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Why Junk Food and Sugary Drinks Should be Banned at California School

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According to Bommarito (2009), foods rich in calories and fats and sugary drinks were responsible for the increased childhood overweight and obesity. He carried out a study on the Freeland Community School District students from the fourth graders to the ninth graders and established that 18 % of the students had become overweight due to junk foods. This 18% results rose from the previous 15% in 2004.  Overweight has a host of other problems that can degenerate into other unhealthy conditions.

The American Heart Association Statistical Fact Sheet (2009) established that among Americans age 20 and older, 145.0 million are overweight or have a Body Mass Index of 25.0 or higher. The recommended Body Mass Index is in the range of 19 to 25, which means most Americans are overweight. This calls for a pragmatic action to deal with the growing problem in our society. BMI is the widely used index in determining different levels of weight from underweight, normal weight, overweight and obesity. Being overweight increases the susceptibility to diabetes and heart attack (American Heart Association, 2009).

Overweight and Obesity

Overweight and obesity occurs when a person consumes more calories from food than he or she burns. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that American men and women are consuming 2, 618 and 1,877 calories per day which is becoming the lead contributors to obesity.

Finkelstein and Whitaker (2008) carried out a study to describe the policies and food environments in public schools in the United States and how they differed depending on the characteristics of the school.  They did a research and analysis of cross sectional data obtained from diets and nutrition of 395 public schools covering 38 states including California.  The data comprised of schools beverages and foods offered through the various programs from including lunch. They also did onsite observations, and seventeen factors were employed to characterize competitive foods, school lunches and other related practices and policies. The factors aided in calculating the food environment score. The results were astonishing, in that junk food vending machines were in 97%, 82% and 17% of high schools, middle and elementary schools respectively. The study concluded that as children move up the ladder from the elementary level through high school, their eating habits become more oriented towards fast foods.

In a separate study, Zhu et al (2008) investigated the factors behind the 10 food (junk) consumptions in students aged 8-16 years in California. A questionnaire was used to determine the consumption patterns of ten kinds of junk food involving 1,019 students. The findings from this piece of research were that 97.50 % of the students had consumed not less than one kind of junk food while15.88 % had taken all kinds of junk foods. Those who ate more than one junk food in a single day averaged 35 % whereas those who disliked junk food were a mere 11% of the total sampled students.

Interesting still, most of the children did not have an idea on nutrition or recommended diet allowances. They either learned about junk food from television (67.95%), their parents (9.02%), and magazines (6.71%). The study concluded that eating of junk food among students is common phenomena among school going children and that health education initiatives should be launched to correct these unhealthy eating behaviors.

More and more carbohydrates in the form of sugars, grains, sweeteners trans and animal fats are being consumed more than before among school going children. Besides, the sedentary behavior is growing among the population who are spending more and more time in the front of computers and television screens than exercising.

American Heart Association (2009) says that obesity can degenerate into a heart attack because it raises triglyceride and blood cholesterol; lowers the HDL cholesterol; raises levels of blood pressure; and induces diabetes.

A critical and in-depth study on the health consequences and cost of being overweight and obesity in addition on how to eat healthier and begin an exercise program are necessary to address the issue in question.  Some of the health consequences of eating junk and sugary foods include heart disease and stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. The three diseases are discussed in details to lend more credence to the calls to end junk foods and sugary foods in California schools.

  1. Type 2 Diabetes

 Overweight people are twice more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, a major of early death, heart disease, stroke, and blindness. The condition is linked to exercise and weight especially obesity and poor dietary habits.  Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body us unable to produce insulin that is enough and/or the cells in the body ignore insulin. Insulin is responsible for the conversion of sugar into glucose that is then absorbed into the blood. Insulin is also transfers sugar from the blood into the body cells.  It therefore follows that if glucose does not reach the cells, then they will be starved and the accumulated glucose levels in the blood will affect the kidneys, eyes and heart. The estimated cost from Type 2 Diabetes in the United States is $ 98 billion (American Heart Association, 2009c)

  1. Heart Disease and Stroke

Atherosclerosis which is linked to the cardiovascular disease is precipitated by increased cholesterol, fatty substances, calcium and other waste products in the cells.  These substances are deposited on the walls of the arteries and widen the endothelium tissue lining. When the diameter of the artery shrinks, blood flow in the arteries decreases and impairs oxygen supplies. The plaques (clots) formed may rapture and cause a thrombus. This is lethal since it leads to a heart attack. If a blood vessel is blocked, then a stroke will occur (American Heart Association, 2009b). The cost of heart disease and stroke is staggering. In the United States alone, the cost associated with stroke and heart disease comprising of expenditures in health care and lost productivity and manpower resulting from disability and death is estimated to surpass $ 475 billion by the end of 2009. This cost is expected to be even greater on the population of United States. Currently about 1 in 3 Americans have at least one cardiovascular disease.  Startling still the number of heart attacks and strokes in a single year are estimated at 935,000 and 795,000 respectively (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009).

  1. Cancer

Cancer is a number two killer disease in the United States. Several types of cancer are associated with being overweight. They include Breast a, colon, uterus, cervix, ovary, gallbladder, prostrate. Cancer will result in devastating effects such as depression, loss of appetite, loss of interest in sex, pain, sorrow and sadness, panic attacks, sleep problems, fatigue, and emotional distress. According to the American Cancer Society (2009) a whopping third of 562,340 cancer deaths will be for reason of obesity or heavyweight, poor nutrition of physical inactivity. The National Institute of Health reported that the cost of cancer exceeded $ 228.1 billion in 2008 related to medical costs, morbidity costs, and indirect mortality costs. The cost of cancer in 2008 approximated at $500 billion.

Recommendations and Conclusions

Considering the growing trends in obesity and the health risks associated with it, no reason should be left to defend the sell of junk foods in schools.  A new nutritional standard that complies with Recommended Diet Allowance needs to be developed. Besides, those who are already overweight or obese should consider exercising.

Develop a new Nutritional Standard

Junk food and sugary drinks should be banned from schools in California because of the rising cases of childhood obesity. Instead new nutritional standard should be proposed that are more restrictive to curb against the proliferating drinks and foods being offered in school cafeterias, school, stores, and vending machines at all levels from elementary to high schools. New nutritional foods such as vegetables fruits, low fat or low fat dairy products and whole grains should be proposed. Limits must be imposed on sugary foods, high calorie foods, salt and saturated fats. Corn and potato chips should be banned (Dunham, 2007)

Starting an exercise program for Students

This is a highly recommended especially for the students who are already overweight or obese and/or those whose diet is dominated by high sugar and junk foods. However before one begins an exercise, he/she needs to consult the doctor or physician. An appropriate exercised plan will; be developed depending on one’s disease history, and if there are any associated medical disorders that may affect the exercise program. Diagnostic tests for complications such as chest pain, arthritis, leg pains, palpitations, heartbeat, swelling or pain in the joints among others need to be done. Those with diabetes or cystic fibrosis if they exercise they are in danger of dehydration. Similarly, those with seizures should not engage in swimming and not to mention those with enlarged spleen.

Aerobic exercises demand a little more than normal oxygen amounts which typically implies that the lungs and the heart is overworked in this case. Aerobic exercise is carried out by biking, skating, running, stair climbing, treadmill and machines for elliptical training. Aerobic exercises reduce the amount of calories, and improve functioning of the cardiac muscles. The recommended schedule is to exercise for at least 30 minutes, 2 to 3 times in a week, with a warm up of and a cool up periods of 5 minutes. Running works best for longer muscles (Johnston, 2007)

Going by the stunning statistics and findings from these scholarly sources, it is imperative and in the interest of every health minded American, that junk food should be abolished from our schools. It such noble causes are not adopted, and then we stand to lose the fight against obesity and the myriad associated health risks and not to mention the economic costs of failing to mitigate the effects thereof.  Health is fundamental in the life of every person and more so to the school going children, and therefore initiatives and programs to bring health awareness in our institutions is a much welcome idea that needs to be adopted by all.

Works Cited

American Cancer Society, (2009). Cancer: Facts and Figures. Retrieved May 25, 2009 from http://www.cancer.org/downloads/STT/500809web.pdf

American Heart Association, (2009a). Weight Management. Retrieved 25, 2009 from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3044776

American Heart Association, (2009b). Heart Disease and Stroke. Retrieved May 25, 2009 from http://www.americanheart.org/downloadable/heart/1056719919740HSFacts2003text.pdf

American Heart Association, (2009c). Type 2 Diabetes. Retrieved May 25, 2009 from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3044759

Bommarito, L (2009). Schools must remove sugary drinks, high-calorie foods to help students to combat obesity. Saginaw News, Retrieved May 25, 2009 from http://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/index.ssf/2009/02/schools_must_remove_sugary_dri.html

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, (2009). Heart Diseases and Prevention. Retrieved May 25, 2009 from http://www.cdc.gov/NCCDPHP/publications/AAG/dhdsp.htm

Dunham, Will. (2007). Expert Panel Urges junk food ban in schools. Reuters: Retrieved May 25, 2009 from http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN2528576820070425

Finkelstein, D & Whitaker, R (2008). School food environments and Policies in US Public schools.  Pediatrics, Vol. 122(1), pp 251-259. Retrieved May 25, 2009 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18595970?ordinalpos=19&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

Johnston, Brian D. (2007). Starting and Exercise Program. Retrieved May 25, 2009 from http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec01/ch006/ch006c.html

Zhu, S., Ding, Y., Lu, X., Yang, M (2008). Study on factors related to top 10 junk food consumption at 8 to 16 years of age, in California. Retrieved May 25, 2009 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19103107?ordinalpos=9&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

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