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Adult Obesity Might Be Due To Childhood Sugar Cravings

Adult obesity in the United States today is at epidemic levels. Many factors are responsible, such as poor diets, lack of exercise, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Specifically, 15% of adults were obese in 1970. By 2016, that percentage increased to  40%.But, some scientists, like Alex Bentley, head of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, believe that today’s adult obesity epidemic results from increases in childhood sugar intake that occurred decades ago.

He asks, is today’s adult obesity epidemic the result of children in the 1970’s and 1980’s consuming excessive amounts of sugar? That question is prompted by several studies that have linked the rise in sugar intake with obesity. Indeed, many researchers believe that sweetened beverages and processed foods contribute to the obesity epidemic.

However, if so, why did obesity rates continue to rise even after sugar consumption began to decline? In 2014, for instance, obesity rates increased, even though sugar consumption dropped by 25%.

These are some of the questions that Alex Bentley and colleagues want answers to. Their study results appear in the journal Economics & Human Biology.



adult obesity

Adult Obesity:  Your Past Impacts Your Future

Most public health research focuses on current behaviors and diets — however, Bentley’s group looked at how the diets consumed in childhood affect obesity levels in adults.


But, ask other researchers, can a delay of 30-40 years really have such dramatic impact?


They tested their hypothesis by using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected between 1990–2004. This data was compared to U.S. Department of Agriculture results on annual sugar intake since 1970.


Their results clearly show excess sugar consumption in childhood correlates to obesity levels in adults. It also suggests that the dietary habits learned by children 30 or 40 years ago can explain their adult obesity crisis that emerges years later.


The study’s other significant finding is that excessive sugar intake came from high fructose corn syrup. This artificial sweetener is very prevalent in processed foods and soft drinks.


Sugar is an inexpensive source of calories, and sweetened beverages are extremely popular.Education on the importance of a proper balanced diet, starting from a young age is important.


Good habits ingrained at an early age can have a tremendous positive affect throughout life.

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