Childhood Obesity


Childhood Obesity Essay, Research Paper

In today’s society childhood obesity is considered to be an epidemic. The

increase in obesity is not caused by the change in the gene pool, but rather by

the change in the environment. This causes vulnerable populations to express the

obesity phenotype (Stune, 1999). One in seven children ages 6-17 are considered

to be obese. Most nutritionists will say that this is do to the lack of parental

guidance. A child’s parents should teach their child proper eating habits so

that they won’t run across problems in the future (Tomlin, 1999). According to

the article Facts about childhood Obesity and Overweightness, obese children are

statistically not active, and their diets are high in fats and low in energy

foods, like carbohydrates . Most doctors will calculate a child’s body mass

index (BMI), to figure out just how overweight a child is. If a child’s BMI is

over 30, they are considered obese. In order to calculate one’s BMI, you would

divide the your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters (Mokdad,

1999). What causes obesity? Weight gain among children is likely due to a

combination of factors including: poor dietary habits, genetic makeup, family

lifestyle, socioeconomic status, and a child’s ethnicity. Obesity is more

prevalent among Hispanic, African-American and American Indian children,

particularly girls ( 1997). Overweight children are not

necessarily overeaters. Unfortunately, much of the food they enjoy contains high

amounts of calories. A child doesn’t have to eat huge quantities of food to put

on excess weight. An extra 200 calories a day (the amount in four home-made

chocolate chip cookies) can cause your child to gain almost one-half pound a

week (Miller 3). Childhood Obesity 3 Studies show that children’s excessive

consumption of high-calorie soft drinks and fruit beverages may be adding to the

problem. The average teen drinks almost 65 gallons of soft drinks annually;

school-age children have more than doubled their consumption of these beverages

in the past two decades. Children also eat a lot of fast-food, which tends to be

high in fat and calories (Miller 5). Inactivity most likely to blame Weight

control involves balancing food intake with the energy burned in everyday

activities. Although diet is a factor, low levels of physical activity may play

a greater role in childhood obesity than eating lots of high-calorie food. Why

are children today less active? Many blame increased television viewing.

Watching TV doesn’t require much energy and often is accompanied by snacking on

high-calorie foods. The American Heart Association reports that, on average,

children watch 17 hours of television a week. And that’s not counting the time

spent playing video and computer games. One study found the odds of being

overweight were nearly five times greater for youth watching more than five

hours of television per day compared with those who watched from zero to two

hours per day ( 1997). According to a 1996 U.S. Surgeon General’s

report on fitness, nearly half of young people ages 12 to 21 are not vigorously

active. The American College of Sports Medicine reports that, due to financial

constraints, only one-third of schools now offer physical education classes and

many children today find team sports too competitive or costly to join (

1997). Childhood Obesity 4 Heredity has strong influence The risk of becoming

obese is greatest among children who have two obese parents. Danish adoption

records provide a unique perspective on the issue of heredity versus environment

when studying obesity in children. Researchers studied 540 adopted Danish

children, who are now adults. The scientists wanted to know if weights of the

children were closer to their biological or adoptive parents. They found no

relationship between the weight of the adoptive parents and adopted children.

But there was a strong link between the weight of the adopted children and their

biological parents, even though 90 percent of the children had been adopted

before the age of 1 (Miller 10). The researchers concluded that genetic factors

are important in determining obesity in adults. And when a genetic tendency is

combined with habits that promote weight gain, it’s more likely that a child

will be overweight. Important: If obesity is common in your family, pay extra

attention to diet and exercise (Miller 11). Effects of Obesity Obesity as a

child will lead to health problems in the future as one enters adulthood.

Obesity is strongly linked to cardiovascular diseases and Diabetes. This

disorder also will cause some forms of cancer , hypertension, and also

Arthritis. Another consequence of obesity is the effects it has on the skin.

Cardiovascular disease A major health risk that occurs from obesity is

cardiovascular diseases. Studies have shown that if a child is obese, it will

lead into their young adult lives. By being obese at a young Childhood Obesity 5

age it lays the ground work for cardiovascular diseases. There is a close

relationship between obesity and cardiovascular disease. There is a excess of

fat circulating in the blood that turns into plaque. This plaque accumulates

around an artery to block the flow of blood. In severe cases, the coronary

arteries are blocked. These arteries irrigate the heart. Obesity puts a strain

on the veins and arteries that are blocked by this plaque build up. Diabetes

Another health risk caused by obesity is diabetes. Obesity increases the risk of

non- insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. The fat tissue that is amassed has two

roles in diabetes. One is the increased demand for insulin and, it also creates

insulin resistance in obese individuals. Obesity cause a resistance to insulin

that increases the insulin production to compensate the excess of glucose

circulating in the blood. This excess causes damage to beta cells in the

pancreas , producing insulin. Cancer With obesity comes increased risks to

certain forms of cancer. Young men have a significant higher mortality rate for

colorectal and prostate cancer. Menopausal women with high upper body fat

localization have an increase risk of developing breast cancer. Women also have

a higher risk in getting cancer of tile uterus and ovaries. Hypertension Another

cause of obesity is hypertension. Young adults, age 20 – 45, are six times more

likely to have hypertension then normal weight peers. The distribution of fat in

the body has an important effect on one’s blood pressure. Upper body fat makes a

person more likely to have Childhood Obesity 6 high blood pressure than lower

body fat. An accumulation of fat results in the release of fatty acids into

veins which causes an excess of hepatic synthesis of triglycerides, insulin

resistance and hyperinsulinemia. Arthritis Arthritis is also another health risk

that is associated with obesity. The over weight problem that is caused by

obesity starts to wear out the joints and this causes a decrease in mobility.

The muscles in the body known as skeletal muscles are weakened and reduced in

volume turning them into a muscular hypotrophy. Also, excess weight is a major

predictor of osteoarthritis of the knee. Skin A reaction to obesity is the

irritations of the skin of an obese person. The skin is composed of elastine,

that gives elasticity and lets fat excess to be deposited there. However this

elasticity has a limit and the tissue begins to stretch and break. Stretch marks

appear from the breakage of the skin. They are changes in the endocrine system,

in the central sweat and sebaceous glands. Bigger growths of hair in many areas

of the body is an result of this. This is known as hirsutism. Sweating increases

and boils appear in the fold of skin. Fungus also develops in these folds of

skin. Psychological and Social Effects Probably the most severe effect of

obesity is Psychological and social effects. One of the most painful aspects of

obesity may be the emotional suffering it causes. American society places great

emphasis on physical appearance, often equating attractiveness with slimness,

Childhood Obesity 7 especially in women. The messages, intended or not, make

overweight people feel unattractive. Many people assume that obese people are

gluttonous, lazy, or both. Obese people often face prejudice or discrimination

at work, at school, while looking for a job, and in other social situations.

Other common feelings include: rejection, shame ,and/or depression TreatmentThe

best way to affect the occurrence of obesity is to prevent it. In the past,

treating childhood obesity was done unsuccessfully through strict dieting and

exercise. But now a family-based approach is being introduced. These programs

are more successful because they maintain or slowly help a child lose weight as

he/she grows (Mellin, 1993). These program focus on the entire family, promoting

physical and emotional well being and not dieting. An interdisciplinary team of

health professionals provides care. They first do a biopsychosocial assessment

to see if there are any medical or psychosocial problems, they then address the

symptoms of obesity and the causes of the weight gain (Mellin, 1993). It is

important to involve the entire family in treating this problem. Another way to

help your child is to be a good role model, children are very aware of what

their parents eat and how much or little they exercise (Goss, 1999). You can

also go to the supermarket with your child and learn to read the food labels

together. Create a healthy recipe and make it. Also have meals together as many

times as possible during the week (Levine,1999).Goals Goals should be set

concerning weight loss, start off small, so your child does not become

discouraged. The child should keep a record of all the food eaten to aid in

weight loss, this makes them become conscious of his/her eating and exercise

habits. (Moran, 1999) At dinner, parents should make a meal that the child

likes, but if it is high in fat and/or calories only prepare one serving of it

(Levine, 1999). Meals should be oriented toward a healthy diet with 30% fat

calories or less (Moran, 1999). Parents should also only offer snacks when the

child is hungry. Make healthy snacks, such as fresh fruit, raw vegetables,

cheese and crackers, or peanut butter on crackers. Keep water, fresh fruits,

containers of baby carrots and celery, in the refrigerator, also have boxes of

raisons handy. Dilute juices with water by at least half, to make sure that the

child intakes the recommended amount of water and cuts down on the calories that

are in juices. Small size bottled water make good drinks, they can be put in the

child’s lunch box, or be used during or after a child’s exercise (Levine, 1997).

Make sure your child’s meal contains most of the food groups. Make soda a treat;

encourage your child to drink milk instead (Goss, 1999). Another helpful hint,

always remember to schedule meals and snacks.Other Precautions Do not make the

child eat everything on his/her plate (Goss, 1999) this can cause overeating.

Food should be used only for nutritional purposes, not for comfort or a reward.

Praise your child, verbally, after they make a healthy food choice (Levine,

1997)Participate In Activities Exercise is needed to loss weight and change body

fat into muscle (Moran, 1999). To control a child’s weight, encourage the child

to participate in sports for at least a half an hour a day (Levine, 1997).

Parents should encourage "active" activities that your child likes

such as skateboarding, swimming, riding a bike, jumping rope, hiking, football,

basketball, etc. Parents should limit television watching and encourage physical

activity (Moran, 1997). Overall, a parent should watch their child’s diet. If

obesity is in the family, parents should pay particular attention to their

child’s lifestyle so that in the future the child won’t face any life Childhood

Obesity 9 threatening health conditions. Childhood obesity is not a joke, it is

now considered to be an epidemic, and an ongoing problem in today’s society.

Childhood Obesity 10 [Anonymous]. (1999). Facts about Childhood Obesity and

Overweightness. Family Economics and Nutrition Review Volume 12. p52.

[Anonymous]. (1997). Childhood Obesity- Healthier Lifestyles Needed to Treat

this Growing Problem. Available from:

Goss, Michelle. (1999). Childhood Obesity is a Growing Problem. Available from: Levine,

Barbara.(1997). Let them Eat Grapes: Promoting Healthy Eating Habits in your

School Age Children. Newsweek. Volume S13 (2). Mellin. Laurel. (1993). Combating

Childhood Obesity. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Volume 265(2).

Miller, Peter. (1993). The Hilton Head Diet for Children and Teenagers. New York

Mokdad, H, Ali.(1999). The Spread of the Obesity Epidemic in U.S. The Journal of

the American Medical Association. Volume282. p1519. Moran, Rebecca M.D. (1999).

Evaluation and Treatment of Childhood Obesity. American Family Physician. Volume

86(1). Stune, M, Dennis M.D. (1999). Childhood Obesity; Time for Action, not

Complacency. American Physician. p758. Tomlin, C, Anne. (1999). Understanding

Childhood Obesity. Library Journal. Volume 124 p158

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