later obesity risk: which protein sources at which time points throughout infancy and childhood are important for body mass index and body fat percentage at 7 y of age? Am J Clin Nutr, 2007. 86(6): p. 1765-72.
10. Adebamowo, C.A., et al., Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys. J Am Acad Dermatol, 2008. 58(5): p. 787-93.
11. Adebamowo, C.A., et al., Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls. Dermatol Online J, 2006. 12(4): p. 1.
12. Adebamowo, C.A., et al., High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne. J Am Acad Dermatol, 2005. 52(2): p. 207-14.
13. van der Pols, J.C., et al., Childhood dairy intake and adult cancer risk: 65-y follow-up of the Boyd Orr cohort. Am J Clin Nutr, 2007. 86(6): p. 1722-9.
14. Fuhrman, J., Disease Proof Your Child. 2005, New York: St. Martin's Griffin.

Oh, Poor Me, No Junk Food in my Childhood?

Girl eating watermelon

While growing up, food is what set me apart from my peers. Naturally, being the daughter of Dr. Fuhrman is going to result in some pretty unconventional school lunches and after school snacks. As a young child, it didn’t take me long to figure out that my friends were being packed ham sandwiches and chips and I was not. My parents only packed me healthy stuff, never processed foods, white bread sandwiches or Lunchables, those highly processed convenience foods that children thought (due to commercials) were as cool as winning a game of dodgeball. I did not try a McDonald’s French Fry until I was in the fourth grade. I felt like a rebel buying chocolate chip cookies in middle school, a thought process never occurring to my friends. 

During my childhood, I chose to ignore the health consequences of what I ate and was a pleasure seeking eater, as any little one has a right to be. I was allowed to have pizza at lunch on some Fridays and I was never denied Carvel ice cream cake at my friend’s birthday parties. I looked forward to those Fridays and any other time my mom would let me eat something she deemed “unhealthy”. My parents were not completely rigid; they just only had healthy foods at home. They did not make me feel guilty or punish us if we strayed. They understood that kids need some flexibility and are going to want to explore the food culture in our society. Yet, while I had some occasional treats, I still wished I was like the other kids. I wanted a box of Brownie cookies when my Brownie troop sold them and I wanted my mom to buy me Lucky Charms like my friend Alyssa’s mom bought them for her. Don’t get me wrong, I liked, and even loved, many of the foods that were provided for me at home. Yet, as a young child, acceptance and pleasure trump health any day of the week.   

Then everything changed. It began in the seventh grade and became an unstoppable force in eighth. Instead of being rebellious, I wanted to be the epitome of a healthful eater. The phrase, “You are what you eat,” finally kicked in, a pride in my unconventional eating habits blossomed, and I became an unstoppable walking nutrition encyclopedia. I went so far as to criticize my friends for their poor eating choices. “Are you really going to eat that donut?” I would proclaim, and then begin a diatribe on the dangers of consuming partially hydrogenated oils and trans fatty acids. Understandably, my friends were annoyed and thought I was nuts. After having so many friends become angry with me that year, I learned my lesson to set a good example, yet not attempt to give others diet advice unless I was asked.

Since that time, I have continued to appreciate eating a natural, plant based diet, not only because it is delicious, but because it grants me the gift of health. I could not be more grateful for being raised on our unconventional diet and I am happy to report that I suffered no permanent damage from being allowed only three pieces of candy on Halloween and no other candy. Many of the foods I grew up eating have become my favorite foods and I realize how fortunate I am to never have to transition to eating healthier foods, as I was already there from the get-go. 

Let my previous words be words of encouragement to all mothers who are having difficulties raising nutritious eaters in our junk food world. Even if your child or children don’t appreciate the foods you are feeding them now or resent the denial of junk foods, they will in later years. Years that will be filled with good health, rather than debilitating health problems. Eating well is a lifestyle that should be embraced by the entire family and every child deserves to have the best start in life and can learn to love being “different,” just like I did.    

 

Broccoli Rob encourages kids to give peas a chance

Robert always was active and athletic, but as an adult he began to struggle with an autoimmune condition. He consulted with several physicians, but did not find much relief for his condition. Then Robert read Eat to Live, and began incorporating Dr. Fuhrman’s dietary recommendations into his lifestyle. Switching to a high nutrient diet made all the difference for Robert, who was free of his autoimmune symptoms within six weeks.  

This experience moved Robert to get the message out about good nutrition, especially to children. As a musician, Robert created “The Broccoli Rob Show,” a performance aimed at children which combines several of his passions - music, fitness, nutrition, and martial arts. Broccoli Rob, along with his friends Bruce Leek and Elvis Parsley, performs in schools and encourages children to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Children’s health and development, both physical and mental, are dependent on the beneficial micronutrients contained in natural plant foods. However, very few children eat sufficient fruits and vegetables. By 15-18 months of age, French fries are the most commonly consumed vegetable among children.1 Only about 5-10% of teenagers in the U.S. consume two or more servings of fruit and three or more servings of vegetables per day.2  American children are becoming a generation of “picky eaters” who would choose to live on nothing but cheese, chicken fingers, and soda.

The Broccoli Rob Show attempts to intervene and initiate healthy habits in children at a young age, encouraging kids to eat their vegetables with music and comedy.  

Robert is making a valiant effort to get the word out about healthy eating to kids – he models healthy behaviors in a fun and engaging way that gets kids excited about eating greens. And it’s working – take a look at Broccoli Rob’s video:

 

References:

1. Fox MK, Pac S, Devaney B, Jankowski L. Feeding infants and toddlers study: What foods are infants and toddlers eating? J Am Diet Assoc. 2004 Jan;104(1 Suppl 1):s22-30.

2. U.S. Centers for Disease Control. State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2009. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/health_professionals/statereport.html

Why Have We Decided To Feed Our Kids Crap?

The following is a guest post from Habib Wicks, co-founder of PEERtrainer

Why Have We Decided To Feed Our Kids Crap?
It Is A Decision, And It Seems To Have Been Made...

 

"Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! And it ain't over now! Cause when the going gets tough.. The tough get goin'. Who's with me?" -Bluto, Animal House

"The modern diet that most children are eating today creates a fertile cellular environment for cancer to emerge at a later age.... In order to have a major impact on preventing cancer we must intervene much earlier, even as early as the first ten years of life"- Dr. Joel Fuhrman


I am trying to be funny, using some common humor to introduce a very very touchy subject. Food and kids. But the reality is that most children today, regardless of the socioeconomic context, eat piles of cheese, pasta, chicken fingers, fries, milk, cookies, pizza etc. Go to any birthday party or play date currently in the U.S. and this is what you see.

When children eat a junk food based diet, the groundwork is being laid. This is something that Jackie and I personally struggle with. We have two small children. We were both raised (thank God) by parents who knew the deal about nutrition. Every meal I ate as a child was served with green vegetables and salad. We ate burgers, ice cream, hot dogs and all the other stuff. But that was the exception.

The rule was greens, salad, local fish freshly caught in the Gulf Of Maine, fruit. The Cuisinart was (and still is) the center of my mothers kitchen. Onions, ginger, garlic-- all sorts of things went into the Cuisinart, the frying pan, pressure cooker. My mom cooked real food. Mac and cheese was something I ate at the babysitters house.

"What we feed (or don't) our children as they grow from birth to early adulthood has a greater total contributory effect on the dietary contributions to cancers than the dietary intake over the next fifty years" -Dr. Joel Furhman, Disease Proof Your Child

Fast forward to the present day. The households that Jackie and I grew up in are probably rarer now. Seems like it at least. The diets that our parents sought to protect us from appear to be totally dominant.

With our kids my objective is to get them to eat as much of the good stuff as possible, knowing that the junk is inevitable. We also work to enable them to make their own decisions as much as possible.

But that is us. We were raised a certain way, we started PEERtrainer. We have a well developed focus. The challenge for us, and me in particular is other parents. The reality of modern child rearing in America is that people are very cooperative and constantly share the load. Our kids are often in the care of other moms, nannies or otherwise in environments that we cannot totally control. There are endless birthday parties, play dates. Lots of cooperative, generous and helpful parents all around.

Yet, junk food is the default. The tough thing for a parent is that you really can't say anything. if you do, you violate the code. The code, as best I can tell is this: "don't rock the boat, and don't disrupt social agendas."

This is something I am really struggling with. And it is pissing off Jackie, because I actually said something recently. I absolutely should not have, but I did. I was tired, the younger child was screaming in my ear. And then it happened. We were all leaving school (last day) headed to some end of school kid parties. A local mom pulled up and very nicely asked if she could pick up some Wendy's for our kids.

She was just trying to be nice. But in the back of my mind I was thinking "why is this always the default"? I had been thinking about this for a while, holding my tongue for a few years now just watching as I said nothing. Unfortunately, this time I said exactly what I was thinking. Imagine being really nice to someone, as she was being to me, and have someone act like a total jerk. Which I was. I had been thinking about this problem, did not know the answer.

The question is though, who is there to bring this question up? Why is junk food the default? I could keep my kids at home and avoid all other contact. That would be insane on so many levels. Yet, the decisions of other parents effect my kids. That is the reality.

So there is no going around this issue. You can't keep your kids away from other kids, and you can't make you kids outcasts by forbidding them to eat foods that everyone else is.

You can't. You can find ways of subtly suggesting things. You can model and you can be patient. But that happens when that does not work? The most interesting question is this- what is really at the root of this phenomenon?

All of the parents we interact with really understand this issue. It is not like they don't know this stuff. Yet for some reason they choose not to prioritize it. Many of the moms will make sale day at Saks Fifth Avenue the top priority. They will give generously to others. Yet they won't make a simple decision to forgo Wendys, Mcdonalds etc for ANY OTHER alternative.

This is collective behavior. Everyone seems to be doing this- not just the one that was at the brunt of the end of my rope. One mom does something (we men generally just do what we are told btw- I think that might be part of the analysis here) and the other moms go along. Zero incentive to rock the boat.

When I asked this other mom "why is stuff like Wendys always the default?" Her first response was "the entire class is going there." Then she got pissed at me, understandably. And now other moms call Jackie and first ask if I want a Happy Meal. And it's funny on one level.

But the greater question is, for all of us who are parents and want to find some way of reducing the amount of junk that our kids collectively eat- what the hell are we supposed to do? All move to Boulder?

It is a puzzle. And it is serious.

"Most of the animal products eaten by children, such as cheese and milk, are exceptionally high in saturated fat. Saturated fat consumption correlates with cancer incidence worldwide. It also raises cholesterol levels and causes obesity and heart disease."

"Americans eat only 5 percent of calories from fruits, vegetables, beans and unprocessed nuts and seeds" -Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Right now cancer, heart disease and stroke will kill 85 percent of Americans. 85 percent. It may be that after the battles of marriage, career and raising kids many people actually want to die on some deep level.

One thing I do know is that group think can be changed. I just don't know how.

What is an Easy Target For Parents To Hit?

The basic solution to this problem is to attack the equation. Work on growing the 5 percent number. There is another great stat from Disease Proof Your Child that will help end this article on a positive note.

"Recent studies have also found that eating fruit during childhood had powerful effects to protect against cancer in later life. A sixty year study of 4,999 participants found that those who consumed more fruit in their childhood (the highest quartile) were 38 percent less likely to develop cancer as adults."

So if you are a competitive parent who wants their kids to score in the 99th percentile in tests- why would you not also want your kids to score high on their nutrient intake?

As for me, I am already the a**hole for bringing this up with the local parents. I understand I violated a set of social codes. But if you want to criticize me for making this an issue-- who is doing the most harm?

Maybe you are reading this just seething, thinking "worry about your damn kids." Fine, I do. But who is left to say something? Michelle Obama is doing a great job advocating gardening. The Disney channel seems to be doing a good job at running ads about spinach and fruit. Who else is there leading the effort? What is the trend, and who is making the effort?

From my vantage point as a parent there is a ton of work to be done. If you are a parent (or nosy grandparent!) please pick up a copy of Joel Fuhrman's book "Disease Proof Your Child." There is a ton of stuff in the book to chew on- and do you own research frankly. But you will find that this book raises a ton of important questions, and is extensively footnoted. There are seventeen pages of references to research studies at the end of the book.

And if you find a more tactful and more effective way to raise the issue in your community, please let me know.

 

This article was orignally published on PEERtrainer.com.

 

 

Let's Change Halloween

OK. I know Halloween is a really fun holiday for the younger generation, teens included, but I, as a parent, can't stand it. It is the one holiday that promotes ill-health and practically every parent/adult I know goes along with it. It is not a holiday for our children; oh no, don't kid yourself. It is a holiday for the candy industry.  Do our children really benefit from a holiday where they are given junk that is bad for their health, their psychology, their emotions? Very few understand the serious consequences to our childrens' health from this.  And, they don't just have one treat, they go home with a huge stash of brain-damaging, cancer-causing junk that lasts for weeks or months.  

I don't get it--I do get all the propaganda about Halloween. Many corporations benefit from it, like Party City for example. What I don't get is the public going along with it. I buy small, inexpensive toys to give out and the kids love it. That makes me feel better. But I can't stand seeing the aisles and aisles of candy being sold in the supermarkets and in bowls in professional offices you visit. Our country, in promoting this junk food day is promoting ill-health and if there is one thing I know, the fattening of America is getting worse and worse.  Should we really be exploiting our children and sacrificing their future to benefit the junk food industry?  

Let's make Halloween treats healthy! Give out healthy treats or toys. I know raisins don't compare to a Snickers bar, but it may stop your child from having a sugar-high tantrum that night!  We need to start changing the way we act with our children, as a nation and individually, if we are really going to help them to a healthy future.

What are you doing with your family on Halloween?  Are you going along with this insanity or not?

Children Eating Sweets Daily Linked to Violence

Children who eat sweets and chocolate every day are more likely to become violent adults according to UK researchers.

The Cardiff University study involving 17,500 people is the first study to look into effects of childhood diet on adult violence. It found 10-year-olds who ate sweets daily were significantly more likely to have a violence conviction by age 34. The researchers found that 69% of the participants who were violent at the age of 34 had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during childhood, compared to 42% who were non-violent.

The link remained even after controlling for other factors such as parenting behavior, location of where child lived, not having education after the age of 16 and whether or not they had access to a car when they were 34.

So not only does eating junk food in childhood increase the risk of adult cancers as stated in my book Disease Proof Your Child, there is now evidence that suggests eating sweets may contribute to sending your child to jail down the road. Interestingly, this link between violent behavior and sweets was better than the link between abusive parenting behaviors and violent crime. Parents need to know that giving their children sweets is dangerous for many reasons.

The study was reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry.