The World Health Organization (WHO) calls childhood obesity “one of the major public health challenges of the 21st century.” 1 out of 5 American children is obese. Asthma, sleep apnea, bone, and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease are more common in overweight or obese children. Behavior, genetics, and drugs may all contribute to obesity.
How To Know If Your Child Is Obese?
Body mass index (BMI) is frequently used to determine children’s weight status. A child’s obesity is assessed by comparing their body mass index (BMI) to that of children of the same age and gender. BMI is age and gender-specific for children and adolescents and is commonly referred to as BMI-for-age.
A child’s weight status is distinct from BMI categories for adults. The body composition of children varies with age and between boys and girls. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021)
What Are The Common Causes Of Child Obesity?
Obesity is a condition that can last a lifetime. Obesity affects both children and adults. The likelihood that an obese child will continue to be obese as an adult grows with age. It is a complex condition in which a person’s weight exceeds what is deemed healthy for their height. Several factors, including dietary habits, physical activity levels, and sleep schedules, might increase weight. In addition to genetics, specific medications also play an impact. Let’s examine each of them separately.
One of the fundamental causes of obesity in children is not getting sufficient exercise. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans indicate that children aged 6 to 17 engage in at least one hour of moderate to intense physical activity every day. Children under the age of 5 should be physically active for most of the day.
A child is more likely to become obese if at least one of their parents is obese. However, if obesity runs in the family, there are numerous methods parents can assist their children in reducing their risk. Several rare genetic diseases can induce childhood obesity, either by producing persistent hunger that leads to overeating or by altering how fat is deposited in the body.
Psychological And Socioeconomic Factors
Stress, worry, and emotional state can increase childhood obesity. Some youngsters, like some adults, overeat to avoid loneliness, unhappiness, tension, and boredom. On the other hand, people with low incomes often don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables in grocery stores. Instead, they live in “food deserts” where they can only buy fast food, packaged food, and highly processed, ready-made foods.
Financial insecurity might affect food purchasing since fast food and high-calorie foods are cheaper than healthier, fresher cuisine. Low-income residents may lack safe exercise areas or time and energy to exercise. These reasons explain why the U.S. obesity rate is higher among low-income groups than high-income groups. (Levine, National Library of Medicine)
Medications And Medical Conditions
Drugs can cause weight gain and obesity. A medical condition, especially one affecting the endocrine system, can induce childhood and adult obesity. Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, slows down your metabolism and makes you gain weight on your face, shoulders, and upper body. (Cleveland Clinic)
What Can You Do To Avoid Childhood Obesity?
A Balanced Diet
A balanced diet can help youngsters achieve a healthy weight and obtain the nutrients for healthy growth and development. A healthy diet is abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
Half of your child’s plate should consist of fruits and vegetables for maximum health. Parents must ensure that children are consuming adequate fruits and vegetables. In 2017, only 2% of high school students finished enough veggies, and 7% consumed enough fruit. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
More Physical Activity
Physically active youth have stronger muscles and more cardiovascular fitness than inactive youth. Additionally, they tend to have less body fat and stronger bones. Regular physical activity during childhood also lessens the likelihood of developing depression. According to Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children need to be active for at least 60 minutes a day. (HealthySDgov)
Cut Down On Sugar
Most of us consume excessive amounts of added sugars, leading to weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Children under 2 shouldn’t eat any added sugar, and children over 2 shouldn’t get more than 10% of their daily calories from sugar.
Avoiding sugary beverages, such as soda, juice drinks, and flavored milk is a smart strategy to reduce sugar intake. Offer your children water, plain low-fat milk, or 100 percent juice as alternatives to soda.
Good sleep is essential. According to Sleep Foundation, children aged 6 to 12 require 9 to 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, while adolescents ages 13 to 18 need 8 to 10 hours. (Sleep Foundation)
Insufficient sleep is related to obesity in part because it can cause us to consume more calories and be less physically active. Help your children sleep better by keeping them engaged during the day, removing video devices like mobile phones or laptops from their bedrooms, and establishing a regular sleep schedule, especially on weekends.
Role Model Healthy Behavior
Children emulate the adults they encounter. Be a role model by adopting these healthy behaviors, and they will follow suit. Finally, consider that obesity is a condition with multiple contributing components. Discover what states and community governments can do to make healthy and active lifestyles available to all individuals. Many free or low cost programs exist and can be found on the CDC’s website for state and local health department resources.
CDC. “Preventing Childhood Obesity: 5 Things You Can Do at Home.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Oct. 2021, www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/childhood-obesity/index.html.
L;, Maffeis C;Tatò. “Long-Term Effects of Childhood Obesity on Morbidity and Mortality.” Hormone Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11408761/.
Childhood Obesity: Signs, Causes, Treatment and Prevention. www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/childhood-obesity.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Causes of Obesity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 Mar. 2022, www.cdc.gov/obesity/basics/causes.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fobesity%2Fchildhood%2Fcauses.html.
Levine, James A. “Poverty and Obesity in the U.S.” Diabetes, American Diabetes Association, Nov. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198075/.
Cleveland Clinic. “Hypothyroidism: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Medication.” Cleveland Clinic,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Percentage of Adolescents Meeting Federal Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations – Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, United States, 2017.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 Jan. 2021, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7003a1.html
HealthySDgov. “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition.” HealthySDgov, healthysd.gov/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans-2nd-edition/.
Sleep Foundation. “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” Sleep Foundation, 13 Apr. 2022, www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need.