With the increasing popularity of sedentary lifestyles, obesity has become all the more prevalent among adults. However, in recent times, the syndrome named obesity is no longer confined to adults. Children are also prone to becoming overweight and obese. It has been observed that childhood obesity has doubled in children and almost quadrupled in adolescents in the past 3 decades.
In the U.S., 18% of children between the ages of 6 and 11 are obese, while 21% of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 are considered to have this problem. While overweight is defined as gaining excess body weight for a specific height from muscle, fat, water, bone, or a combination of these factors, obesity is defined as having only excess body fat.
Risks of Childhood Obesity
Obesity in children can be a result of caloric imbalance, environmental factors, genetic problems, or behavioral reasons. It can be harmful to their current health and also result in a number of ongoing health risks. There are a number of risks or contributing factors that may work in unison or individually to result in childhood obesity.
Lack of Exercise
The first one is lack of exercise. Nowadays, parents are working longer hours, and they often do not have time to take their kids out for healthy exercise or playing. Also, with the increasing pressure of studies, school, and tuition, children can hardly find time to go out and exercise. They are restricted to playing video games, computer games, and other indoor games and become couch potatoes.
Diet is another risk and contributing factor for childhood obesity. If your kid is eating high-calorie foods regularly, such as cheese, fast foods, soft drinks, desserts, candies, ice creams, baked items, processed foods, deep-fried products, vending machine snacks, etc., this can cause your child to gain excess body weight and develop fat in the lower abdomen and other core areas of the body.
Family factors are increasingly significant in contributing to childhood obesity and overweight. If obesity runs in your family, your child is also at a greater risk of developing obesity. This is more common in families and environments where physical activity is not at all encouraged and high-calorie foods are always available.
Psychological factors are also known to be responsible for obesity among kids. Many children have been observed to overeat in order to cope up with emotional problems or deal with other factors, such as stress. Often, children overeat to fight boredom. In such family environments, their parents also have similar tendencies, which are then further inflicted on their children.
Socioeconomic factors are strong enough to result in childhood obesity. In today’s hectic work and busy life, parents hardly have time to prepare 4–5 meals for their children or for themselves. Also, people living in high rise buildings have little access to grocery stores, supermarkets, vegetable stores, fruit stalls, etc. This makes them opt for convenience and packaged foods that stay preserved for a longer period of time. These include crackers, aerated drinks, frozen meals, cookies, etc. This leads to obesity among children.
Children from poor socioeconomic backgrounds and lower income neighborhoods do not have access to safe places to exercise, leading to obesity among some of these kids at an early age.
Since 2001, Dr. Alexander G. Salerno has led Salerno Medical Associates in East Orange, New Jersey. Dr. Alexander Salerno focuses largely on urban communities and on delivering patient education about both medical and behavioral health issues.