More and more children are becoming obese. While alarming, the cause is not surprising. Like adults, obesity in children results from the consumption of too many calories, leading to a BMI measurement that places them into a category beyond the ideal weight classification for someone their age and height.
The rising numbers are alarming because medical professionals are beginning to see younger patients presenting with high blood pressure, liver disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and more. While medical researchers continue to dig into potential treatment options for obese children, the primary treatment remains preventative.
If parents want to protect their children against the potential health consequences of obesity, they must take responsibility and control for incorporating a healthy diet in the home. Additionally, parents can help children maintain efficient physical activity every day — a minimum of one hour per day.
Exploring the Underlying Causes of Childhood Obesity
Not all factors of obesity stem from unhealthful eating; there are also genetic and medical conditions to consider before diagnosing the underlying problem. However, despite other contributors to weight gain, most cases of obesity, especially among children, stem from unhealthy foods and a sedentary lifestyle. Understanding the lifestyle and genetic predisposition of children will help determine the cause of the growing crisis of obese children. Still, it is not as simple as saying eat less and exercise more.
To understand the problem, it is necessary to break down obesity into several factors: behavioral, environmental, medical, and genetic. Behavioral factors contributing to weight gain include eating a nutrient-poor diet, consuming more significant portions, spending too much time in front of a computer or television, and spending too little time being active. Environment factors include access to junk food over healthy food and limited access to parks or physical activity. Genes also play a role in the risk of obesity, but they do not determine the outcome. Finally, certain medical conditions can contribute to weight gain, including specific treatments and medications for those conditions.
Is Childhood Obesity Really a Problem, or Is It Overblown?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 19.3% of children and adolescents or 14.4 million young individuals are considered obese by BMI measurements. While that number might not sound too jarring, it has tripled in the past 30 years and continues to grow.
Even among two to five-year-old children, the number is growing and is currently sitting at 13.4%. The percentage increases to 20.3% for children ages six to 11. These numbers are not overblown, and if they are anything, they are a favorable estimate, meaning real numbers are likely higher than these estimates. Additionally, those numbers only worsen when factored into the socioeconomics, with lower-income and minority communities showing a greater presence of obese children.
Something has to be done to curb the numbers and improve the health of children. Without intervention, children are sure to experience negative symptoms and consequences throughout their lives.
Symptoms and Consequences of Childhood Obesity
Children will suffer psychologically and physiologically from poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. In many cases, children begin to suffer from depression as they hit their teens. They may suffer from body-image issues. Additionally, they will experience greater health risks, including asthma, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, cancer, and reproductive problems later in life.
Prevention is the most effective tool to prevent childhood obesity, meaning healthy eating and exercise. Parents must instill their children with a nutritional foundation to make the best choices as they get older.
Do you have any advice for concerned parents?