Fake food, real problems: Boston Children’s and TEDMED take on childhood obesity

Fake food. The words probably conjure up images of children playing restaurant, or maybe your dog’s favorite chew toy.

But when David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital, speaks about fake food, he has a much broader definition in mind.

In April, Ludwig participated in a TEDMED gathering in Washington, DC, to discuss the childhood obesity epidemic. While there he discussed how fake food—heavily processed, mass-produced food that never grew or lived on a farm—is contributing heavily to the problem.

Ludwig was at TEDMED as part of a kick-off event for the 20 Great Challenges of Health and Medicine, where the TEDMED community voted on the twenty biggest health issues facing America. Ludwig was asked to attend, as a leader in childhood obesity research, and over the next year will work with other experts to help identify and solve some issues around excessive weight gain in children.

The TEDMED community identified childhood obesity one of the Great Challenges because:

It’s a health crisis

  • One-third of kids in the United States are overweight or obese
  • Childhood obesity rates have risen 300% in the past 30 years
  • For the first time in American history, this generation of children are expected to live shorter, less healthful lives than their parents

It’s a threat to economic security

Obesity contributes directly to:

  • Higher medical expenses
  • Diminished worker productivity
  • $1 trillion in estimated costs by 2030, due to obesity-related disease

It’s a threat to national security

  • One in four young Americans who wish to serve in the military are too overweight to be considered
  • Between 1995 and 2008 more than 140,000 people were turned down by the Armed Forces because of their weight
  • In 2008 alone, 4,555 military personnel were discharged for failing to meet weight standards
David Ludwig, MD, PhD

The TEDMED community acknowledges that there are no cure-alls or magic bullets for solving the 20 Great Challenges of Health and Medicine, but believes the first step towards solutions is meaningful conversation between the scientific community, government, big business and the American people.

Do you have a question or comment about childhood obesity? Are you interested to hear what Ludwig and other experts have to say about the subject? If so please join TEDMED’s childhood obesity conversations by visiting their website.