At Risk For Early Disease - What's Happening To Our Kids?

At Risk For Early Disease - What's Happening To Our Kids?

What does a healthy toddler look like? Seemingly boundless energy. Peals of laughter. Sheer delight at simple things. Perhaps a gleaming, mischievous eye. An inquisitive mind. A healthy appetite. Like a bird that flits and flutters and chirps and sings, the healthy toddler goes about his activity taking for granted that his body will do whatever he wants it to do, and that it never gets in his way of doing any activity. It doesn’t cause him pain, doesn’t keep him awake at night, and it keeps on developing greater dexterity and strength. What does a healthy child look like? That same care-free spirit, that innocence, that beautiful spirit of the toddler grows up a bit, but still there remains that same enthusiasm for learning (though not necessarily for school), that energy to run, to play, to jump, to sing, and be loud. The child is budding and is beautiful to behold. What does a healthy teenager look like? That child-like innocence turns into idealism, with a strong sense of the way things ought to be. The body matures, strengthens, and blossoms into the form of a man or a woman. Strength and vitality are her natural gifts. While a cold or flu may pass through this healthy teen, before long he is up and running again, seemingly physically invincible. Lean and trim, this teen has a sense of God’s purpose for his or her life and through these years of study is diligently preparing for a productive life to come. Where is sickness? Where is disease? All these nasty adult things like diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, migraines, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, depression, and even obesity are foreign concepts. They are as irrelevant to a healthy child as snow is to a giraffe. Strength, vitality, and wholeness in body, mind, and spirit. That is God’s design. Diseases like diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, migraines, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, depression, and even obesity used to be foreign concepts to children. But the news tells us that God’s design for a healthy young body has been thwarted in modern times. Sicknesses never heard before in children are showing up in the current generation, and the impact on them is much worse than the same sicknesses in adults.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult-onset diabetes, which comes after years of dietary and lifestyle abuse. Right? Sadly, this is no longer true. Along with the obesity trend in children has come a marked increase in type 2 diabetes. A federal study called “SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth” has some disturbing results. According to one of the investigators in the study, Philip Zeitler, a pediatric endocrinologist in Colorado, “They (children with diabetes) seem to have a somewhat different disorder than adults. They need to go on insulin faster than adults. And they have a more rapid appearance of complications.” In a recent report from this study, 699 youth were followed; 46% of them failed to control their blood sugar and had to take insulin by injection within one year of diagnosis. This failure of blood sugar control and progress to insulin usually takes a decade in adults. The lifespan of a child with diabetes is going to be very short and miserable. Unfortunately, many of the youth with diabetes have parents and grandparents who are also suffering the complications of diabetes, so they figure it is just what happens in their family.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes (previously called juvenile diabetes) is actually an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own beta cells in the pancreas. It is a completely different illness from type 2 diabetes, but type 1 is on the rise, too. A 3% annual increase in type 1 diabetes has been found in the USA, with a 23% increase in the last decade. Though researchers don’t know exactly why this increase is occurring, we do have some clues. Early introduction of dairy products before the age of 2-4 months raised the risk of type 1 diabetes 2-fold in Finland. Low levels of maternal vitamin D during pregnancy is also associated with higher risk of type 1 diabetes in some but not all studies. Giving infants 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day dramatically lowered the incidence of type 1 diabetes in Norway, and an analysis of 5 studies found that supplementing infants with vitamin D lowered the risk of type 1 diabetes. Children struck with type 1 diabetes often don’t look sick. They are the athletes, the trim and fit ones. They don’t fit the mold of obesity and disease.

Hypertension

A person’s blood pressure tends to increase with age, so that 65% of men and 70% of women over age 65 have high blood pressure. So, we tend to think of hypertension as an old age disease. A new study from the University of Michigan found that hospitalizations of children with hypertension as part of the diagnosis doubled from 1997 to 2006. Hospital costs for treating hypertension-related illnesses during this decade were more than $3 billion. Obesity was one of the major risk factors. Dr. Joshua Samuels dispelled 5 common myths about hypertension in children in an accompanying editorial, saying:
  1. Hypertension is not just an adult disease.
  2. Hypertension is often not just due to some other cause, but is often essential hypertension (not due to another disease).
  3. Hypertension in children leads to high blood pressure as adults.
  4. Organ damage from high blood pressure is not delayed until adulthood, but begins in children (up to 30% of children with newly diagnosed hypertension already have significant organ damage).
  5. Hypertension has a large and growing impact on treatment costs and quality of life for children.
“These children have all the risk factors for cardiovascular disease that adults have. They are overweight, they are prediabetic, they have high blood pressure and early evidence of cardiovascular problems. If this trend is not reversed, most of these children are going to die from cardiovascular disease….in their 30s, 40s and 50s.” And maybe he is being optimistic, as we don’t really know how this generation of children can handle these physical problems.

Liver Disease

Your liver is an amazing organ, designed to aid in absorption of fatty substances, to produce important blood proteins, and to cleanse and detoxify the body. You can’t live long with a bad liver, as the longterm alcoholic finds out. Yet, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is just as bad for the liver as alcohol — and HFCS is the number one source of calories in the USA. Children and teenagers may get 10 to 15% of their daily calories from “fruit” drinks and soda pop. Researchers who looked at national survey data found that suspected nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has increased in children from 3.6% in 1988 to 9.9% in 2008. This increase is considerably higher than just the increase in obesity in the same time period, probably because of the huge consumption of fructose in this decade. These youth will not lead even a medium length life because their livers will further be destroyed until they don’t function.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones often come from a combination of salty foods (which cause extra calcium to be excreted in the urine), animal protein (uric acid stones), sedentary lifestyle, and dehydration. The usual picture of kidney stones is of a middle-aged man in tremendous pain. But now special pediatric kidney stone centers in hospitals around the country have sprung up to deal with this increasingly common malady among children. Where they used to get one case a month they are getting several a week. Research of teenagers in Minnesota has uncovered a 6% annual increase in kidney stones from 1984 to 2008. Initially the rates were 13 cases per 100,000, but it has tripled to 36 cases per 100,000. Kids are getting sicker sooner, and there is no end in sight.

Food Allergies

Another sickness on the rise in children is food allergies. It seems that everyone knows a child who can’t eat milk products, or eat peanuts, or is avoiding multiple foods to help deal with all of the eczema, rashes, and digestive troubles. A recent random dialing survey of households in the USA with children found that 8% of children had at least one food allergy, and 30% of these had multiple food allergies. Over 1% of all children have a known allergy to peanuts, with antibodies to peanut proteins found in 9% of children in a national sample. These authors also found that allergies had increased 18% from 1997 to 2007, based on 5 different national surveys. There is also a two to four-fold higher risk of other allergies and asthma. That means that at least 1 in 12 children in every school in the USA will have food allergies, about that many will be sensitive (at least) to peanuts, and many will also have asthma. It used to be that children would outgrow allergies by 3 to 5 years of age, but recent studies that reviewed medical records of over 800 children with milk allergies and almost 900 children with egg allergies found that allergies were much more persistent than previously seen. At 4 years of age only 5% of children could pass a milk challenge, 21% by age 8 years, 37% by age 12 years, and only 55% by age 16 years. For eggs only 4% of 4 year olds had outgrown their allergies, 26% by age 8 years, 48% by age 12 years, and 68% by age 16 years. The researchers found that the more severe the allergies were and the higher the number of allergies, the less likely it was a child could outgrow them. Robert Wood, MD, the lead investigator of these two studies, regarding the increase in allergies says, “The ‘why’ is still an unanswered question. I am definitely seeing this in my practice, which is why we did the studies. I suspect that the same factors that have led to the increase in food allergies are also related to the greater persistence. I believe that food allergy is a different disease than it was 20 or 30 years ago.”

Pre-term Births

The development of a child in the womb in an astoundingly complex, mind-boggling process. Indeed, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and the more you know, the more you stand in awe of our Creator. We still do not understand exactly what triggers the birth process, even whether the signal, whatever it is, comes from the mom or the infant. But it’s certain that a child gets a much better start by going to full-term gestation in the womb before birth. But even here we are having problems. A new study found that about 12% of American babies are born premature, before the 37th week of gestation. That’s 1 of every 8 pregnancies not going well. You probably know someone who has had a preemie. It is true that we can now often save preemies, but the cost is staggering (more than $26 billion a year in the USA), and their health isn’t so good either. A baby born before 27 weeks is more likely to have intellectual disabilities and more likely to have cerebral palsy. In the EPIPAGE study there was a 20% rate of cerebral palsy for babies born before 27 weeks gestation, compared to only 4% at 32 weeks. A great deal of brain growth occurs at the very end of the pregnancy, so it is risky to cut this time short. Even babies born at 34-37 weeks have increased health issues throughout their lives. Late preterm infants were at higher risk of mental development delays and psychomotor delays at 24 months of age. School performance was lower at 5 years of age as well. Clearly, it is much better for a baby to get everything from the mother by going full-term in the womb.

Degeneration

What we are seeing is the degeneration of a population; that is, the next generation is born weaker than the previous generation. We see children with type 1 and 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney stones, high cardiovascular disease markers, food allergies, and inability to carry babies full-term. And I’m sure there is a lot more sickness I didn’t even touch. This is degeneration. This has been demonstrated before by Francis Pottenger in his study of over 900 cats fed cooked milk and meat rather than raw milk and meat. Those cats fed their natural diet did quite well generation after generation. They have everything they needed in their diet. The cats fed cooked food lacked a specific amino acid (taurine), which for cats is very detrimental to their health, and each subsequent generation got sicker sooner, until there was not another generation. If your diet does not provide everything that you need, your children will be born weaker than you from the very beginning of their life. This is happening before our very eyes in the USA.

Choose Life!

What can we do to stem the tide of this early onset of disease in our youth? Are they just going to have to wait for the perfect environment so they can easily make the right choices for health? We live in an obesogenic environment. If we try to live on a “see-food” diet (see a food-like substance and eat it) we will die before our time. God does not call these substances food! If our children follow the crowd eating junk, doing nothing that requires hard physical effort (either work or play), and play the victim, they will suffer even worse than adults with the same sorts of diseases. They do not have the reserves of years of better eating behind them. We live in an age where we can do a lot about the particular environment we live in, and we have a great deal of choice about what we eat and what activities we engage in. We have far fewer excuses than any other prior generation for saying we are doomed by fate to ill health. We must choose life! We are responsible for our own actions, and our children will suffer if we make poor choices. We must grab onto the vision for healthy children that I put forward at the beginning of this article. I have, and you can, too. Health News #73 - Online Bonus Content:

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