Children don’t do what you tell them to do.
They do what YOU do!
No one is going to raise our children for us. Not our amazing teachers or schools. Not organized religion. Not the scouting troop. We, the parents are ultimately responsible for our children’s health and their future. This is a huge responsibility and it starts with our own behavior. Children learn all their habits and make their lifestyle choices based on what they learn from us and what they see us do. Every behavior from how we interact with other adults and animals, how we treat the environment, texting while driving, obsession with electronic devices and social media, how and what we eat… Although our kids to get hammered with advertising (see more about this below. The US and Syria are the only countries which allow unrestricted food and beverage advertising to kids), it is still up to their parents and caregivers to let them eat, drink and do what we let them. it is also up to us what we let them watch. The average American will have spent a total of 9 years in front of the TV over their lifetime. That is insane. Teach your kids that there is so much more to do than watch the “boob tube”.
Studies also show that kids’ levels of anxiety and stress tend to match the levels that their parents have or demonstrate.
The present generation of children and teens will be the first that will not live as long or longer than their parents since longevity statistics have been recorded. Kids are the most out of shape that they have ever been. In addition, average life expectancy in general has started to drop the last 3 years in a row. Chronic “adult” diseases start early in life so the sooner you start implementing healthy habits, the better.
Our kids are the unhealthiest in the world. Our kids top the worldwide charts when it comes to many diseases such as diabetes, autism, heart disease, cancer, allergy and autism rates! Here are some shocking statistics about our children’s health
- 40% of US kids and teens are significantly overweight and 20% are now obese (this has tripled since 1970).2-5 year old’s – 14% are obese
- 6-11 year old’s – 18% are obese
- 12-19 year old’s – 20%
- In Britain, 10% of kids starting school are already obese and only 5% of those kids will have a healthy weight by the time they finish primary school.
- Overweight kids have a 13 year shorter life expectancy than their normal-weighted peers.
- If a child is overweight or obese, their chances of dying of cardiovascular disease by middle age is 3-4x greater than their normal weight peers.
- 52% of kids have a chronic medical condition by the time they are 17 years old.
- 25% of kids already have some degree of fatty liver disease, the #1 disease leading to needing a liver transplant.
- 60% of children today are predicted to be obese by the time they are 35 years old.
- Obesity in children under 5 doubles the risk of certain cancers, including colon, breast, ovarian, cervical and prostate cancer, even if they lose the weight as older children or adults.
- 18-35 year old’s are the age group that today have the highest risk of developing colorectal cancer with the risks of colon cancer being double and rectal cancer being 4x that of any other age group. The lifestyle choices, mostly nutritional, made in childhood and adolescence are directly responsible for these shocking statistics.
- The link between weight and breast cancer is clear and significant. It is more of a risk factor to be overweight as a teenager during puberty, when breast tissue is developing is even more strongly linked to cancer than being overweight as an adult.
- Being overweight as a child leads to earlier puberty which is linked to a higher rates of prostate cancer in boys and breast cancer in girls.
- Overall increased calorie consumption as a child is linked to various diseases. For every additional 238 calories consumed daily in childhood, there is a 20% increased risk of death from all cancers combined. That’s the same as 2 oz of cheese and less than one hamburger patty (without all the bread and fixings) or 1 slice of pizza (285 calories).
- Accelerated growth in general is associated with a shorter lifespan and increased rates of cancer, heart disease as well as many other chronic diseases. We should not be so obsessed with growth curves!
- Diabetes rates are on a dramatic rise in children:
- Type 1 (insulin-dependent) has risen by more than 21% since 2000.
- Type 2 (weight, lifestyle and diet related) has increased by 30%. 2/3rds of new T2D diagnoses, previously called “adult onset” is today made in kids under 16.
- One study revealed that 65% of over 700 asymptomatic teens and kids had measurable, in some cases advanced, heart disease.
- Another study showed that 40% of 6-11 year old’s had elevated cholesterol.
- 7% of U.S. children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 have high total cholesterol.
- Autopsy studies of otherwise healthy Viet Nam soldiers who died in the field (most of whom were late teens to early 20’s) revealed a 30% rate of significant atherosclerotic heart disease.
- 19.2% of adolescent-age boys and 12.6% of girls have pre-hypertension or hypertension, an estimated 38% increase since 1994.
- A girl born in 2000 has a 40% chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.
- A recent study showed that 60% of obese 5-10 year old’s already have at least one significant risk factor for heart disease: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high TG or diabetes. 25% of them had more than one risk factor.
- 57% of kids 6-17 years of age fail the basic physical fitness test. Only 7% of European kids failed this same test.
- The Autism and autism spectrum rate is now 1:35 as of 2017, double of the rate 6 years go. It was 1:2000 in 2000 and 1:5000 in 1975.
- One southern college reported that 50% of the entering freshman had at least one chronic disease like diabetes or hypertension.
- 75% of military recruits 17-24 years of age we ineligible to join the military for a number of reasons but the #1 reason was obesity. Of the 25% who were eligible, 60% could not complete the basic physical fitness test.
- 12 year old’s are already showing white matter changes in the brain from fast food.
- An Australian study showed that even newborn babies had measurable coronary arterial streaks if the mother ate an animal based, fatty diet.
- According to the World Health Organization, 90% of American children between 6 months and 5 years are exposed daily to a combination of 13 different organophosphate insecticides in the foods they eat.
- Every day children are exposed to an average of 27 personal care products. The toxic carcinogenic chemical 1,4-dioxane was identified in 55% of baby bubble baths, 57% of baby shampoos and 55% of baby soaps!
- The Bt toxin is produced by a naturally occurring bacterium but it has been genetically engineered to be produced continuously and in a more toxic form by all cells of common crops like corn. A Canadian study identified it in 93% of the pregnant women and 80% of their fetuses measured from cord blood. Developing embryos don’t have an intact blood brain barrier and are more susceptible to various toxins and chemicals, including Bt.
- In newborn babies, over 200 chemicals, including some banned more than 30 years ago, are already measurable because of exposure through the maternal-fetal circulation. What mom does and is exposed to absolutely impacts on what the developing baby is exposed to. For more on toxins in kids, look at this section TOXIC EXPOSURE IN NEWBORNS.
These conditions are all lifestyle related. Bad diet, toxic exposures and lack of activity being primary issues. The same principles described in detail on the “Nutrition” and “Other Healthy Habits” pages apply to kids as well but here is a checklist along with a few references for better eating:
“Nourish. The Definitive Plant-Based Guide for Families“ Brenda Davis, ND
“A Parent’s Guide to Intuitive Eating: How to Raise Kids Who Love to Eat Healthy“. Dr. Yami Cazorla-Lancaster
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
TO HELP OUR KIDS, WE MUST FIRST HELP OURSELVES
As mentioned in the title of this page, “Kids don’t do what we tell them to do. They do what WE do“. There is no question that we parents have a responsibility to be good examples for our children and for everyone else around us. In order to be able to do that well, we must always remember to take care of ourselves as best as we can. In doing so, we must also remember to schedule personal time and to cut ourselves some slack. There is no perfection. Only effort. Make no mistake though that as we learn about how to be healthier, we must take action and make the necessary changes. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”.
Also, keep remember that what you do doesn’t only impact on your kids after they are born, it impacts on them as they are developing in the womb and even before. What a mother eats and even what she does and thinks while she is pregnant has clearly been shown to impact on their developing child’s future physical and mental health. Some studies show that even a father’s lifestyle is passed along through their sperm to the baby. Not only that but think about this: when a female is born, she has all the eggs in her ovaries she will ever have. That means that her mothers eggs, which then became fertilized to form her baby, developed when she was in her mother’s womb, the grandmother. So not only does your mothers health impact on you directly, your grandmothers health did also. Health is multi-generational.
This is a great book by former NY Times reporter KJ Dell’Antonia for all parents: “How to be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute“
A great online resource is Dr. Jackie Busse’s website www.plantbasedpediatrician.com.
WE LIVE WHAT WE LEARN
The way we treat animals is indicative of how we treat fellow humans. People who learn to care for animals as children, grow up more capable of caring for themselves and those around them in a more compassionate manner. There is a direct link between antisocial behavior and early attitudes towards animals.
A study of violent criminals in Russian prisons revealed that 87% of them had burned, stabbed or hanged domestic animals as children. In US prisons, multiple studies indicated that almost none of the inmates had pets as children. Studies of inmates who were given pets while in prison, showed that 100% of them were successful in re-adjusting to life outside prison and did not re-offend, which sadly occurs in 70% of released inmates overall.
THE FIRST FEW YEARS OF LIFE SET THE STAGE
A newborn is not born “perfect”. Human babies enter the world utterly dependent on caregivers to tend to their every need. Although newborns of other primates rely on caregivers, too, human infants are especially helpless because their brains and bodies are comparatively underdeveloped. Human gestation (pregnancy) would have to last 18-21 months rather than the usual 9 for a baby to be born at a neurological and cognitive development stage comparable to that of a baby chimpanzee. Human babies’ heads bob around because they lack the muscular strength to support their huge noggin. Their nerves are also not fully insulated with myelin, the “insulation” which is wrapped around them, so conduction, reaction and strength are not fully developed. Their eyes can’t see very far initially. Their immune systems are immature and were it not for the antibodies that were transferred from the mother through their mutual blood supply, the baby would be very susceptible to infections. Their immune system takes a few months to kick in.
Their intestinal lining is very immature and they have a very leaky gut wall so what we feed babies and infants is crucial. Although a problem as adults, this gut leakiness is important in infancy as it allows whole proteins to cross directly into the blood where our immune system can start to identify them. That’s fine for things that we are supposed to consume like fruits and vegetables as well as most importantly mother’s milk. But foods we did not evolve consuming like dairy and all the chemicals in our food supply can cause problems. When very young children are fed foods with foreign, non-mammalian proteins or processed foods with chemicals, these compounds cross that leaky barrier and their immature immune system doesn’t know what to do with them. It’s no surprise that there is an explosion of food and environmental allergies, respiratory conditions like asthma and even diabetes. Since the 1970’s, we have seen an association between early childhood dairy and type 1 diabetes. This is thought to be triggered by dairy proteins creating an autoimmune reaction leading to destruction of the child’s insulin-producing pancreatic cells resulting in diabetes.
Brain and intellectual development has been impacted by the early introduction of digital devices and lack of personal contact. It’s not an over reaction to state that we are creating zombies. As a physician who takes care of children as well as adults, I am shocked at how children, teens, young and even older adults can’t tear themselves away from their devices, even during an examination! It’s crazy.
As mentioned above and in some sections below, we need to interact, touch, play and pay attention to our kids, ESPECIALLY during their formative years. We only have one shot to get it right.
It starts with breast feeding. If possible, you should do it for a minimum of 1 year (according the American Academy of Pediatrics). The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends that women breastfeed their kids, at least partially, until the age of 2. If we look to our primate relatives, they breastfeed for at least 2 years and for as long as 8, as is seen in our closest relatives, the orangutans. There is much more about breast feeding below.
“Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar” Bradley Miller
WEIGHT IN EARLY LIFE
As mentioned in the statistics above, we have a weight crisis in our kids. The details are outlined above but 20% of under 20-year-old’s are obese. That is insane. To assume that losing the weight when you are older neutralizes any potential health effects by being over weight as a child is COMPLETELY WRONG! Long-term studies show that just having been overweight, not even obese, as a child increase risks of developing cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Although our kids are definitely less active and more sedentary than they used to be, nutrition is still the most significant issue in weight management. Eliminate the sugar, processed food, prepared foods, fried foods, dairy and excessive amounts of meat. Focus on whole, clean foods concentrating on fruits and vegetables is the ONLY answer to promoting the health of our kids. Although many “diets” will lead to weight loss in the short term, the only nutritional strategy proven to be health promoting over the decades, contributing to less disease and longer, productive life is a whole foods, plant based diet, low in added oils, sugar and salt.
Although kid these days are as large as most adults, there are differences in younger children as to how we calculate accurate body mass index. Here is a link on the CDC Site: Pediatric BMI Calculator.
Lessons and habits our kids learn reverberate throughout their lives. Good habits and patterns of behavior are imperative to implement from birth.
“The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining” John F. Kennedy Jr.
FRUITS and VEGETABLES
The most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) review indicated that 93% of kids are not getting enough vegetables and the vegetables they are getting are primarily white potatoes, mostly in the form of French fries. In addition, 60% are not getting the daily recommended servings of whole fruit. One of the most common children’s food include dairy which, along with the extreme lack of fiber because of the lack of fruits and vegetables, is the most common cause of pediatric constipation. Many children can’t even identify vegetables, especially in areas where quality food (food desert) is lacking. Unfortunately, according to the USDA and our school lunch program, pizza and ketchup are considered a serving of vegetables!
As with adults, kids’ diets are sorely lacking in fiber. We see as much constipation in kids as in adults. You ONLY get fiber from fruits and vegetables. Beans and other legumes are also important sources of various nutrient s and fiber. Consuming soy products is particularly important for adolescents, especially girls, with respect to minimizing the risks for developing breast cancer as adults. Studies clearly show that there is a decreased risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer in adults who consumed soy products when they were much younger.
Although it is true that toddlers and teens, especially athletically active ones, need a little more protein than at other stages of life, a plant-based diet provides more than enough protein. In general, they don’t need a different fuel, just more of it! More calories. Kids raised vegan from birth have the exact same growth curves, bone density and athletic abilities as those raised following an omnivorous diet. In fact, kids-raised on a healthy vegan diet have been shown to be healthier than kids raised eating meat. Less diabetes, eczema, fewer allergies and infections, less anxiety and depression… They have also been shown to have fewer nutritional deficiencies than their omnivorous counterparts.
There are some nutrients that are important to keep in mind for kids who are strictly plant-based although this is irrespective of dietary philosophy since even omnivores can be deficient. These include:
- Iron. Breast milk does not provide iron. Before birth, babies build up stores through the maternal/placental/infant circulation. These wane by about 6 months so iron rich or fortified foods need to be included in the diet. These include
- whole grains
- dark leafy greens
- B12 (easily given as a drop)
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3, easily obtained from walnuts and flax seeds.
As mentioned in many places on my site, 70% of our immune system resides in our gut. The best predictor of gut health is the volume and variety of fruits and vegetables we consume. Not animal products. In addition to all the minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients as well as healthy fats and proteins, plants are the only source of fiber and it’s the fiber that feeds the healthy microbes in the gut. There are 100s of types of fiber in various combinations in the, more than 300,000 types of edible plants. The vast majority, 97% of Americans do not get the minimum amount of fiber recommended which is probably 1/2 of what our ancestors actually consumed. Adults should shoot for at least 40 grams.
Keeping in mind that it is estimated that people consumed closer to 100g of fiber a day before industrialized agriculture, today’s USDA recommended a minimum fiber intake:
- 2-5 years 15g per day.
- 5-11 years 20g per day.
- 11-16 years 25g per day.
- >17 years 30g per day.
Check out the bottom of this page for tips on getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Keep in mind that the ONLY food we are born liking is breast milk EVERYTHING else is an acquired taste. It takes on average 10 introductions and re-introductions of a food for a child’s taste buds and brain, as well as an adults for that matter, to adjust to a food. For example, people eventually get used to the bitterness of greens. Keep trying and eventually it will sink in.
The vast majority of kids in the US are deficient in at least one, and in many cases multiple, nutrients. The causes of this are numerous, but the simple fact is that the standard American diet is quite nutrient poor and people just don’t appreciate the importance of eating well, at any age.
It’s never too early to educate people about healthy eating and it will help kids adopt healthy eating habits. In fact, a recent study revealed that when pregnant mothers were taught healthy feeding practices for infants, their kids consumed fewer carbohydrates and fats by age three. Additionally, they had a lower body fat content by age six than kids whose parents didn’t receive nutritional training. This is not insignificant since 10% of kids under 5 and 21% of kids under 20 are already obese, not just overweight.
Education starts with pregnancy however. Although pregnant women are given some nutritional advice while pregnant, and some during early childhood, it is woefully inadequate or simply wrong. Imaging studies done on still developing babies in utero showed that if mom had an unhealthy diet with a lot of saturated fat, their babies’ coronary arteries already had some wall thickening. Even before birth!
The results from the above mentioned study mentioned above exemplify how critical it is to instill healthy eating habits at an early age, especially within the first year of life. Researchers noticed that mothers in the randomized trial began introducing ultra-processed foods (high in fat and sugar) to children as early as six months old. Most parents are in the habit of placating their young kids with foods like Cheerios. This is processed garbage. One frightening fact is that if food companies were required to list chemicals on their ingredients list, Cheerios would list glyphosate, the chemical in Roundup, higher on the list than Vitamin D or other fortifications!
New data shows that kids between ages 1-6 are at high risk of significant nutritional inadequacies. A new study published in the journal Nutrients revealed that most kids in the U.S. lack:
- vitamin D
- DHA (omega-3 fatty acid)
Key takeaways from the study: “Kids experience rapid cognitive, physical, and social growth between the ages of 1-6. A diet rich in grains, lean proteins, and nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables plays a significant role in a child’s development. However, data from nearly 10,000 children in the U.S. suggests that kids across the country aren’t having their nutritional needs through diet alone”.
For example, nearly 87% of the children from the study had inadequate vitamin D intake, essential for bone health and mood. Vitamin D plays a role in preventing asthma. In addition, 69% of kids had inadequate intakes of vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant in the body and protects cells from oxidative stress.
In addition to eating poorly nutritious foods, whole foods like fruits and vegetables are not as nutritious as they used to be. For example, the magnesium content of even organic apples has dropped more than half as compared with a similar apple grown 25 years ago. This has partly to do with genetic modifications but also the destruction of the soil we grow our crops in. Animal products, even those produced “organically”, are much more fatty and nutritionally inferior to the animal products consumed even 50 years ago, let alone 200 or more years ago when we hunted for ourselves. No to mention all the chemicals, especially antibiotics, which wreak havoc on our bodies, especially our immune systems.
Parents can ensure their kids get enough vitamin D by offering them fortified beverages and higher quality foods. Although wild-caught fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel, are rich in these essential fatty acids, there are plenty of plant-based foods which also are. Some examples are flax and chia seeds as well as walnuts. Supplements are also fine in kids and there are high quality algae-based omega-3 supplements. Vitamin E can be sourced from peanut butter and dark leafy greens, such as kale and spinach. Vitamin E supplements are less desirable since they tend to focus on only 1-2 forms of this vitamin, whereas there are 8 forms. Overconsumption of one form blocks the absorption of the others.
Iron deficiency is common in infants and toddlers. Again, plant-based foods such as greens and cruciferous vegetables are great sources of nonheme iron. Animal products provide heme (meaning coming from blood) iron which is harder for the body to process and regulate. Some foods also are fortified with iron as well.
B12 is another very important nutrient to consider. It Is crucial for proper nerve and brain function. It is made by microbes in the soil but as we destroy the soil quality, through the use of chemicals as well as monocropping (growing the same crop on land over and over again), the microbes have been whipped out. Although some animals do contain this microbe in their intestines, because the food quality they receive, even this source has been dramatically reduced. One of the criticisms of a plant-based diet is that it is deficient in B12 however most people who are B12 deficient are actually omnivores.
Another vitamin to be mindful of is Zinc. Rich in many nuts and seeds, deficiency in this mineral has been linked to autism.
The bottom line, starting a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables and minimizing or avoiding sugars and processed foods is imperative at any age. The earlier you start on this path, the better.
ORGANIC OR NOT
Organophosphates are toxic chemicals sprayed onto conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. A study was done looking at the levels of organophosphates in the urine of children, since these compounds are excreted by the kidneys. Within 3 days of switching to a mostly organic diet from a conventional one, levels of organophosphates dropped by 90%. These chemicals impact on our health in many ways but they are especially important for the developing brains of our babies in the womb and our children.
In the end, eating a fruit or vegetable, regardless of how it was grown is better than not eating it at all however, for things you eat regularly, follow the Environmental Working Groups (EWG) “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists. I do buy as much organic as I can since it also supports the cause of increasing demand and thus production of organic products.
A bowl of Cheerios has more glyphosate, the most widely used chemical worldwide linked to various medical issues like ADHD and Cancer, than Vitamin D or Vitamin B12, both of which are added to boost nutritional value!
Sleep is crucial for childhood health and development. It’s when most of our growth hormone, testosterone and infection-fighting proteins are released. Poor sleep in kids is linked to diabetes, depression, obesity and learning disabilities. Improving sleeping patterns is at least twice as effective at treating depression as the most common antidepressant medications are. Even one night of poor sleep impacts on cognitive function the next day. As many as 40% of kids diagnosed with ADHD have an undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorder.
Sleep patterns naturally change throughout life. There is plenty of evidence supporting the fact that in teenage years, the natural pattern of sleep is to sleep later and stay up later (a similar pattern in elderly people). This is partly why high school kids always seem sleepy early in the day. However, we try to fit their schedule in working adults’ schedules so their sleep is affected. Unfortunately, this is how our society functions so we need to do whatever we can to maximize their sleep. One simple but important way is to get them off the screens. Keep them off their devices within an hour of sleep. Force them to turn them off. And when they are able to, let them sleep! Even a brief look at a screen, including smartphones, shuts off melatonin production (the “sleep” hormone produced in the brain) which is another reason why looking at screens before sleep results in poor sleep quality. The screen effect can delay peak melatonin production for as long as 3 hours. It also impacts on the duration of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep stages for up to 3 days. If they need an electric alarm clock, keep the light color red. This has the least impact on sleep. There are even light receptors in your skin! Even small amounts of light exposure on your skin have been shown to affect sleep quality. Try having them wear blue light blocking glasses in the evening. This not only blocks the blue light from screens but ambient lights as well. Wearing them lessens the blue light from a cell phone more than what you would be exposed to reading a book by candlelight. Recent research has also linked blue light exposure to retinal deterioration leading to macular degeneration and even glaucoma. For more on this, look at this summary: Blue Light and Vision.
Other things which significantly impact on sleep include:
- social media – this is incredibly addictive and stressful.
- caffeine and other stimulants.
- vaping – these products are unregulated and can contain as much as 40x more nicotine than cigarettes.
- video games – these are extreme stimulants.
- sugar and processed foods (which contain tons of hidden sugars).
Too many children regularly take melatonin, the second most commonly taken “natural” supplement after fish oil. There are a lot of issues with melatonin from overdosing to affecting proper sex hormone function to outright poisoning. There is more on the Wellness page about this but I would strongly recommend avoiding melatonin of you can. There is a lot more information about sleep on the “Wellness” page.
CAFFEINE and KIDS
Make no mistake. Caffeine is a drug. It is a stimulant and a psychoactive compound. And it is the ONLY drug we legally, and readily give our kids.
Caffeine definitely impacts on sleep quality. Not just the ability to fall asleep, but also, and more importantly, the amount of deep sleep we get at night. You might sleep all night and not get up, but the quality of that sleep may be significantly impaired by caffeine. One caffeinated beverage a day can diminish your deep sleep in the amount equivalent to reducing your ageing by 15 years!
Caffeine is also metabolized very slowly. The average half life of caffeine in the body is 6 hours. That means that if you have something caffeinated at noon, 25% of that caffeine is still circulating in your body , exerting its effects, at midnight.
Our kids already have difficulties with sleep. Screens, imposed alteration in natural sleep rhythms, stress… We don’t need to be impairing it further with stimulants.
Limit or avoid all added sugar. Sugar is addictive, pro-inflammatory and increases erratic brain cell firing. Whole fruit and vegetables are healthy but any added sugar is not. It’s linked to ADD and hyperactivity as well as weight gain leading to diabetes and hypertension. Processed sugar leads to elevated glucose levels in the blood which results in an insulin spike. Insulin drives tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan is the amino acid precursor to serotonin, the “happy” neuropeptide. This is why one of the reasons why it is addictive. Sugar is 8x more addictive than cocaine. Eliminate sugar sweetened beverages, even diet sodas. These are 100% linked to diabetes, weight gain and poor health overall.
There is more and more evidence of the impact of insulin resistance (IR) on brain function. IR is caused by fat, both in your body affecting how insulin works and the fat we eat, as well as over-consumption of sugar. It starts in childhood and it definitely impacts on brain development and brain function. STOP all the hyper-processed foods and added sugars. It may seem a bit extreme, but giving young kids a constant stream of Cheerios (essentially hyper-processed sugar) is an example of the type of over-consumption of sugar which sets kids up for various chronic diseases later in life.
When you consume a lot of added sugar, your taste buds and your brain interprets sweet signals a certain way. When you cut out or cut back on added sugar, within 2-3 weeks, your taste buds and brain “neuro adapt”. Sweet things still taste sweet, but what you used to eat taste too sweet. When you adjust to less sugar, fruits start to taste sweeter than what they tasted like when more added sugar was consumed. The same phenomenon happens with salt and even fat.
The American Heart Association suggests a daily allowance of 6-9 tsp (~25-50 gm). (1 tsp of sugar = 4 grams). A typical American child’s daily added sugar consumption is closer to 40 tsp (160 gm). A typical daily meal breakdown with respect to tsp. Of sugar is as follows:
- Breakfast Cereal – 3 tsp.
- Orange juice, or some other kind of juice – 5 tsp.
- Lunch PB&J Sandwich – 8 tsp.
- Soda 10 tsp.
- Snack like Nutella & Go – 5.75 tsp.
- Dinner Salad dressing – 1 tsp. (the salad itself has 0)
- Pasta – 0.25 tsp.
- Pasta sauce – 1.75 tsp.
Below is some information and facts about sugar in kids’ diets:
- Juice = Soda! Limited amounts of fruit juice are OK but keep them 100% juice, preferably organic however, they should NOT be considered a substitute for whole fruit. Remember that only 8 oz of fruit juice contains 20 grams of sugar, almost an entire days allowance and the same amount as a soda!
- Energy drinks are pure sugar, caffeine and added chemicals. Avoid them.
- Candies, chocolate bars, protein bars, pastries… the sugars and refined carbohydrates in these products go straight to the liver where they are converted in to fat. The way they act on the brain and influence our cravings, hey are equivalent to drugs.
- Watch for hidden sources of sugar like bread. Read labels! As mentioned before, sugar has 54 different names on products. Sugar is the only “nutrient” on labels which is not expressed as a “% of daily value”. This partly because of how well hidden it is making it difficult to accurately quantify and because of industry influence. Be careful.
- Watch for “sugar-free” labels. These probably contain aspartame or some other artificial sweetener which causes ADHD along with other neurological disorders. “Low calorie” or ” and “Fat-Free” often means “MORE sugar”.
- Artificial sweeteners (especially aspartame) are linked to behavioral disturbances, including ADHD and depression. In addition, they stimulate the brain in a way to make people crave more sugar and cause more weight gain. Aspartame is found in over 6000 common food items. Studies have shown that after one week of consuming aspartame daily, even at 1/2 what the FDA recommends as a safe dose, irritability and depression symptoms were noted.
- Although adults’ perception of sweetness after decreasing sugar can take only 2 weeks, kids have 15% more taste buds than adults so it can take longer for them to re-adjust. Be patient.
- Sugary drinks (soda, energy, sports drinks and juice) are the top calorie source in teens’ diets (226 calories per day), beating out pizza (213 calories per day).
- 63% of kids drink at least 1 soda a day and 30% drink at least 2!
- From 1989 to 2008, calories consumed in the form of sugary beverages increased by 60% in children ages 6 to 11, and the percentage of children consuming them rose from 79% to 91%. Beverage companies in the US spend billions of dollars marketing carbonated beverages, with a significant portion of marketing aimed directly at youth ages 2–17. Each year, youth see hundreds of television ads for sugar-containing drinks.
- The average child is exposed to more than 10,000 food commercials a year, 95% of which are for candy, soda, cereals and fast food.
The Living Closer Foundation tries to teach children how to look at labels on foods to understand the amount of sugar. One experiment they do with kids is to demonstrate that if you put the same sugar in a coke into a cup of tea, it is nearly unpalatable to drink. The carbonation in soda masks the sweetness.
Click here for information about Healthy Snacks for Kids
BREAKFAST CEREALS and SUGAR
The American Medical Association started warning people about excess sugar consumption over 75 years ago, based in part on our understanding that “sugar supplies nothing in nutrition but calories, and the vitamins provided by other foods are sapped by sugar to liberate these calories.” Sugars aren’t just empty calories. They are negative nutrition. The more added sugars one consumes, the more nutritionally depleted one becomes.
Given the totality of scientific evidence, the FDA decided to make processed food manufacturers declare “added sugars” on the nutrition facts label. The National Yogurt Association strongly opposed this requirement since they needed additional sugars to increase their products’ taste since plain yogurt is pretty gross. The junk food association questioned the science, whereas the ice cream industry seemed to imply consumers would be too stupid to use it, so, better leave it off. The world’s biggest cereal company, Kellogg’s, took a similar tact, opposing it so as “not to confuse the consumer”, and should the FDA proceed with such labeling against their objections, added sugars should at most be “communicated in a footnote.” Their goal is to provide consumers with “useful information so they can make informed choices.” This from a company that describes their Froot Loops as “packed with delicious fruity taste, fruity aroma, and bright colors. Made with whole grains and ‘lightly sweetened,’ a good source of fiber.”
Lightly sweetened? Froot Loops has more sugar than a Krispy Kreme doughnut…. Froot Loops is more than 40% sugar by weight.
The tobacco industry used similar terms, such as “light,” “low,” and “mild” to make their products appear healthier before they were barred from doing so. Now, sugar interests are fighting similar battles over whether their “healthy,” “natural,” and “lightly sweetened” terminology is similarly deceptive.
One of the ways the cereal companies responded to calls for banning sugary cereals was to fortify their junk food with vitamins and minerals. General Mills defended products like Franken Berry, Trix, and Lucky Charms for being fortified with essential vitamins. Sir Grapefellow was a grape-flavored cereal complete with sweet grape starshaped marshmallows but it was “vitamin charged.” Sugary breakfast cereals are not a complete food even if fortified with eight or 10 vitamins.
Plastering nutrient claims on the box can create a “nutritional façade,” acting to distract attention away from unsavory qualities, such as excess sugar content. The majority of parents have been found to misinterpret the meaning of claims commonly used on children’s cereals, raising significant public health concerns. Ironically, cereal boxes bearing low-calorie claims were found to have more calories on average than those without such a claim.
Not surprisingly, candy bar companies brag about their protein content because it has some peanuts, but it’s also a candy bar, with 50 grams of sugar, just like Froot Loops could be considered breakfast candy, as the same serving would have 40 grams.
Unfortunately, consumers believe front-of-package claims and perceive them to be government-endorsed, and use them to ignore the Nutrition Facts Panel on the back. There’s been a call from nutrition professionals to consider an outright ban on all front-of-package claims. The industry’s short-lived Smart Choices label was met with disbelief when it was found adorning qualifying cereals like Froot Loops and Cookie Crisp. The processed food industry spent more than a billion dollars lobbying against the adoption of more informative labeling, a traffic-light approach, railing against the suggestion that “any food might be too high in anything.”
PROCESSED FOOD and FAST FOOD
The statistics are sad. 70% of what our kids eat overall is considered “junk” food. Overall, American’s diets consist of 50% of junk food, and we develop those dietary preferences and addictions in early childhood. Limit or avoid all of it. Anything in a package, with 5 or more ingredients or has unpronounceable ingredients. There are over 10,000 unregulated food additives, many of which, like artificial food dyes, are illegal in other countries but allowed in the US. Also, avoid anything that makes some kind of health claim on the packaging like “Low Fat” or “All Natural” or “Low Sugar”. It’s guaranteed to be hiding something unhealthy in the fine print. If it doesn’t look like REAL food, don’t eat it. Not only have processed foods been linked to ADHD, they also increase the risks for all kinds of antisocial behaviors. There is a saying that “If it’s in the house, it’s in your mouth”. Eliminate the temptation and just remove the junk from the home.
If your grandparents would not recognize it as food, don’t eat it!
Unfortunately, the US is one of only a few industrialized nations which allow unrestricted marketing to children. Studies have shown that the marketing disproportionately targets lower income and minority groups more since they are more like to buy less expensive and less healthy foods. It’s still up to parents to let them eat it!
80% of 3 year old American kids recognize the McDonald’s logo, often before they even know their own names! There is virtually nothing healthy at fast food establishments. Just stop it already! Food from these places is guaranteed to be loaded with sugar, salt, fat, artificial colors and various preservatives and other chemicals. Forget about organic. As an example, French fries from McDonald’s in the US have 19 ingredients! Salt, preservatives, coloring agents, emulsifiers… Just an FYI, in Europe, where they do a much better job of banning GMOs, various food additives, and limiting pesticides and herbicides, McDonald’s French fries only have 3 ingredients. Potatoes, salt and the oil they are fried in. Still not healthy, but at least a little better than what and American company feeds its own citizens. As far as school lunches are concerned, although many schools are offering healthier choices and some states are mandating this, there is still plenty of garbage to choose from. Pizza, burgers, French fries, cheese steaks, chips, soda… All OK on occasion but not daily. It takes effort to make them lunch but this is always the best and healthiest option.
50% of the fast food kids eat is eaten at home. This does NOT constitute a “home-cooked” meal!
See below for more information but the facts about school lunches in the US are pathetic. 80% of schools have contract with soda companies and 50% have brand name fast food in the schools themselves. McDonald’s Mondays, Taco Bell Tuesday, Wendy’s Wednesday…
Studies of juvenile delinquents revealed a startling connection between violent behavior and diet and nutrition. When they were fed a whole food, non processed diet, there was a 56% drop in violent behavior. When a vitamin supplement was added, there was an 80% improvement. Many of these kids were deficient in Magnesium, Iron, B12 and Folate, all known to be crucial for brain health.
Click here for information about Healthy Snacks for Kids
Remove it from the diet. Dairy is simply not necessary for good health nor is it natural to consume. As mentioned on the main nutrition page, we are the only species which consumes mother’s milk after infancy and it’s not even our own species’ milk! It’s by nature loaded with hormones and growth factors, necessary for a baby cow to grow to its huge size. It’s not meant for humans. A cow grows at a rate 40x faster than humans. These hormones (as many as 60 different kinds) and growth factors have been linked to cancer, infertility and are partly what is responsible for the increased size of kids and earlier menstruation in young girls. Babies are not born lactose intolerant since they need milk however, this intolerance starts to develop around 2 years of age, right around the time babies start to wean from breast milk. Isn’t mother nature amazing? By adulthood, 75% of people are lactose intolerant.
- Dairy allergy is the most common food allergy in the US among kids and adults. The most common allergen resulting in death from severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) is dairy.
- ALL pediatricians advise against whole cow’s milk before 6 months of age since it is well-known to be poorly digested and can lead to inflammation of the gut leading to blood and iron loss. After 6 months, some will allow some processed dairy like cheese and yogurt. Why is it bad when you are an infant but “OK” when you get older? It still causes inflammation. Just avoid it.
- The hormones in dairy, in addition to those from other animal products, contribute to early sexual development. Today, girls can start menstruating before 12 years of age, as early as 8, with breast development occurring even earlier than that! The normal age used to be about 18, which is when kids girls raised vegan menstruate today. This is significant since the risk for breast cancer is much greater the earlier you start to menstruate. Boys develop earlier as well.
- Childhood dairy consumption has been linked to development of Type 1 (originally referred to as Juvenile) Diabetes. A study from 1992, showed that 100% of kids with type 1 diabetes were positive for antibodies to cows milk proteins. Furthermore, the cow’s milk protein that the kids formed antibodies against was a biochemical match to a protein on the surface of the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas, hence the autoimmune link.
- Migraine headaches. There is a strong link, especially in kids. 92% of pediatric migraines are improved (88% resolved completely) off dairy.
- You do not need it for calcium. In fact, kids that have been raised dairy free from birth have the exact same growth curves and bone strength as those who consume dairy. The countries that consume the most dairy have the highest rates of osteoporosis and hip fractures. They also have the highest rates of hormone driven cancers like breast and prostate cancer.
- According to a recent Harvard study, men who drank milk as teenagers had an increased rate of hip fractures as adults. There was a 9% increase for each glass consumed.
- Many government sponsored programs force dairy on our kids. These include the school Federal Childhood Nutrition Program and the WIC (Women, Infant and Child) program. Kids attending schools that have such programs must provide a doctor’s note explaining why they can’t have dairy so they are not forced to consume milk. Schools are required to provide alternatives like almond or soy products but parents have to jump through hoops to make that happen.
- For more information, check out Switch 4 Good. This an organization was initiated by Olympic athlete and world record holder Dotsie Bausch about how elite athletes are thriving without dairy and how unhealthy it actually is.
CONSTIPATION. The #1 cause of pediatric constipation is dairy consumption. The vast majority of constipation issues are resolved by eliminating dairy. Adding more fiber from fruits and vegetables also helps. One other reason for the constipation has to do with the main protein in dairy, casein. It gets broken down in the body into casomorphin which is an opioid compound similar to heroin. It in fact has about 10% of the activity that heroin and morphine have on the brain and accounts for dairy’s addictive qualities. Just like heroin and morphine though, it slows intestinal mobility leading to constipation.
ATOPIC DISEASES. These are essentially conditions linked to an overactive immune system such as:
- Allergies, both food and environmental
- Dermatitis like eczema, especially in infants.
- Nasal congestion and sinus problems
- Ear infections. 80% of kids under 1 have a complete resolution of recurring ear infections when dairy is eliminated.
ACNE. Hands down, the biggest culprit in causing acne is dairy consumption. And it doesn’t matter if it is skim or full fat dairy. In fact, some studies showed worse acne with skim mild dairy products. Yes, things like fat from other sources like pizza can contribute but it’s more likely the cheese on the pizza, not the oil. Fluctuating teenage hormones play a role but dairy, which contains 60 different hormones in it, impacts on human hormones as well so it can exacerbate the problem. What sounds more radical, cutting out dairy or taking a gut destroying antibiotic or cancer causing acne drug every day?
Switching to skim is actually worse when it comes to acne. It’s all bad.
Acne Promoting Effects of Dairy
DAIRY and DIABETES
Type 1 diabetes, which typically strikes children and young adults, is an autoimmune disease in which our own immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells, the beta cells of the pancreas. Untreated it’s deadly, but even with well-managed insulin replacement, it may shorten life expectancy by a decade or more.
Families are devastated when a child receives a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes so one of modern medicine’s ‘holy grails’ has been to understand what causes the body to attack itself, in the hopes that we can cure or prevent the disease. Genetic susceptibility plays an important role, but the concordance for type 1 diabetes is only about 50% among identical twins. So, even if someone with the exact same DNA gets the disease, there’s only about a 50% chance the other twin will get it. In addition, more and more otherwise healthy adults are developing an adult version of this disease. Some type 2 diabetics are also being re-categorized as having this form of diabetes. Known as LADA, Latent Autoimmune Disease of Adulthood is being diagnosed more and more often. In addition, more and more patients thought to have insulin dependent type 2 diabetes are being reclassified as having LADA, also known as type 1.5 diabetes. Obviously, there must be external factors as well.
Rates of incidence vary widely, up to 350x, from country to country. Japan, for example, has type 1 diabetes rates 18x lower than the United States. This disparity isn’t due only to genetics, however, because, when children migrate, they tend to acquire the risk of their new home, suggesting it’s got something to do with the environment, diet, or lifestyle. Researchers looked at 37 populations from around the world and found that the incidence has been increasing about 3% per year. Our genes don’t change that fast. There isn’t a single population with decreasing incidence of type 1 diabetes.
Childhood diabetes showed a stable and relatively low incidence over the first half of the 20th century, followed by a clear increase that began around the end of World War 2. A number of factors have been postulated, including vitamin D deficiency, certain infections, or exposure to cow’s milk.
Decades ago, published cross-country comparisons showed a tight correlation between milk consumption and the incidence of type 1 diabetes. The analysis showed that 94% of the geographic variation in incidence might be explained by differences in milk consumption. Investigators in Finland, the country with the highest rates of type 1 diabetes and cow’s milk consumption, led much of the research into this area. Looking at Japan, there was virtually no diabetes until they started Westernizing their diet, including consuming cow’s milk products.
Studies show that the less babies are breastfed, the higher the rates of type 1 diabetes, leading to the obvious conclusion that breast-milk protects the newborn infant. On the other hand, if babies are not getting breast milk, they’re getting formula, which probably contains cow’s milk proteins. In the first few months of life, our gut is especially leaky to proteins. It is thought that our immune system attacks the foreign cow proteins and our pancreas gets caught in the crossfire, the basic principle of autoimmunity. These early studies were based on animal experiments, however. In susceptible mice, a diet containing the cow’s milk protein, casein, produced diabetes.
Researchers drew blood from children with type 1 diabetes to see if they had elevated levels of antibodies that attack bovine (cow) proteins compared to non-dairy consuming controls. 100% of children with type 1 diabetes had elevated anti-bovine protein antibodies circulating in their blood compared to much lower levels in the control subjects. That seems pretty convincing, but what about Iceland? They drink more milk in Iceland than in Finland, yet Icelanders have less than half the type 1 diabetes.
Is it just genetics? Yes and no. The people of Iceland are genetically similar to other Nordic countries, but their cows are not. Icelandic cattle have been isolated from interbreeding with other cattle breeds for over 1,100 years. There are two main types of casein protein, A1 and A2, and Icelandic cattle are unusual in that they produce mostly A2 milk. That may explain the lower incidence of type 1 diabetes in Iceland since A1 casein breaks down into casomorphin, whereas A2 casein doesn’t. Casomorphin has opioid properties (as much as 10% of the activity of pure heroin) that may alter immune function. This could increase susceptibility to infections that may themselves trigger type 1 diabetes. And, that’s the kind of milk you get with Holstein cows, the ones with the classic black-and-white pattern, who make up about 95% of the U.S. dairy herd, and much of the global dairy herd.
Dairy boards began taking out patents on methods for selecting non-diabetogenic milk, to avoid triggering type 1 diabetes. It certainly did restore that tight linear relationship between milk consumption and type 1 diabetes, if you just looked at A1 casein consumption. Hundreds of siblings of type 1 diabetics were followed for about ten years, and those that drank a lot of milk had about 5x the risk of coming down with the disease, too.
By the mid-90’s, more than a dozen such studies were done. And, overall, they found that early cow’s milk exposure appeared to increase the risk of type 1 diabetes by about 50%. That was good enough for the American Academy of Pediatrics, who decided that “cow’s milk protein may be an important factor in the initiation of the process that destroys your insulin-producing cells.” “The avoidance of cow’s milk protein may reduce or delay the onset of type 1 diabetes.” Yet, another reason to emphasize breast is best.
Another contributing factor is bovine insulin which causes cross reactions in humans. Insulin auto-antibodies, antibodies our body produces to attack our own insulin, often appear as the first sign in pre-diabetic children. Because cow’s milk contains bovine insulin in addition to casein, researchers looking into casein were also looking into bovine insulin and found significantly more antibodies to bovine insulin in the cow’s milk formula group, compared to the exclusively breastfed group. The reason the breastfed babies had any antibodies at all was related the dairy consumption in the mother, in which case cow’s proteins and insulin would be secreted in mother’s breast milk and consumed by the infant, just at much smaller levels. Furthermore, the bovine antibodies themselves, in the absence of bovine insulin, also cross-reacted with human insulin.
The simple fact is that kids do not need dairy to thrive. No study has ever shown that kids raised dairy-free are any smaller, weaker, less muscular or less athletic than those raised on dairy. In fact, the opposite is true. As the number of conditions linked to dairy, like diabetes, acne, osteoporosis and constipation grows, it becomes clearer that we should just avoid it.
GESTATIONAL DIABETES. This is a form of diabetes which occurs during pregnancy, usually appearing in the middle of the pregnancy. It likely is a result of pre-existing Insulin Resistance since there is a 5-7x (500-700%) increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life. The rate of gestational diabetes doubled from 2006 to 2016 and occurs in almost 10% of pregnancies. It is often associated with a poor diet and, just like with all other forms of diabetes, and, just like all other forms of diabetes, a low fat, plant-based diet helps to manage or even reverse it. Unfortunately, oral medications commonly used to treat Type 2 Diabetes are not allowed in pregnancy because they can harm the developing fetus, many cases need to be treated with insulin if the blood sugar is not controlled with diet and lifestyle changes. Although pregnant women do need to eat more, they are not really “eating for 2” as is commonly said. They are at best eating for 1 and 1/2. Protein requirements go up at most by 25 grams a day and only in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. This can easily be achieved on a plant based diet with the addition of some nuts, seeds or beans. Any more impacts on the health of both the mother and baby. Protein, particularly animal protein, causes release of insulin, independent of carbohydrate (sugar) consumption. For example, beef can raise insulin levels as much as brown rice. High insulin levels are dangerous. Risks of elevated blood sugars include:
- Extra large baby, leading to increased risks during delivery including possibly needing a cesarean delivery.
- The baby is at increased risk of developing diabetes, the incidence being twice as high as compared with babies born to mothers who did not have gestational diabetes.
- Preeclampsia (hypertension). If left uncontrolled, this is both unhealthy for the mother and baby.
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This can be fatal if not identified properly.
TYPE 2 DIABETES. NOT JUST AN ADULT DISEASE ANYMORE
Trends in prediabetes among children aged 12-19 doubled in the last 20 years, according to a survey study published in JAMA Pediatrics. According to data from the U.S. government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999-2018, 20% (1 in 5) children and 28% if you include 18 and 20 year old’s, already has prediabetes. These trends stayed true across socioeconomic and other variables such as weight, household food security, race, and age.
Although lack of physical activity is certainly contributing, this is an epidemic caused by poor diet, focusing on animal products along with all the fat, processed foods and added sugars. Plant-based diets focused on fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains increase insulin sensitivity, the precursor to pre-diabetes and the fundamental problem with all forms of diabetes at all ages. Plant-based diets also address many risk factors for prediabetes including reduced intake of saturated fat.
THE MILK and COOKIE DISEASE
Why are so many babies born healthy but within 6-12 months, they become very congested, snotty and are prone to various infections. Furthermore, many of them are on numerous medications for allergies, asthma and reflux and are not getting any better? Medications don’t fix diseases they don’t have. Eliminating the cause does and often, it’s too much sugar and dairy.
In addition to all of the other problems with these products outlined above, they both contribute to significant acidity and cause or worsen reflux masquerading as infections, asthma and allergies.
Milk comes out of the fridge at a neutral pH but as it warms, it becomes extremely acidic. Sugar, including the sugar in milk, breaks down into alcohol and carbonic acid gas. The alcohol breaks down further into acetic acid and water, in other words, vinegar. Imagine drinking vinegar right before you go to bed? Furthermore, gastric emptying time (how long it takes for digesting food to move from the stomach into the small intestine) is slowed by sugar, fat and dairy (which contains both sugar and fat already). The longer these products along with their acidic breakdown products are sitting around, the greater the chance of getting reflux. Kids’ also have a much shorter distance from their stomach to their mouth. Reflux occurs more readily in kids.
Complicating the issue further is that the same autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, is responsible for digestion and also causes nasal stuffiness and runniness. This is why reflux may be masquerading as allergies.
Even the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out stating that kids are consuming too much. They recommend no more than 12 oz. of milk and 4 oz. of juice. Most kids are consuming significantly more of both and the sugar amounts add up fast. In many cases, kids are consuming way more than 50 grams of sugar a day. Children between 2 and 18 should eat fewer than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. That’s about 25 grams of sugar or 100 calories. That’s only 1 8oz glass of fruit juice! Children and teens should limit their intake of sugar-sweetened drinks to no more than eight ounces weekly. When reading labels on packaging, keep in mind that 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon.
Here is a link to a great YouTube lecture by the head of the ENT department at Nemours Pediatric Hospital, Julie Wei, MD, speaking about this topic.
DOES DAIRY CONTRIBUTE TO AUTISM?
Casomorphins, breakdown products of the main dairy protein casein (80% of the protein), which have opiate-like activity, may help explain why autism symptoms sometimes improve with a dairy-free diet.
In the 1980s, a team of Norwegian researchers reported a peculiar finding. They were comparing the urine of children with and without autism. Peptides are small pieces of proteins, and, normally, we shouldn’t be peeing out much protein. But, in the urine profiles from children with autism, there were many peptides identified.
Most of the parents of kids with autism reported that their children’s disorder got worse when they were exposed to cow’s milk. In fact two proteins, gluten, a protein in wheat, and casein, a protein in milk, break down not only into peptides, but also into exorphins.
Exorphins, opioid peptides with morphine-like activity derived from food proteins, are called exorphins because of their exogenous (from outside of the body). Endorphins are morphine-like compounds we produce inside our bodies.
Two types of opioids have been found in milk: 1) casomorphins, fragments of the milk protein β-casein which have morphine-like activity and 2) the actual opiate, morphine. Morphine and the opioid peptides may have an important role in the mother-infant bonding mechanism, because the infants may be ‘addicted’ to their own mother’s milk.
Human milk has the lowest casein content of all mammals. It is also markedly different in terms of amino-acid sequence. Human breast milk has about 15x less casein than cow’s milk and differs in its amino acid sequence by about half, so it breaks down into peptides differently. 21 peptides were identified from cow casein proteins, including multiple casomorphins, compared to only 5 active peptides identified in human milk and just 1 casomorphin. What’s more, the casomorphins from bovine casein are more potent than those from human milk. Bovine casomorphin is significantly more potent than the weak opioid peptide from gluten, a substance more comparable to the casomorphin from human breast milk.
When you expose human nerve tissue to bovine casomorphin, it acts more like morphine than the casomorphin from human breast milk in terms of epigenetic changes, changes in gene expression, providing a molecular rationale for the recommendation of breastfeeding vs. cows’ milk formula feeding. This also might explain why dairy-free and gluten-free diets have been reported to improve some of the inflammatory gastrointestinal and behavioral traits associated with autism.
About 90% of adults have some level of dental or gum disease. This is causing chronic inflammation. Getting kids into good oral hygiene habits early is essential for a lifetime of dental and oral health. What and how they eat and the habits they develop will have a huge impact on their future health. You need to start early.
First of all, what, how and how often they eat is crucial. Everyone knows that sugar is not good for the teeth but that’s not the only thing. First of all, processed sugars are in all processed foods. All refined grains are essentially sugar. They break down quickly and contribute to dental caries. Looking at skulls and dentition, bad teeth were rarely identified until the advent of food processing in the last 200 years. Basically, any processed food is not good for the teeth and oral microbiome.
Frequency is just as important. Constant grazing leads to a constant flow of saliva and digestive enzymes and bacteria, leading to almost a continuously acidic oral environment, constantly attacking the teeth. The average American today eats 7x a day, more than double what we ate 50 years ago. Snack foods like Goldfish, granola bars, crackers, Cheerios, popcorn puffs as well as liquids like sodas, Gatorade, sippy cups with milk, all lead to continuously acidic saliva. Breastfeeding is the only exception. Breast milk, if used as the exclusive nutrition for infants, does NOT cause cavities.
Eating has become habitual and often, kids and adults eat because they are bored.
THE MOUTH NEEDS A BREAK! THE GUT NEEDS A BREAK!
BRUSHING. Start as soon as the first tooth erupts which is as early as 6 months old. Cavities can occur anytime and dentists report cavities in younger and younger kids. Very early brushing is good to do not only because it is good oral hygiene practice, but it gets the kids used to brushing and having their mouths probed. There are soft silicone brushes and dental wipes which you can use early on. This should be done twice a day, just like with adults.
FLOSSING. This is the second most important oral hygiene measure. Also start early and daily. Basically, as soon as they start having multiple teeth which are close together which can be between 2-3 years old when they get their second molars, get started. Early on, cavities form in between teeth which are much harder to identify without X-Rays, which are not done in young kids, under 4. At that age, picks are easier than floss itself.
DENTAL EVALUATIONS AND CLEANING. Just like regular checkups with the pediatrician are important, so too are dental visits. They should start around 1 year of age. A good pediatric dentist does not only look at the teeth and gums, but the shape of the mouth and tonsils. They should discuss diet and nutrition. They should evaluate breathing as chronic mouth breathing impacts on development of cavities because of dryness and impacts on how the face grows and how teeth come in.
THE NOSE IS FOR BREATHING AND THE MOUTH IS FOR EATING.
MICROBIOME. Just like the gut and skin have their microbiome, so does the mouth and we can pass ours to our kids. When you lick that pacifier and put it back in your child’s mouth, guess what? You’re passing along bugs, both good and bad. Bacteria are what ultimately are responsible for cavities. Make good eating habits, along with all other lifestyle habits, a family affair.
TOOTHPASTE. Why do kids hate brushing their teeth? Other than routine, they often don’t like the taste. But getting chocolate flavored paste is not a great idea. You need to try out different things to find something that is acceptable. Although fluoride in water is a terrible idea (it’s really bad for the gut), it does help keep the teeth strong when applied topically. Just don’t let them swallow it. Hydroxyapatite is also a good dental re-mineralizing compound. NO MOUTHWASHES. They are unnecessary and are mostly chemicals.
PACIFIERS. Get rid of them as soon as you can. Even at 6 months. They can help “pacify” a child but they are bad for the teeth and impact on tongue strength. They also impact on dental development. The sooner you get rid of them, the less likely they are to form an attachment, which occurs by about 10 months.
Last topic… NIGHT FEEDING. This is a BAD habit. They need to learn how to get to sleep without some assistive device. In addition, they affect the teeth because of the presence of liquid in the mouth and proliferation of bad bacteria, leading to more cavities. This habit can also contribute to ear infections since some of the liquid lays in the back of the nose where the Eustachian tubes open up. Again, the only exception is breastfeeding, which is fine.
THUMB SUCKING and PACIFIERS
Although allowing these behaviors may make parents’ lives easier by “pacifying” a child, parents may be inadvertently condemning their children to a whole host of other issues resulting from poor dental, palatal, nasal and facial development.
Prolonged pacifier use and/or thumb sucking holds the tongue down low and pushes the developing palatal bones up. This causes oral muscle dysfunction, mouth breathing, tongue thrusting and bad bites. The growth of upper and lower jaws and airways become affected negatively. It leads to a high arched palate which impacts on dental and facial growth.
Nasal breathing is crucial to nasal, sinus and overall health. It is so innate to our lives that when a baby is born, if it can’t breath through its nose, it suffocates. The baby has to be “trained” to mouth breathe until the nasal problem is corrected. By that time, however, the habit of mouth breathing may already be ingrained. The nose is for breathing. It’s a filter, air warmer and humidifier and also a significant immune organ. It’s proper function even impacts on cardiovascular health since the nasal lining generates nitric oxide, a gas which relaxes arteries and lowers blood pressure.
Chronic mouth breathing leads to more snoring as well as dental problems by causing saliva to dry out and become more acidic, ruining teeth and gums.
Lastly, thumb suckers are more at risk for speech delays and ear infections. The speech delays have to do with problems with articulation because of the midfacial changes and poor development. The ear infections are a result of weak palatal muscles, which help to open the eustachian tube and ventilate the ear. In addition, a high arched palate crowds the back of the nose where the eustachian tubes open, again causing dysfunction and ear infections.
It may be tough, but GET RID OF THE PACIFIER AND STOP THE THUMB SUCKING!
PRECOCIOUS (EARLY) PUBERTY
Over the last 100 or so years, the age at which sexual maturity has been slowly, and then in the last few decades very rapidly been decreasing. Boys and girls used to mature on average around 17-18 years of age. Today, the average is almost in the single digits. This is not just a social issue but one of health. Studies show that the earlier a girl starts her menstrual cycle, the greater the risk of hormone related cancers like breast cancer. It is simply a matter of how much and for how long is the body exposed to hormones, especially estrogen.
Puberty is when kids develop physically and emotionally into young men and women. Usually, this starts to happen in adolescence:
- In girls, the average age is 10.
- In boys, the average age is 11.
Precocious (early) puberty is when the signs of puberty start earlier than normal:
- before age 8 in girls
- before age 9 in boys
It can be hard for some kids and sometimes is a sign of a health problem although the vast majority of precocious puberty is simply because of the hormone laden foods kids eat, primarily dairy, meat, fish and eggs. In addition, the hormone-disrupting chemicals which leach out of plastic play a major role.
In girls, signs of precocious puberty include:
- breast development before age 7 or 8
- start of menstruation (her period) before age 10
- rapid height growth (a growth spurt) before age 7 or 8
- Early pubic hair appearance, seen today as early as 6 years of age
In boys, the signs of precocious puberty before 9 years of age include:
- enlargement of the testicles or penis
- rapid height growth (a growth spurt)
- Early pubic hair growth, also seen as early as 6
In girls and boys, some of these can be signs of possible early puberty, but sometimes are normal:
- pubic, underarm, or facial hair development. It’s never normal at 6 years of age.
- voice deepening
- “mature” body odor
How do we avoid this:
- Cut out the hormone-containing foods, primarily dairy which contains 60 different hormones, meat, eggs and fish.
- Focus on whole plant foods and do not be swayed by the erroneous notion that plant estrogens from things like soy are harmful. They simply are not. In fact they are protective.
- Stop using plastic food containers and investigate all the other sources of exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals like cash register receipts, canned foods and even many cosmetics.
CONTAMINATED FOOD AT SCHOOL
School breakfast and lunch programs are a lifeline for many children, often from low-income and/or minority families. Sadly, what they get fed in school may be the most nutritious, often the ONLY thing they eat that day so providing healthy is imperative. Food quality in these mostly government-sponsored programs is atrocious. In addition to usually consisting of processed foods and meats along with mandatory dairy (kids in most states need a doctor’s note to get non-dairy beverages), the food is almost never organic or non-GMO. The Center for Environmental Health measured glyphosate (Roundup) contamination in breakfast cereals that are served at schools. They found significant contamination in 70% of the products they tested, including big name brands like Quaker, whose glyphosate contamination was more than 6x the safety threshold developed by the Environmental Working Group, and Cheerios, whose glyphosate contamination was more than 5x the safety threshold. Glyphosate has now been found in over 70% of oat-based cereals served in U.S. schools.
It takes more effort but your kids are always better off bringing a homemade lunch to school.
See below (click here) for some information on the pathetic job our government and schools are doing feeding our kids at school!
First of all, let me say that I was not breastfed. Not because my mother had any problems with feeding or she needed to get back to work but because my pediatrician actually discouraged her from doing so! As she tells me, he said “Why bother with all that fuss when you can just use formulas?” What a travesty. This lack of understanding and dismissive attitude in the medical community resulted in a whole generation of kids who missed out on the irrefutable benefits of breastfeeding. Breast milk is the only food babies are born immediately liking. All other food is an acquired taste. It’s the perfect food for babies. Just like cow’s milk is the perfect food for baby cows and not humans.
Unfortunately, mothers today are still not encouraged enough to breastfeed, nor are they supported as much as they should if they want to breastfeed. Societal, work and financial pressures, compounded by the food and advertising industry, has fostered a climate where it is too easy not to breastfeed. The World Health Organization recommends breast-feeding until the age of 2, the age when there is a natural tendency to wean off of breast milk anyway. It starts with breast feeding. Our own American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend at least 1 year. If we look to our primate relatives, they breastfeed for at least 2 years and for as long as 8, as is seen in our closest relatives, the orangutans.
The positive health effects of breastfeeding are now well-recognized and apply to all mothers and children. Some of the health benefits enjoyed by children include:
- Lower risk of Diabetes, both Type 1 (formerly known as Juvenile) and Type 2 (formerly called Adult-onset).
- Lower obesity rate
- Fewer allergies
- Less asthma
- Less eczema
- Stronger teeth
- Less autoimmune disease
In addition, mothers who breast feed also benefit with lower breast and ovarian cancer rates.
Breast milk is uniquely suited to the human infant’s nutritional needs and is a live substance with unparalleled immunological and anti-inflammatory properties that protect against a host of illnesses and diseases for both mothers and children. Breastfeed for as long as you can. Pump and freeze if possible. If you can’t do either for whatever reason or simply choose not to breastfeed, please avoid using cow’s milk as a substitute. Humans were simply not meant to consume cow’s breast milk. Soy formulas, as long as they are organic, are much healthier.
Breast feeding has also been shown to have an extremely important positive impact on an infant and child’s gut microbiome. Breast milk contains over 100 different types of human milk oligosaccharides. Almost 1/3rd of these have no clear nutritional value for the baby and are not digestible by humans but they are crucial since they feed the healthy gut bacteria such as bifidobacterium infantalis, which is unique to babies, allowing them to flourish. They promote a short chain fatty acid called butyrate, known to be beneficial for the gut and have been shown to protect against inflammation as well as cancer. These oligosaccharides should be considered pre-biotics. Factory made formulas do not contain these beneficial compounds. Formula fed kids have a different short chain fatty acid called propionic acid which in animal models has been shown to induce autism!
In addition, breast milk has bacteria and viruses which also help establish an infant’s microbiome. Especially the colostrum, the very first milk produced by the breast immediately after birth. 30% of an infant’s gut bacteria comes from its mother’s breast milk. 10% comes from suckling the nipple and swallowing skin bacteria, and the rest come from other early exposures to the environment. Since an infant consumes about 27 ounces of milk per day, it’s estimated that up to 10 million bacteria are swallowed every 24 hours. For more on the microbiome, see the Nutrition page.
An interesting fact is that human breast milk is only 6% protein. That is how we evolved. During the most important and explosive growth phase of life, mother nature says that we only need 6% of our calories to come from protein. A whole food plant-based diet is usually ~ 10% protein. It’s interesting that a vegan diet is more in line with what we need and were meant to consume than a modern standard American diet in which we get closer to 30% of our calories from protein. WAY too much. Cows milk contains almost 10x the concentration of casein, the main protein in breast milk, than human milk does.
Breast milk contains hundreds of useful substances that help a baby grow and develop immunity. Breast milk actually changes its contents and consistency to adjust for a baby during feeding. The mother’s body analyzes the baby’s saliva to give it the “cocktail” it needs, changing it on the go.
Although human breast milk has higher levels of cholesterol than cow’s milk, babies who are breast-fed have fewer atherosclerotic streaks in their hearts than infants consuming cow’s milk. This is thought to be related to the fact that when exposed to air, cholesterol becomes oxidized. Oxidized cholesterol is much more damaging to arteries that non oxidized cholesterol. Babies breastfeeding consume cholesterol in the milk which never hits the air so it never becomes oxidized. In addition, cow’s milk has a much higher proportion of saturated fat (the bad kind) and less mono and poly unsaturated fat (the better kind), than human breast milk.
Breast milk is so valuable and important that donor breast milk is available for women who can’t generate breast milk for their babies. It has been shown to have all the beneficial compounds and health benefits, regardless of the donor/infant relationship.
As mentioned in the dairy section on my “What Not To Eat” page, casein, the main protein in cow’s milk is converted into casomorphin, an opioid. It has 10% of the activity of heroin and acts on the same pleasure and reward receptors as do heroin and morphine. Human breast milk contain casein which also breaks down into casomorphin but to a lesser degree than cow’s milk. This opioid effect is why babies fall asleep after breast feeding, at might partly explain their craving for mother’s milk. These casomorphins are also thought to contribute to post-partum depression but the mechanism is not clear.
Although recommended for much longer than 6 months, it is important to start introducing solid food by 6 months of age, By 6 month, the babies iron stores, obtained from the maternal-fetal circulation during development, is used up. Great sources of iron include many greens and legumes like lentils, available in many baby foods.
Of course some women can’t breast feed for physical or socioeconomic reasons. Cow’s milk formulas are not good alternatives but soy is. Just make sure it is organic.
TOUCH – The most neglected sense
“Touch is not just a sentimental, human indulgence. It’s a human necessity. ”
Professor Francis McGlone, human touch researcher.
All social mammals have evolved sensory nerve fibers called C fibers (also known as CT, or C Touch fibers), which respond to filial (friendly) contact between one animal and another. These CT fibers play a fundamental role in nurturing, bonding and affinitive touch and is present in every social mammal that has been studied. Mice who were licked and cleaned as babies by their mothers more were more socialized and were better able to cope with stress as adults. In humans this is also clearly seen. A classic example of how important touch is is shown by what was seen by 1000’s of children in orphanages in Eastern Europe. Those kids who were not touched often early in life had significantly higher rates of autism and a variety of other emotional and cognitive problems including much higher rates of ADHD and anxiety. Human touch has a profound impact on childhood development.
The US has the worst track record when it comes to maternal benefits as compared with the rest of the developed world. Whereas in most countries, mother’s are given many months if not over a year or even 2 years to spend with their newborn, it is not unusual in the US for a working mom to be back to work even as early as 2 weeks after delivery. Her newborn is handed off to a nursery and that is simply sad. Working, often single moms, along with their infants, are not given the support they need.
Our children’s physical interactions have been slowly decreasing over time. Less play time. More paranoia about “inappropriate” touch. Don’t be afraid, especially with your own kids, friends and families. Give someone a hug. Rub their back. It’s all good.
For more on the biology of touch, click here to go to another page.
COLIC, BREASTFEEDING and MOTHER’S DIET
In many cases, colicky babies are reacting negatively to the cow’s milk dairy proteins that mom is consuming. Those proteins DO get into the breast milk and are then consumed by the baby. Again, cows milk is for baby cows and human breast milk is for human babies. That’s how we evolved and that’s simply what is best. On occasion, colic can be caused by other foods that mom is consuming which then get passed on to the baby through her breast milk, or the direct feeding of a baby with something he or she is reacting to is responsible.
On the flip-side, good foods mother eats also impacts on developing and breastfeeding babies. As an example, mothers who ate specific foods (for example carrots) while pregnant and/or breastfeeding resulted in babies and kids who also liked those foods (in this case carrots). Not only are you what you eat, your baby is what you eat.
The healthiest, longest lived societies do not eat meat or consume very limited amounts of meat. For those that do eat animal products, their consumption is less than 10% of the calories. To keep that in perceptive, that roughly amounts to eating meat only 2 meals a week, or much smaller quantities more frequently. The healthiest and longest lived communities however are strictly vegan. There are plenty of studies, including very large, multi-generational studies showing the clear health benefits of plant-based diets. There has never been a study to show those same health benefits in the long-term with consumption of animal products. There may be some short-term benefits from some of these diets like the ketogenic or “Paleo” diets but these are mostly related to overall improvements in nutrition, usually along with other healthful lifestyle changes. The only long-term studies on these meat-centered patterns of eating show gradually deteriorating health.
Meat consumption has a significant impact on puberty as well. A study was done looking at meat consumption and puberty in girls. There was a direct correlation between frequency of meat consumption and earlier periods. 49% of girls who ate more than 12 portions of meat a week (2 out of 3 meals a day which is very common) started their periods by age 12 (and as early as 8!) compared with those who ate less than 4. This is attributed to the growth hormones in meat and dairy especially. We are not talking about added chemicals so “grass-fed”, “free-range” or “organic” is no better. Meat and dairy contain naturally occurring hormones in them which trigger cellular growth and reproduction. It may help you build muscle but it also stimulates cancer cell growth as well and wreaks havoc on our endocrine systems as well.
Don’t be fooled by the notion that chicken or fish are much healthier. They are not. Chicken and fish have as much cholesterol as red meat and although they do have less fat, it only by a small amount. Limit eating processed meat like cold cuts and bacon to 0%. These meats have been categorized by both the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as class 1 carcinogen, like plutonium, smoking and asbestos!
Studies clearly show that kids raised vegan have the same growth curves and bone and muscle strength as those raised omnivorous. They simply do not need it.
From an environmental and ethical perspective, eating meat is extremely harmful. Eliminating meat and other animal products is the single most impactful thing we can do to save the planet and the human race in general. That may sound a little dramatic, but it’s simply is the case.
If your kids must consume animal products, try to keep them organic, wild-caught, free-range… They are slightly more nutritious and slightly less contaminated than their conventionally-raised counterparts. Our meat is so unhealthy that since 1989, the European Union has banned all beef imports from the US and Canada since our conventionally-raised cattle (which accounts for 96% of it) is 100% contaminated with various growth hormones, all of which are banned in the EU. One growth hormone in particular, zeranol, is an extremely potent estrogen mimicker, 100,000x more than BPA. It’s in all conventional meat. A study of 163 US girls, aged 9 and 10, identified zeranol in the urine of 78% of them. 100% of those girls ate meat the night before! None of the girls whose urine was negative for zeranol ate meat the night before. The significant hormonal effects this growth hormone alone was having on a group of Italian children is the reason the EU banned this, along with all other growth hormones in 1982. But we keep using it!
EAT LESS and LESS OFTEN
Just like with adults, kids eat too much and snack too often which has led to our present obesity epidemic. Other than in infancy and early childhood, it is simply a myth that they need more food because they “are growing”. They will grow just fine. In fact, they are growing too much. Childhood eating habits, good or bad, will follow them into adulthood. Start them on the right foot. With infants and very young kids, their stomachs are smaller proportionately so they do need an appropriate amount of food to grow.
HYDRATION – DRINK MORE WATER
Our bodies are 70% water. It is a crucial element. Even a 1% drop body weight from dehydration significantly impairs physical and mental performance and contributes to many physical symptoms like headaches. Even 1 additional glass of water in the morning has been shown to improve kids’ attention and test performance in school by 20%. The most important fluid is simple water. No flavorings or additives, just water. Avoid all the performance and energy drinks. They are just artificial stimulants. Don’t get fooled by claims of added vitamins and carbohydrates. It’s all advertising. If you look closely at the ingredients, it’s all chemicals. The next time you pick up a Gatorade, see what’s on the label. Preservatives, food dyes and tons of sugar.
Also keep in mind that the skin is the last organ that is reached by proper hydration. We are all chronically dehydrated and simply drinking more water will have a tremendous impact in skin health.
There is an undeniable connection between food and disease and specifically between pesticide and herbicides and various neurological conditions like autism and ADHD. It is not coincidence that since 1996, when the use of glyphosate (the chemical in Roundup) significantly increased, that the rate of various diseases started to skyrocket. The autism rate has gone up from 1:5000 for pure autism in 1975 to 1:36 in 2017 (this also includes autism spectrum disorders). Since 2012, there has been an almost doubling every 2-3 years. At this rate, 1:3 will be affected by 2035. You should at least try to buy the Dirty Dozen exclusively organic. Make sure you wash ALL fruits and vegetables. Even organic products are contaminated with not only pesticides from cross-contamination but environmental pollutants as well as bacteria and viruses from food handling. Just rinsing the food washes away about 75% of the surface chemicals but soaking in a bath of baking soda, salt or vinegar for 10-20 minutes goes a long way. There is more on organics on other pages on the site. As a final note, organic simply tastes better and by buying organic, you raise your antioxidant intake by 30%.
In 1965, after the military revealed that it was having trouble recruiting young men into the military because most failed the entry physical, the Eisenhower administration started a campaign to assess and improve the physical fitness level of our kids. At that time, 57.8% of American kids failed the very basic physical fitness test. This included such basics as being able to touch your toes. Despite the emphasis on physical fitness of the next 50 years, things are even worse. A recent study of 4 million US kids, 6-7 years of age, revealed that 57% still fail and that overall, their health was worse. As a comparison, only 7% of European kids filed the same test. Not other country in the world even comes close to our 57% failure level. Kids are just not as active as they used to be and they are not getting it in school anymore. Only 5 states require K-12 schools to teach physical education. Simply being outdoors in nature has been shown to improve physical, emotional and cognitive well-being. We can’t rely on recess or Phys-Ed to provide enough physical exercise, especially given the fact that most modern schools are designed by the same firms that design prisons. In fact prison inmates are allowed more time outside than children get at school. Playgrounds have become concrete jungles. Join a sports team (just don’t expect every kid to get a college scholarship or become a professional).
As an aside, there has never been a single study showing that kids raised on a healthy vegan diet are any smaller, weaker or less athletically capable than their omnivorous counterparts. The opposite is actually true.
- Play outdoors rather than immediately jumping on the computer or other electronic device.
- Limit screen time.
- Plan outdoor activities on the weekends.
- Being outdoors increases Vitamin D production. Childhood deficiency in vitamin D increases Type 1 diabetes risks by 80%.
- Children who exercise have better grades in school and learn more easily.
- They show more improvement in many skills ranging from math to logic to reading compared with kids who do not exercise.
- Similar findings are seen in teens and young adults.
- 60-80 year-olds were able to process information much faster if they were physically active as a teenagers.
As mentioned above in the sugar section, Processed sugar leads to elevated glucose levels in the blood which results in an insulin spike. Insulin drives tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan is the amino acid precursor to serotonin, the “happy” neuropeptide. This is why one of the reasons why it is addictive. Exercise has this SAME impact on tryptophan, driving it into the brain and boosting serotonin levels, making you feel good.
“Kickoff.com“. Great vegan resource guide with many useful athletic links.
“The Game Changers“. Amazing documentary from James Cameron about world class plant-based athletes.
Toxic stress starts early. A recent survey of 2nd graders (that’s 7-8 year-olds) revealed that almost 100% of them felt that they were stressed and anxious and at least half of them slept poorly. Some schools have implemented meditation training, even at this age with great success. These programs have been so successful and have decreased violence, absenteeism, drop-out and failure rate to such a degree that a Chicago school district where such results were seen increased their investment of $300,000 the first year to $2.6 million the third year.
A huge source of todays stress is all the pressures forced on them by social media. It’s an unnatural way to interact and communicate and gives a warped and altered perspective on life. These devices were designed to overstimulate and addict the mind and kids are especially susceptible.
HEAD INJURIES and SPORTS
The US Soccer Federation recently banned children under the age of 11 from “heading” soccer balls. Although this is a great step, the problem is that the Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC), the part of the brain responsible for executive function, distinguishing us from all other animals, doesn’t finish developing until early 20’s in females and even later in males. We now know that even minor, repetitive blows to this area, located right behind the forehead, leads to a myriad of behavioral and cognitive problems. STOP HITTING YOUR HEAD!
In humans, the PFC makes up 30% of our brain. The next closest animal are other primates whose PFC only represents 11% of their brain. This area is responsible for such advanced activities as:
- Focus and Planning
- Decision-making and Judgment
- Impulse control
It’s no wonder there is increased behavioral and cognitive disturbances in kids and adults after brain injuries and repeat, minor brain trauma (like soccer, boxing, football…)
A recent study of living, asymptomatic retired NFL players who played in various positions on the field showed that 100% of them had evidence of brain trauma on MRI studies. A Harvard study of deceased NFL players showed that 110 out of 111 deceased former players had significant evidence of brain trauma.
Let’s face it, 99% of kids playing competitive sports will never be professional athletes, get athletic scholarships, get into a better school because of sports or even receive any kind of medal or trophy of any real significance. Sports and being outside are really important but we have to stop thinking like our child is the next LeBron James or Peyton Manning and we can’t live vicariously through their accomplishments. Head injuries on the other hand will have effects that last forever. There is plenty of evidence of the damaging effects of concussions but the scariest part is all the damage that is being identified with only mild, low-level but chronic injuries. Sports and participation in activities is great, but let’s not risk our kid’s lives for unrealistic pipe dreams. Certainly, one and done when it comes to true concussions has to be obligatory. Letting your child play a risky sport after they have had a concussion is irresponsible in my book.
A recent study of college football players revealed that on average, a college football player gets 415 head hits per season. At least 10% were officially diagnosed with concussions although the real number is undoubtedly much higher because of under-reporting. Furthermore, the majority of the head hits occur during pre-season and during practice.
The CDC estimates that traumatic brain injury (TBI) results in almost half a million (473,947) emergency department visits in children up to 14 years of age. Approximately 2.8 million TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths occurred in 2013. These are the obvious ones. Although there are unethical coaches and irresponsible parents who ignore or downplay their athletes’ or children’s’ serious and obvious injuries related to sports, the real issue unfortunately are all the injuries which occur innocently over long periods of time and which can be just as damaging to the brain in the long term.
The simple fact is this. The brain is a soft, mushy organ, having the consistency of butter, which is incredibly complex and delicate. Only representing 2% of our overall weight, it uses up 25% of the glucose. The brain contains about 86 billion neurons, each with between 2 and 30,000 synapses (connections) with other neurons. These neurons multiply at a rat of 250,000/minute during early pregnancy. It is suspended in fluid (cerebrospinal fluid or CSF) and completely enclosed in a hard shell (the skull). Although there is some cushioning, there isn’t much. EVERY SINGLE hit to the head, even very mild or minor ones, results in the brain bouncing around and striking the sides of the skull. EACH of the even minor blow results in injury to the blood vessels and billions of neuronal connections. Every elbow, every soccer ball header, every contact in football, every hit to the boards or on the ice during hockey, even all the bouncing around while riding a horse or on a roller coaster! This all causes injury and it all accumulates over time. All these blows impact on neuronal function and cause disorganized activity. Head injuries affect this neuronal activity to a greater degree than abusing cocaine!
When there is a direct blow to the head (like in fighting, football contact an even heading a soccer ball), shaking of a child (as seen in many cases of child abuse), or a whiplash-type injury (as seen in motor vehicle accidents), the bruising of the brain and the damage to the internal tissue and blood vessels is due to a mechanism called coup-countrecoup.
A bruise directly related to trauma, at the site of impact, is called a coup lesion (pronounced COO). As the brain jolts backwards, it can hit the skull on the opposite side and cause a bruise called a countrecoup lesion. The jarring of the brain against the sides of the skull can cause shearing (tearing) of the internal lining, tissues, and blood vessels that may cause internal bleeding, bruising, or swelling of the brain.
Crossed cerebellar diaschisis (CCD) is characterized by loss of functional activity and metabolism in the cerebellum on the opposite side of an injury. Although identified with many brain lesions like cancer and other degenerative disorders, it is seen with head trauma as well. The cerebellum is a part of the brain originally thought to only be responsible for movement and coordination but it also has now been recognized as the site of 80% of our emotional and cognitive control. Only representing 10% of the brain by volume, it houses 50% of the neurons.
Symptoms of head injury can be as obvious as loss of consciousness, headache and memory loss or as innocent as tiredness and irritability. Unfortunately, the least innocent but more chronic types of injuries may not show any immediate signs or symptoms as all.
Head injury and dementia. Over the past 30 years, research has linked moderate and severe traumatic brain injury to a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia years after the original head injury
- Older adults with a history of moderate traumatic brain injury had a 2.3 times greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s than seniors with no history of head injury, and those with a history of severe traumatic brain injury had a 4.5 times greater risk.
- Repeated mild traumatic brain injuries, such as those that can occur in sports like American football, boxing, hockey and soccer, may be linked to a greater risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a form of dementia.
- A study published in the March 23, 2016, online edition of the Journal of Neurology found that a history of traumatic brain injury may accelerate the age of onset of cognitive impairment by two or more years.
CELL PHONES, SCREEN TIME AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Texting…) is anything but social. It is anti-social. The leading cause of death of kids 10-19 is suicide and social media has a lot to do with it. Comparisons, partial representations, filtered pictures… it’s all fake. We don’t know how to communicate like normal human beings anymore. There are 3 fundamental problems with social media which have to do with the immediacy of communication:
- The buffering effect of time. When you receive some kind of communication, be it by mail, email, social media… how we respond, particularly when we respond, makes a big difference. If we take time to ponder the communication, as well as our response, there is a better chance that our response will be more measured, rational and appropriate. When we reflexively respond to instant messages, they are almost always overly emotional, and that often leads to escalation and bad results.
- The empathy effect of in-person or verbal communication. When we can see or physically hear the reaction to our comments, often, our future comments are altered. When you see how hurtful what you say has on someone’s expression, intentional or not, you feel bad, re-assess and tailor further communication. When it is all digital, there is no such adjustment and again, communication escalate in a negative way.
- Curated information. People don’t post about their humdrum, daily activities. It’s either all the good stuff, or really bad stuff. Both extremes are usually isolated and represent only a small fraction of our lives. But people look at this information and interpret it as “the norm”. Either they feel envious or bad that their lives are “less exciting” or the bad posts reinforce our own bad feeling.
Time spent staring at one screen or another has doubled since 2011 alone. This is simply not healthy. All the disease associated with sedentary lifestyles in adults are on the rise in kids and teens, like diabetes, obesity and even vascular disease. All the screen time has also been strongly linked with anxiety, depression, migraine headaches and attention deficit disorder (ADHD). The radiation from cell phone use has been already directly linked to salivary gland tumors and the link to brain tumors, especially acoustic tumors is mounting.
- MRI studies have shown a direct relationship between brain size and function and scree-time. The more screen time, the smaller the brain.
- Children who reported more than two hours a day of screen time got lower scores on thinking and language tests.
There is a direct correlation between screen time and brain damage.
Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain
American Academy Of Pediatrics Issues New Recommendations To “Reduce Exposure To Cell Phones
Kids should at least stop staring at screens when the family is sitting all together at the dinner table or in a restaurant for example. Family time is precious. Take advantage of it. More than 70% of children ages 8-18 have TVs in their bedrooms, according to the University of Michigan Health System.
- More than 35% have cable or satellite-TV access.
- Children up to age 8 spend an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes every day on-screen media. Most of this time is occupied by TV and video viewing alone which takes up 72% of all screen time.
- The average American child sees more than 200,000 acts of violence on screens before they are 18.
- For 8 to 12-year-olds, the average time spent using screen media every day was 4 hours and 36 minutes.
- Teens spent an average of 4½ hours per day with screen media and 6 hours with all media, including reading and listening to music.
- The sooner you limit their screen time, the better off they are. The dependence on these devices later in life is extreme. 42% of Gen Z people surveyed said that it would take $5 million for them to get rid of their phone. 10% would rather give up a finger!
The health effects of all the electromagnetic fields we are now exposed to through cell phones, WiFi, Bluetooth… is controversial but here are just a few things to think about:
- Studies have shown that male sperm motility drops by 25% when a laptop has been sitting on their laps for prolonged periods of time.
- There are also studies definitively showing that men who carry your cell phone in their pockets have decreased sperm motility, along with increased DNA damage.
- Kids absorb 3x the amount of EM energy and radiation than adults do.
- Avoid wireless/Bluetooth headsets and ear pods.
You can’t go wrong by limiting some of this exposure. We can’t eliminate it, but some limits must be set.
Recent research has also linked blue light exposure from all kinds of devices leads to retinal deterioration leading to macular degeneration and even glaucoma. For more on this, look at this summary: Blue Light and Vision.
VAPING, SMOKING, DRUGS, and ALCOHOL
PAY ATTENTION to what is going on in your children’s lives. Pay attention to who their friends are. Don’t be afraid to look through your kids’ bags and review their social media postings. We are talking about destructive habits that will stay with them forever and cause irreparable damage. We can’t always be their friends. We must be their guiding force. Don’t be fooled by the whole vaping craze. It’s still chemicals you are inhaling into your body. Not good. In 2017-18 academic year, 1.3 million high school students started vaping. That’s double of the previous year. The nicotine inhaled while vaping acts on the same center in the brain that heroin and cocaine do making it just as addictive. In fact, it can be more addictive since the nicotine dose while vaping is much higher than what smoking cigarettes. Some teens are needing rehab to quit their vaping addictions. Please see my “Wellness” page.
As far as pot is concerned, using it as a teenager raises The risks of psychotic episodes by 450%. These episodes can have permanent effects on behavior. In addition, a recent study showed that adults who smoked pot as teenagers had significantly increased risks for serious anxiety and depression as adults.
For more about smoking, vaping and marijuana, click here.
Just like with adults, we are too quick to jump to medications to “solve” our children’s problems. 24% of all children under age 18 take at least one prescription medication each month, including opioids, antidepressants, and other psychotropic medications. American children are 3x more likely to be prescribed a medication than a child in Europe. As far as antibiotic use is concerned, this is way out of control. The vast majority of infections are viral and just need to run their course with supportive care, not be treated with useless, damaging antibiotics. Because of antibiotic overuse, we already have a serious problem with resistant organisms and are running out of options to treat legitimate serious bacterial infections. The symptoms of psychiatric conditions like ADD, depression, anxiety and eating disorders shouldn’t just be dulled with dangerous medications. Their underlying causes need to be addressed. Medications certainly can stabilize out of control symptoms but they must not be thought of as a cure. Again, we need to pay attention and try to address why our children and teens feel the way they do. We need to support them without medicating them.
In addition to the known side effects of medications to treat ADHD, there are studies that show a slight decrease in height (predicted based on their parents’ height) in those kids taking such medications.
Avoid antibiotics at all costs. These affect the gut microbiome and have a significant impact on all kinds of health issues including behavior. Even one course of antibiotics increases the risks of having a major depression episode by 25% in the subsequent year and an anxiety/panic related events by 19%. 2 courses of antibiotics increase depression risks by 60%. There is a link between both chronic tonsillitis and chronic bladder and urinary tract infections in younger people and subsequent increased cancer rates, especially breast cancer. It is felt that the chronic use of antibiotics to treat these infections has resulted in damage to the gut lining and such a change in the microbiome that other systemic inflammatory changes occur leading to the increased risk of cancer.
And YES, often times, what they eat like sugar, processed foods, hormones in meat and dairy, pesticides, fat, caffeine and salt can be significant contributing factors. Food dyes, allowed in the US but banned in most other countries, have been shown to have a direct link to hyperactivity, ADD and even some chronic diseases.
MEDICATIONS FOR ACNE. The most common medications for severe acne are low dose, long-term antibiotics such as minocycline or doxycycline and Accutane. Antibiotics are used because of the overgrowth of normally bacteria, most of which are naturally occurring, on the skin leading to inflammation, clogging of pores and resulting acne. They work by reducing the bacterial counts but there is a significant cost to your normal microbiome. Accutane is a naturally occurring derivative of vitamin A. Although vitamins sound innocent, at a high enough dosage, you can get some pretty nasty side effects since it builds up in the tissue. The two together increase blood levels quite a bit so don’t take extra vitamin A. Accutane is formed naturally in the body from the Vitamin A present in the bloodstream. This is why large amounts of Vitamin A taken during pregnancy cause the same birth defects that Accutane does.
Common side effects of Accutane include:
- Chapped lips (90%).
- Dry skin and itching (80%).
- Nosebleed (80%).
- Irritation of the eyelids and eyes (40%).
- Joint and muscle pains (15%), which is why exercise is discouraged.
- Hair thinning (10%).
- Rash (7%).
- Intestinal symptoms (5%) including diarrhea, nausea and vomiting and rectal bleeding.
- Urinary symptoms (5%).
- Headache (5%).
- Increased sensitivity to sun (5%).
- Decreased night vision (<1%).
- Depression, thoughts of suicide (<1%).
More serious side effects include:
- Increase cholesterol levels.
- Hepatitis. That’s why regular blood tests are necessary during Accutane treatment.
- Serious birth defects if taken during pregnancy. It is critically important for women not to take Accutane while pregnant, and not to become pregnant while taking it.
- Depression and even suicidal ideation.
- Allergic reactions.
Just skip the drugs and investigate the cause. In most cases, it’s dairy!
BIRTH CONTROL PILLS
Often prescribed for acne, menstrual pain and to control polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), many young women and their families are not adequately counseled on the significant risks associated with hormonal therapy. Some include:
- Clotting. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a well established risk of taking hormones. These clots can spread to the lungs causing lung damage and even death. In rare cases, clots can even travel to the brain causing strokes. The risks are small, less than 1%) but not insignificant. The risks increase significantly if you also smoke and/or are overweight and inactive.
- Depression. Studies have shown that as many as 20% of women who start taking BCP develop enough depression that medications are warranted and are prescribed.
- Many Nutrient Deficiencies leading to numerous other conditions. Sleep disturbance.
- Neurological Conditions. This is related to B12 deficiency also linked with BCP use.
- Anemia. Also linked to B12 deficiency.
- Osteoporosis, caused by Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Cancer. Although some studies have shown actual decrease in the risks of certain cancers (endometrial, ovarian and colorectal), breast and cervical cancer risks are increased, directly proportional to the duration of use. This is why it is also crucial to discontinue their use as soon as possible.
Rather than relying on medications in a knee-jerk reactive way, addressing why the symptoms being treated are occurring in the first place need to be addressed. For example, acne is clearly associated with saturated fat consumption as well as dairy, primarily because of the additional hormonal influences. The same goes for menstrual symptoms.
A great resource on the topic of hormones and health, in both kids and adults, is Dr. Neal Barnard’s book “Your Body In Balance”.
IMMUNIZATION AND VACCINATION
I think that overall, it is irresponsible not to immunize our kids or get appropriate adult immunizations and boosters. There is a long passage about this on my Wellness page so I won’t go into too much detail here but here are the basics:
- Immunizations are extremely important not only for personal disease prevention and health maintenance, but they also contribute to the health of the population as a whole. They have saved millions of lives and prevented much disease and disability.
- They are medications just like any other medications. As such, there can be side effects and complications but not any more than any other drug. Antibiotics cause significantly more side effects and even Tylenol kills people. The benefits far outweigh the risks.
- Immunizations do NOT cause autism. Worry more about chemicals and additives in foods and the hormones in dairy. They are much worse.
- The “too many, too fast” argument is a misunderstood. Despite the fact that we are getting more immunizations than we did in the past, we are getting less at each dose with fewer side effects and equal effectiveness.
- The majority of immunizations do not have any thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative) and have not contained it for many decades. Some versions of the yearly flu vaccine (usually the multi-dose vials) still do but the dose is minuscule and no study has ever shown any danger. If you want to be safe, just ask for the thimerosal-free version of a vaccine.
- You CAN’T get the flu from the flu shot. It’s a dead virus. A recent study of side effects from the shot (headaches, muscle and joint aches and even fever) showed NO difference in symptoms in patients whether they got the flu shot or just saline (a placebo).
- Immunizations against one condition improves your immune defense against other pathogens.
- Weight and obesity impacts on vaccine efficacy. People who are overweight or obese also have less of a response to vaccine since their immune systems are also compromised. Specifically, their T-cells, crucial to immune reactions and developing antibodies, don’t function as well. In addition, people who are overweight or obese are also more prone to complications from various vaccines.
- Children who are vaccinated against meningitis have the added benefit of reduced risk for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer.
- The measles vaccine helps to protect against other dangerous infectious diseases whereas getting measles “naturally” can have many bad side effects and also makes you more vulnerable to other diseases.
ACNE and OTHER SKIN ISSUES
Acne is the most common chronic skin condition affecting upwards of 50 million Americans. About 10% of pre-teens and teens struggle with bad acne and it is most often treated unnecessarily with medications. Just like with other chronic conditions, the meds don’t treat the cause, just the symptoms. Although food sensitivities and effects are associated with only about 5% of all skin conditions, the ones it does impact on, account for more than 50% of all problems seen by dermatologists. These include:
- Hidradenitis, a chronic skin condition featuring lumps in places such as the armpits or groin.
- Hair loss.
Dairy is the most common dietary culprit affecting all these conditions, especially acne. Studies comparing different types of dairy show that skim milk products are the worst but ALL dairy impacts on acne. This includes not only milk, cheese and yogurt but also the milk products such as whey and casein proteins as well as “milk solids” which are found in many processed foods like snack bars and even soups. These have no flavor but simply add weight. In some cases, processed foods containing these products can be labeled “dairy-free” depending on the amounts and serving sizes so READ LABELS!
Cow’s milk contains high levels of Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IgF-1) which is a growth stimulant. In addition, the proteins in dairy (casein and whey) also stimulate production of more IgF-1 in our bodies. IgF-1 stimulates all cells to grow and divide including the cells in the skin like the ones making up the sebaceous glands. These are the glands which produce sebum, the oily substance which covers the skin. These glands are also the ones which form pimples and acne. It also induces the glands to make more sebum. We make IgF-1 in our liver but it’s production is amplified when exogenous IgF-1, from dairy or meat, is present.
Dairy not only contains estrogen, but also progesterone and testosterone. In fact, dairy contains up to 60 different hormones. In addition to these naturally occurring hormones, cows are often injected with the hormone somatostatin (bovine somatotropin – BST). which extends the milk production period for dairy cows by slowing the rate at which the number of mammary cells decrease. The effects are mediated by IGF-1, a growth hormone, which is up-regulated in response to BST. The FDA states that it is not harmful to cows but makes no comment of its effects on humans. It does not get denatured by pasteurization and 100% of it gets absorbed by humans.
5alpha P is another sex steroid found in animal products, both meat and dairy, and has as a major role in testosterone production. It is the main trigger of acne.
- There is a direct connection between acne and cancer, specifically prostate and breast cancer.
- 5AP induces estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells making them more sensitive to estrogen making them better able to use estrogen to fuel growth.
- Not only does almond milk eliminate the hormone effects from dairy on prostate cancer cells, it actually decreases prostate cancer cell progression.
The 5alpha-reduced compound 5 alpha-pregnenedione (5alpha-P) present in milk is a direct precursor of dihydrotestosterone and may act through that pathway in prostate cancer, but 5alpha-P has also recently been shown to be capable of inducing estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells, up-regulating cancer cells’ sensitivity to estrogen. As scary as it sounds, acne is a visual indicator of excess hormones, especially estrogen, in the body and is a risk factor for breast cancer.
Cow’s milk also increases insulin resistance which contributes to androgen dysfunction leading to a variety of hormonal problems including PCOS.
Sugar is also an acne stimulant. It directly stimulates inflammation and also worsens insulin function. This is why chocolate, processed foods and other sugar containing products worsen acne. A great reference for diet and acne can be found here www.Clearskindiet.com
Sugar also contributes to skin aging and wrinkles. Sugar causes cross-linking of collagen fibers in the skin. Collagen, located in the second layer of skin under the surface, is what makes the skin soft and supple. Over time, the as the collagen becomes cross-linked, the skin becomes more rigid and more and more wrinkles develop.
Animal products in general cause skin problems. When you eat plant-based, without all the hormones and chemicals from animal products, especially dairy, the skin cells are not stimulated anywhere as much and things like acne, eczema and rashes disappear.
- A study following plant-based populations in the South Pacific failed to identify a single pimple in over 1300 people over 2 years.
- A Harvard study following 6000 girls aged 9-15 for several years showed a clear connection between acne and dairy. Other culprits included added sugar, meat and simply excess calories. These impair protein signaling leading to excessive production of acne-causing oil and sebum.
Also keep in mind that the skin is the first organ to be affected by even the slightest bit of dehydration and the last organ that is reached by proper hydration. We are all chronically dehydrated and simply drinking more water will have a tremendous impact in skin health.
Another good resource for diet and acne is nutritionfacts.org
If you must own a gun, PLEASE lock it up properly and educate your children about gun safety. The exact numbers are not clear but school shootings in the US outnumber the next 15 countries combined by more than 10:1. We also have the largest number of guns per capita of any other country and the most lenient laws about obtaining firearms. Although mental illness is a significant issue in our society, the ease with which you can get a gun and the amount of damage you can very quickly inflict makes the issue of firearms in this country of paramount importance.
ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERCTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD)
ADHD, also known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a type of behavioral disorder primarily seen in children although it is being diagnosed with increasing frequency in adults as well. It is characterized by restlessness, inattentiveness, difficulty concentrating, high levels of unfocused energy and impulsive behavior. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADHD diagnoses in children increased by about 41 percent between 2003 and 2011. Since then it has been relatively stable. As of 2016, the ADHD rate is approximately 10% in kids between the ages of 4 and 17 years old. The rates are slightly lower between 4-11 and slightly higher between 11-17. The rates are also higher in boys who are diagnosed 3x more often than girls. Approximately 4% of adults have ADHD. There are many dietary triggers for ADHD, particularly food additives and artificial colors as well as sugar, dairy and other stimulants like caffeine and sodas. There is much more about this topic on my Diseases page. Click here to go there directly.
As many as 40% of kids diagnosed with ADHD have an undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorder.
There is much more information about ADHD on my “Diseases” page.
Try to use as little plastic, especially plastic water bottles. Even the BPA-free bottles and cans (which are lined with plastics like BPA and BPS) have been shown to release all kinds of harmful chemicals including hormone disruptors and synthetic estrogens. Never microwave in plastic. Use glass or stainless steel containers and avoid canned foods. A study showed that hormone disrupting synthetic estrogens leached into 3/4 of BPA-free baby bottles tested when UV sterilizers were used. In addition to the hormones in dairy, these synthetic estrogens are thought to be the cause of infertility issues and the early menstruation we see in young girls. Some adolescent boys have excessive breast development. This has nothing to do with soy. It’s the dairy and the plastic contamination.
ADVERTISING TO KIDS
The United States and Syria are the only 2 countries in the world who don’t have SOME kind of policies and laws about how food and beverage companies can market their products to kids. The way these companies are allowed to market to vulnerable children is pretty pathetic. The average American child is exposed to more than 10,000 candy, soda, breakfast cereal and junk food commercials a year!
As evidence of what advertising restrictions can do to improve health and decrease healthcare costs, one needs only look at Chile. Facing the health and resultant healthcare costs, the Chilean government enacted a number of laws which have had a tremendous positive impact. These include:
- Food Labelling. All cereals and “junk foods” have to have warning labels that they are bad for your health, just like cigarettes and alcohol.
- They instituted an 18% sales tax on all soda.
- They banned all cartoon characters on cereals. No Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam or Flintstones characters.
- NO junk food advertising between 6am and 10 pm on all radio and TV media.
- All junk food and soda banned at schools.
If they can do it, so can we. It’s an uphill battle though. The food and agricultural lobbies are the largest and most powerful in Washington. There are 183 food and agriculture lobbyists per congressman in DC!
Although it doesn’t help that our kids get pummeled with advertising about junk food almost out of the delivery room, the decision what to let them eat is still up to the parent. Through traditional media outlets alone (TV, billboards, online ads and newsprint), the average child is exposed to 277 ads for junk food a day. That’s about 10,000 ads a year. Add to that the ever growing influence of social media, we are being bombarded with enticing ads for unhealthy foods. Eating habits they learn early on last a lifetime. Don’t do the easy thing. Do the RIGHT thing. Just say no to sodas and processed foods.
The average American child sees more than 200,000 acts of violence on screens before they are 18. This is essentially advertising for guns, fighting and violent behavior.
The 2 most recognizable cartoon characters are Santa Clause, who has peddled Coca Cola since the 1930’s and Ronald McDonald, and we all know what junk food he represents.
GOVERNMENT, INDUSTRY and SCHOOL LUNCH
The food industry and government infiltration of schools is deplorable. The Government got into the school lunch business after WW2. In 1946, Harry Truman signed the School Lunch Act because too many military recruits were rejected because of malnutrition. In 1981, Ronald Reagan, attempting to cut government spending, cut 1.5 billion dollars out of the child nutrition budget. Many schools got rid of their cooking equipment and looked to the food industry to provide cheap and simple lunches. In 2006, 80% of high schools operated with exclusive contracts with soda companies. By 2012, nearly half served fast food. The schools have become dependent on the money and it’s a deal with the devil. Schools have become like a 7-11 with books. President Obama signed the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act in 2010. It authorized the USDA to come up with new standards for the federally funded school lunch program. Rather than eliminate pizza from the program, which would impact on the Schwan Company from Minnesota which controls 80% of the pizza peddled in schools, the Minnesota Governor Amy Klobushar petitioned the government not to eliminate pizza but convinced them to label a slice of pizza 1 serving of vegetables! Pizza and Ketchup are NOT vegetables!!! Unfortunately, President Trump rolled back some of the Obama administration improvements in the school lunch program allowing schools to loosen their requirements for healthier foods. Healthier foods cost more money so the future is not great.
As it is, 80% of schools already have contracts with soda companies and 50% have brand name fast food in school: McDonalds Monday, Taco Bell Tuesday, Wendy’s Wednesday…
By 2012, the revised regulations were issued. The USDA finally increased the lunch budget for the first time in 30 years but by only $0.60 cents. It did set a new maximum on calories and doubled the requirement of fruits and vegetables which STILL included French fries and pizza!
School chairs labeled with “Coca-Cola”, school buses with Ronald McDonald’s emblazoned on the side, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Taco Bell and Subway literally IN the school… It’s insanity. Kids start to recognize advertising as young as 2. Food industry marketing to kids is less controlled than advertising to adults. Junk food advertising increased to kids, including online, by 60% between 2008 and 2010. Kids watching TV with food commercials increased snack food consumption by 40% compared with shows that do not have food advertising.
Just like the fast food and beverage companies which have a stronghold on our kids’ health, so too does the dairy industry. In most school districts, in order to get an exception for a child to get a milk-alternative beverage, an actual doctors note is required. To add insult to injury, 39% of all the milk shipped to schools is wasted either because it expires or is just dumped.
SCHOOL LUNCH and DAIRY – EXTREME WASTE
The relationship between the U.S. government, the dairy industry, and the National School Lunch Program has been long, corrupt and has forcibly exposed billions of American children for generations to cow’s milk, contributing to the ill health of this country, all for the sake of making money.
Ironically, while millions of dollars are spent on milk production, government subsidies, and deceptive marketing campaigns, more milk is being thrown out by children than ever before.
The National School Lunch Program provided lunch to 30 million children each school day in fiscal year 2019. Undeniably a great service to many underprivileged kids. However there are significant issues with this program. The reimbursement rate for milk that year was 20.5 cents per carton. If 90% of lunches were served with milk, the USDA spent around $1 billion dollars on cow’s milk in American schools.
An eye-opening statistic emerged from a recent USDA analysis of the program. 29% of school milk cartons, valued at $300 million dollars, are thrown away by the kids, untouched. Why? Because many kids don’t like drinking cow’s milk because it makes them feel awful. In fact, more and more kids are becoming aware of their lactose intolerance, despite the USDA’s mandate that forces cow’s milk in schools to the detriment of 50 million children. Not only is milk the most common and severe food allergy in children under 16, over 1/3rd of the US population is lactose intolerant, meaning at least one in three kids cannot safely or comfortably consume cow’s milk.
The dairy debate remains heated, yet medical doctors, researchers, and university faculty across the globe have published in multiple esteemed scientific journals about the significant links between dairy and multiple health-related problems in children and adults alike. Accordingly, recommendations have been made that nutrition programs offer children dairy-free beverages, guidance that we take seriously for the public good.
Worldwide, lactose intolerance affects about 70% of the population but it disproportionately affects BIPOC (Black, Indiginpus People of Color) populations. Between 70-95% of Black, Asian, Indigenous American, and Latin individuals suffer symptoms after consuming dairy.
Despite that, federal law requires milk to be served with school meals in order for state public school authorities to be reimbursed by USDA for the meals provided. In fact, in most states, a doctor’s note is required to opt out of getting milk and receiving a milk alternative like almond or soy milk instead. Pressuring children to ingest cow’s milk at school that will make them sick isn’t just ignorance. When a white majority makes decisions that will negatively impact minorities, it is a form of dietary racism.
Those unaffected (mainly white people) tend to view lactose intolerance as a minor issue, but that’s almost certainly because it’s not a shared health experience. Lactose intolerance is not benign. It undermines learning and classroom performance and puts kids of color at an additional disadvantage.
Students should not sit in the classroom with an empty stomach. However, they need proper, healthy nutrition to thrive and perform at their best. However, we also believe that children of color in underserved communities should not be coerced to sit in the classroom with a belly full of a fluid that makes them sick and unwell.
In 2020, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recognized soy milk as a nutritional equivalent to dairy milk. But nutritional equivalency and cafeteria availability are not the same thing, and public schools do NOT have soy milk available to children who need it most. To provide all students with a nutritional beverage that won’t make them sick, and to respect public schools’ tight budgets, the USDA needs to make soy milk readily available at all U.S. public schools and fully reimbursable, so that children may have a right of choice.
The dairy industry is well aware of the problem. A 2019 article from Hoard’s Dairyman cites the causes of the school milk waste problem as “changes in fat percentages allowed in schools, the pulling of full-fat flavored milk, and general changes in student preferences.” The article also acknowledges a recent study by the Food Waste Warrior program which reported that as much as 45 million gallons of milk were wasted last year in school lunchrooms valued at $138 million. The study predicted that total food waste in schools could cost as much as $9.7 million per day or $1.7 billion per school year. The statistics were compiled from 9 states and 46 schools from January to June 2019. On average, each school produced 28.7 cartons of milk equivalent waste per student per year. Elementary schools averaged 37.6 cartons per student and middle schools tallied 19.4 cartons of waste per student. In one of the studied cities, students wasted 58 cartons per student per year.
The study concluded that milk waste could be reduced in schools by “allowing kids more time to eat and providing younger children with smaller serving sizes of milk.”
The issue is NOT allowing students more time to drink the milk or adjusting the serving sizes of milk. It’s clear that kids, especially children of color, have a growing awareness that cow’s milk makes them feel sick and they’re choosing not to drink it.
The USDA simply needs to offer equal milk for all kids and provide fully reimbursable soy milk as a non-dairy alternative. This will allow all children to get the nutrition they need and have the energy and mental focus to excel in their academic, creative, and athletic pursuits.
HOW DO I GET MY CHILDREN TO EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES?
It’s a cop-out to use excuses like: “My child is a picky eater” or “I can only get them to eat nuggets” or “If I don’t make them chicken nuggets, they won’t eat anything”. Kids model their behavior after their parents’, especially their dietary and nutritional habits. Teach them by example and they will adapt. There is a saying “If it’s important enough to you, you will find a way. If it’s not, you will find an excuse”. Ultimately, if all else fails, children are mammals and all mammals eventually eat what they can find in order to survive. If they are not offered anything to eat other than vegetables and fruit, eventually, when hungry enough, they’ll eat vegetables and fruit! If you stop giving them soda and chips, they’ll stop eating soda and chips. It also takes kids longer to get used to changing tastes. They have 15% more taste buds so they need more time to appreciate new tastes. Studies have shown that it can take as many as 20 attempts and re-introductions of a resisted food before kids start to warm up to them so keep trying.
Keep in mind that your gut bacteria feed on what you give them. When you remove harmful foods from the diet like dairy, processed foods, sugar and meat, and replace them with more healthful whole plant foods, it takes time for their microbiome to adapt. Adults will often say that it took a few weeks off of a particular food before their cravings (caused by the gut bacteria crying out for their nourishment) to be replaced by the healthier bacteria. the same occurs with kids.
Having them sit there until they “eat what’s on their plate” often does not work because they get mad and then resent the food. Give them a few options of different vegetables and they can take it or leave it. When they make the choice themselves, this empowers them. Missing a few meals if they decide not to eat anything won’t kill them and eventually they will come around.
It is also fine to substitute ingredients without them knowing. Restaurants do it all the time. For example, a veggie burger or even plant-based meat substitutes in meals. What they don’t know won’t hurt them. Eventually, let them know and they will appreciate that these foods are not so bad after all and in fact, can be even better.
This is a great tip sheet about how to get your kids to eat healthier Tips to get Your Kids to Eat Vegetables. Another great resource is 57 Tips To Get Kids to Eat Vegetables.
Another great resource is Plant Trainers (www.planttrainers.com)
Dr. Benjamin Spock, arguably the most influential pediatrician of all time, passed away recently at the age of 95. After decades of promoting an omnivorous diet for children, he changed his advice in the most recent (7th) edition of his world-famous book, Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care: 9th Edition. In his final edition, he now advised that parents stick to a vegetarian diet for their children including removing all dairy products after the age of 2.
”We now know that there are harmful effects of a meaty diet,” the book says. “Children can get plenty of protein and iron from vegetables, beans and other plant foods that avoid the fat and cholesterol that are in animal products. As for dairy foods, Dr. Spock says ”I no longer recommend dairy products after the age of 2 years. Other calcium sources offer many advantages that dairy products do not have.”
As I mentioned on another page, children raised vegan from birth have the exact same growth curves and bone strength as children raised eating meat and dairy.
Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care: 9th Edition
A great resource for helping parents navigate the nutritional concerns when feeding your kids mainly a plant-based diet is The Vegan Pediatrician, a site run by Dr. Natalie Santiago, a pediatrician in Chicago.
“Nourish. The Definitive Plant-Based Guide for Families“ Brenda Davis, ND
“A Parent’s Guide to Intuitive Eating: How to Raise Kids Who Love to Eat Healthy“. Dr. Yami Cazorla-Lancaster
“Kickoff.com“. Great vegan resource guide with many useful athletic links.