By: Stephen Archer, MD, FACS

In 2004, 14% of American children were obese. By 2012 this prevalence had declined to 8%, and a large part of this is due to decreases in sugar-sweetened beverages. This is reason for real celebration. 75% of obese children will end up being obese adults. On the other hand, why would any three year old need any sugar-sweetened beverage? Water and whole milk would likely cover the waterfront for a child—and maybe for most of us, for that matter. Still, it is great news and even more importantly, the decline means that the families raising children are starting to understand the impact of our relationship to food, especially to sugar in all its forms.

The culprit for obesity is sugar, or carbohydrates. IT IS NOT CALORIES. Should I repeat that? Ok. Eat ALL the calories you want of the BEST foods. My mom was a very caring family doctor and she, doing the best she could at the time—uh, the time was the 70’s (it was a really great time, by the way, with incredibly good music, no computers, lots of time outdoors and only four stations on tv, if you included PBS, which my parents always did)…let’s get back to that sentence about my mom the doctor…she did the best she could at the time and gave us fewer calories and tried to reduce fat. We ate lots of fake butter and nonfat everything. Turns out this was the opposite of what is best. What is best is whole foods, not processed. Full fat milk is better than nonfat milk, because we need everything in milk to make it work best. If you read this blog you will see a trend toward always eating real food, letting go of processed food. Processed food is a way to get sugar in to your body and sugar in all its forms is the engine behind the obesity epidemic, not calories. Not all calories are equal. Eat all the avocados you want, with all their fatty goodness. If it is a choice between eggs and bacon or the Danish, eat the E&B. The Danish is just several kinds of sugar. You get my drift.

Obesity is devastating. Treating it with surgery is what I do in the OR everyday. What I would like to do is make my job obsolete. That is a generational task. This generation has to teach the next generation (our kids) how to eat. The incoming president of the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, Dr. Raul Rosenthal, called me this weekend and asked me if I would be the chairman of a new committee in our society—ok, I suggested the committee to him recently—the committee for obesity prevention. It’s a big honor for me. We will get to be the voice of our society to the press, the government and to Big Food about the truth as we know it about how to prevent our kids from growing up to be obese. No matter how many operations I do to treat obesity, nothing would give me more satisfaction than to put myself out of the need for that job.


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