Childhood Obesity

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.

Childhood Obesity
Teen and childhood obesity” by Gaulsstin is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

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:

What causes childhood obesity?

The explanation is really simple: if you take in more energy in the form of food than you use up you will gain weight. There are, however, many factors that can influence this.

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.

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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.

Fast food is another reason for obesity. While some fast food chains offer healthy alternatives, these aren’t what people order. Today’s families also eat out a lot more than earlier generations.

Vending machine with snacks in Hong Kong
Images : WaoceanuCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Apart from the need for larger school desks and airline seats, what else is there to worry about.

Obesity can lead to high blood pressure



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