Understanding Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a growing threat in the United States. By current estimates more than 30% of children have childhood obesity making it the most common chronic disease of childhood. Most worrisome is that this number has tripled since 1980.

Childhood obesity is associated with conditions usually thought only to affect adults. Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, sleep apnea and high cholesterol have all been associated with childhood obesity. By not treating child obesity we are putting our children at risk for early onset of adult cancers.

How is childhood obesity diagnosed?

Measuring weight status
Obesity in children is determined by using a BMI for age percentiles. BMI for age percentiles are the preferred method to measure wait status and children. This method calculates children’s wait categories based on age and BMI. BMI formally known as body mass index is a calculation of weight and height.

Twitter stand whether your child has obesity you must first calculate their BMI. A BMI calculator with weights and heights are available below.

By plotting the point on a graph relative to BMI and age you can determine if you were in the right category.

Measuring children’s growth
You may have heard about measuring weight in terms of the percentile. Pediatricians and family practitioners often will measure growth based on percentiles. Wait for age percentiles are used to measure your child’s weight based strictly on their age. It does not take into account the height of a child therefore it has some limits. This is not the method to determine obesity in children.

Childhood obesity has many causes research indicates that environment, lack of physical activity, genetics and family history, dietary patterns and socioeconomic status play a role.

A child is surrounded by television, Internet, and publication commercials promoting unhealthy foods and eating habits. It is estimated that approximately 40 to 50% of every dollar that is spent on food is spent outside the home and restaurants, cafeterias, sporting events etc. To deliver value establishments have increased portion sizes. Recent studies indicates that larger portions equal larger consumption of food.
Further given the fact that for in 10 mothers today are obese it is clear that family environment is playing a role.

Lack of physical activity
Several so she logic studies indicate that there has been a gradual decrease in physical activity over the last three decades. So the reasons for this include increased use of computers, television, electronics. If you add this to the decreased emphasis on physical education and time for recess and schools it is obvious children and adolescents are living a more sedentary lifestyle. In the past physical education was required on a daily basis. Currently only 8% of elementary schools in less than 7% of middle schools and high schools have daily physical education requirements.

Genetics and family history
We have made several discoveries identifying jeans to play a role in obesity. In addition estimate say that family history contributes to at least 25% of the risk for obesity. However teams alone do not always dictate whether a child is affected by obesity or excess weight. Family behaviors such as eating late at night, eating in front of the television or not having defined mealtimes place children at risk for obesity. Parents, especially those whose children are at risk for obesity should promote healthy food and lifestyle choices early in development.

Dietary patterns
The average lunchtime and schools has dramatically decreased. This leads to children often eating rushed and not allowing their bodies to feel the sensation of fullness. In addition school vendors as well as food establishments and manufacturers have increased food portion size. The presence of this trend creates overeating. Recent research indicates that larger portion size is directly related to larger consumption. when you add the reduction in physical activity it is clear children are eating more and utilizing less.

Socioeconomic status
Children and young adults that come from lower income families are at greater magnitude risk of being affected by obesity. This is due to a complex interplay between several factors which include behaviors and activity.

Convenience foods often are less expensive then traditional foods. In addition these foods which come in boxes, cans or bags often have larger caloric content. The macronutrients often have higher amounts of simple sugars and simple carbohydrates.

It is estimated that only 25% of the general population is health literate. In lower so she economic classes that number drops to 5%.

Families who have had no exposure to proper nutrition and healthy food choices will find it difficult to instill those values in their children.

How can we treat this childhood obesity epidemic?

The most important key to treating the child involves treating the family. As a support system family is integral in ensuring that children can reduce weight effectively and healthily.

It is important to talk with your physician about options to treat children. The various treatments include diet therapy, physical activity, behavioral modification and lastly surgery for refractory obesity.

Physical activity
One of the most essential ingredients to encourage childhood weight loss is physical activity. Study after study indicated in activity leads to adult sedentary lifestyles and childhood obesity

The United States Surgeon General recommends the children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every single day.

To locate programs or physical trainers that specialize in children click here.

Behavioral modification
It is clear the children learn lifestyle and behavior at a very young age. It is important to educate parents and children about making long-term healthy choices. There are several ways that we can assist with this. Changing eating habits, becoming educated about how the body burns fuel and how to nourish it, engaging in social support or extracurricular activities all play a role. Further increasing physical activity but promoting community sports and setting realistic weight management goals are essential to beating childhood obesity!

Evidence is increasing that surgery on adolescence has been safe and effective. Despite this many parents opt for this after all other treatments have been attempted. For more information on the various types of surgical procedures and to find a beat obesity network physician click here.