What's childhood obesity?Obesity in children and adolescents is a serious issue with many health and social consequences that often continue into adulthood. Implementing prevention programs and getting a better understanding of treatment for youngsters is important to controlling the obesity epidemic.
Many parents are rightly concerned about their child's weight and how it affects them. They look for specific answers for prevention and treatment options. Unfortunately, the state of the science is a lot less precise than we would like. Are kids too concerned about their weight? What are the best strategies for prevention? What treatments work over a long time? Researchers are trying to answer those and many other questions. In many cases, common sense works well. In situations where there are serious health, psychological or social problems, parents should seek out the best possible advice.
Note: The term "childhood obesity" may refer to both children and adolescents. In general, we use the word, "children" to refer to 6 to 11 years of age, and "adolescents" to 12 to 17 years of age. If otherwise, and when possible, we will use a specific age or age range.
There are many factors that contribute to causing child and adolescent obesity - some are modifiable and others are not.
Modifiable causes include:
- Physical Activity - Lack of regular exercise.
- Sedentary behavior - High frequency of television viewing, computer usage, and similar behavior that takes up time that can be used for physical activity.
- Socioeconomic Status - Low family incomes and non-working parents.
- Eating Habits - Over-consumption of high-calorie foods. Some eating patterns that have been associated with this behavior are eating when not hungry, eating while watching TV or doing homework.
- Environment - Some factors are over-exposure to advertising of foods that promote high-calorie foods and lack of recreational facilities.
Non-changeable causes include:
- Genetics - Greater risk of obesity has been found in children of obese and overweight parents.
There are some signs that may help you determine if your child has or is at risk for childhood obesity, such as:
- Family history of obesity.
- Family history of obesity-related health risks such as early cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure levels, type 2 diabetes.
- Family history of cigarette smoking and sedentary behaviors.
Signs in the child of obesity-related health risks from a pediatrician's evaluation including:
- Cardiac Risk Factors. Studies of children with obesity show higher than average blood pressure, heart rate and cardiac output when compared to children without obesity.
- Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors. This involves glucose intolerance and insulin levels that are higher than average.
- Orthopedic Problems. Some symptoms include weight stress in the joints of the lower limbs, tibial torsion and bowed legs, and slipped capital femoral epiphysis (especially in boys).
- Skin disorders. Some are heat rash, intertrigo, monilial dermatitis and acanthosis nigricans.
- Psychological / Psychiatric Issues. Poor self-esteem, negative self-image, depression, and withdrawal from peers have been associated with obesity.
- Patterns of sedentary behavior (such as too much television viewing) and low physical activity levels.
- Taller height - children with obesity are often above the 50th percentile in height.
- Smoking initiation. Research studies show that youngsters use smoking as a method of weight control. Parents, pediatricians and schools should work together to discourage smoking as a weight control behavior for three main reasons: a) smoking is not likely to be successful in controlling weight, b) smoking is itself harmful, and c) smoking is associated with a decrease in sound nutrition and physical activity patterns.
More information on obesityWhat is obesity? - Obesity is a condition in which the natural energy reserve of a mammal. In humans, the current measurement of obesity is the body mass index (BMI).
What is morbid obesity? - Morbid obesity is clinically severe obesity or extreme obesity.
What is central obesity? - Central obesity (or 'apple-shaped' or 'masculine' obesity), is when the main deposits of body fat are localised around the abdomen and the upper body.
What is the body mass index (BMI)? - The body mass index (BMI) is a mathematical formula that uses your weight and height information to calculate your body mass.
What causes obesity? - Genetic, environmental, psychological, and other factors may all play a role in the development of obesity.
What're health risks associated with obesity? - Obesity has been linked to several serious medical conditions including: insulin resistance, heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes, cancer, gallbladder disease and gallstones.
How obesity is measured? - A number of tools are available to measure obesity. Most are based on height and weight ratios, body size and shape, and percent body fat.
How common is obesity? - Most health professionals say that obesity is an epidemic. Obesity in the adult population has doubled since 1980.
What's the treatment of obesity? - The mainstay of treatment for obesity is an energy-limited diet and increased exercise.
What's the dietary therapy for treatment of obesity? - Dietary therapy involves instruction on how to adjust a diet to reduce the number of calories eaten. Reducing calories moderately is essential to achieve a slow but steady weight loss, which is also important for maintenance of weight loss.
What's the exercise therapy (physical activity) for obesity treatment? - The primary goal of this therapy is to move sedentary people into an active category (even if it is moderate levels of intensity) and to move moderate level individuals into more vigorous levels.
What's the behavior therapy (physical activity) for obesity treatment? - Behavior therapy involves changing diet and physical activity patterns and habits to new behaviors that promote weight loss.
What about the drug therapy for obesity treatment? - Drug therapy may be used for weight loss and weight maintenance. Patients should be regularly assessed to determine the effect and continuing safety of a drug.
What about obesity surgery? - Obesity surgery is used to modify the stomach and or intestines to reduce the amount of food that can be eaten.
What's childhood obesity? - Obesity in children and adolescents is a serious issue with many health and social consequences that often continue into adulthood.