Childhood obesity is a condition where excess body fat that affects a child’s health or wellbeing in a very negative way. As methods to determine body fat directly are difficult, the diagnosis of obesity is often based on BMI. The rising prevalence of obesity in children and its many adverse health effects it is being recognized as a serious health worry.
Body Mass index is acceptable for determining obesity for children two years of age and older The normal range for BMI in children vary with age and gender. CDC defines obesity as a BMI greater than the 95th percentile. It has published tables for determining this in children.
The first problems to occur in obese children are emotional or mentally incapable. Childhood obesity however can also lead to life-threatening conditions. Some of the other disorders would include liver disease and or puberty or menarche, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, skin infections, and asthma and other respiratory problems. In depth researchers have shown that overweight children are more likely to grow up to be overweight adults. Obesity during adolescence has been found to increase mortality rates during adulthood.
Obesity in children can lead to children being depressed, being teased in school, bullied, and having learning struggles.
A 2008 study has found that children who are obese have carotoid arteries which have prematurely aged by as much as thirty years as well as abnormal levels of high cholesterol.
The effects of eating habits on childhood obesity are difficult to determine. A three year randomized controlled study of 1,704 3rd grade children which provided two healthy meals a day in combination with an exercise program and dietary counselings failed to show a significant reduction in percentage body fat when compared to a control group. This was partly due to the fact that even though the children believed they were eating less their actual calorie consumption did not decrease with the intervention. At the same time observed energy expenditure remained similar between the groups. This occurred even though dietary fat intake decreased from 34% to 27% A second study of 5,106 children showed similar results. Even though the children ate an improved diet there was no effect found on BMI. Why these studies did not bring about the desired effect of curbing childhood obesity has been attributed to the interventions not being sufficient enough. Changes were made primarily in the school environment while it is felt that they must occur in the home, the community, and the school simultaneously to have a significant effect.
Calorie-rich drinks and foods are readily available to children. Consumption of sugar-laden carbonated drinks such as soda pop may contribute to childhood obesity. In a study of 548 children over a 19 month period the likelihood of obesity increased 1.6 times for every additional soft drink consumed per day.
Calorie-dense, prepared snacks are available in many locations frequented by children. As childhood obesity has become more prevalent, snack vending machines in school settings have been reduced by law in a small number of localities. Eating at greasy and unhealthy fast food restaurants is very common among young people with 75% of 7th to 12th grade students consuming fast food in a given week. The fast food industry is also at fault for the rise in childhood obesity. This industry spends about $42 billion on advertisements aimed at young children. McDonald’s alone has thirteen websites that are viewed by 365,000 children and 294,000 teenagers each month. In addition, fast food restaurants give out toys in children’s meals, which helps to entice children. Forty percent of children ask their parents to take them to fast food restaurants on a daily basis. To make matters worse, out of 3000 combinations created from popular items on children’s menus at fast food restaurants, only 13 meet the recommended nutritional guidelines for young children.
Physical inactivity as a child could result in physical inactivity as an adult. In a fitness survey of 6,000 adults, researchers discovered that 25% of those who were considered active at ages 14 to 19 were also active adults, compared to 2% of those who were inactive at ages 14 to 19, who were now said to be active adults. Staying physically inactive leaves unused energy in the body, most of which is stored as extra fat buildup.. Researchers studied 16 men over a 14 day period and fed them 50% more of their energy required every day through fats and carbs. They discovered that carbohydrate overfeeding produced 75–85% excess energy being stored as extra body fat and fat overfeeding produced 90–95% storage of excess energy as body fat.
Children’s food choices are also influenced by family meals. Researchers provided a home eating questionnaire to 18,177 children, ranging in ages 11–21, and discovered that four out of five parents let their children make their own food decisions. They also discovered that compared to adolescents who ate three or fewer meals per week, those who ate four to five family meals per week were 19% less likely to report poor consumption of vegetables, 22% less likely to report poor consumption of fruits, and 19% less likely to report poor consumption of dairy food. Such as cheese, and cow milk. Adolescents who ate six to seven family meals per week, compared to those who ate three or fewer family meals per week, were 38% less likely to report poor consumption of vegetables, 31% less likely to report poor consumption of fruits, and 27% less likely to report poor consumption of dairy foods. The results of a survey in the UK published in 2010 imply that children raised by their grandparents are more likely to be obese as adults than those raised by their parents. An American study released in 2011 found the more mothers work the more children are more likely to be overweight or obese.
Child obesity is on the rise. It’s the parents choice to let their kids eat whatever it is they feel like eating. Or stick to a healthy food plan, that includes ways of letting children eat healthy, and gain vitamins. It is our duty as parents to make sure that our child is getting the nutrition that he or she so desperately deserves.