How Do We Stop Childhood Obesity?
In the past 20 years, obesity has more than doubled worldwide. It now kills more people than being underweight. In other words, more people are dying from eating too much than from starving! In 2010, nearly 45 million children under the age of five were overweight.
In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 18% of teens, 25% of children age 6-11, and 10% of 2-5 year-olds were obese; all this from something that is 100% preventable!
Childhood Obesity Epidemic
What are these children facing as adults? According to the Obesity Action Coalition, adults who have been obese since childhood are more likely to face discrimination in educational settings and the workplace. They are also less likely to get married. If a child remains obese into late adolescence, the likelihood of remaining obese as an adult is greater.
Bariatric Surgery or Medication?
Rarely heard of a generation ago, medication and surgery for obese children is now occurring. Youths above age 12 can take the one FDA approved drug for extreme obesity (BMI >2 units above 95th percentile), or they can opt for bariatric surgery. Both options have side effects and unknown long-term effects.
The complications and consequences of childhood obesity are fairly dire: pediatric metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that include elevated blood pressure and insulin levels, body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels, that can increase the risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Basically unheard of in children a few years ago, pediatric metabolic syndrome is now routinely diagnosed.
Diabetes was formerly known as “adult-onset diabetes,” but its name was changed to Type 2 diabetes because of the frequency in which is shows up in overweight children. In addition to diabetes, obese children are at increased risk for cancer, and mobility and the ability to perform routine tasks of daily living decrease. And, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, children who are at or above the 99th percentile for weight are regularly diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.
Fatty Liver Disease
When people think of fatty liver disease, they usually have a mental picture of an adult alcoholic who has had enough drinks to destroy the liver. Less known, however, is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is the accumulation of fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol, and can lead to liver failure. Why is this relevant?
Because obese children are being diagnosed with it due to the fact that visceral adiposity is the major risk factor. In a 2008 study by Damaso et al., it was determined that 45.3% of the obese adolescents enrolled in the study (n=181) had the disease.
[box type="note"]A combination of healthy food, active lifestyles, community information, prevention & early intervention services, and a strong sport & recreation infrastructure are the keys to reversing these alarming statistics that represent real children! In order to help the children of today, it’s important to take action today![/box]