If You Read One Article about Childhood Obesity – Read this One

Childhood obesity is an epidemic that is sweeping the nation. Today, one in every three children and adolescents is considered obese. Obesity in children has doubled and obesity in adolescents has quadrupled in the last decade.

If You Read One Article About Childhood Obesity – Read this One

Childhood obesity is an epidemic that is sweeping the nation. Today, one in every three children and adolescents is considered obese. Obesity in children has doubled and obesity in adolescents has quadrupled in the last decade.

Between 1980 and 2012, the amount of obese children between the ages of 6 and 11 has increased from 7 percent to 18 percent. Among adolescents ages 12-19, obesity rates have increased from five to 21 percent.

Discover more about childhood obesity with this guide from AGC Pediatrics

What is Childhood Obesity?

Childhood obesity occurs when a child’s BMI, or Body Mass Index, is in the 95th percentile or greater. BMI is calculated by height and weight. If a child’s weight exceeds healthy averages for their height, they are considered overweight. When a child’s weight reaches the 95th percentile mark, they are then considered obese.

Why is There a Rise in Childhood Obesity?

There’s no one reason that childhood obesity has grown so significantly in the past decade, but there are several factors that contribute to this change. These factors include:

  • Increase in Technology. Television, smart phones, tablets, computer and video games – all of these forms of technology have increased in the past decade and lead to more sedentary lifestyles. Children who get a lot of “screen time” tend to be less physically active, snack more often on less healthy foods, and are exposed more often to marketing for unhealthy foods. This sedentary lifestyle is directly related to obesity and heart disease.
  • Increased Marketing for Unhealthy Food. Many middle school and high schools in the U.S. allow marketing for unhealthy foods. Unhealthy foods are also marketed towards children and adolescents using fun mascots and child-centered language.
  • Lack of Physical Activity. Only 33 percent of children have access to physical education classes and only 21 percent of adolescents in 9-12th grade are active for 60 minutes a day, which is the recommended amount for children and adults by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Change in Eating Habits. Over the past two decades, portion sizes have grown substantially with large sizes becoming normal. Plates and cups are larger and large portions are expected at restaurants. Sugary drinks are more highly consumed than before. In fact, one fifth of teens consume an extra meal’s worth of calories daily in just sugary drinks alone.

Childhood Obesity Risk Factors

Childhood obesity is a serious condition that can lead to health risks as children and into adulthood. These health risks can include:

  • Type 2 Diabetes. Once known as adult-onset diabetes, type 2 diabetes is caused by poor eating habits, increased weight, high sugar intake and low physical activity levels. It affects the body’s ability to produce adequate insulin and control blood sugar levels.
  • Asthma. Obese children have a greater chance of suffering from asthma. Extra weight can inflame the respiratory tract, making it more difficult to breathe as the lungs work harder to get oxygen to the body.
  • Heart Disease. When a child is obese, the heart has to work harder to pump oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. This added strain can cause heart disease and eventually heart failure.
  • Adult Conditions. Poor eating habits and low activity levels as children usually continue into adulthood, causing heart disease, diabetes, strokes, several types of cancer and osteoarthritis.

Childhood Obesity Prevention

Obesity is a highly preventable and treatable condition. We recommend the following methods for preventing childhood obesity:

  • Healthy Eating. A low-sugar, low-fat diet that is high in protein, fiber, vitamins and lean fats is a great way to prevent obesity. Healthy foods include lean meats, ample vegetables and fruits, whole wheat breads and pastas, low-fat dairy products and healthy fats like nuts or avocados.
  • Staying Physically Active. Whether you hike as a family or enroll your kids in sports, physical activity is a very important part of a healthy lifestyle. It is recommended that children, adolescents and adults be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day. Find fun activities for the whole family to do together. This encourages teamwork and healthy habits while fostering family relationships.
  • Family Support. Children thrive with a healthy routine and a loving environment. Choose healthy activities for the entire family to do together. Children are more likely to be active when their parents and siblings are active. Make a point to shop and cook together for healthy foods, letting your children be involved in meal preparation and cooking.

Eating meals at the dinner table, instead of in front of the TV, also helps foster family relationships and encourages children to eat healthy. Children who participate in regular family meals eat more vegetables and fruits, are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods and are less likely to smoke or drink as adolescents or adults.

Turn to AGC Pediatrics for Your Children’s Health Needs

At AGC Pediatrics, we seek to foster healthy children and families with expert pediatric health care. We offer physical exams, childhood immunizations, childhood obesity prevention and treatment, and asthma and allergy treatment. Schedule your child’s appointment at one of our convenient North Georgia locations today!