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Childhood Obesity

Essay by   •  December 19, 2010  •  1,078 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,759 Views

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Growing Childhood Obesity Epidemic

In 1999, in the United States, thirteen percent of children ages 6 to 11 and fourteen percent of adolescents ages 12 to 19 were overweight, or obese. This had nearly tripled in the last two decades. Obesity is defined simply as an excessive accumulation of body fat. Unfortunately childhood obesity has become one the greatest health challenges facing us today.

Although once rare, obesity is now among the most widespread medical problems affecting children and adolescents living in the United States. Obesity increases the child’s risk for numerous health problems and can lead to both emotional and social problems as well. Overweight children and adolescents have a seventy percent chance of becoming adult, further increasing their risk of serious problems such as heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, and even some forms of cancer. Childhood obesity has become an epidemic stemming from several causes such as genetics, physical activity level, and dietary habits; however, there are solutions available ensuring this does not have to be a long-term lifestyle.

Genetics alone does not cause obesity however studies show that it is does run in families. Heredity can influence regional fat distribution and the body’s response to overeating, such a fat storage. An adolescent’s chance of becoming an obese adult jumps to eighty percent when one or more parent is also obese. Infants born to overweight mothers have been found to be less active and gain more weight by age 3 months compared with infants born to normal weight mothers, suggesting an inborn drive to conserve energy (Roberts, Savage, Coward, Chew, & Lucas, 1988). Children learn by example and often times parents are not aware of the negative behaviors they model to their children. Less than one-half of children have a parent who engages in regular physical exercise.

Obesity occurs when a child takes in more calories than he or she uses and therefore dietary habits play an important role in the obesity problem. Children’s dietary habits have shifted away from healthier food choices to a much greater reliance on fast food, processed food snacks, and sugary drinks. These foods are high in fat and calories while lacking important nutrients. Regular consumption of 100 calories, the equivalent to an 8 ounce soft drink, above the daily requirements will result in a ten pound weight gain over one year.

Physical activity, or rather lack thereof, is a major contributor to this growing problem. Only one-third of elementary students have daily physical education and less than one-fifth have extracurricular physical activity programs at the schools. In addition to this, the sedentary lifestyle is increasing at an alarming rate due to the popularity of television, computers, and video gaming systems. In the United States, children spend an average of more than three hours daily watching television.

Doctors and other health professionals are the best people to determine whether a child is maintaining a healthy weight, plus they possess the ability to rule out any medical problems as the root cause of an unhealthy weight. Different methods can be used to determine the severity of the obesity including a Body Mass Index, Body Fat Percentages, and Waist Circumference measurements. Body Mass Index, or BMI, is calculated using both height and weight measurements. Due to growth spurts, this is not a widely accepted means of determination in children. Body Fat Percentage measures skin fold thickness and is a better measurement when testing a child. Boys with a twenty-five percent and girls with a thirty-two percentage of body fat are considered obese (Lohman, 1987). A Waist Circumference involves measuring directly above the belly button utilizing a tape measure. This measurement is closely related to the future risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and other metabolic system complications.

Not all obese infants become obese children and not all obese children become obese adults. It is easier to prevent obesity than it is to treat and prevention focuses in

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