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Experts Give Philadelphians Food For Thought In Battle Against Obesity

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(Healthy snacks were served to attendees at the "FreshRX" symposium, at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Old City Philadelphia.  Credit: John Ostapkovich)

(Healthy snacks were served to attendees at the “FreshRX” symposium, at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Old City Philadelphia. Credit: John Ostapkovich)

John Ostapkovich John Ostapkovich
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By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — More than 100 people in the fields of health care and nutrition today heard a rallying cry against obesity from a man described as “the commander-in-chief” of the fight.

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Dr. David Ludwig (below left) had both bad news and good news for the “FreshRX” symposium, put on by the St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children.

ludwigshaeffer jan  ost Experts Give Philadelphians Food For Thought In Battle Against Obesity

Dr. David Ludwig, keynote speaker, and Jan Shaeffer, executive director of “FreshRX” seminar. Credit: John Ostapkovich)

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The bad news, he said, is that the obesity epidemic, especially among children, weighs on public health, eroding expected lifespans even more than cancer.

The good is that we’re not powerless, even in what he calls a “toxic environment” that promotes obesity.

“Parents can just say no to soft drinks, junk food, fast food in the home,” Ludwig said.  “(That) doesn’t mean that you have to eat a perfect diet, but if it doesn’t support health, don’t bring it in the home.”

Ludwig, of the Harvard Medical School, says many diet and exercise regimens simply don’t work.  He focuses on good quality foods, physical activity throughout the day (not just at the gym), and parental leadership to turn what he calls a “vicious cycle” into a victorious one.

Jan Shaeffer, executive director of the symposium, says more needs to be done to get people in tune with how food and health intersect, since obesity threatens life expectancy.

“Why is this happening?  And why at the point, where everyone knows this is an enormous epidemic, aren’t the physicians getting more training?  And why aren’t insurance companies stepping up?” she wondered aloud, because paying for an ounce of prevention or counseling is a lot cheaper than fighting the cumulative health effects, from diabetes to heart disease.

Another speaker, a nutritionist, talked about the challenge of getting people whose grasp of words and numbers is poor to read and understand food labels.

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