Health 2006

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Obesity in children

Obesity means an excess amount of body fat. No general agreement exists on the definition of obesity in children as it does adults.
Although obesity in children once was rare, it is now one of the most widespread medical problems in the United States and other developed countries. About 15% of adolescents (aged 12-19 years) and children (aged 6-11 years) are obese in the United States according to the American Obesity Association. The numbers are expected to continue increasing. Childhood obesity is one of our greatest health challenges.

Obesity in Children Causes
Children who regularly consume more calories than they use will gain weight. If this is not reversed, the child will become obese over time. Many different factors contribute to this imbalance between calorie intake and consumption.
Genetic factors
Obesity tends to run in families.
A child with an obese parent, brother, or sister is more likely to become obese.
Genetics alone does not cause obesity. Obesity occurs only when a child eats more calories than he or she uses.
Dietary habits
Children’s dietary habits have shifted away from healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to a much greater reliance on fast food, processed snack foods, and sugary drinks.
These foods tend to be high in fat and/or calories and low in many other nutrients.
Some eating patterns that have been associated with this behavior are eating when not hungry and eating while watching TV or doing homework.
Socioeconomic status
Low family incomes and having nonworking parents are associated with greater calorie intake for activity level.
Physical inactivity
The popularity of television, computers, and video games translates into an increasingly sedentary (inactive) lifestyle for many children in the United States.
Children in the United States spend an average of over 3 hours per day watching television. Not only does this use little energy (calories), it also encourages snacking.
Fewer than half of children in the United States have a parent who engages in regular physical exercise.
Only one third of children in the United States have daily physical education at school.
Parents’ busy schedules and fears about safety prevent many children from taking part in after-school sports programs.
Certain medical conditions can cause obesity, but these are very rare. They include hormone or other chemical imbalances and inherited disorders of metabolism.
Certain medications can cause weight gain by altering how the body processes food or stores fat.

When to Seek Medical Care
If you think your child is overweight
If your child has expressed concerns about his or her weight
If your child has problems keeping up with peers in physical fitness or sports


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