First Generation to Have a Shorter Life Expectancy

Today’s Children May Be The First Generation
to Have a Shorter Life Expectancy
Than Their Parents


A web search of the above title uncovers a log jam of more than
50 Google pages predicting mortal doom for a generation of our kids

Childhood Obesity and Mortality

In 2002, Dr. William Klish of Texas Childrenís Hospital was quoted in the media, ìIf we donít get this epidemic (childhood obesity) in check, for the first time in a century children will be looking forward to a shorter life expectancy that their parents.î This unfounded statement was emboldened with ìmedia steroidsî and has become the lexicon of the obesity scaremongers. Dr. Klish admitted that his claim was not taken from evidenced-based science but rather from ìintuition.î Nonetheless, his claim has been paraphrased by The New England Journal of Medicine by both the Surgeon General of the U.S. as well as the Food and Nutrition Undersecretary of Agriculture in their testimonies before Congress, Time Magazine, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee and so many others including this writer.

U.S. Life Expectancy Hits New High of Nearly 78 Years

The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that children born in 2004 are expected to live six years longer than their parents. The British medical journal, The Lancet, indicates that based on current trajectories, more than half of all babies born in industrialized nations since the year 2000 can expect to live into the triple digits.

Mortality vs. Morbidity

The public as well as health professionals often confuse mortality and morbidity. Mortality as a measure of health refers to the number of deaths due to a specific cause. Morbidity as a measure of health refers to the number of cases of a specific illness, injury or disability. The increased prevalence of elevated BMIs in childhood does indeed predispose many children to morbidities like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other co morbidities. Mortality is a measure of quantity of life and not quality. Morbidities certainly can and do impact quality.

Childhood Obesity is a Misnomer

It is important to remember that children have linear growth potential and often grow into their weight. The term obesity is a diagnostic criteria reserved only for adults that have a measured BMI over 30. Because of growth potential, we measure children and adolescence with percentile growth charts.

Percentiles are a clinical indicator to assess the size and growth patterns of a child compared to other children of the same age and sex. Percentiles rank the position of a child by indicating what percent of the reference population the individual would equal or exceed. For example, on the weight-for-age growth charts, a 5-year-old girl whose weight is at the 25th percentile, weighs the same or more than 25 percent of the reference population of 5-year-old girls, and weighs less than 75 percent of the 5-year-old girls in the reference population. Growth Charts are dynamic statistical central tendencies and labeling a child as obese is scientifically incorrect and can stigmatize that child. Childhood Obesity is simply a misnomer.

Obesity Scaremongering

Unfounded, authoritative public statements on the health implications of obesity that place great emphasis on associated hazards run the risk of provoking potentially harmful responses by an alarmed public. Obesity research interpretations have often fallen short of objectivity and are frequently tainted by bias and subjective interests. Obesity scaremongering has contributed to almost a century of dangerous rebound dieting as well as an increased prevalence of eating disorders. Much of obesity mythology is founded in bias and business, but thanks to the emergence of Bariatric Science both the public and professionals are now able to rely on evidence-based science steeped in the rigorous scientific approach that has driven all other scientific advances.

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