Study: 1 in 5 Preschoolers Obese

Among 4-year-olds, almost 1 in 5 are considered obese, according to a study reported by the Associated Press.

The number of obese children was particularly striking in the American Indian community, AP reported.

Overall, more than half a million 4-year-olds are obese, the study suggests.

Obesity is more common in Hispanic and black youngsters, too, but the disparity is most startling in American Indians, whose rate is almost double that of whites.

The lead author said that rate is worrisome among children so young, even in a population at higher risk for obesity because of other health problems and economic disadvantages….

The study is an analysis of nationally representative height and weight data on 8,550 preschoolers born in 2001. Children were measured in their homes and were part of a study conducted by the government’s National Center on Educational Statistics. The results appear in Monday’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Almost 13 percent of Asian children were obese, along with 16 percent of whites, almost 21 percent of blacks, 22 percent of Hispanics, and 31 percent of American Indians.

The experts in the story said the disparity was due to gestational diabetes, which disproportionately strikes Hispanic and American Indian women. Also, poverty still disproportionately afflicts minority populations and the federal commodity program includes a lot of rice and pastas, but not fresh fruits and vegetables.

What a disturbing study.


The Beauty Industry Takes Aim at Little Girls

If you’re a mother to a little girl, hang on to your hat: the beauty industry has set its sights on your 6 to 9-year-old, according to this New York Times article. The goal: to create ever-younger consumers:

Traditionally, young girls have played with unattended M.A.C. eye shadow or Chanel foundation, hoping to capture a whiff of sophistication. In the recent past, young girls have also tagged along on beauty expeditions by their mothers and teenage sisters.

But today, cosmetic companies and retailers increasingly aim their sophisticated products and service packages squarely at 6- to 9-year-olds, who are being transformed into savvy beauty consumers before they’re out of elementary school.

“The starter market has definitely grown, I think, due to a number of cultural influences,“ said Samantha Skey, the senior vice president for strategic marketing of Alloy Media and Marketing.

The “starter market”? Shudder. How exploitive. How utterly shameless.

I first blogged about this issue back in 2006, when the notion of little girls tagging along to the spa to indulge in pampering rituals seemed, to me at least, misguided but relatively harmless. But it seems that the beauty industry has ramped up its efforts since then, responding to a growing demand for the luxe life:

In a study last year, 55 percent of 6- to 9-year-old girls said they used lip gloss or lipstick, and nearly two-thirds said they used nail polish, according to Experian, a market research company based in New York. In 2003, 49 percent of 6- to 9-year-old girls said they used lip gloss or lipstick.

Youth market analysts say this is part of a trend called KGOY, “kids getting older younger,“ and cultural observers describe a tandem phenomenon, more-indulgent parents.

KGOY. Am I the only one who finds this “trend” desperately sad? I know my little girl won’t stay little forever, but the thought of her feeling like she needs a “makeover” at the tender age of 5 makes me want to scream. Even event planner Tracy Bloom Schwartz, who makes a living planning parties like these, sees the absurdity. “Sometimes I want to ask, ‘makeover what?'” she said.

Rosalind Wiseman, author of the Mean Girl survival manual “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” perfectly captured my discomfort with this phenomenon:

“Mothers and fathers do really crazy things with the best of intentions,“ she said. “I don’t care how it’s couched, if you’re permitting this with your daughter, you are hyper-sexualizing her. It’s one thing to have them play around with makeup at home within the bubble of the family. But once it shifts to another context, you are taking away the play and creating a consumer, and frankly, you run the risk of having one more person who feels she’s not good enough if she’s not buying the stuff.“

What say you, ladies? Is Wiseman right or is she making much ado about nothing? When did your daughters first show an interest in makeup or pampering? Is it too much too soon nowadays?

As for me, I was always fascinated with makeup, and loved to watch my mother fix herself up. But while she let me play with her makeup, she set strict limits. I wore lipstick at 11 and snuck a little eyeliner when I was 12, but made sure to scrub it off before coming home from school. Today, I wear lipstick and a little powder 90 percent of the time, and that’s it. I love MAC cosmetics, but hardly ever take the time to actually wear them.

As for my own 3-year-old daughter? She is obsessed with trains and I have to wrestle her just to cut her toenails. I am hoping it stays that way for a while.


Preschoolers and Marketing

So, who else heard about this study?

Preschoolers like McDonalds!

Basically, it boils down to the simple fact that kids as young as THREE YEARS OLD will choose food wrapped up in MickeyD’s packaging over the exact same food without the package almost every time.

To quote from the article:

Anything made by McDonald’s tastes better, preschoolers said in a study that powerfully demonstrates how advertising can trick the taste buds of young children.

Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids when they were wrapped in the familiar packaging of the Golden Arches.

The study had youngsters sample identical McDonald’s foods in name-brand and unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods always lost the taste test.

I am amazed by how early it starts, this unconcious slavery to branding.  My brother deliberately refuses to buy any clothes with a logo on it.  I used to think he was absurd, but now I think he may have a point.  I have to start being aware of this when DD is only 3?  That is scarily powerful stuff!!!  Luckily, DD has only ever had McD’s when I shared a few fries with her, and since my stomach can no longer handle McD’s, it will be a long time before she goes there again.

Of course, its not just a McDonald’s problem, it’s an American mass consumerism problem.  sigh

There is an upside, however!  I could go get a few McD’s wrappers and put her dinner vegetables in them.  Maybe then she’d eat them!!