Our Childhood Obesity Epidemic
Childhood obesity is often referred to as a medical condition which occurs when a child is well above a normal weight based on age and height. Though obesity itself is not necessarily problematic, it can lead to a number of other health compromising issues. Children who are obese are much more likely to suffer from heart disease later in life and obesity has also been linked to a number of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years, bringing the numbers to an all-time high. In a recent poll, the prevalence of childhood obesity in children ages 6-11 was as high as 20%. In 1980, this percentage was not much higher than 5%. Similarly, young adults ages 12-19 have a 18% chance of being obese while the same age bracket 30 years ago had only a 5% chance. These staggering numbers are causing many to ask why childhood obesity is so much more prevalent now than it ever had been.
There are a number of potential causes of childhood obesity. The first is genetics and family history, which can play a large role in determining a child’s weight. However, experts agree that the most prominent cause of obesity is poor nutrition. This includes eating too much, eating unhealthy foods, and exercising too infrequently. Due to unhealthy trends in American food consumption, fewer children are exposed to good nutrition practices and as a result, becoming obese.
Many also point to socioeconomic factors as the reason why more children are becoming obese. Many families seek the lowest priced food options available to them because of their tight budget. Unfortunately, the lowest price foods are often the least healthy and many low-income families find themselves choosing fast food because they need to save money. As a result, the children in these families suffer the consequences of poor nutrition and health.
Just because a child carries a few extra pounds does not immediately mean he/she is overweight or obese. Children (as well as adults) all have different body types which may impact their overall weight relative to the average. Children will also experience various physical changes over the course of development which may lead to a gain or loss in weight. Because of this, you may not be able to tell just by looking at a child if he/she truly suffers from childhood obesity.
In order to determine if a child’s weight is abnormal or could lead to health problems, it is best to consult your child’s doctor. A doctor can help you calculate your child’s Body Mass Index (BMI) and use it to determine if your child is above the standard weight for his/her age. However, just because a child is over the standard weight, does not mean he/she is at risk for health issues. BMI is simply a way to gauge a child’s current size relative to others. A doctor must consider the child’s individual growth over a period of time to truly see if he/she is in danger of health problems.