Sixteen percent of American kids are now overweight or obese. As of September 2004, nine million American kids between the age of six and eighteen were obese. Kids are starting to clock in as obese as early as the age of two.This is a complicated issue, but the gist of my complaint here is that there's no reliable way to measure "average" or "ideal" weight in kids. The statistics Spurlock cites use data from decades-old insurance tables. On those tables, arbitrary cutoffs along percentile lines classified this kid or that kid as "overweight" or "obese" -- kids in the 90th percentile, for example, were automatically considered dangerously overweight. Today, researchers still use those same tables, weights, and cutoffs from decades ago, but simply plug in the weights of today's kids against percentile cutoffs set decades ago. Since today's kids are maturing at earlier ages than kids of twenty or thirty years ago, they're naturally going to be heavier at earlier ages. Weighed against those older tables, then, today's kids are going to look fat.
I wrote the foreword to a forthcoming research paper by Dr. Paul Robison that covers this very issue (it'll be released on Monday). The meat of the paper: There's no real evidence that today's kids are dangerously overweight. There's no evidence that the weight most of them are carrying is unhealthy. And there's no real evidence that curbing marketing and advertising or access to junk food will help them lose whatever extra weight they are carrying. I'll post a link to the paper when it's released next week.
And as regular readers of my blog know by now, today's adolescent or teen is still 200-700 times more likely to have anorexia or bulimia than to have Type II Diabetes. So all of this focus on weight and food with respect to kids is probably doing a hell of a lot more harm than good.