This article about how rice cereal may lead to childhood obesity came across my radar today. Even though it’s a few months old, I couldn’t resist using it as an example of how we really have to maintain a skeptical point of view in our modern society. The experts really are so often full of shit, and the fear industry (aka, the media) is all too happy to peddle their inanity. Here’s a quote to get us warmed up…
Doctor Alan Greene says that because white rice cereal is the number one source of calories from solid foods in a baby’s first year he believes it conditions children to prefer sugary processed foods.
Makes sense, right? Or does it…
First of all, I think it’s safe to say that most babies do the rice cereal thing at some point. So, if rice cereal is the culprit, then why aren’t more kids obese? Sure, lots are, and the number is getting bigger every year, but we’re talking about causation here. If you have 100 babies who eat rice cereal and rice cereal leads to childhood obesity, then somewhere close to 100 should turn out to be obese. The reality today is that more like 20 would end up being obese. According to the CDC,
The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008.
Beyond the logical disconnect between what they say may be happening and what actually is happening is the underlying premise that a kid’s preference for one thing or the other impacts whether he or she becomes obese. This is the part that steams me to no end. WHO’S IN CHARGE AROUND HERE???? I could give a shit what my kid prefers as far as food is concerned. I’m the boss. Or rather, my wife is the boss when it comes to nutrition. Kids are like dogs – they eat what you give them. If you see a fat dog, there is only one reason – his owner feeds him too much or he is fed crap. Same with kids. So whether the rice cereal causes babies to prefer sugary processed foods is completely irrelevant if you’re on your game as a parent. Feed them healthy food and obesity will never threaten.
Lastly, I’d just like to point out that Lewis and Clark bribed hostile indian tribes with sugar cubes as they traveled through dangerous territories in their search for the waterway to the west coast. I’m guessing the indians didn’t have rice cereal, but lo and behold, they developed a quick preference for sugary (er uh, sugar) foods. My point is that you can deprive a baby of sugary, processed foods as long as you want, but the moment that first hit of birthday cake crosses those lips, junior will be hooked. The question from there is what will you do about it?
Will you let junior decide what junior eats? Or will you tower over him as he cowers in your shadow and say, “I’m in charge. You eat what I give you or you starve.” From my perspective, the childhood obesity situation is simply due to the fact that most parents are more interested in being their kid’s best buddy than they are in raising healthy, well adjusted children.
(And lest I forget the standard counter-argument about food these days – that poor people can’t afford to eat healthy foods – let me just point out that they can definitely afford to eat less of unhealthy foods.)