June 14, 2012

Nutrition guidelines wanted for toddlers | The Beckley Register-Herald

Specific guidelines in the proper nutrition for toddlers and pregnant women are the goal of Sen. Joe Manchin in an amendment put before the Senate Wednesday, targeting the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture.

Mindful of obesity rates at record levels, Manchin co-sponsored the amendment to a farm bill with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., one that obligates both federal agencies to form, implement and promote dietary guidelines for children up to 2 years old and expectant women.

“Right now, anyone in America can find science-based guidelines for what to eat and how much to have,” Manchin, D-W.Va., explained after the amendment was offered.

“But we have never focused specific attention on pregnant women, infants and toddlers.”

Manchin emphasized that such nutritional guidelines would be voluntary and provide parents “solid information” on feeding children so they can grow up in a healthy lifestyle.

“There’s no question that our kids need to be physically active, which is why as governor, my administration put physical education back in schools for every West Virginia student in grades K through 12,” the senator said.

“Developing good exercise and eating habits as children is the best way to be healthy as an adult.”

Manchin’s plunge into this arena came with his Healthy Lifestyles Act of 2005, one that also banned sugary soft drinks in elementary and middle schools in school hours, and requiring vendors to offer a like number of healthy beverages as sodas in high school bending machines.

Figures kept by the Trust for America’s Health show West Virginia’s average obesity rate between 2008 and 2010 was 32.2 percent, third worst in the country.

In the same period, the diabetes rate was 12 percent, second highest. The obesity rate in 2007 stood at 18.9 percent among West Virginia children, ranking the state 10th in that category.

Manchin said children age 2 and under have unique nutritional needs but no science-based, government-set dietary guidelines are in force.

“The fact is that we need to give people better tools to keep their kids healthy and right now, some parents mean well, but don’t have the information they need to make the right decisions,” he said.

“The food that our children eat affects how they learn, which will affect how they can contribute to our society. If want to stay competitive, we have to keep ourselves healthy and strong. On top of that, giving our children a healthy start in life is more important now than ever, as we continue to see rising obesity rates among our youth and causing tremendous health problems as they get older.”

By:  Mannix Porterfield