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Expert on childhood obesity Add to ...

In Weight training , Carolyn Abraham writes about California's Wellspring Academy, an institution that bills itself as the world's first academic boarding school for overweight children.

"Rates of childhood obesity have soared in the past 30 years. In North America, they have tripled. One in four Canadian children is now estimated to be overweight and 1 in 10 is clinically obese," she writes.

"Weight-loss camps for kids have surged in popularity around the world. But officials at Wellspring insist that their year-round school is no typical 'fat camp,' where kids tend to drop pounds each summer but return every year to lose the same weight again."

You may not be ready to send your kid off to a school dedicated to helping them lose weight. But if you're concerned about your child's health and weight, Dr. Jean-Pierre Chanoine, who focuses on the study of nutrition and childhood obesity, was online earlier to take your questions on childhood obesity.

Your questions and Dr. Chanoine's answers will appear at the bottom of this page.

Dr. Jean-Pierre Chanoine is the head of the endocrinology and diabetes unit at the B.C. Children's Hospital and a professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Chanoine focuses on the study of nutrition and childhood obesity, from the laboratory to the patient and the community. The main line of research aims at understanding the physiological events leading to the onset of obesity, with emphasis on the regulation of ghrelin, a newly discovered hormone secreted mainly by the pancreas in the fetus and the neonate. Community projects propose an original intervention (peer-led curriculum) to prevent the development of obesity in schoolchildren.

Editor's Note: globeandmail.com editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.

sc smith from Canada writes: How much do parents contribute to the problem of childhood obesity? They are ultimately the role models who teach their children habits about food and exercise, as well as the ones providing/making meals. I know in today's society everyone is pressed for time, but if the parents lived an active lifestyle (e.g, the whole family going for a bike ride one evening instead of sitting watching t.v.) would that make a difference?

Dr. Chanoine: Thank you for this great question. Indeed, our society has changed as a whole. This is true not only for our diet (what and how much we eat), the overall level of activity associated with a day-to-day-life (cars, TV, time..) but also the way we build our society (secluded home developments far away from everything, visible elevators and invisible stairs, remote control for every appliance and so on, every bit counts!). I often hear that the school has a major role to play in ensuring our kids are healthy but I fully agree with you that role modeling by parents is crucial. My 2 practical comments will be 1. prevention and treatment should focus not on what families should do (we all know what to do) but more on how to do it. What practical changes need to be made in the family life so that these apparently logical measures are implemented. What are the obstacles to these apparently easy changes? 2. This should start very early in life (prevention), when our kids are developing and are more amenable to change. Pregnancy might be a good time to talk to parents about healthy lifestyles for their children as this has been shown to be a period where parents are very open to change.

cathy RD from kelowna Canada writes: Many youth sport teams offer kids sports drinks during their activities. A 591 mL bottle has as many calories as a can of pop, and I know my dental hygienist says it ruins kids teeth to sip on them. Are active kids actually active enough to need sports drinks?

Dr. Chanoine: Sport drinks bring calories as well as minerals and are in theory designed to replace losses during exercise. So, if this is used during or after an intense physical exercise (soccer, hockey...), I believe this is reasonable (and brushing teeth sure is a plus!). Sport drinks do not NEED to be used (my daughter's coach (soccer) requests water in abundance, orange quarters during half-time and a snack at the end). But the main issue is that these drinks are replacing water as the drink of choice, outside physical activity, and this leads to excessive intake.

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