Studies have shown that about 30% of all children in America aged 6 to 19 are either overweight or obese. That is almost one out of three young Americans. The situation in the countries of the European Union is similar.
The body mass index (BMI) is a formula to measure obesity. It uses a combination of height and weight. A BMI score of 25 or higher shows that you are overweight, and a BMI of over 30 indicates obesity.
Who is at risk ?
Regular exercise helps to control your weight
If you are gaining weight it does not always mean that you are becoming obese. Children and young adults need nutrients in order to grow, so they gain weight as time goes on. However, if you consume more than you need and begin putting on extra weight you may be on the road to obesity – combined with all kinds of health problems.
Here are some signs that tell you if you are at risk:
- Children who have obese parents or grandparents are in greater danger of becoming obese than others
- If diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes or heart illnesses run in your family you might be at risk too.
- Bowed legs at an early age can be a warning signal for obesity.
- Depression and a lack of confidence have also been connected to obesity.
- People who don’t get enough exercise and sit around and do nothing all day long are definitely more at risk than others.
What causes childhood obesity?
Genes determine how your body stores food and how well it turns food into energy. Our bodies are built to store energy in fat cells for times when food is scarce. But not all bodies are the same. Your genes come from your parents, so overweight parents are more likely to have overweight children.
Although you may have good genes you still can become obese. One of the main causes of obesity is the lack of physical exercise. An average child spends less time exercising than children did ten or twenty years ago. Our free time activities have changed. Instead of going outside and doing something physical children sit still for hours in front of computers, TV and video games.
Snacks and Fast Food
Many of us eat up to four meals a day thanks to excessive snacking. And when we have a snack we don’t eat a carrot or an apple. Instead we reach for junk food. But this is not always the children’s fault. Schools are full of vending machines that offer high calorie snacks and sugary soft drinks. To make things worse they are bombarded with TV ads and commercials for unhealthy food. An average American eight-year old watches more than four thousand food ads a year. About 35% of these ads are for candy and snacks, another 10% for fast food.
Eating Habits at Home
If you develop healthy eating habits, you’ll be more likely to keep a healthy weight. And it’s at home where we form such habits.
If your parents are overweight or obese chances are that you may have seen wrong eating habits your whole life. Children who observe their parents eat a cookie instead of a piece of fruit, take their meals in front of the TV set or eat too quickly are more likely to do the same. This increases their chances of becoming overweight children and, later on, adults.
What Childhood Obesity Can Lead To
- Type 2 diabetes was once thought to be a disease that mainly affected adults, but this not longer true. It can lead to blindness, heart and kidney diseases and damage your nerves.
- Studies have shown that obesity can cause children with asthma to use more medicine and wheeze more. Overweight children and adolescents are more likely to have high blood pressure than children with a normal weight.
- Sleeping disorders are among the most common consequences of childhood obesity. Some children may even have pauses in their breathing during sleep. If not treated it may lead to a series of other illnesses, including heart and lung problems.
Obesity can lead to high blood pressure