Kimarra Thorbourne planned to restrict added sugar in her babies’ diet as long as possible, but the Windsor mother recently started giving her 7-month-old twins “Motts for Tots” juice “to introduce them to something new.” At their 6-month checkup, the babies’ pediatrician said nothing about avoiding fruit juice or sugar. But research shows that the food and beverages babies and toddlers consume influences their taste preferences and eating habits throughout life. For babies, human milk, formula and water are all they need to drink for the first year, pediatricians say. Dr. Michelle Van Name, a pediatric endocrinologist with Yale Medicine, tells her patients that cow’s milk is the recommendation for toddlers—and it’s less expensive than juices. She said toddlers should be introduced to water at an early age so they develop a taste for it because if they get used to sweet drinks, they won’t like water.
Industrial-scale farming and food processing are greater factors in rising obesity numbers in Connecticut and worldwide than individual behavior, scientists say. This complex food system feeds directly into greenhouse gas emissions and accelerated climate change. Last year the journal The Lancet identified a global “syndemic” linking climate change to obesity and poor nutrition, referencing dozens of studies. Earlier, in 2017, the journal Public Health reported “significant and new insight about the causal link between obesity and environmental emissions.”
In Connecticut, 27% of all adults, almost 12% of children and 14% of toddlers (ages 2-4) have obesity. In 1990, the rate for adults was 10%, reports Connecticut Data Haven in its 2019 Community Health Well-Being Survey.
Connecticut doctors and health care workers are battling childhood obesity by helping low-income families make healthier food choices, and coaching busy parents on fast but healthy ways to feed their children. Children are more likely to be obese if they grow up in low-income families, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. And when parents work long hours at low-wage jobs, that can contribute to childhood obesity as well, according to health experts, because time-squeezed parents struggle to provide home-cooked meals and family activities. Colleen Shaddox explores how teens in New Britain learn how to make healthy food choices. The CDC defines obesity as “having excess body fat,” and says it is affected by genetic, behavioral and environmental factors.