"Childhood obesity is not a cosmetic problem or something the child will simply grow out of. Obese children tend to become obese adults and there are many medical problems with obesity. Children now take the same type of medication as their parents manage blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol. That is terrifying, but it is true ", said Dr. Rani Whitfield, a spokesman for the American Heart Association.
Le >The prevalence of obesity in children aged 6-11 years increased from 7% in 1980 to 18% in 2012, while the proportion of obese adolescents aged 12-19 years increased from 5% to 21% over the same period.
These significant increases have led to an increase in health-related obesity in children and adolescents. A 2007 population-based survey of 5-17 year olds found that around 70% of obese children and adolescents have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and that the risk of musculoskeletal disorders can be increased by this disease, diabetes and cancer.
The effects of childhood obesity can persist into adulthood, and there are worldwide concerns that as childhood obesity increases, also the Prevalence of related diseases increases. This will not only endanger the health of future generations, but will also have an enormous impact on the economy.
These concerns have led to public health campaigns to tackle childhood obesity, such as the Let’s Move initiative, launched in 2010 by First Lady Michelle Obama.
But how are child obesity rates so high? Is enough being done to address the problem? And do we take children’s obesity as seriously as we should? examined.
Why have we seen an increase in childhood obesity?
Weight status in children is determined by body mass index (BMI) for age percentiles. This calculates a child’s weight class based on their age and BMI. A child is considered overweight if its BMI for age percentile is over 85% and is considered overweight if it is over 95%.
There is no doubt that the main causes of childhood obesity are an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity.
Amanda Staiano, PhD, Co-Chair of The Obesity Society’s Public Affairs Committee – the leading obesity organization – said:
"The availability of liquid and empty calories, combined with a flood of fast food and junk food advertising, has changed the way children eat. The majority of children do not reach the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity time to sit. The way we shape our daily lives makes it difficult for children to live healthy. "
It is clear that lifestyle changes in the past 30 years have had a significant impact on childhood obesity. Children used to have a snack every day, while one in five school-age children consumed up to six snacks a day.
Food and drink serving sizes are also larger than they were 30 years ago. In the mid-1970s, a standard sugar-sweetened drink was 13.6 ounces, while today it stands at 20 ounces.
In addition, the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA increased a child’s daily calorie intake from sugary drinks by 60% between 1989 and 2008.
Although the availability of junk food and drinks in schools has decreased, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that more than half of middle and high schools in the United States are still available for purchase.
And the advertising industry, health care professionals believe, hasn’t helped childhood childhood obesity, with previous studies suggesting that children who are exposed to junk food are more likely to become overweight.
The level of physical activity has also decreased in the past three decades. The CDC state that last year, only 29% of high school students took part in the recommended 60 minutes of exercise a day.
Gone are the days when children run around and play for hours after school. Now they tend to be sedentary, for example watching TV, playing computer games or using social media. Children today spend an average of 7.5 hours a day on entertainment media.
There are others factors, that have been linked to the development of childhood obesity. Genetic disposition is one.
A 2012 study reported two gene variants that researchers claim to increase the risk of childhood obesity. A recent study by researchers from the University of Cambr >But health experts believe that it is primarily unhealthy diet and lack of exercise that have pushed children’s obesity rates up. "Although inheritance some of the obesity sep >It seems encouraging children to eat a healthy diet and more exercise is the path to success against childhood obesity. The Let’s Move initiative mentioned above focuses on doing just that. But is childhood obesity taken so seriously that such campaigns work?
A recent CDC report found that 30.2% of children and adolescents in the United States misjudged their weight status. Around 48% of overweight boys and 36% of overweight girls consider their weight to be normal, the report said.
A study published in 2013 found that 62% of parents of overweight children find their child healthy.
Dr. Eliana Perrin, associate professor of pediatrics at North Carolina Children’s Hospital, said:
"[Parents] often fail to recognize when their children are overweight. Because small children with a healthy weight look thin and because children who are overweight become the norm, parents often fail to recognize when their children are not on a healthy path. I think they only worry when obesity affects their daily lives. "
Dr. Perrin is the lead author of a study we reported earlier this year that many parents use child and nutritional methods that increase the risk of obesity later in life.
She told us that parents need support to ensure that their children live healthier, which Staiano also confirms:
"Parents should talk to their child’s pediatrician about how to achieve healthy weight and make healthier decisions >"Parents can play a role by speaking at PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences, advocating healthier eating in daycare centers and schools, and demanding that places children visit, such as schools and parks, promote healthy eating and physical activity."
Schools can do more to fight childhood obesity?
It is certainly a duty of schools to do more to encourage children to behave well.
In the United States, approximately 32 million students eat school meals every day, and many of these children make school meals up to 50% of their daily energy intake.
Schools are already subject to new school meal guidelines developed in 2012 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
These guidelines require schools to offer more wholegrain foods, only provide fat-free or low-fat dairy products, offer fruits and vegetables to all students every day of the week, and limit calories to the age of the student to ensure they get the right portion size, and focus on reducing the amount of saturated transfet and salt in food.
Earlier this year, we reported a study led by the Harvard School of Public Health. It reveals that students have been eating more fruits and vegetables since the start of these guidelines.
But schools have to do more than just offer healthy foods, according to Dr. Whitfield:
"Schools play a very important role in promoting healthy behavior in children. Many children spend a considerable amount of time in school, where both good and bad habits can develop. Physical activity and health education should be mandatory for children in kindergarten through high school."
Staiano noted that schools are under a lot of pressure to teach core subjects, but agrees that healthy living is something they should be informed about. "Schools have a responsibility to create a safe, supportive place where making healthy choices is the easiest", she said.
But she added that promoting children to a healthier lifestyle shouldn’t stop at school. Staiano found that some school holidays offer structured summer programs that offer physical activity and healthy snacks to children.
"Neighborhood soccer and softball leagues can promote healthy competition and physical activity as well as positive social interaction", added her. "Attractive parks with devices of different ages offer family-friendly activities to get parents moving too."
Fighting childhood obesity remains "a tough fight"
Overall, childhood obesity seems to be getting a lot more attention, and healthcare professionals agree that obesity campaigns – like the Let’s Move initiative – have helped raise awareness of the issue.
Some U.S. states have even seen a reduction in childhood obesity. A CDC report found that between 2008-11, Flor >But even though these numbers show that we are going in the right direction, Staiano said there is much more to be done.
"Childhood obesity remains at a historic high", she said. "These declines are still within the margin of error, and it is important to follow trends to see if the trends are going up or going up."
"We are certainly making some progress", added Dr. Perrin added, "But given the abundance of marketing for children of unhealthy foods, the lack of easy ways to incorporate healthy activity into children’s usual days, and the simultaneous injustice of stigmatizing obesity, it’s a tough struggle. "
But it seems like Michelle Obama won’t give up the fight soon:
"In the end, as a first lady, this is not just a political issue for me. It is a passion. That is my mission. I am determined to work with people in this country to change the way a generation of children thinks about food and nutrition."
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