Usually, I’m happy to report on trends. The plant-based boom, the CBD craze…sharing news about the wellbeing-boosters that are bringing consumers to natural products stores is a highlight. The trend I spent hours researching this month, though, brings me no joy: Children being diagnosed with adult diseases. A few sobering statistics:
  • Rates of overweight and obesity have increased in all age groups among children ages 2-19, according to a study titled “Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity in US Children, 1999–2016” published in Pediatrics. The rates generally increased with age, with 41.5% of teens having obesity by 16-19 years of age.
  • Newly diagnosed cases of Type 2 diabetes in children and teens increased roughly 4.8% every year of the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, which was conducted between 2002 and 2012. Speaking to U.S. News & World Report, Dr. Fran Cogen, director of the Childhood and Adolescent Diabetes Program at Children’s National Health System and professor of pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., said, “Prior to the 1980s, Type 2 diabetes was extremely uncommon in children and adolescents. Unfortunately, the rate has increased as our lifestyles have become increasingly sedentary, and we’ve seen an explosion of processed, high-sugar and fast-food options."
  • An estimated 10% of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which has become more common in children in recent decades, in part because childhood obesity has become more common.
  • The number of kids 6-17 diagnosed with anxiety or depression increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 2011–2012, according to the data shared by the CDC. (Find more on stress here.)
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say every person reading this editorial wants to see this trend reversed. We wish we could go back to calling diabetes “adult-onset” instead of Type 2…or better yet, to see an end to Type 2 altogether, for people of all ages. Of course, we’re not in the business of treatment. But we are in the business of promoting healthy lifestyles—of helping parents feed their little ones nutrient-packed foods free of excess sugars and artificial ingredients, and helping them supplement as needed to ward off nutrition shortfalls and stay well. Here, we look at the offerings in the child health category to help parents do just that.

There’s also a little bonus, as Daniel Lohman points out in that feature: “Natural brands and retailers who focus on teaching kids about nutrition and healthy options can convert occasional customers into loyal evangelists. This all begins with a robust merchandising strategy focused on educating kids and empowering them to take control of their health. The best part is that their enthusiasm can be contagious. I keep hearing stories about how these children then encourage their parents to also adopt healthy eating habits.” Now that’s a trend I want to report on more!

Maggie Jaqua