Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition wherein a child and/or an adolescent’s weight is well above normal for his or her age and height (Mayo Clinic, 2015). This is caused by the presence of excess body fat in the child’s body.
Obesity in children is now being considered a serious threat as the number inflicted with it has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC.
Obesity in youth increases the risk factors for several diseases in adulthood; these are, but not limited to, cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and high blood pressure; diabetes; stroke; cancer; and osteoarthritis
The changes in our lifestyle as the urbanization of our population grows have had great effect on our children’s weight gain. Our fast paced existence has led to the development of high sugar, high calorie foodstuffs that are more convenient to consume and are readily available anywhere, anytime. Furthermore, these items have been heavily marketed to children and are readily available in vending machines in and around schools.
We must address this problem immediately as obesity in an increasing number of children will have disastrous complications for the future of our population.
Immediate and Lasting Effects of Childhood Obesity
There has been many recorded negative health effects of obesity on the child. Several of these are related to physical health, but it also extends to mental and emotional health.
An obese child is more likely to suffer from bullying and teasing from their peers (American Obesity Association, 2002). This would often lead to anxiety, depression or low-self-esteem. In more extreme cases, childhood obesity may lead to eating disorders such as anorexia and/or bulimia. Furthermore, a child ostracized by his or her peers may lead to poor performance in school; and if pushed to far; may resort to violence in retaliation against their oppressors.
Obesity during childhood is correlated to an increase in mortality rates in adulthood. As obese children are more likely to be obese as adults, they are more at risk for major health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, several types of cancers and osteoarthritis. These sicknesses are contributing to an average of five years shorter life span for these obese children. It will be the first time in two hundred years the America’s current generation may have a shorter life span than their parents.
But more importantly, obesity in our youth has immediate effects on their bodily organ systems. These are, but not limited to (Klish, 2015):
- Endocrine: impaired glucose tolerance, diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, etc.
- Gastrointestinal: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Respiratory: obstructive sleep apnea.
- Cardiovascular: hypertension, hyperlipidemia, coronary heart disease.
The Source of Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity is brought upon by many different factors; but the number one reason is obesity by both parents. This reflects the environment in which the child is brought up as well as his or her physical vulnerability to gain weight.
The lifestyle of a child’s family as well as societal pressures will affect a child’s weight. As more technologies such as mobile devices, computer games, and television enter our families, there is less motivation for children to go outside and engage in physical activities. With the increasing affluence of urban families, more children are being driven to school, rather than walking or biking, which reduces physical activities (Berger, 2014).
Advertising of unhealthy food also correlates with the increasing childhood obesity rates; which make fast-food, candy, soda and junk food, more appealing than healthy, wholesome food. Furthermore, pre-packed and processed foodstuffs are more affordable and easier to consume than healthy food.
Addressing the Root of the Problem
As parents, we should be informed about the possible dangers that our children. We must be mindful of our own lifestyles, not just our children’s, as it has been shown that the way we live greatly affects the way our children would. We must watch our dietary habits and always encourage physical activity.
Our children’s health relies on our steadfastness to provide what is right and what is good for their consumption. We must fight childhood obesity. Our children are our future, and we must protect them at all costs.
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