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Dr. Emily Cooper, founder of The Diabesity Research Foundation, says it's important that children develop a healthy metabolism. According to Dr. Cooper, it's important to start early because it affects their future body and brain.

Dr. Cooper joined KING 5 Morning News to discuss what parents can do to make sure their children's metabolism in on track.

Before school starts, it s a great time to focus on this. What are some of the most important things a parent can do?

Make sure your kids sleep at least 8 hours if they are older and closer to 10 if they are younger. Many hormones re-balance and rejuvenate during sleep. In addition to affecting appetite and body composition, sleep supports mental and physical growth and development. Injuries are repaired during sleep so athletic children need even more! Sleep deprivation affects your child s development so prepare to be the Bedtime Enforcer.

What about foods?

Nutrition is critically important for the brain and body. A combination of complex carbs, proteins and beneficial fats promotes growth spurts, brain development and a healthy reproductive system in puberty. Skipping meals and under-fueling exercise can lead to a slower metabolism, stunted growth, poor mental and physical performance, slipping grades, mood imbalance, injuries and infections. It s a great idea to sit down for meals together as a family on a regular basis. And remember, diet talk and body talk during childhood or adolescence is linked to higher incidence of obesity later in life. So avoiding this behavior as a family can prevent future problems.

So try and cut out all the talk of does this make me look fat?

Yes! Which leads to the next thing parents can do...help your kids reduce their stress. Hectic plans for every minute of the day can increase stress and affect obesity and diabetes promoting hormones. So let kids have some unstructured time in their day to breathe, play and be creative. Another thing that s a bit more difficult to control, but as a parent, it s important to be informed about, is limiting your child s exposure to common chemicals. Pre-packaged foods, food additives, synthetic carpeting, pesticides, some personal care products including fragrances that are popular with both boys and girls may contain chemicals called obesogens. Scientific studies report that early exposure to these chemicals may potentially increase risk for obesity and diabetes.

What else can parents do to set the stage for a better metabolic future for their kids?

Although they are young they can still have medical conditions linked with potential metabolic dysfunction, like high cholesterol or triglycerides, fatty liver, high blood pressure or high glucose levels.Ask your doctor to test for medical screening for the following:

  • Blood Pressure
  • Cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides
  • Fasting glucose and HBA1C

These problems are not limited to children who are overweight. As I ve said before, you can't tell what's inside from the outside, it's often more about their genetic profile. So if there is a strong family history, it s a good idea to start screening as early as 10 years of age.

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