Is childhood obesity improving? What do recent research studies tell us about obesity in children? What can parents do to help?
WHAT IS OBESITY?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, obesity is defined as a condition characterized by “the excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body.”
HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE OBESE?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.
- The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.
- In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese
- Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat
- Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.
WHAT DOES THE LATEST RESEARCH SAY?Recent childhood obesity research is encouraging. A recent long-term, nine year study conducted from 2003 – 2011, focused on poor, preschool children, ages three – four years of age. Two cities were targeted in the United States – New York and Los Angeles.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention childhood obesity study showed that a decrease in childhood obesity occurred in New York during the nine year period from about 19%- 16% of the preschoolers. But in Los Angeles obesity rose from 17% – more than 21% over the nine-year period,, then dropped to 20%. Why would there be an increase in childhood obesity in Los Angeles and a decrease in New York?
One reason researchers believe there is such a difference is that statistics show that throughout the United States obesity rates are much higher in Mexican-American children than in African-American or Caucasian children, and there are more Mexican-American children in California. Children in the study were enrolled in WIC (Women Infant Children) program, providing food vouchers and services to needy families. The number of children enrolled in the program varied each year with as many as 67,000 in New York City and 150,000 in Los Angeles. Other studies in Philadelphia, Anchorage, and Kearney, Nebraska also reported decreases in childhood obesity.
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- several types of cancer
- bone and joint problems
- sleep apnea
- social and psychological problems
- metabolic syndrome
- high blood pressure
HOW CAN WE DECREASE CHILDHOOD OBESITY?
Parents and schools need to play an active role in educating children about the serious consequences and dangers of childhood obesity. Parents must determine if their child is overweight and promote a healthy lifestyle. Teach children the importance of a daily exercise routine. Provide fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and remove packaged foods from the home that are high in trans fats, cholesterol, and sugar.
Together we can educate and awaken awareness on childhood obesity prevention.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention – “Obesity Prevalence Among Low-Income, Preschool-Aged Children — New York City and Los Angeles County, 2003–2011”
Stanford Hospital – “Health Effects of Obesity”
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute – “What Are the Health Risks of Obesity?”
Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America
This article is written by Jean Voice Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University. Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.
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