Childhood Obesity. Just Sayin’ NO to Mickey D’s

*Photo by Ashley Green on Unsplash

Well, I am not going to claim an angelic stance on this topic as I frequent some fast food joints way too often when things get a little crazy! It’s tough in this day and age not to, and props to the mom’s who can avoid it. I do try my best to cook and provide my kids with healthy choices, I mean we do ok. But when you see the science behind where our kids are headed, you’ll want to do more. Below you will find a very formal article on the subject of childhood obesity I wrote for a client who’s payment declined after I delivered him the article he ordered. So….. I am going to publish it as my own, as it is still mine to due lack of payment and share it with the world! Here is why you may want to stop visiting Mickey D’s and other fast food joints…

Childhood Obesity

Look around you.  It can’t be missed, it’s primarily a problem in the United States, but people worldwide are now suffering.  It’s obesity, and it’s an epidemic. Odds are you, or someone you love suffers from a weight problem. There are a wide number of reasons for being overweight, but none equate to a healthy body.  This horribly unhealthy condition affecting adults has now entered our children’s lives. Sadly, childhood obesity has become a major health ailment that has left many families struggling for answers.  

There are more than 13 million cases per year, that equates to almost 20% of all children ages 2 to 19 being obese.  Society as a whole is not prepared to deal with this situation. Schools, churches, playgroups, almost everything kid-friendly offers our kids unhealthy options.  Eating healthy may be taught and preached by many, but it sure isn’t being enforced anywhere. What are the options and answers?

What is Childhood Obesity and What to Look For

Childhood obesity can be defined as any child who has a body mass index, or BMI above the 95th percentile according to the CDC BMI for age growth charts that are sex-specific.  However, not all children who seem overweight are obese. Every child is built differently. Often children who might be mistakenly labeled as overweight have larger than normal body frames.  Or they might be growing at uneven or different rates than the average stages of development.

How can you diagnose childhood obesity?  You can not. There are no lab tests or imaging procedures available, and no symptoms other than the child being overweight.  Often parents don’t even know if their child has a weight problem as there are no clear cut signs. The primary guideline physicians go by is the BMI, which measures a persons weight according to their height.

Photo by Parker Byrd on Unsplash

Cause and Concern for Our Children

Why?  Why are children suffering?  Why now, over any other time period in our existence are our kids being diagnosed with obesity?  What is causing them to gain weight, overeat, and be inactive? There are many reasons, the main culprit being lifestyle.  Too much TV, tablet time, or iPhones usage, too many calories from junk food, pizza, soda and candy, a tremendous amount of inactivity in general, or probably a combination of all!  This is the norm for many children. Instead of reaching for a piece of fruit, or a protein bar, kids are reaching for chips, candy bars, and sugary cereals. Instead of playing dolls, tea parties or legos with their friends, kids are slouched over a table watching YouTube.  Rather than going outside to run around, kids are staying indoors. The only activity many children are getting is the recess or PE they receive at school a few time a week.

In addition, we can also not ignore that genetics and hormones can play a role in causing childhood obesity. New research has found that the hormones surrounding the digestion process that signal the brain for satiety can be unbalanced leaving children with the desire to keep eating, constant hunger, or the inability to reach satiety.  There are many factors that could cause a child to be overweight. Many working together.

  • Diet.  This is one of the major culprits of obesity.  Mainstream media pushes sugary, processed, highly caloric foods.  Fast foods are prevalent on every corner, sometimes doubled down, and always busy.  Vending machines are everywhere. School lunches may have healthy options, but most kids will not choose them.  They will pick the pizza and tacos over the salad, hands down. Eating high caloric foods such as these can cause children to gain weight, and over time become obese.
  • Exercise, or lack thereof.  Tablets, TV, iPhones, and video consoles are all contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic.  Children who spend a great deal of time in sedentary activities are much more prone to gaining weight as they are not burning the allocated amount of calories to counteract the food they eat.
  • Home Environment and Genetics.  If the family is overweight regardless of whether it is genetic or from overeating, the child is predisposed to gain weight as well.  Usually, in these situations, high caloric foods are easily accessible, and exercise isn’t an instilled value of importance.
  • Stress and Anxiety.  Family stress can cause many harmful situations, including increasing a child’s risk to gain weight.  A child might cope with certain stressful situations by overeating. Stress can also alter the hormones and body’s systems that dictate hunger, throwing them out of balance leading to emotional eating.  Children also often eat from boredom and lack of stimulation or attention.
bed-blanket-blur-1243364
Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

What’s Happening to Our Children?

There are a tremendous amount of complications that can develop from childhood obesity.  It can affect a child’s well-being physically, socially and emotionally. Being a child in today’s day and age is stressful enough, adding additional health and body image complications can really add a tremendous burden on a child’s daily life.

Physically, obesity in children cause the following conditions:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Sleep disorders
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease ( NAFLD)
  • Bone Fractures

Type 2 diabetes has become a widely prevalent chronic health condition in the US.  It affects the way the body processes glucose, or sugar. Obesity and sedation highly increase the likely hood of a child contracting this ailment.  This is one of the main concerns of childhood obesity. Children who develop this condition can no longer process sugar properly, which causes the sugar to accumulate in the bloodstream over its normal functions of fueling the cells of muscles and other tissues.

The majority of sugar in a child’s body comes from the food they consume.  When a child eats food, the sugar enters the blood and should then be moved into the body’s cells through a hormone called insulin.  If this process is defective, or in overdrive from too much sugar, the entire mechanism responsible for transferring sugar and metabolizing becomes injured, leading to type 2 diabetes and other health ailments.

Type 2 diabetes often onsets at the beginning of puberty and is more prevalent in girls than boys.  It is a gripping disease that can affect the entire body and cause major organs to malfunction. Blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves are the most common organs to be affected. Type 2 diabetes is life-threatening and disabling, yet usually preventable.  If left unchecked, Type 2 diabetes in children can lead to strokes, high blood pressure, heart and blood vessel disease, kidney disease, blindness, NAFLD, amputation of body limbs and certain skin conditions. It is vitally important to keep a child’s blood sugar level even and normal the majority of time to reduce the risk of creating type 2 diabetes in the body.

A cluster of conditions known as metabolic syndrome increase drastically in obese children.  Conditions include heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, and high cholesterol.  It has been estimated that over ⅓ of obese teenagers have this condition. That breaks down to 1 in every 10 teens.  In a recent study of 375 children, ages 8 to 10, 5% were found to have this disease, while 45% of them had risk factors that could lead up to it in the near future.

A poor diet with fatty foods and too much sugar inevitably leads to high cholesterol and high blood pressure. While this was once a condition for the older, aging generation, it is now being seen at younger and younger ages. Plaque builds up in the arteries, harden and cause the blood vessels to narrow.  This highly increases the probability of heart attack and stroke.

kelly-sikkema-424276-unsplash
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Allergies and asthma are also conditions that are being seen at alarming rates.  According to the latest research, allergies in children have increased over 400%, many of this being attributed to toxins, chemicals, artificial preservatives, and GMOs found in the food that is being eaten.  There is a direct correlation between asthma and childhood obesity. Children who are found to be obese, or even overweight, tend to have higher rates of asthma.

Sleep patterns can also be affected in children who are overweight.  Obstructive sleep apnea is seen more often in children with weight issues and is a serious disorder that could stop breathing during sleep.

Another very threatening condition that affects children and can go unnoticed for dangerous amounts of time as it causes no symptoms, is NAFLD, or Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  Fatty deposits build up on the liver organ and can cause severe liver damage. There are two types of the disease that can occur. One is referred to as simple fatty liver disease and is the accumulation of fat in the organ resulting in no cell damage or inflammation, whereas the later, known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is the opposite and extremely destructive.

Bone fractures are also more likely to occur in obese children for a few factors.  First, they are caring more weight than their bones have been created to care, causing more stress.  Second, their muscles are not properly developed due to a lack of adequate exercise or a sedentary lifestyle.  And Thirdly, they may lack nutrients due to a poor diet, leaving their growing bones weak and fragile.

Childhood Social and Emotional Issues are on the Rise

kat-j-525336-unsplash
Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

Aside from the aforementioned physical ailments that occur in obese children, physicians are seeing an increase in social and economic issues as well.  Children are being teased for being overweight and can suffer a tremendous loss in self -esteem. Depression is being reported in children at alarming rates. Therapists and psychologists have waiting lists and cannot even offer proper care for these young patients.  With the increase in anxiety and depression, children are suffering from poor social skills, behavior problems, and learning issues. Overweight children are more prone to acting out and disrupting the classroom. They will also suffer socially with the need to withdraw, having fewer friends and fewer positive social interactions

Obesity and Socioeconomic Status

Obesity is more prevalent in certain populations.  Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks have higher obesity rates, at 25.8% and 22% respectively, whereas Asians have the lowest obesity rates at 11%.  The non-Hispanic white class comes in at 14.1% of all children.

Childhood obesity decreases as education levels in the household increase.  It is unknown whether this is related to educated families having more access to information on healthy diets, or whether as income increases, families have more access to healthier food sources.  Obesity in children also depends on income brackets. In the lowest income ranges childhood obesity measured at 18.9%. In the middle classes, children measured at 19.9%. Children of families that earned incomes  in the highest income brackets measured at 10.9%

Why? What drives the socioeconomic differences?  People in the aforementioned classes may have limited money and resources or limited access to food and supermarkets.  They may turn to foods that are highly processed and don’t spoil such as frozen foods, cookies and crackers. People from the lowers income brackets may also live in neighborhoods where it is unsafe to exercise outside.  There may be no access to a safe place for outdoor activity.

What’s The Solution?

Our society doesn’t truly know where to begin with these 13 million children who are headed for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, who are also more prone to depression and self-esteem issues.  There seems to be a disregard for care and treatment. Esteemed health care websites and physicians are claiming childhood obesity can be resolved within months, that is is usually self-treatable and self-diagnosable.  This is not the case and could be a reason why we are seeing an increase in the condition over a decrease.

Improving the family’s lifestyle to include healthy diets and plenty of exercises is the best way to decrease and maintain a healthy weight in children. However, lifestyle changes are not easy. They must begin with the family and include every member on board. Not just the immediate family, but extended family, friends, teachers, and anyone else involved in the obese children’s lives.  Treating childhood obesity and preventing future health problems associated with it is the best way to assure our children’s future

What You Can Do For Your Child

boxed-water-is-better-1463966-unsplash
Photo by Boxed Water Is Better on Unsplash

Your child doesn’t have to be overweight to make lifestyle changes that can benefit their livelihood and longevity. Measures can be taken to prevent risks, and ensure healthy lifestyle choices are learned at an early age.

  • Limit sugar in every form. Learn to read labels, and recognize how sugar can be disguised under various names.
  • Eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables. Make these a child’s “go-to” snack.
  • Drink plenty of water to flush the body, and avoid sugar cravings between meals.
  • Studies show eating meals as a family can prevent obesity. Eat together as much as possible.
  • Avoid fast food restaurants. If you eat out, teach a child to make healthy choices.
  • Ensure portion sizes are appropriate for a child’s age
  • Limit screen time to under 2 hours a day
  • Practice good sleep patterns and habits.

The Future of Our Kids

It is a great idea for children to see a health care practitioner at least once a year to have all their vital statistics measured and BMI calculated.  An increase of BMI over one year could be a marker that a child is at risk of becoming obese.

The majority of sugar in a child’s body comes from the food they consume.  All of which should be regulated by parents and adults figures in a kid life.  Who really is to blame for this epidemic? Parents need to take responsibility for this epidemic and assume responsibility for their children’s wellbeing.

jenn-evelyn-ann-112980-unsplash

References:

Dawes, Laura ( June 9, 2014) Childhood Obesity in America: Biography of an Epidemic

Content source: Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (August 13, 2018) Center for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html

Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, (June 16, 2017) Center for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts/clinical_charts.htm

Mayo Clinic Staff , Mayo Clinic, Childhood Obesity  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/childhood-obesity/symptoms-causes/syc-20354827

Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic, Type 2 Diabetes in Children

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes-in-children/symptoms-causes/syc-20355318

Dowshen MD, Steve, Kids Health, Metabolic Syndrome (February 2018),

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/metabolic-syndrome.html

 

Advertisements

One Comment Add yours

  1. Thank God my kids were Athletic, they would pass up Nutritional Foods for Junk food. My Wife didn’t care as long as they ate something. Parents today are soft in many areas including Children’s eating habits.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s