Role in Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity is the most common eating disorder, which has reached the modern society. Children are at high risk for numerous preventable chronic and acute medical issues, which are often related to increased depression and mortality. As a result, the seriousness of the issue has driven many experts to study and investigate childhood obesity’s etiology, effects, and interventions to control it.
Obesity is usually defined as the excessive or abnormal accumulation of fat in a human body, to the extent of lethal health risks. It is quite complicated to measure the amount of adipose tissue and analyze the risk of obesity. By means of the dual-energy X-ray absorptiometer (DEXA), computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), human adiposity can be examined. However, the application of such methods is limited due to its high expenses. In wide scale, Quetelet’s index, which is also known as body mass index (BMI), is used to determine the overall body fat. BMI is calculated by dividing the body weight (lb) with height squared. According to the standards of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the children among the ages 2-19 years are considered obese if they possess the BMI greater than the 95th percentile (Kiess et al., 2004, p. 1-16).
Often, the terms “overweight” and “obese” are confused. Though they can be used as synonyms, they are based on different concepts. As overweight child is a child whose possesses the excessive weight than standard level, considering their height and age, while an obese child is diagnosed by analyzing excessive body fat with the help of BMI charts (Koukourikos et al., 2013, p. 129).
Various researches have shown that the prevalence of childhood obesity has dramatically increased in developed and developing countries. According to the 2002 World Health Report, childhood obesity is the fifth most critical issue in the western and other developed countries. The US and Mexico are among the top countries with the high rate of childhood obesity. During the past two decades, the rate of overweight and obese children almost doubled (from 15.4% to 25.6%) in the US. Almost one third of children were obese in the US in 2010. It was estimated that the number of obese and overweight children under the age of five was more than 42 million in the world in 2010. The obesity rate among boys and girls is identified as almost equal (Koukourikos et al., 2013, p. 129-130). The staggering statistics of childhood obesity highlight the seriousness of the issue.
There are various factors, such as socioeconomic factors, heredity, physical inactivity, or unhealthy diet, which can trigger the obesity disorder among the children.
Heredity and Societal Factors
According to the research, American, African, Native American, and Hispanic children are more prone to obesity, compared to the children of other races. It was estimated that 39% of Native American, 24% of African American, 24% of Mexican, and 27% of American children are at risk of being obese. Besides heredity, socioeconomic factors play a vital role in childhood obesity. It is seen that the childhood obesity rate is much higher in the rich and developed countries, compared to poor and developing countries. Modern societies with the easy and high access to supermarkets, fast foods, comfortable transportations, and sedentary entertainment facilities, like TV, video games, computers etc., are more prone to the disorder (Wieting, 2008, p. 546).
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According to the reports of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teenagers and school students’ regular involvement in physical education has lowered 30%, since the past few years. Low levels of physical activity in childhood significantly contribute to the development of obesity in children. The main cause of lower physical activity is the increasing obsession of children for video games and computer and neglect to the outdoor games and physical exercises (Wieting, 2008, p. 546).
Besides the lack of physical exercises, children’s lifestyles are affecting the rate of obesity among the children. The studies have shown that high level of consumption of fast foods, sugary drinks, high calorie and fatty diet, low consumption of fruits, vegetables, and healthy food, bad eating habits, irregular timetable of meals, cause the childhood obesity (Wieting, 2008, p. 546).
Mass media is one of the major reasons behind the increasing rates of obesity among the children in modern societies. Today, most of the fast food, soft drinks, and candy companies market their products with the promotion of cartoon characters or popular movie stars, video games, toys, or lucrative offers, which is significantly influencing the children of 5-14 years old. According to the reports, children spend around 5.5 hours each day in watching television and are exposed to almost 40000 food advertisements annually. Due to the aggressive marketing of such companies, children are more prone to the risk of obesity disorder (Wieting, 2008, p. 546-547).
Childhood obesity is a chronic pediatric disorder, which affects most of the systems of the human organism. These effects are mostly related with the respiratory system (asthma, obstructing sleep apnea), the cardiovascular system (dyslipidemia, hypertension, heart attack), issues with the skeletal development, and the problem of gastrointestinal tract. Also, such children are associated with the various immune system diseases and psychological disorders like depression, chronic anxiety disorder etc. With the increase in obesity, acute health issues like, hypercholesterolemia, type II diabetes, hypertension, and asthma may identified in the children. The obese children often feel disconnected from the social and family interactions, which may increase complexity disorder among them. The childhood obesity is often linked with increased mortality and morbidity rates in adulthood (Koukourikos et al., 2013, p. 130).
Childhood obesity is curable. Treatment for childhood obesity is usually based on the child’s age and medical conditions. For children under age 7, weight maintenance programs are adopted, rather than weight loss. While for children above age 7, weight loss plans are proved to be effective. In some cases, treatment may include weight-loss surgery and medications. Childhood obesity can be prevented by adopting healthy diet and lifestyle. Regular physical exercise, limited use of television and computers, lower consumption of sweet and high calorie foods, daily consumption of adequate amount of water can help to maintain the balanced weight and avoid the obesity disorder (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2013).
Childhood obesity is the growing serious concern for most of the developed countries, especially the US. Various studies have shown that the lifestyle is the major cause of the childhood obesity. The disorder triggers various chronic diseases among the children, which may lead to the death in early ages. Children are the future of the country. Therefore, in order to develop healthy and happy society, it is important for the government and people to take revolutionary steps to prevent the further growth of it.