A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that heavier children are twice as likely to die prematurely, before the age of 55, than thin children. This conclusion was determined after researchers spent decades tracking and analyzing the specific functions that are directly effected by weight gain such as body mass index, glucose tolerance, blood pressure, and cholesterol in 4,897 non-diabetic American Indian Children.
While this analysis provides solid proof of major long-term risks associated with childhood obesity, the big question is whether or not it’s enough to convince parents to take action. A 2007 poll on children’s health taken by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital revealed that a shocking 58% of parents did not cite childhood obesity as a health concern. Considering the various health problems that overweight children often encounter, this statistic has led me to wander: Are parents unaware of the medical classifications that define obesity?
What IS Obesity?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity in children is defined by having a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile. To determine where your child’s BMI falls, enter their height and weight into a Body Mass Index Calculator and refer to the provided chart.
What Causes Obesity?
The obvious answer to this question would be over-eating, however there are many factors that play a role in the development of obesity:
1. Unhealthy options offered for school lunches
2. Lack of exercise due to sedentary activities such as watching TV, playing video games, and social networking sites.
3. Economic factors – people with lower incomes often see fast food as a cheaper alternative to fruits and vegetables.
4. The promotion of junk food through mass media.
5. Family genetics.
The Long-term Effects of Childhood Obesity
When an adult is carrying around more weight then their body is built to handle, it often causes strain and discomfort. When a child is carrying around excess weight, it not only causes strain and discomfort, but may also be effecting growth and bone formation. Here is a list of the potentially fatal, long term effects of childhood obesity:
1. Unstable cartilage between bones and growth plates leading to the development of Blount’s Disease
2. Sleep apnea – A condition where breathing is interrupted during sleep.
3. High blood pressure cholesterol – Both greatly increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
4. Insulin resistance – obesity prevents the pancreas from producing enough insulin eventually leading to the development of diabetes.
5. Fatty liver disease – Fat causes the liver to enlarge, scar tissue forms, and then liver cells are destroyed. In the short-term it causes abdominal pain, infection, and fatigue. In the long-term it causes liver failure and liver cancer.
To learn more about these risks read this article from the Washington Post
If childhood obesity continues to be unacknowledged by U.S. parents, fatalities will continue to rise along with the $174 billion in health care dollars spent on the diagnosis of diabetes. You can help fight the epidemic by not only promoting a healthy lifestyle, but also by educating your friends and family on the dangers of childhood obesity. It’s time to take action and pave the way for a healthy America.
If you’re concerned about your child’s weight, call us at (512) 733-5437 to schedule an appointment for our nutrition management program. Getting your child on the right track for the new year will give them more energy, focus at school, and life-long good-eating habits.