Childhood Obesity Essay

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.

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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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