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Childhood Obesity in America

Childhood obesity in America is reaching  pandemic levels.

Children and adolescents are becoming more and more obese, and parents need to get their children more active. According to the Mayo Clinic, childhood obesity is a condition when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height.

Why Are Children Obese in America?

Children become obese for a number of reasons.

Sometimes, there may be a genetic or hormonal cause. However, often it is caused by children overeating and not being active.

It’s always a good idea for parents to encourage their children to eat healthier and become active. Planning a healthy diet for the whole family, as well as being active together, can reverse childhood obesity if it is caused by lifestyle choices.

During the summer, encourage your children to go outside and play instead of staying indoors on the couch, watching TV and playing video games. This alone is a great start. Choosing healthy snacks in moderation will also help.

Specific Causes for Obesity in Children

Childhood obesity can stem from a variety of specific factors:

  • Diet
    Eating high-calorie and sugary foods can cause weight gain – in particular, fast foods, baked goods, vending machine snacks, soft drinks, candy, and desserts.
  • Lack of Exercise
    Weight gain in children is more likely to occur if they do not exercise much. The calories they consume are not burned off and just… accumulate.
  • Family History: If there is a family history of obesity, children may be more likely to pack on the pounds. This is especially the case when high-calorie foods are always available; the two factors work together.
  • Psychological Factors
    Like adults, children may overeat when they are stressed or bored, or have other emotional problems.
  • Family Factors
    Parents that purchase cookies, chips, and other high-calorie foods are contributing to their child’s weight gain. Controlling access to these types of foods may prevent obesity and promote weight loss.
  • Socioeconomic Factors
    Foods that are healthy and fresh are generally more expensive and take more time to prepare. Sometimes parents opt for foods that are inexpensive and easy to prepare, such as frozen meals, crackers and cookies. These foods contain fats and an excessive amount of salt.

The Effects of Obesity in Children

Physical, social, and emotional problems can occur with childhood obesity:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
    In children, Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic condition. It is caused by poor diet and affects how the body metabolizes sugar. However, this disease can be reversed if healthier foods are consumed and the child becomes more active.
  • Metabolic Syndrome
    High blood sugar, high cholesterol, and excessive abdominal fat, all together, are called Metabolic Syndrome. These conditions can lead to heart disease, diabetes, or a variety of other health problems and complications.
  • High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure
    Eating a poor diet can cause high cholesterol and high blood pressure. A poor diet may contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries, causing them to harden and narrow. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke years later.
  • Asthma/Other Breathing Problems
    The development and health of the lungs is compromised by extra weight. This can lead to asthma or other breathing problems.
  • Sleep Disorders
    During sleep, the child may snore or have abnormal breathing – a condition known as sleep apnea. This can be a complication of obesity.
  • Early Puberty or Menstruation
    Hormone imbalances can occur when a child is overweight and can lead to early puberty.
  • Low Self-Esteem and Bullying
    Being overweight may lead to children being teased or bullied. Low self-esteem and depression may result from these factors.
  • Behavior and Learning Problems
    Anxiety and poor social skills are common in overweight children. In extreme cases, this may cause the child to act out at home and in school, and cause them to socially withdraw.
  • Depression
    Feelings of hopelessness in overweight children may be caused by low self-esteem.

Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States, and has serious risks and complications.

By encouraging children to eat a healthy diet, snack in moderation, and get outside and exercise, we may be able to reverse childhood obesity, thus giving the next generation a head-start on leading happier, healthier, and longer lives.

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