French nutritionist proposes giving kids better grades for being slim

Jan 5, 2012 at 2:30 p.m. ET

A French nutritionist has drafted a proposal to help end childhood obesity in France by giving extra credit for staying thin. Is Pierre Dukan off the mark with this suggestion, or is he headed in the right direction? Read on and decide for yourself.

School age boy on scale

Pierre Dukan, a nutritionist from France who authored the popular protein-based Dukan diet (similar to the American Atkins diet), has come up with a proposal to reward slim high school children with extra credit. Encouraging kids to maintain an ideal body mass index (BMI) sounds great, but should those who do not or cannot be unable to get the extra points?

Tackling childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is an epidemic, not only in France, where over 50 percent of the population is classified as overweight, but in the U.S. as well. We reported recently on the state of Georgia's high rate of childhood obesity and how it is attempting to combat it. The state is using a series of public service advertisements that highlight the perils of obese kids, and it's being hailed as genius by some while being heavily criticized by others.

The next step?

Would a program like this be the next step in the U.S.? In the proposed program, written into a book and directed at the future president of France, children who attain and maintain a BMI of 18 to 25 are awarded extra points during their final year exams known as the "baccalaureat." Dukan claims that it would serve as a powerful motivator and in the end, everyone would win.

A backlash

While Dukan may have the children of France's best interests in mind, most feel that this method will do nothing more than harm young people. "Discrimination!" proclaimed Laura from Australia. "You get two kids, both are very clever, but because one is bigger than the other they are held back and made to feel that they are no good or not good enough because of their weight? That's so wrong!"

Michelle from Kansas agreed. "I think society has already taught our children they have to look anorexic to be pretty," she said. "Yes, teach children about better eating choices. but don't condemn them if they are a little thick around the bones."

Casey from Massachusetts was worried about the long-term effects of such a program. "This guy's idea isn't necessarily going to educate the public and cause people to eat better -- it's going to result in a higher rate of eating disorders in teenagers," she related. "And what happens after graduation, when there's no longer a 'bonus points' incentive? What's really been accomplished?"

Jen from Canada met the suggestion with sarcastic disdain. "Bribery pays off," she said. "There's a lesson to be teaching kids. What a great role model."

While Dukan wants to motivate kids to maintain a healthy weight, parents around the world agree that this is not the way to do it.

Weigh in

Is giving students extra credit for being thin a good solution to the obesity epidemic or an awful idea?

More on childhood nutrition

Teaching kids healthy portion sizes and nutrition
Information on basic nutritional needs for children
Enhance children's activity and nutrition