At least one out of every six children ages 1 to 6 are too beefy to fit into their child safety seats -- and need extra-large "husky" models designed for proto-Elvii. That works out to something like 190,000 over-large toddlers, about 5 percent of all the three-year-olds in the country.
This isn't baby fat we're talking here, either. These are three-year-olds who weigh in at 40 pounds or more. These kids are on a (fast food) track to being 200 pounders by their teens. Those gummi bears and juice boxes really add up, apparently. That and our indolent, sedentary lifestyle. As we get fatter and fatter, so do the kids -- emulating the example (and lifestyle) of their parents.
So what do the Wise Heads suggest? The obvious answer -- a better diet, for starters -- doesn't come up in any of the coverage one can find of this story. Instead, we get calls for super-sized car safety seats, units titanic enough to hold Baby Fatima so that she's not injured in the event of a car wreck. That she'll end up a teen diabetic -- or in the cardiac care ICU by 40 -- doesn't seem to matter. So much easier to just build a bigger seat than put not-so-junior on a diet.
The car seat study appears in the April issue of Pediatrics, a journal associated with Johns Hopkins Hospital. One of the study's authors, Lara Trifiletti, decided to look into the matter after she discovered researchers evaluating the functionality of child safety seats were encountering problems finding seats to fit and properly restrain obese children.
According to federal data, almost one quarter of all American children ages 2 to 5 are overweight; 10 percent are medically obese -- and at elevated risk for developing early-onset diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other potentially life-threatening illnesses directly associated with being significantly overweight.
These weighty waddlers need wide-load seats like the $250 Britax "Husky" -- designed to handle kids who weigh up to 80-lbs. Remember, this is for 3-5 year-olds. Hopefully, the parents of these kids are going to the gym; they'll need Popeye-sized biceps to heft their little giants onboard the family truckster. Maybe the automakers will develop a special auto-winch system? Or heavy-lift running boards?
Britax spokeswoman Joyce Kara told the Associate Press that the childhood obesity epidemic is "something that we do keep in mind when designing our seats to make sure our seats are versatile in accommodating all sizes of children."
They might be better served if someone sent them a free pass to Gold's Gym.
Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking into new regulations that would apply to these super-sized child seats -- and will be using a crash test dummy carrying an extra 25 pounds to simulate an 80-lb. youngster. No word as to whether the shock absorbers on the cars involved will also be tested (or upgraded to handle the load).
It's ironic that our society, so concerned with protecting children against abstract outside risks, seems indifferent to clear evidence of a very real (and, literally, "growing") crisis -- childhood obesity. You'd think that sensible parents would take notice of their child's expanding girth (and their inability to find a child seat that fits) as evidence of a problem with the child, not an excuse to go shopping.
Childhood obesity was almost unheard of 20 years ago, back in the pre-Playstation age. Now it is a commonplace. But our genetic make-up hasn't mutated in this short span of time; rather, our lifestyles and attitudes have.
And we're not doing these kids any favors by accommodating their wide-load waistbands. Of course, it's easier for also-beefy parents to adopt a policy of benign neglect than it is to make major changes in how they (and their children) live. And if current trends continue, being fat will become the norm -- and the handful of skinny kids who somehow fall through the cracks will just have to make do with flopping around in super-sized seats they just don't fit into.
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