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Childhood obesity is a serious health problem in America, and it increases the risk that a person will be obese as a teen and as an adult. This article will explain more about the risks of childhood obesity, childhood obesity statistics, and ways to prevent or change it.
Childhood obesity statistics indicate that, in 1980, 6.5 % of 6-11 years olds were considered obese. In 2006 that number had risen to 17%. Among 12 to 19 year olds the number of those facing obesity tripled, from 5% to 17.6% Also, those who are obese now tend to be even heavier than in the past.
The risks of childhood obesity
Children need to gain weight as they grow, but if they gain more weight than their body needs it can lead to health problems. Because it can be hard to tell if a child’s weight is healthy, parents should take children for yearly well-child doctor visits to find out if there are any problems.
Some of the problems associated with childhood obesity include:
70% of obese 5 to 17 year olds have a risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol. Between 20 and 25% have preliminary signs of type 2 diabetes. The increased rates of childhood obesity are making these diseases, which used to be seen mostly in older adults, more common among children and teens.
How to prevent or reverse childhood obesity
In some rare cases, childhood obesity is caused by medical conditions that must be treated by a doctor, but most cases of childhood obesity can be cured by lifestyle changes, including a healthier diet and more exercise. Obesity is usually caused by eating more calories than one needs, so healthy eating and more movement generally fix or prevent childhood obesity.
Because children have nutritional needs that will affect their health as adults, it is important that they not be put on any special diets without a doctor’s supervision. Young people especially should not be put on fad diets that require them to eat very few calories or only certain foods, unless a doctor deems it necessary. Having a healthy, well-balanced diet, however, benefits everyone in the family.
Don’t use food to comfort a child or try to influence his or her behavior. You also shouldn’t forbid any food or say it’s bad or kids may sneak it behind your back, though there are some foods that should only be offered occasionally:
Here are some tips on helping kids and teens eat healthy meals:
In addition to healthy food, kids also need some type of physical activity for at least an hour a day. Their time in front of the TV or computer should be limited to 2 hours, except for homework. Try having a family TV instead of TVs in the kids’ bedrooms.
When you are encouraging your kids to be active, focus on having fun and being healthy, and not on the child’s weight. There are many ways families can get exercise together, which sets a good example for kids and helps the whole family stay healthy:
While fighting childhood obesity, remember to show your children that you love them regardless of weight, and never make them feel guilt or afraid because of their size. Don’t make negative comments about your own weight or anyone else’s. Finally, encourage your child to get enough sleep every night, since sleep seems to help combat obesity.
MayoClinic, "Childhood Obesity" [online]
Center for Disease Control, Healthy Youth!, "Childhood Obesity" [online]
Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Newsline, "Childhood Obesity" [online]
The Obesity Society, "Childhood Overweight" [online]
Related Article: Obese vs. Overweight >>