Child Obesity - The Facts For Our Next GenerationNovember 19, 2011 0 Comments
It is especially alarming
that the incidence of obesity among children has increased sharply
and substantially in recent decades. The latest available data from
the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that
since 1980, prevalence of child obesity has almost tripled.
Approximately 17% of the population of children aged 2-19 years old
is obese.   Compared with the prevalence of obesity among
adults, the figures do not seem startling. However, this percentage
comprises at least 12.5 million children living in the United
States. Particular attention towards the data is warranted. Reports
cite that not only the rates of overweight children have increased,
but the heaviest children noted were markedly heavier as compared
to previous surveys .
The data presented included children who have become obese and morbidly obese. Rates of those who are overweight and are at risk of becoming obese may even be higher. 
Diabetes and Child Obesity
Being overweight alone can severely increase the risk of developing depression, orthopedic problems, respiratory ailments, high cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes among children. Of particular concern is Type 2 diabetes, which has been frequently associated with obesity. The rise of diagnosis of diabetes mellitus in children significantly correlates with the increase of obesity rates.  Significant portions of obese young people grow to be obese adults. Add to early-onset obese persons those who become obese as adults and it appears that the incidence will continue to increase. Overweight children and adolescents have at least a 70% chance of becoming obese adults. If one parent is overweight or obese, the risk increases to 80%. 
Impact of Child Obesity
In 1979-1981, the hospital costs of admissions related to childhood obesity costs the government an estimate of $35 million per year. In 1997-1999, the amount ballooned to $117 billion, both of which were computed under a 2001 constant rate.  In 2008, total medical costs have been said to reach $147 billion.  The long term consequences pose an even bigger threat. Given that most of the obese children have a 70-80% chance of becoming obese into adulthood, the risks of arthritis, asthma, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a general poor health status are carried as they grow old.   In particular, cardiovascular disease has been cited as the leading cause of death in the United States.  Sociologists at Purdue University found a direct relationship between length and frequency of hospital stays and obesity. On average, obese patients stayed one and a half days longer than those who have normal body mass indexes. Moreover, the longer that the person has become obese, the more chances of lengthened hospital stays.  The amount of total medical costs in the future could reach its tipping point, once the young overweight population becomes obese adults.
Causes of Childhood Obesity
Given the data, it may be an opportune time to understand the causes of childhood obesity. A complete understanding of the causes addresses possible solutions, and directs the public towards goals. The etiology of these changes is not apparent but may be considered multi-factorial.
A number of the reasons cited were problems found in and around the household. Eating more food as snacks and meals away from home, such as in fast foods, may be a subtle factor for children and adults. These food portions tend to be larger and higher in calories and dietary fat than those eaten at home.
Concerns over the increasing numbers of latchkey children focus on the use of food for emotional comfort and security. All of these factors impact the effect of genetics, which predispose children toward heavier weights and should be considered as interventions are assessed. Social and genetic factors, such as race, socio-economic standing, media, and the environment affect expenditure of energy.
Another factor may be the increase of sedentary lifestyles. Physical activity has decreased, with a related decline of fitness. Although TV watching has not increased substantially over the years, children may be more sedentary than in the past because they play video and computer games and surf the Internet. The supposed underlying factor for the increase in childhood obesity rates lie in a decrease in daily activity without an accompanying decrease in consumption. 
Fitness is this the answer to reduce Child Obesity
Something as simple as obesity must be curbed before the rates further increase. The solution lies in giving attention to individual health. There exists an inverse relationship between activity and disease: as the population adopts a more sedentary and less active lifestyle, risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic disease increases. The rates of stroke, diabetes, and heart attack that were previously almost exclusive to the elderly population are already applicable to younger populations. 
Strides have been made to address the problems brought about by obesity. Schools have trades snacks for healthier meals, activity days have been designated in a week, and trails and recreations parks have been improved, however, these may not be enough. Physicians agree that treatment of obesity should be aggressive. A modification of lifestyle which includes a healthy diet, physical activity, and weight loss is needed. 
For children however, special considerations need to be made. The goal for the child is to maintain the current weight while growth continues. Children should not be forced to diet, and instead healthier eating patterns must be considered. The goal of treatment should not be about reaching the ideal weight, but developing a healthy lifestyle. To do this, children must be encouraged to participate in quality physical activity. Most children and adolescents fall short of at least 60 minutes of essential aerobic physical activity each day.  In fact, children with lower level of fitness to begin with benefit the most from cardiac rehabilitation, which can include simple daily exercises.  A recent examination shows that a 0.31 point drop in body mass index may be achieved with a one-hour increase in physical education per week. Physical education in kindergarten when extended to at least 5 hours a week may bring significant drops in rates of those overweight. 
The excess intake of food above the daily energy expenditure is one of the most indicated factors that lead to obesity. The correlations of the changes in obesity over the decades have been implicated with numerous morbidities. A number of root causes have been implicated, but while the main roots of child obesity remain vague and indeterminate, fitness remains the most viable option.