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Childhood Obesity: Information and Health Concerns

  • Synopsis: Last Updated: 2017-06-26 - Information including helpful references and documents on childhood obesity and health issues overweight children face
Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is defined as a condition where excess body fat negatively affects a child's health or well-being. As methods to determine body fat directly are difficult, the diagnosis of obesity is often based on BMI. Due to the rising prevalence of obesity in children and its many adverse health effects it is being recognized as a serious public health concern. Overweight and obesity are the result of caloric imbalance too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed, and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.

Main Document

Obesity in childhood and adolescence appears to track into adulthood, increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and certain cancers in adulthood. To mount effective preventive efforts, we need better information regarding the factors involved in the etiology of childhood obesity and overweight children.

High fat fast food diets are becoming more of a staple in children's diets, and even when they do receive home cooked meals, some children suffer poor diets as parents often are not aware of the nutritional value of the foods they prepare. It's kind of a double whammy for children, they are getting poorer nutrition in the food's they eat, and they are exercising less to burn off the extra calories.

It is apparent that obesity is triggered by eating a diet high in fat and calories, being sedentary, or a combination of both. There can be other factors, including genetics, hormones, behavior, environment, and culture. And, obesity is not limited to grown-ups. Approximately 25 to 30 % of adult obesity cases began with childhood obesity. You have heard the story, "I was overweight when I was younger, and this is something that has continued into adulthood."

To help arrest the trends in childhood obesity, both the Surgeon General and the Institute of Medicine have recommended that obesity-prevention efforts begin early in life.

Children With Low Self-Control More Likely to Become Overweight Pre-Teens:

Young children who do not display an ability to regulate their behavior or to delay gratification in exchange for a larger reward appear predisposed to gain extra weight by their pre-teen years, according to published reports. The implication is that interventions to enhance energy-balance regulation in young children will benefit from efforts to encourage self-regulation in other domains, such as encouraging self-control and delay of gratification, both of which are important factors in regulating energy intake.

Prescriptions Increase Among Children and Teens:

A national study on the belly fat issue among boys and girl found that among boys the incidence of belly fat had increased 65% and the incidence among girls was up 70%. The findings are painting a bleak picture for children. Children with belly fat are more prone to develop type II diabetes and some are even being reported to have early onset cardiovascular disease.

The prevalence of children and teens who were prescribed medications for hypertension (high blood pressure), dyslipidemia (abnormal cholesterol) or diabetes (including insulin) increased 15.2 percent, from 3.3 per 1,000 youths in November 2004 to 3.8 per 1,000 youths in June 2007. "The increasing use of oral anti-diabetic and antihypertensive pharmacotherapy among children and adolescents, especially in the younger age group, indicates either an increased awareness of treatment needs or increased incidence of cardiovascular risk factors typically associated with adult populations," the authors write.

When assessed separately, cholesterol-controlling therapy was uncommon (prescribed to 0.2 per 1,000 youths overall) and declined 22.9 percent during the study period. "The decrease in treatment of dyslipidemia may reflect the ongoing controversy regarding statin use," the authors conclude.

Study Identifies Racial Disparities in Childhood Obesity:

Obesity appears twice as common among American Indian and Native Alaskan children than non-Hispanic white or Asian children at age 4. Sarah E. Anderson, Ph.D., of The Ohio State University College of Public Health, Columbus, and Robert C. Whitaker, M.D., M.P.H., of Temple University, Philadelphia, studied a nationally representative sample of 8,550 U.S. children born in 2001. In 2005, 18.4 percent of the 4-year-olds were obese, including 31.2 percent of American Indian/Native Alaskan children, 22 percent of Hispanic children, 20.8 percent of non-Hispanic black children, 15.9 percent of non-Hispanic white children and 12.8 percent of Asian children.

Teens Who Give Birth More Likely to Be Overweight:

Girls who give birth between ages 15 and 19 appear to be substantially heavier, with more abdominal fat, regardless of their childhood weight or of other risk factors for weight gain.

Adolescence has been identified as one of the critical periods of development that set the stage for the onset of obesity later in life. Earlier age at a first birth (younger than 20 years) has been associated with increased rates of coronary heart disease in women. Thus, the influence of gestational weight gain on changes in growth and adiposity during adolescence is an important aspect for future investigation.

Fat Loss Tips for Teenagers:

  • Take soft drinks out of your diet and replace with water. Water is crucial to balanced nutrition and transports food particles. Our blood is 90% water and blood requires water to stay fluid so it can create nutrients.
  • Eat healthy, and clean out your fridge and cupboards to get rid of unhealthy nibbles and foods!
  • Eat uncooked foods with no added sugar, salt and additives and don't eat when you are feeling down. To do so changes the chemical components of food and causes hyper-acidity in your stomach. That could clarify why there is such a high incidence of gastric reflux disease in our country.
  • Finally, start a regular exercise program for 30 mins a day. Exercise raises heart rate, reduces blood pressure, helps muscle tone, and slows down aging.
  • Body mass index (BMI) uses height and weight measurements to estimate how much body fat a person has. To calculate BMI, divide weight in kg by height in meters squared; for pounds and inches, divide weight by height squared and multiply the result by the conversion factor 703.

Obesity Awareness Information

Yellow awareness ribbonThe color of the obesity, including childhood obesity, awareness ribbon is yellow.

The month of September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month - President Barack Obama proclaimed September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, encouraging Americans to help our youth lead more physically active lifestyles and make healthier food choices. Childhood obesity has increased more than fourfold among those ages 6 to 11. More than 23 million children and teenagers in the United States ages 2 to 19 are obese or overweight.

Quick Facts: Childhood Obesity

  • Advertising of unhealthy foods correlates with childhood obesity rates.
  • There are no medications currently approved for the treatment of obesity in children.
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
  • Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  • Schools play a large role in preventing childhood obesity by providing a safe and supporting environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors.
  • Obese adolescents are more likely to have pre-diabetes.
  • Some jurisdictions attempt to use laws and regulations to steer kids and parents towards making healthier food choices.
  • The escalation of obese children is due to the upsurge of technology, increase in snacks and portion size of meals, and the decrease in the physical activity of children.
  • Exclusive breast-feeding is recommended in all newborn infants for its nutritional and other beneficial effects.

Statistics: Childhood Obesity

  • In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • The percentage of children aged 6 -11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12 - 19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.
  • With more than 42 million overweight children around the world, childhood obesity is increasing worldwide.
  • Since 1980, the number of obese children has doubled in all three North American countries, Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
  • In 2010, 32.6 percent of 6 to 11 year olds were overweight, and 18 percent of 6 to 9-year olds were obese.
Latest Childhood Obesity Publications
1 - More Obese Children and Adolescents Than Underweight by 2022 - World Health Organization (WHO).
2 - Childhood Obesity - A Psychological Disorder? - Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
3 - Trend Reversal in Childhood Obesity - BMI Decline in 8 Yr Old Boys - University of Gothenburg.
4 - Higher Childhood BMI May Affect Cognitive Function in Midlife - The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
5 - Obesity Rate Difference in Children With and Without Autism - Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus.
6 - Teen BMI Weight Linked to Heart Failure Risk in Early Middle Age - European Society of Cardiology.
7 - Obesity Not a Disability According to Most Doctors on SERMO - SERMO.
8 - How Teenage Boys Perceive Their Weight - Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.
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