Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the U.S. and one is that still growing. One of third of all children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. A child is considered obese when their weight far exceeds the healthy or normal weight for their height. Although genetics do play a part, excess weight gain can be attributed largely to behavior and lifestyle.
What are the causes of child obesity?
- Bad diet: Childhood obesity is typically caused by a diet of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, such as convenience foods, fast foods, baked goods, vending machine snacks, desserts, sweets, and sugary drinks. Such food is okay to be consumed once in a while, but a child who consumes them every day or even multiple times a day is bound to become obese over time, especially when such a diet is paired with a regular lack of exercise.
- Sedentary lifestyle: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that children engage in moderate to intensive exercise for at least one hour each day for healthy growth and development. Children who do not exercise regularly can become obese, especially when they have a poor diet of high-calorie and low-nutrient food as well.
- Environment: A child’s environment can affect their diet and lifestyle to cause obesity. For example, if a child spends majority of their day in a childcare center or school that serves unhealthy food and provides minimal opportunities for physical activities, it would be easy for them to eventually become overweight or obese. Community factors such as the affordability and accessibility of healthy food options, and the marketing and promotion of unhealthy food options also play a role in child obesity.
Since children do not know better, it is ultimately the role of parents to ensure that their children consume a heathy diet and engage in regular physical activity to maintain a healthy weight.
What are some effects of child obesity?
- Immediate health risks: Childhood obesity is harmful in many ways. Children who are obese tend to have high cholesterol and high blood pressure which are huge risk factors for heart diseases. It is also common for them to experience breathing problems (such as sleep apnea or asthma), joint problems, musculoskeletal discomfort, gallstones, and heartburn. On top of that, they have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Social and psychological problems: Children who are obese are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. They may also be targets of stigma and bullying. Research has shown that they generally have lower self-esteem and a lower self-reported quality of life.
- Future health risks: Unfortunately, the negative consequences of child obesity don’t stop there. Children with obesity are likely to grow up into adults with obesity. This is because they become used to their bad diet and sedentary lifestyle and continue to practice it after they enter adulthood. Adult obesity is associated with serious health conditions as well, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even cancer.