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As an orthopaedic surgeon with Shriners Hospitals for Children – Greenville, Michael Mendelow spends his days working to improve the lives of children with orthopaedic conditions.

The hospital treats patients with a wide range of orthopaedic and neuromuscular conditions, regardless of the family’s ability to pay, and is home to one of the largest pediatric orthopaedic programs in the region. But in some cases, Mendelow’s hands are tied. When children are overweight or obese, it may limit what can be done for them. Some orthopaedic conditions are even caused by weight.

The issue is one that can be critical to children’s health.

“From day one, we say the weight contributes to the symptoms,” Mendelow said. “Kids don’t shop for themselves. It’s a challenge. It’s a hard subject to bring up.”

When parents do hear the message, the results can greatly benefit the health of the entire family. Too often, Mendelow said that isn’t the case.

“When a child is obese, it is a household problem,” he said.

To provide specific help, Mendelow recommends two documentaries.

“Fed Up,” narrated by Katie Couric, explores how food choices are detrimentally affecting children.

“It is very well done and it’s a lot of good information,” Mendelow said. “There is no way they can exercise enough to burn the calories they are eating.”

“That Sugar Film” details the amount of sugar in seemingly innocent foods.

“People should know where their sugar is hiding,” Mendelow said. “It’s in everything.”

The movies are tools to help parents gain the information they need to change their child’s health.

“We are all learning,” Mendelow said. “I think over the last 30 to 40 years the food supply has changed and we are starting to see the impact. As a family, it’s helpful to see those things. Sugar is a drug.”

Mendelow said sweetened beverages, including the South’s beloved sweet tea, can profoundly affect weight. An extra 140 calories a day — the amount in the average 12 ounce soda — can mean a pound of weight gain per month.

“We are just assailed with opportunities to gain weight,” Mendelow said. “Even though millennials exercise more than ever, they are heavier than ever. It’s not the exercise and it’s not eating too much. It’s eating the wrong things.”

Even fruit juice isn’t the health food parents think it is.

“Parents are induced into thinking they are giving their kids healthy things when they really aren’t,” Mendelow said.

If weight isn’t addressed during well checks, parents may think it isn’t an issue.

“I don’t want to be that doctor where they leave my office thinking it’s OK,” Mendelow said.

Find out more

Watch the movies mentioned in this story:“Fed Up” – fedupmovie.com, available on DVD and Blu-ray, Netflix streaming, Amazon Instant Video, and iTunes; “That Sugar Film” – thatsugarfilm.com, available on DVD and Blu-Ray, Amazon Instant Video, and iTunes.

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