Health professionals, including nurses, may find a new and frustrating problem facing them on the job, presented by childhood obesity. The numbers are staggering, showing that childhood obesity has become a nationwide epidemic. While the nation is addressing the problem, illnesses that affect obese children often become obstacles in helping them to lose weight. Hence, obese children often become obese adults who often carry health problems with them into adulthood.
- An estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are obese.
- Globally, in 2010 the number of overweight children under the age of five, is estimated to be over 42 million.
- Nearly 22 percent of pre-schoolchildren in the United States can be defined as overweight and 10 percent as obese.
- African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians have been experiencing the highest rates of increase in childhood obesity. On average, 25 percent of children in these ethnic groups are obese.
- To put all the percentages into perspective, obesity rates among children over the past 30 years more than doubled among children ages 2 to 5, quadrupled among children ages 6 to 11, and more than tripled among adolescents ages 12 to 19.
- It costs $549,907.3 in health treatments for an obese 18-year-old to remain obese throughout adulthood.
- Despite the health risks of obesity, patients get little support from health insurers, thus putting long-term weight-management programs beyond the reach of most.
- Obesity Begets Obesity: If your child comes from a family of overweight people, he or she may be more likely to put on excess weight, especially in an environment where high-calorie food is always available and physical activity isn’t encouraged.
- Environmental Factors: Although weight problems run in families, not all children with a family history of obesity will be overweight. Overweight children often can trace obesity to shared family behaviors such as eating and activity habits.
- Medications: Psychiatrict medications or steroids can prove to be one cause of obesity. Children and adolescents who take the newest generation of antipsychotic medications risk rapid weight gain.
- Fast Foods and Soft Drinks: As chidren’s body weights have increased, so has their consumption of fast foods and soft drinks. The proportion of foods that children consumed from restaurants and fast food outlets increased by nearly 300 percent between 1977 and 1996. Children’s soft drink consumption has also increased during those years.
- Sweet Drinks: Sweet drinks — even 100 percent fruit juice — contain a lot of calories with little or no nutritional benefit.
- Sugar: Those who should be especially careful to limit their intake are obese, sedentary people, especially those with serious blood lipid problems and people who have type II (adult-onset) diabetes. A recent study in which subjects were fed 28 percent of their calories from sugar during a 10-week period turned up increases in body weight and blood pressure.
- Too Much Television: Eight factors in early life are associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity. One of those eight factors includes more than eight hours spent watching television per week at age 3 years.
- Lack of Physical Activity: Although many American children (80 percent) are regularly active, rates of inactivity among adolescent girls, non-Hispanic blacks, and Mexican Americans are cause for concern. One quarter of all US children watch 4 or more hours of television each day, as do 43 percent of non-Hispanic blacks. Hours of television watching is related to both BMI and skin fold thickness.
- Not Hypothyriodism: By itself, hypothyroidism seldom causes massive weight gain, and its prevalence in obese patients does not significantly differ from its prevalence in the rest of the population.
- Stress: According to this article, stress factors can contribute to obesity in children from ages 3-10.
- Neglect: A study at Temple University by Dr. Robert Whitaker showed the first link between neglected kids and childhood obesity. Examples of neglect include a parent not showing enough affection to the child due to preoccupation with his/her own problems, not taking a child to the doctor when he/she needed it, and leaving a child at home without the proper supervision.
- Maternal Stress: Cumulative stress experienced by the mother is an important factor in the obesity of a child in low-income families.
- Not Enough Fruits and Vegetables: Only 21 percent of young people eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Eating Too Much, Exercising Too Little: Although there are some genetic and hormonal causes of childhood obesity, most of the time it’s caused by kids eating too much and exercising too little. Diseases, such as Prader-Willi syndrome and Cushing’s syndrome, affect a very small number of children.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Once rare in American children, now the condition accounts for 8 to 45 percent of newly diagnosed diabetes cases in children and adolescents. Most cases of type 2 diabetes in children occur in those who are overweight.
- More Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes in youth is more common in girls than in boys, with one study showing that up to 80 percent of children who develop type 2 diabetes are female.
- Obesity Begets Obesity: One study found that approximately 80 percent of children who were overweight at 10 to 15 years old were obese at 25.
- Apnea and Loss in Learning and Memory Capabilities: The incidence of snoring among obese children was 12.5 percent, more than two times higher than that of overweight children (5.8 percent) and three times higher than that of normal weight children (4.6 percent). Obese children with obstructive sleep apnea demonstrate clinically significant decrements in learning and memory function compared to obese children without obstructive sleep apnea.
- Cardiovascular Disease: In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70 percent of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- Low Self-Esteem: Overweight children often have low self-esteem, which is made worse when they are unable to participate in normal activities such as sports or on the playground.
- Menstrual Problems: Young girls that are overweight or obese may reach puberty at an earlier age than their peers. Obesity may also contribute to the development of uterine fibroids or other menstrual irregularities later in life.
- Blount’s Disease: Unlike bowlegs, which tend to straighten as a child develops, Blount’s disease slowly gets worse. Severe infantile Blount’s disease appears associated with obesity in children. Approximately 80 percent of the children reported in one study were obese.
- Asthma: Sara Rosenkranz, doctoral student in human nutrition, conducted research that found that healthy children with higher levels of body fat and lower levels of physical activity had greater amounts of airway narrowing after exercise.
- Liver Damage: Pediatric liver disease, including cirrhosis, is a serious complication of childhood obesity. This problem can be aggravated if the child later begins to drink alcohol or do drugs.
- Atherosclerosis and Coronary Heart Disease: There is compelling evidence that the atherosclerosis (fatty deposits of plaque in artery walls) or its precursors begins in childhood and progresses slowly into adulthood. Then it often leads to coronary heart disease, the single largest cause of death in the United States. Some causes include obesity, resulting diabetes and lack of physical exercise.
- Premature Death: Obesity, glucose intolerance, and hypertension in childhood were strongly associated with increased rates of premature death from these diseases in this study. A total of 1394 of the children (28.7 percent) were obese, which was defined as a BMI in the 95th percentile or higher on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) growth charts.
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Posted by Dan Lawler on MAY 29, 2010
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