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. In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. 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. Obesity is 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. If your child is a few pounds overweight you might want to monitor their activity and food intake both in quality and quantity. If your child falls into the “obese” category it is important to make significant lifestyle changes while they are young.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF OBESITY?
Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Obese adolescents are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
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.
Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.
HOW CAN I PREVENT OR TREAT CHILDHOOD OBESITY?
Adopt a healthy lifestyle for yourself and your family with regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Limit the amount of “junk food” or drinks in your home, reserve them for special occasions.
Establish family outings like after dinner walks or weekend hikes.
Limit the hours of television and screen time for your children.
Give your children plenty of water rather than juices or sugary drinks.
Eat whole, unrefined foods such as lean meats, fruits and vegetables.