Childhood obesity: Early years a ‘critical window’

At Shining Stars Family Child Care in San Francisco, toddlers and preschoolers celebrate birthdays with quinoa cakes sweetened only with sweet potatoes.

There’s no juice at snack time. Instead, the children sip water flavored with berries or cucumbers.

And they do work up a thirst, salsa dancing and running around the center’s backyard.

The children may not know they are engaged in an obesity prevention program backed by research. They just know “they love it,” Shining Stars owner Zonia Torres says.

Researchers say an early embrace of healthy habits is a key ingredient in tackling an urgent problem: excess weight gain in very young children.

Researchers have long known that heavy children often grow up to become heavy teens and adults. The latest research, a study that followed 50,000 German children, found an especially strong risk when children gain weight too rapidly from ages 2 to 6.

An early weight surge “is the most powerful predictor of subsequent obesity in adolescence,” says Michael Freemark, a professor of pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine.

The longer a child stays heavy, the more likely the pounds are to stick, says Freemark, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Many obese adults were never obese children, he says, but obese children and teens are at very high risk for becoming obese adults.

Researchers do not know how much of the extra risk is genetic and how much is driven by unhealthy habits and exposure to fast foods, comfy sofas and alluring screens. It’s possible, Freemark says, that an early weight surge changes the body in ways that make it harder to control weight later.

For the next nine months, USA TODAY plans to explore the health challenges that confront people in all 50 states. This story is second in that series. The first was on Alzheimer’s.

Nearly 40 percent of adults are obese, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hopes for a decline in young children were dashed by a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics that found 15 percent of children ages 2 to 5 were obese in 2015-16, up from 11 percent in 2013-14.

A more encouraging survey, from the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), found that the obesity rate among low-income children ages 2 to 4 enrolled in that program fell to 14.5 percent in 2014, down from 15.9 percent in 2010. The next round of WIC data, from 2016, has not been released.

Whatever the exact numbers, Freemark wrote in his editorial, it’s clear that “we are now witness to an evolving epidemic of childhood obesity” that’s putting youngsters at risk for eventual complications ranging from type 2 diabetes to fatty liver disease.

The early years are a critical window, he says, and perhaps the best time to prevent harm.

3 takeaways from the Bruins’ 6-3 loss to the Avalanche

The 6-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche hurt, but the Boston Bruins had a bigger setback Wednesday night — both figuratively and literally.

Here is what we learned as the Black and Gold saw a two-goal lead evaporate into a three-goal loss in the Mile High City.

Bruins blue-line takes another BIG hit
Remember when the Bruins had a good problem with extra defensive depth? That’s nothing but a distant memory now.

Conspicuous by his absence to start the second period, Bruins fans were hoping that Zdeno Chara could overcome a tough first-period hit from former teammate Carl Soderberg and return to the ice sheet. He didn’t. The B’s ruled Chara out for the remainder of the contest with a lower-body injury.
Even with a two-goal lead following Jake DeBrusk’s second of the night, the Bruins certainly could’ve used their 6-foot-9 captain against a high-octane Avalanche squad. The B’s went from the being in the driver’s seat to holding on for dear life as the Avs occupied the front of the net and found time and space in Chara’s absence. Indeed, the task was too tall to overcome as Colorado’s top line sparked the team to five unanswered goals.

Chara’s exit adds to the ever-growing defensive injury list that includes upper-body ailments to Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller along with concussions to Charlie McAvoy and Urho Vaakanainen.

Jakub Zboril earned a promotion to the big club for this road trip. His NHL debut could come Friday depending on Chara’s status.

The Bruins will dress Zboril, Torey Krug, John Moore, Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon and Steven Kampfer for their back-to-back slate in Dallas (Friday) and Arizona (Saturday) barring any developments.

Avs top line outshines Bruins top trio
“They are an amazing line. They are playing with amazing pace and tempo but also making great plays and obviously, they have a great team over there. It is going to be a tough matchup for sure,” Patrice Bergeron said about the Avs top line of captain Gabriel Landeskog, second-year sensation Mikko Rantanen and reigning Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon.

Trump suggests France would have been defeated in both world wars without U.S. help

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump escalated his verbal assaults against France on Tuesday, suggesting that America’s stalwart European ally would have been vanquished in both world wars if not for the military firepower provided by the United States.

Trump tweeted about a suggestion by French President Emmanuel Macron that Europe build up its militaries because the continent can no longer depend on the U.S. for defense. Macron had also said Europe needs to protect itself against cyberthreats from China, Russia and the U.S.

“Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia,” Trump tweeted. “But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

The president has long complained that NATO countries don’t pay their fair share of the defense alliance’s expenses, leaving the U.S. to carry much of the burden. He has criticized Macron before and after attending a weekend ceremony in Paris to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War I.

Trump and Macron met Saturday at the Elysee Palace and discussed defense, trade and other issues.

A top adviser to Macron said Tuesday that the French position has been “clarified.” The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with French customs, said Macron explained the European army issue to Trump, stressing that France was not making a choice between a European defense mechanism and multilateral organizations such as NATO.

Trump also complained Tuesday about tariffs on U.S. wines sold in France and appeared to take a dig at Macron’s low public approval rating.

Trump tweeted that French tariffs on American wine is “not fair, must change!”

“On Trade, France makes excellent wine, but so does the U.S. The problem is that France makes it very hard for the U.S. to sell its wines into France, and charges big Tariffs, whereas the U.S. makes it easy for French wines, and charges very small Tariffs. Not fair, must change!”

Nearly all U.S. wine exports to major markets, including the European Union — of which France is a part — face tariffs, according to the Wine Institute, which represents California winemakers in Washington on matters of tax, trade and regulatory issues.

Trump, who built a career as a businessman before he entered politics, opened a winery in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2011.

The president added that “The problem is that Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France, 26%, and an unemployment rate of almost 10%. He was just trying to get onto another subject. By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so!…….MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!” he said.