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Children and Obesity

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Obesity, defined by the World Health Organization as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health”, has become a global epidemic. According to the World Health Organization, worldwide obesity has doubled since 1980. There are now more people who are obese than underweight. “In 2014, an estimated 41 million children under the age of 5 years were overweight or obese” (World Health Organization, 2016). The prevalence of overweight and obese Canadian children remains a public health concern. Canada is currently facing an obesity epidemic. The Childhood Obesity Foundation indicates that childhood obesity has been on a steady rise in Canada over the past few decades. “Between 1978/79 and 2004, the combined prevalence of overweight and obesity among those aged two to 17 years increased from 15 per cent to 26 per cent” (Childhood Obesity Foundation, 2015). According to Statistics Canada, almost a third of Canadians aged 5 to 17 are overweight or obese. Research has shown that excess weight puts children at risk for several health problems including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint problems, high blood pressure, and mental health issues. Children are our future, so it’s important for us to understand the health risks associated with obesity and how to improve their health.

The article I have chosen to critique for this assignment is “Kids’ Obesity a Global Threat”, an article written by Marilyn Linton and published by the Toronto Sun in 2012. This article on childhood obesity provides a good summary of prevention tips, but lacks details about the consequences of not taking steps to prevent childhood obesity. The focuse of this article is on childhood obesity and what families can do to prevent it. The article talks amount factors that affect childhood obesity, such as TV and computer time, lack of physical activity, and the intake of sugar sweetened beverages. Also discussed in the article is a study that has identified a formula used to predict whether a baby is likely to become obese. “The formula looks at the baby’s birth weight, the number of people in the household, the body mass index of the parents, and whether or not the mother smoked during pregnancy” (Linton, 2012). The study suggests that when families with high-risk infants are identified they could be offered dietitians and psychologists to help with obesity prevention from an early stage. However, the article doesn’t mention other prenatal factors that play a role in the increase in children becoming obese. The textbook readings from the “Invitation to Heath” by Hales and Lauzon talk about how children born from mothers who develop gestational diabetes during their pregnancies are more likely to gain weight. The textbook also mentions that “children born to obese women are more than twice as likely to become overweight” (Hales & Lauson, 2013). The article is very limited in discussing factors that affect childhood obesity. In addition to the factors listed in the article, there are many other factors discussed by Hales and Lauzon that play a role in individuals becoming overweight and obese. Some of these factors include, larger portion of sizes, an increase in fast food purchases, developmental factors, genetics, emotional influences, and social networks. It is important to understand all the factors, not just a few of them. Genetic factors include the GAD2 gene that signals the brain to tell us to eat. If this gene doesn’t work like its supposed to, it could contribute to weight problems by telling us to eat more than we should. Another genetic factor is the Ob gene which is our body’s built-in “feel full” indicator which may allow us to eat more amount of food than needed. (Hales & Lauson, 2013). Emotional influences include psychological problems such as depression or anxiety. People who are emotionally fragile tend to cope with their emotions by overeating, causing an excess in weight. Social networks were also mentioned as being a factor that contributes to individuals becoming overweight and obese. Friends and family can have a significate influence on a person’s risk of obesity. An individual’s perception of obesity may be altered depending on one’s social network. When family or close friends are also obese, one may think that it is normal and acceptable. This is especially true with children who grow up with obese parents or siblings.

The article talks a lot about preventing childhood obesity which is intended to get the readers thinking about what they can do to have a positive impact on their children’s lives, and stop this epidemic of childhood obesity. Steps, listed throughout the article, that parents can take to help their kids include limiting TV and computer time, reducing the amount of fast food and junk food, increasing servings of fruit and vegetables per day, eliminating sugar sweetened beverages from their child’s diet, and encouraging one hour or more of physical activity per day. Other ways families can help prevent childhood obesity, according to the article, is to lead by example which means eating healthy and living an active lifestyle. Families are encouraged to eat as many meals together at home as possible, and serve age-appropriate portions. Parents should also avoid placing an overweight child on a diet as it can negatively affect their health, growth and development, and self-esteem. Although informing parents that a way to help prevent obesity is to provide their children with a healthy diet and age-appropriate portions, we can’t assume that all adults know what this means. The chapter “Personal Nutrition” from the “Invitation to Health” by Hales and Lauzon talks about the Canadian Food Guide which provides food portion guidelines for all ages and identifies what a healthy balanced meal consists of. The article could have been strengthened by referring to the Canadian Food Guide as a resource for parents to use in order to meet their child’s daily nutritional needs. Encouraging families to eat as many meals together and at home is a good suggestion, but the article could have taken this one step further by encouraging parents to involve their children in choosing meals. Allowing children to choose food at the grocery store, and teaching them how to use the Nutrition Facts table can help children learn how to choose healthy foods.  

At the end of the article, the author briefly mentions that is it important to understand and prevent childhood obesity in order to prevent problems later on in life including obesity, high blood pressure, depression, heart disease and diabetes. However, the article does not mention the current health affects of childhood obesity. Childhood obesity can lead to a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in their adult life. But in addition to these increased future risks, children who are obese face problems such a difficulty breathing, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects (World Health Organization, 2016). Children may also face emotional health problems that include, low self-esteem and negative body image, depression, feeling judged, and being teased or bullied (Government of Canada, 2016).



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