Obesity In Our Children Is Scary
Listening to the radio, reading news media or even watching television the message is the same “childhood obesity is on the rise”. In 2010, the World Health Organization reported nearly 43 million children below age 5 were overweight! The CDC is reporting 18% of adolescents aged 12-19, 20% of children aged 6-11 and 10% of 2-5 year olds are now obese! One analysis by Wang et al.(2008) shows a 46%-49% increase in childhood obesity from 1970 until 2004 and if this continues more than 80% of today’s children will be overweight or obese adults by 2030. This could cost between $861 billion to $957 billion and would account for 16%-18% of the total U.S. healthcare costs.
Obesity is linked to several health issues and is the second leading cause of preventable death in America. These health issues are part of multiple metabolic syndromes such as glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, increased visceral fat tissue and the increased risk of coronary heart disease and cancer. If that were not enough, it is also associated with major emotional issues such as, low self-esteem that accounts for a myriad of emotional consequences. These include not caring about one’s well-being, lack of intellectual development, poor physical appearance, short-range attention span and even thrill-seeking behavior! Did I get your attention yet?
It is proven that children who are obese between the ages of 6 and 9 have a 55% chance of becoming obese adults (Vinten & Galbo, 1983). These children do not outgrow obesity because their number of fat cells remains the same regardless of weight gained or lost. For these individuals, most ordinary diet and exercise programs will fail, and if weight loss is achieved they are likely to gain the weight back.
Today, children in general have become too sedentary, rely on too much technology, overeat, consume too many processed foods that are low in nutrition, high in salt and fat and serve “supersized portions.” We need to take responsibility for our children especially since obesity is a preventable disease. It would help a great deal for all to learn about healthy eating. I recommend eating more fruit, vegetables, healthy fat and small amounts of lean protein. Start by decreasing the consumption of energy-dense and low nutritional foods that can add excessive calories with little nutritional value; like fast foods and fried foods. Steer clear of refined carbohydrates, like many of the processed weight-loss foods that claim “fat-free”, “low-calories” or “light”. Other refined carbohydrates include sugary soft drinks, cookies, candy, potato chips, crackers, pretzels, enriched breads, cereals, instant rice and pasta. Also, watch the amount of fruit juices consumed since it lacks fiber unlike fruit and is loaded with sugar. Reduce your intake of foods that contain unhealthy saturated fats. For instance sausage, French fries, bacon, doughnuts and any fried foods. Increase activity daily by building sports and a recreational infrastructure into your children’s life. Understand that children love to play and play is exercise! So find fun activities that are suitable for your children’s age, like kick the can, red rover, street hockey and even going for a walk after dinner. Let’s work together to do our part in stopping obesity one child at a time.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2011. U.S Obesity Trends
Trends by states 1985-2009 retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html
Wang, Y et al. 2008. Will Americans become overweight or obese? Estimating the progression and cost of the US obesity epidemic. Obesity, 16 (10), 2323-30.
WHO (World Health Organization). 2011. Obesity and overweight. Retrieved from: www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/index.html