Bill Clinton has joined the obesity debate by launching a campaign to reduce obesity among American children, and warns that today's youth could be the first U.S. generation to die younger than their parents.
Clinton, who was overweight as a child, is laying the blame quite squarely on poor diets which contain too much sugar and fat. He looked trim and fit but has had two heart-related operations in the past year. He aims, with the help of the American Heart Association (AHA) to promote healthy eating habits in children and encourage them to exercise. He says the eating habits of America's young people have to change as children were consuming more sugar and fatty foods than ever before, and he wants to reverse the growth in childhood obesity.
Clinton said his foundation and the AHA planned to work with the food and sporting-goods industry to stabilize childhood obesity in five years and reverse it in a decade. One out of six U.S. children, or 16 percent, are obese and childhood obesity is growing at a rate of 20 percent a year which will remain unchecked if current dietary and exercise practice are not changed.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who joined Clinton at the event, said he had battled chronic obesity, and at one time was told by doctors that he would die within a decade if he did not diet, he lost 110 pounds (50 kg) in one year. He says he was digging his grave with a knife and fork.
He has since been campaigning to get healthier food in school vending machines and cafeterias, something Clinton said he would like adopt in his nationwide campaign.
Clinton, who struggled with his weight as a child, said the obesity problem, partly caused by a jump in snack food consumption, was stunting growth, affecting cognitive development and spawning type-2 diabetes, so-called adult onset diabetes, which is becoming increasingly common in children. He suggests another factor could be that more parents are working longer hours, meaning more meals are eaten in restaurants, which tend to serve large portions.
Clinton, 58, suggests that careful food preparation could reduce schoolchildren's consumption of sugar and fat by 45 calories a day which works out to 2 pounds (0.9 kg) of weight loss over a year, or 20 pounds (9 kg) by the time an early elementary schoolchild graduated from high school 10 years later.