Children today are fatter than ever, and those of Santa Cruz County are no exception.
The number of overweight children in America has increased by more than 100 percent over the last 30 years. According to UCSF Professor of Clinical Pediatrics Robert Lustig, there is one major culprit for this epidemic: sugar.
Lustig spoke Thursday at Capitola’s New Brighton Middle School to a crowd of 200-plus attendees representing the medical, education, childcare and food service communities. His talk, entitled “How to Stop the Obesity Epidemic in Santa Cruz County,” was meant to debunk misconceptions on obesity, and help the public understand how it can truly be combated.
Congressman Sam Farr, who has long worked on health-related issues, introduced Lustig.
“We’re here today to demonstrate that the value of healthy eating is also a great, great investment in America’s future,” Farr said.
Farr recognized that while the county is far from immune to the scale-tipping trend of this country, strides have certainly been made in the right direction, namely with the advent of the Breakfast in the Classroom program.
“We’re starting to develop this thought in Santa Cruz that the lunch room is also as important as the classroom,” he said.
Lustig argued however, that the problem runs much deeper than what is happening between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
“I don’t care how much fruits and vegetables we give our kids in school. Until we get the sugar out of the parents’ homes, ain’t nothin’ going to work,” he said.
Lustig referred to sugar, both cane sugar and the much-maligned high-fructose corn syrup, as “biochemically toxic.”
“If you add enough sugar, you can make dog poop taste good, and indeed they have,” Lustig said. “That’s what your kids are eating. They are eating sugar-flavored dog poop.”
According to the United Way of Santa Cruz County, in 2006, the county ranked 29th (first being the best) of 66 California counties for overweight children under five-years-old. Lustig thinks the area can strive for a much healthier rating.
“Here in Santa Cruz County, we’re the fruit basket of America. Where else best to start?” he said.
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