Junk food, candy, and sugary beverages may be tasty and rewarding to children, but how do they contribute to their overall lifestyle? What effect do these snacks, along with genetics and varying levels of physical activity, have on childhood obesity? While children have fewer weight-related health issues than adults, obese children do have a predisposition to grow into overweight adolescents and adults.
Therefore, becoming at-risk for high cholesterol and blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. There are many ways adults can support children throughout their development and help lower the risk of contributing to childhood obesity.
Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. It’s particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once considered adult problems — diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression.
Today, an estimated 1 in 5 school-age children are considered obese. When compared to children of the same sex and height, obese children rank in the 95th percentile or above. Many factors contribute to this epidemic such as genetics, unhealthy habits, lack of physical activity, and environmental difficulties. Children are often unaware of the patterns or conditions that cause obesity, therefore, placing the responsibility on adults to lead them in the right direction.
Here are the three factors which lead to the increase in obesity in teens:
Factor 1: Food Quality and Quantity
The consumption of sweetened beverages and junk food plays a role in excessive weight gain in children. Processed foods are often dense in fat, sugar, and salt, which contribute to excess weight gain when eaten in vast proportions. Fast food restaurants are convenient and affordable for busy families – but higher calories, less nutrition, and oversized portions link these restaurants to the obesity epidemic.
Speaking of portions, the National Institute of Health found these have doubled over the last 20 years. By controlling portion sizes at home, parents can ensure their children enter adulthood with healthy habits.
Factor 2: Parental Perception
Many people overlook a parent’s perception and how that can take a toll on a child’s health. A study of mothers and children found that an alarming 62% of parents with obese children, perceived their child’s weight as healthy. If a parent doesn’t believe their child’s weight needs to be addressed, they will be less likely to initiate healthier habits at home. For children that depend on their parents’ guidance for nutritional meals, continuing poor habits could have damaging effects on their mental and physical health. It may be difficult for parents to notice or address their child’s weight, but pediatricians can provide information and intervention through consistent physicals.
Factor 3: Lack of Physical Activity
For healthy exercise, a rule of thumb is calories consumed must be balanced to calories expended. A lack of physical activity progresses childhood obesity because the body begins to store unused calories as fat. For children, physical activity comes in the form of outside play-time or extracurricular sports. This digital age brings increasingly popular and accessible video games and television shows.
A study within the Journal for adolescence found a strong correlation between video game usage and weight status among children. There was no correlation between television watching and weight status, but both activities are prevalent in children’s lives and continue to promote sedentary lifestyle choices.
Childhood obesity is not a simple issue. It’s becoming more common in America, partially due to these factors listed above. From heritable genetics to environmental surroundings, many children struggle with fighting this disease, and concerned parents may wonder how to address the issue. First, it’s essential to let the child know that as a parent, you will be emotionally supportive of them at any size.
According to research, it’s important not to single out an overweight child but instead to focus on addressing the entire family’s physical activity and eating habits. By taking action and educating themselves about the contributing factors to childhood obesity, parents can support a healthy lifestyle for their children and help prevent this growing concern.