Preventing Childhood Obesity

Preventing Childhood ObesityApproximately 30 percent of children and adolescents are overweight or very close to being so – that is one of three children!

In the past 25 years, the percentage of children who are overweight has doubled; the percentage of young adults has more than tripled and the prevalence of obesity in children has quadrupled – nearly 16 percent are considered obese.

Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona has declared that childhood obesity is a “pediatric health crisis” and “a national priority”.

Obesity adversely impacts a child’s physical and emotional health. Sleep disorders and respiratory problems, as well as bone fractures, joint pain and osteoarthritis are common.

Adult diseases such as hypertension, high cholesterol, Type-2 diabetes and liver and gall bladder disease are now common in obese children and can lead to heart disease, heart failure and stroke in later life.

Overweight and obese children generally mature earlier than their peers: they are often taller and more sexually developed. Adolescent girls who are obese or overweight are more prone to have irregular menstrual cycles and develop fertility problems in adulthood.

Social discrimination and stigmatization also affect overweight children. They are often labeled as lazy, thick-skinned and unfeeling and thought to be unhealthy and unhygienic.

Teasing, name-calling and disparaging comments affect their self-esteem, and low self-esteem often leads to eating disorders and depression.

So, why are so many children overweight? A number of social, environmental, metabolic and genetic factors contribute:

  • Lifestyle: lack of regular physical activity and exercise and sedentary behavior such as watching TV, playing video games and sitting at a computer.
  • Environment: advertisements that promote popular children’s characters enjoying high-calorie foods and snacks.
  • Unhealthy eating habits: over-consumption of high-calorie, fatty foods and eating while watching TV and/or eating when not hungry.
  • Genetics: there are more than 50 genes associated with obesity. Moreover, studies show that a child’s risk of obesity greatly increases if one or both parents are overweight.

Children are apt to develop the same eating and physical activity habits as their parents. [via]

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