Obesity is growing at an alarming rate, but one of the fastest growing segments of obesity in the United States is in children. Childhood obesity can lead to adulthood obesity, which reduces lifespan and decreases the quality of life. Roughly 25% of adults who are obese were obese as children.
Childhood obesity has a dramatic impact on adulthood obesity – one study found that approximately 80% of children who were overweight from ages 10-15 years old were obese at age 25.
Obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years; at these current growth rates, childhood obesity and obesity in the overall population can become a pandemic. In 1980, obesity occurred in 6.5% of children aged 6 to 11; in 2008, obesity occurred in 19.6% of children aged 6 to 11. In 1980, obesity occurred in 5% of young adults aged 12 to 19; in 2008, obesity occurred in 18.1% of young adults aged 12 to 19.
Social Effects of Childhood Obesity
There are many consequences of childhood obesity, including depression, social anxiety disorder, and other social disorders. Other effects include feelings of hopelessness, isolation, and decreased confidence among young children.
Childhood Obesity and Child Wellbeing
Childhood obesity has immediate and long-term impacts on physical, social, and emotional health. For example:
- Children with obesity are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases that impact physical health, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and risk factors for heart disease.
- Children with obesity are bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers, and are more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem.
- In the long term, childhood obesity is associated with having obesity as an adult which is linked to serious conditions and diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and several types of cancer.
Many factors contribute to childhood obesity, including:
- Eating and physical activity behaviors
- Environmental factors
- Social and individual psychology
What Parents Can Do
There are several notions about the rate of growth in obesity and the casual factors associated with it. But it isn’t hard to see that fast food companies, gaming consoles, and the internet have a direct impact on how childhood obesity. Over time, consuming more energy from foods and beverages than the body uses for healthy functioning, growth, and physical activity leads to extra weight gain. Energy imbalance is a key factor with the high rates of obesity seen in the United States and globally.
The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage and entertainment industries. Changes in the environments where children spend their time – like homes, schools, and community settings – can help children achieve and maintain a healthy weight by making it easier to eat nutritious foods, get at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily, watch less television, and eat fewer foods and beverages that are high in added sugars or solid fats.
It is advised if your child is struggling with obesity, or if you have children who are overweight, to encourage your child to engage in physical activities. The internet, television, and gaming have increased the rate of sedentary lifestyles more than ever before. Increasing the number of calories burned is one key to the solution. Youth sports groups, after school activities, clubs, and gyms can help children increase physical activities and their confidence levels. But exercise is only half the answer. The far obvious solutions are to monitor what the child’s eating habits are. Nearly 30% of all children consume at least one fast food meal per day. With fast food chains known for high saturated fat and unhealthy meals, it’s easy to see why children are become obese at earlier ages.
- In 2011–2012, just over one-third of children and adolescents consumed fast food on a given day.
- In 2011–2012, children and adolescents consumed on average 12.4% of their daily calories from fast food restaurants.
- Caloric intake from fast foods was higher in adolescents aged 12–19 years than in children aged 2–11 years.
- Non-Hispanic Asian children had significantly lower caloric intake from fast food compared with non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic children.
- No significant differences in caloric intake from fast food were noted by sex, poverty status, or weight status.
Consumption of fast food has been linked to weight gain in adults. Fast food has also been associated with higher caloric intake and poorer diet quality in children and adolescents. From 1994 through 2006, caloric intake from fast food increased from 10% to 13% among children aged 2–18 years. This report presents the most recent data on the percentage of calories consumed from fast food among U.S. children by sex, age group, race and Hispanic origin, poverty status, and weight status.
Losing Weight in Childhood
Reducing calorie intake and increasing physical activity will help children lose weight. Children and adolescents need to be doing at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, such as walking, running, or playing sports that involve running or walking. Some physical activity is better suited for children than adolescents. For example, children do not usually need formal muscle-strengthening programs, such as lifting weights. Younger children usually strengthen their muscles when they do gymnastics, play on a jungle gym, or climb trees. As children grow older and become adolescents, they may start structured weight programs. For example, they may do these types of programs along with their football or basketball team practice. Some may not have luck in losing significant weight or physically not be able to participate in sports or do a strenuous physical activity. Some other popular options including weight loss programs (like Weight Watchers) or youth camps for children.
Another emerging trend in childhood obesity is weight loss surgery for teenagers. While some of these children and teenagers may not be candidates for weight loss surgery, many will be. The gastric sleeve is the perfect tool for them to turn their lives around and regain their sense of independence, self-confidence, happiness, and health! Many obese children are candidates for weight loss surgery, as are some morbidly obese teenagers. Our surgeons have performed thousands of weight loss surgeries. With the options now available to them for a safe surgery, we are seeing a very popular trend with more obese children and teens coming to us for help than ever before.
From 2000–2010, the overall prevalence of obesity among young low-income children in The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) a federal assistance program of the Food and Nutrition Service, increased significantly from 14.0% in 2000 to 15.5% in 2004 and to 15.9% in 2010; during 2010–2014, the overall prevalence decreased significantly to 14.5%.
- Among non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives, the prevalence of obesity among young low-income children increased significantly during 2000–2004, then decreased significantly during 2010–2014. Among Asians/Pacific Islanders, the prevalence decreased significantly during 2000–2010.
- Among the 54 WIC State Agencies in states and U.S. territories with data for 2000 and 2004, the prevalence of obesity increased in 48 (89%); among these increases, 38 (70%) were statistically significant.
- Among the 54 WIC State Agencies with data for 2004 and 2010, the prevalence of obesity increased in 26 (48%), including 17 (31%) that were statistically significant; the prevalence decreased in 27 (37%) State Agencies, including 20 (74%) that were statistically significant.
- Among the 56 WIC State Agencies with data for 2010 and 2014, only 9 (16%) experienced an increase in obesity prevalence, including 4 (7%) in which the increase was statistically significant. The prevalence of obesity decreased in 45 (80%) State Agencies, including 34 (61%) in which the difference was statistically significant.