Child obesity affects 30% of the children in the United States, nearly three times what it was fifty-two years ago. Obese children are more likely to have health problems that were once strictly adult concerns. These include type 2 diabetes, asthma, Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD; can cause liver damage and scarring), cancer, hypertension, and high cholesterol, as well as other health concerns. Kids who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults. Childhood obesity is also linked to both higher and earlier death rates in adults.
Kids are considered obese when their BMI (body mass index) is 30 or above. BMI was only used to measure obesity in adults but has now become a common way to measure it in children; before there was a simple measurement use called weight-for-age. BMI measures height and weight (in kilograms and square meters). Weight-for-age was based around percentiles; it measured a percentage of the child population and what they are expected to weigh for their height and age. A child was obese under the weight-for-age measurement if they were at or above the 95th percentile. In other words, they would have to weigh more than at least 95% of the children.
Major reasons kids are obese are: junk foods marketed targeting kids, leading a sedentary lifestyle, diet, and socioeconomic status. Those from poorer families are at a greater risk to be obese in adolescence. Those lower income families don’t have the money available for them to go out for sports. Also responsible are parents who buy foods that are high in sugar and fat because those foods are a lot cheaper and more convenient. Picky eaters do not help matters; they can refuse to eat fruits and vegetables, making it impossible for them to do anything but gain weight because the only foods they will eat are the ones contributing to their obesity. Also, there is less research being done by parents to see what their kids should be eating and no monitoring to see what they do eat. Daily portion size and caloric intake, has dramatically increased.
Another contributing factor toward obesity is lack of physical activity. A lot of kids spend most of their day sitting and being sedentary. They are either riding the bus, sitting on the couch playing video games or watching television, or getting a ride to and from school. The only opportunity they have for physical activity is either physical education or recess. Both kids and teens need to engage in 60 minutes of moderate to intense exercise of some kind each day. However, a lot of schools these days do not make physical education classes a daily requirement; in this country, 8% of elementary schools and only 7% of middle schools do.
Obese children often times develop psychological effects when they are obese. These include low self esteem, a negative image about their bodies, sleep apnea, and depression. Other kids can contribute to the problem, making them feel worse about themselves and their situation, through intimidation and bullying. Feeling lonely, helpless, and worthless can possibly make their obesity problem worse.
Parents of potentially obese kids need to monitor their diets and activities to make sure their kids are developing a healthy lifestyle. The parents need to teach their children healthy habits and enforce what they teach. Kids need to take the initiative for themselves, to be active and eat the right foods. It’s good they get in the habit of eating healthy and exercising early because once they start developing bad habits, it’s difficult to break the cycle. When they are healthy as a kid, they’ll be healthier as adults.
By Lane Rogers
Tags: What is Child Obesity