Author and physician Joan Lehmann hopes to battle kids’ bulges
Although she's known as the soda pop doc, Dr. Joan Lehmann doesn’t study soda. She gathers information about its affect on obesity, or, rather, how it’s causing obesity, and how we can fix the problem.
Unsatisfied with the conventional, often repeated, explanation to diet and exercise, which wasn’t working, Lehmann went on a mission to find a single first best step.
“Soda pop adds more calories to a diet than any other single food source and, by the way, provides zero nutrition. It doesn’t matter if you’re a child or an adult, if you have a weight problem, the first thing you should do is take soda pop out of your diet,” she says.
Lehmann, a family practice doctor for 15 years, stresses the grave implications of increasing obesity rates in Americans, and not just in adults. “The rate of obesity has tripled in children since the 1970s.
For the first time in history, children now have a shorter life expectancy than their parents,” says Lehmann, “We’re seeing gastric bypass surgeries in children as young as 12. This surgery, albeit dangerous, is necessary to save the children’s lives; otherwise, they would die from obesity.”
Unfortunately, Lehmann, whose tone is friendly and easy-going tone, says that obesity is dangerous in more ways than one. “We are now seeing an abundance of children with adult diabetes, which is caused by having too much excess fat.
Kids are so fat, they are getting Type 2, adult-type, diabetes because they don’t make enough insulin to take care of all that fat,” she explains. Obesity also affects our society. Lehmann says, “Seventy three percent of Americans are obese or overweight. Americans are out of shape and unhealthy. Obesity is increasing diabetes. It bankrupts our healthcare system, lowers our life expectancy, and makes us weak as a nation.”
Lehmann is careful to point out that this decrease of milk in our diet can impact us as negatively as an increase of soda. “Peak calcium absorption occurs at age 13 in girls and 14 and a half in boys. Once you’ve missed that opportunity you never get it back.” That calcium is necessary to form strong, healthy bones and teeth,” she explains.
Dr. Lehmann points out, that, at the rate we’re going, providing children with more unhealthy, sugary soda is poisoning them.
What can parents can do to help slow the alarming rise of obesity in children? “Parents must set a good example,” says Lehmann, “Children are going to eat and drink what their parents eat and drink. Monkey see; monkey do.” But she doesn’t hand all the responsibility to parents. She thinks that children should play an active role. “Children can refuse to drink soda pop; they could say, ‘Could I please have some juice or milk instead?’” Adults can learn from kids.
For more information, check out Dr. Lehmann’s website, www.fizzfactor.org.
Beatrice Chaudoin now attends Severna Park High School, Anne Arundel County