What Causes Obesity In Children? Can It Be Treated Or Prevented?

We have talked about the obesity problem the world is facing, but did you know that the problem is not just with the adults? According to the statistics, 17% of children in the United States are overweight which is three times the number it was thirty years ago. The more disturbing fact regarding obesity in children today is that the most obese children are getting even more obese.

Obesity In Children

This childhood obesity has been seen to translate into adult obesity where obese preschoolers are five times more likely to end up as obese adults compared to normal-weight preschool children. The stats also showed that some populations have a higher percentage of overweight children compared to others. Native Americans and Mexican Americans have found to have 35-40% children who are overweight while 19% of African American children are overweight and this number is 16% for Hispanic Americans.

These concerning facts are why we need to take obesity in children seriously as this threat will lead to future problems of heart-disease and obesity for millions of children.

What Is Obesity?

Obesity is when you have excess body fat to the extent that it negatively affects your life and health. This is considering the body weight along with the individual’s height, muscle percentage, bone density and water content.

In the United States, BMI (Body Mass Index) is the preferred method used to screen children and teenagers for being overweight or obese because it takes into account the ages of the individuals. It’s more accurate than other methods of evaluating obesity because it takes into consideration, a child’s growth state as well as their age and gender. The BMI is used together with a growth chart by the doctor to find out where the individual’s weight comes in regarding the individual’s height, gender, and age.

BMI Chart For Children

According to the BMI calculated by doctors, if your child is between the 85th and 95th percentile, he or she is considered to be overweight. And any child that is above the 95th percentile is found to be obese.

The Cause Of The Increase In Childhood Obesity:

Years of research and studies have found some causes to the increase in the rate of obesity in children:

  • Increased Weight While Pregnant: If the mother experiences an excessive increase in weight during her pregnancy, the child has an increased chance of have a heavier birth weight and being overweight in the future, according to multiple studies.
  • Using Baby Formula: While it’s not clear, many studies have shown that babies that are fed breast milk are less likely to lead to childhood obesity compared to using baby formula.
  • Food Habits: Kids these days have poor food habits with diets that are high in saturated fats and processed sugars while being low in fresh fruits and produce which has led to a growing number of obese children.
  • Unstructured Eating Schedules: When food is eaten without a schedule, more of it tends to be consumed, and often the food is the unhealthy kind.
  • Lack Of Physical Activity: Children are spending more time indoors and not exercising enough which leads to insufficient energy expenditure and an increase in weight.
  • Role Models In Parents: When the parents follow lousy food habits and don’t exercise enough, children emulate this pattern, leading to an obesigenic environment at home.
  • Low Birth Weight: If the child was born with a weight of less than 2500 g, epidemiological studies state that the risk of becoming obese is higher.
  • Demographic Factors: Genetics also plays a role in childhood obesity with some demographics having a higher risk of being overweight including Hispanic and African American children.
  • Parental Obesity: It’s been found that if the parents are obese, the child is more likely to become overweight or obese. This is linked to some gene mutations as well as the unhealthy family diet.
  • Diabetes While Pregnant: If the mother has diabetes, the child has a higher chance of having type 2 diabetes and being overweight.
  • Overly Controlling Parents: Some theories state that if children have too controlling parents regarding the child’s eating, this can lead to the child having poor self-control regarding unhealthy foods.

Bad Food Choices Lead To Childhood Obesity

Related Article: Diabetes Control Measures & Its Link To Obesity

What Happens When A Child Becomes Obese?

When a child becomes obese, few negative effects are known to occur.

  • Physical Effects: The most common problem that happens to those who are obese as children is that they are at greater risk of having other major health problems or diseases. These health problems can include bone and joint problems, heart diseases, asthma, type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea.
  • Emotional And Mental Effects: Mental effects of being obese are also severe including an increase in being bullied and teased for their weight. They are also known to suffer from low self-esteem, depression and social isolation.

Ways To Help Combat Childhood Obesity:

Obesity is best prevented before it becomes a problem by instilling in your child, a few good habits regarding nutrition, physical activity, and healthy sleeping habits. These pointers also work on those children who are categorized as obese as these tips can help improve their lifestyle and reduce their excess weight.

Discuss Food Groups And Food Choices

Here are some tips to combat childhood obesity:

  • Discuss what it is to be a healthy child and what it means to make healthy decisions.
  • Talk to the child regarding foods and food groups. Explain why some foods are healthier than others.
  • Instil the importance of sleeping times as it’s found that good sleep results in better health.
  • Makes sure that these discussions are done with the whole family and let the child understand that he or she has the support they need.

Conclusion Regarding Obesity In Children:

We hope that this article has helped you understand the severity of the risk our children are exposed to with the growth in childhood obesity.

The mentioned causes of obesity in children are valid and apply to most obese and overweight children in the United States. And regarding the ways to counter obesity in children, there is another method that was not discussed in this article, bariatric surgery.

Lets Do Our Part In Combating Obesity In Children

This weight loss surgery is usually recommended for adults who are obese to the point of causing their health and wellbeing to suffer. Well, according to a recent study published in Pediatrics, it’s found that obese teenagers who decided to perform stomach reduction surgeries have experienced a reduction in their risk of heart problems for the future. This is another avenue that you can consider if the previously mentioned tips aren’t sufficient in combating childhood obesity.

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