CHILDHOOD OBESITY: HOW TO OVERCOME
First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign is geared to fight the childhood obesity epidemic. The statistics indicate that incidences of childhood obesity rates have tripled in the last 30 years from an average for children aged 6-11 of 6.5% to almost 20%; and for children 12-19 from an average of 5% to 18%. Her plan aims to bring both these childhood, teenage and adolescent obesity statistics down to 5 percent (or less) of the population by the year 2030! Preventing childhood obesity can be critical to preventing the same condition in adults. For example, recent research study found that 80 percent of obese 16-17 year old boys remained obese as adults. The figure was even higher for girls, 92 percent! By comparison, only 20 percent of normal weight kids grew up to be obese adults. Thus preventing later adult obesity is a primary consideration in addressing the childhood obesity problem.
- Childhood CV Disease – Obese youth are more likely to have circulatory diseases. Actually 70% of youth aged 5-17 have at least one major risk factor (like high cholesterol or blood pressure) for developing cardiovascular disease.
- Other Childhood Disease – The facts are that obese children are at a greater risk of bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and socio-psychological problems such as poor self-esteem.
- Adult Ailments – Among after-effects, obese youth are more likely to become overweight or obese as adults with more risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, and several types of cancer.
Addressing First Nutritional Causes
Changes in the food environment seem to have played a much larger role than changes in physical activity to cause the overweight and obesity epidemic. It seems the main underlying cause of obesity is the overproduction of low quality or fast food in the United States that sticks to the ribs. We currently have 3,900 calories available in the food supply per person served. This is roughly twice the average need. Calorie portions have grown as marketing has become ever more intensive. This feeds morbid obesity.
One of the largest sources of extra calories in the American diet and for the obese child is sweetened soft drinks. Research suggests that the imposition of a 20 percent tax on non-diet soda could cut calorie intake from such beverages by 13 percent for adults and 11 percent for youth.
While people often don’t consider it, breastfeeding for infants is a good way to fight obesity! Breastfeeding helps nursing moms lose weight after pregnancy—and it also helps children avoid becoming overweight by allowing them to control how much they eat better than they can with bottle-feeding.
Coordinating the Work of Government Agencies
The recently released report, F is for Fat by the The Trust for America’s Health states some important recommendations to coordinate policies across government agencies so that, for example, the Department of Transportation takes obesity into account when planning not just roads but bike lanes and that they aren’t working at cross-purposes with various health agencies.
To see the full report and more general information about the obesity epidemic’s statistics (and where your state ranks in childhood and adult obesity statistics), see: “F is for Fat