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Childhood Obesity: Information and Health Concerns

  • Synopsis: Last Revised/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:

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

Statistics: Childhood Obesity

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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