Childhood Obesity

frankenfat by ron english

Childhood obesity is linked to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, conditions uncommon in children and teenagers until recently. The term ‘overweight’ rather than obese is often used in children as it is less stigmatizing. The first problems to occur in obese children are usually emotional or psychological. Some of the other disorders would include liver disease, early puberty or menarche, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, skin infections, and asthma and other respiratory problems.

Studies 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. Obese children often suffer from teasing by their peers. Some are harassed or discriminated against by their own family. Stereotypes abound and may lead to low self-esteem and depression.

A 2008 study has found that children who are obese have carotid arteries which have prematurely aged by as much as thirty years as well as abnormal levels of cholesterol. According to an article in the ‘New York Times’ all of these health effects are contributing to a shorter lifespan of five years for these obese children. It is the first time in two centuries that the current generation of children in America may have a shorter life span than their parents. Childhood obesity can be brought on by a range of factors which often act in concert. The greatest risk factor for child obesity is the obesity of both parents. This may be reflected by the family’s environment and genetics. Other reasons may also be due to psychological factors and the child’s body type. A 2010 review stated that childhood obesity likely is the result of the interaction of natural selection favoring those with more parsimonious energy metabolism and today’s consumerist society with easy access to energy dense cheap foods and less energy requirements in daily life.

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. Some research suggests that the increase in availability of junk foods in schools can account for about one-fifth of the increase in average BMI among adolescents over the last decade. The fast food industry is also at fault for the rise in childhood obesity. This industry spends about $4.2 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. Some literature has found a relationship between fast food consumption and obesity. Including a study which found that fast food restaurants near schools increases the risk of obesity among the student population.

Many children fail to exercise because they are spending time doing stationary activities such as computer usage, playing video games or watching television. TV and other technology may be large factors of physically inactive children. However, technological activities are not the only household influences of childhood obesity. Low-income households can affect a child’s tendency to gain weight.

Various developmental factors may affect rates of obesity. Breast-feeding for example may protect against obesity in later life with the duration of breast-feeding inversely associated with the risk of being overweight later on. A child’s body growth pattern may influence the tendency to gain weight. A child’s weight may be influenced when he/she is only an infant. A nationally representative sample of US preschoolers found that infants whose early weight status was normal tended to retain a normal weight status and not to develop an unfavorable status (at-risk, obese). In contrast, children who were obese at an early age were more likely to have an at-risk or obese weight category at a later age.

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