The Growing Threat of Childhood Obesity

According to the CDC, more kids than ever are not just overweight, they are actually obese.  In fact, the numbers have tripled since the 1970s and in 2016, the data showed that nearly one in five school age children (ages 6-19) in the U.S. has obesity. This is a startling trend that can have long-term health consequences, including shorter life span.

What determines obesity vs. being overweight?

Overweight in children and young people is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) at or above the 85th percentile and less than the 95th percentile for young people of the same age and sex.

Obesity in children and young people is defined as having a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for young people of the same age and sex.

Body max index is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of a person’s height in meters. However, health professionals recommend that BMI percentile be used for children and young people ages two to 20 years old because they are still growing and at different rates based on their age and sex.

Does childhood obesity impact health and well-being?

Effects of childhood obesity can be immediate and long-term, and may include:

  • Increased risk of other chronic health conditions and diseases, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes (formerly known as “adult onset” diabetes), and risk factors for heart disease.
  • Social isolation, depression, lower self-esteem from higher rates of bullying and teasing than their average weight peers.
  • Higher likelihood of obesity as an adult, which increases their risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and various types of cancer

What causes or contributes to childhood obesity?

Energy imbalance is a key factor of obesity in the United States. It basically means consuming more energy from foods and beverages than the body uses for healthy functioning, growth, and physical activity. This imbalance can lead to extra weight gain over time.

Other contributing factors of obesity include:

  • Genetics
  • Metabolism – the process for changing food and oxygen into energy for the body to use
  • Short sleep duration
  • Eating habits and lack of physical activity to offset consumption
  • Lack of access to parks and/or regular recreational activity
  • Family or culturally informed diet that is not high in fruits, vegetables and healthy options and low in carbohydrates, fat, sugary drinks and sweets

To help your family maintain a healthy weight, see our healthy living tips and recipes, and get at least 30 minutes of exercise three or more times a week. It can be as simple as taking a family walk, having a jump rope or push-up contest, or throwing a spontaneous dance party to your favorite beats – whatever gets you moving and having fun.

If someone in your family is experiencing health problems or is interested in weight loss options, contact us to help you find a doctor or specialist.


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