Children are Becoming Obese at an Alarming Rate

By Christopher Theberge

A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association showed that children are becoming obese at an alarming rate.

A study was conducted between 1986 to 1998 measuring the prevalence of obesity in children aged four to 12 years old in the U.S. Results revealed that within that time period the number of overweight children significantly increased. Hispanic children had the highest prevalence of obesity with 21.8 percent meeting the obesity classification status used. African American children followed reaching 21.5 percent and non-Hispanic whites were at 12.3 percent. It was also found that children were fatter in 1998 than 1986. One of the major concerns with this is that obesity in childhood often results in obesity in adulthood.

Obesity is associated with an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, as well as cancer and heart disease. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, limb amputations, and new onset of blindness in adults, as well as a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The majority of Type 2 diabetes cases are predominantly in adults over 40 years of age. However, with the increasing amounts of obese children, children are developing this form of diabetes more than ever. Children are now faced with huge risk factors that will definitely alter their quality of life in the future.

With the increase in television watching, computer use, and overall lack of physical activity, more children spend their time sitting than actually moving around. Children cannot be blamed for this problem either. Overweight adults constitute about 60 percent of the United States' population. Children develop food tastes and lifestyle habits from those of their guardians.

Food advertising has focused more on fast food and unhealthy items marketed strictly for children, with a majority being placed during kid's television programs. Children are very susceptible to this advertising, pushing their parents to buy these items.

As the rate of childhood obesity goes up, taxpayers will end up picking up the slack. About $100 billion dollars of taxpayer money goes to care for people with diabetes. Although family history of diabetes increases one's risk for developing the disease, it is largely preventable. Obesity, along with physical inactivity, seem to be the major causes of the disease.

It is now the parent's responsibility to make sure that their children start exercising more. Limiting the amount of time that children watch television, play on the computer, or play video games is a start. Getting them involved in sports activities or having them walk home from school are just a couple of ways to increase physical activity. Physical activity doesn't have to be running for an hour and then weight training for another hour. Children, especially obese children, will benefit from just starting out slow. Small steps are necessary if one is going to keep up with it. Dieting is not the answer either. Rarely do dietitians put children on diets.

Children need more calories to aid in growth and development. It is encouraged to just increase physical activity. Starting an exercise program with your children may also help. This will increase the quality time that you spend with your kids, and will allow both of you to become healthier. Obesity in children is an endemic problem and must be prevented. Give them a fighting chance by preventing it from developing. Increasing your risk for chronic diseases while you are young is not a way to start a long, healthy life. Be Healthy!

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