Childhood Obesity

Introduction

There are a number of health complications that children go through, and one of these complications is obesity.  The prevalence of obesity especially in children is an issue that has drawn great concern from different people in the society both in the social and political fronts. According to Costarelli & Manios (2009, p. 688) the wide spread of childhood obesity resulted in World Health Organization terming it a national epidemic. Based on this, the issue of childhood obesity has now generated a global concern on the children.  In the society, it is not difficult to see children who are obese and this has been a worrying trend because of the negative consequences of obesity.  The prevalence of childhood obesity is a result of various factors that play to influence the weight of children. Factors such as genetic makeup, fitness and feeding habits have played a role in shaping the extent of obesity among children. Consequently, children have been exposed to a number of health risks such as high cholesterol levels, hypertension, respiratory ailments, orthopedic problems, depression and type II diabetes. Despite the danger of obesity in children and the youth, parents can play a critical role in reducing the number of obese children by implementing different strategies aimed at reducing the effect of variables that predispose children to obesity.

Obesity is a serious health complication that affects children and adults alike. However, more children are affected by obesity than adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children who are obese has tripped over years making it the highest in decades (CDC.gov). This finding demonstrates the threat of childhood obesity and at the same time highlighting the need to curtail the issue.  It is important to note that the increase of obesity across the globe is an indication that its impact in children and adolescents will also be felt like a blow.  From the data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the trend is spiraling upwards with more children and youth being classified as obese.

There are many reasons as to why children and adolescents become obese. Whatever the reason, obesity is caused by the imbalance of the amount of calories consumed and what is spent in the body. When children and adolescents consume more calories than their bodies can use, an energy imbalance results, leading to excessive gain of weight (Gibson, 1997, p. 184). The issue of energy intake and consumption stems from the food that people consumer which is tied to the energy levels in children and youth. Whereas some researches indicate that the amount of energy consumed has been on the decline among children and the youth, others indicate the increase in obesity levels is a result of low energy intake that is coupled by “sedentary life” (Gibson, 1997, p. 184). Through the practice of sedentary, children and youth alike have been unable to consumer the little energy in their bodies. Gilliland et al (2003, p. 413) have attributed the increased levels obesity to the excessive increase of calories in children.

Children or youth who seem to be overweight are not necessarily obese. According to Gibson (1997, p. 184), individuals with a body mass index of over 30 are considered to be obese. This is an indication that their bodies have more energy than what can be consumed by their body metabolism.  The use of this criterion is necessary in classifying children as obese or not given its rationale. With a body mass index of 30, researchers have concluded that many children and youth are obese in relation to their peers. This is the case even when the body shapes of other children seem to depict them as being obese.  The body mass index is a value that stems from the measure of body fat with reference to their height and weight (Paxon, 2006 p.23).

The spread of obesity and overweight among children is an issue that has generated a lot of debate in the United States, as well as in other countries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one of the institutions that have been in the forefront in highlighting the extent of obesity and overweight among children. Paxon (2006, p. 130) confirms that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been in the forefront in tracing the pattern of obesity and overweight in the United States because of its impact  not only on health and wellness but also on political and economic environment.

Factors associated with obesity and overweight in teens and children

The increase of obesity and overweight among children and youth is a result of multiple factors, which act alone or reinforce one another to cause increase of caloric levels in the human body (Gibson, 1997, p. 184).  One of the leading causes of obesity in children is the lack of enough physical fitness in children and the adolescents. Paxon (2008, p. 184) describes the failure of children to take part in physical fitness as a factor that contributes to the rise in the number of obese children. When children and youth take part in physical fitness, their fitness process make their bodies to break down fat for the purpose of generating energy that is used in the muscles during exercise. In this way, children and youths are able to reduce the amount of colorizes in their bodies.  On the contrary, children or youths who fail to take part in games end up increasing consuming low amount of calories because of limited exercise. As a result, their bodies will continue to increase the amount of fat content increasing the body mass index beyond 30. Therefore, lack of enough physical exercise has been attributed to the drastic increase in the number of children who are obese and overweight.

In addition, there are clear indications that sedentary lifestyle is associated with the prevalence of obesity in children. According to Korbonits (2008, p. 88), many cases of obesity among children and adolescents is caused by sedentary lifestyles, which reduce the amount of energy expenditure among the children. With energy playing a critical role in shaping the amount of fat levels in children, the effect of sedentary lifestyles cannot be overestimated.   With significant advances in science and technology, a majority of children and adolescents have little time to play traditional games that would otherwise make them use substantial amounts of energy. Instead, the feature of modern lifestyles such as use of computers and watching of television has given rise to a culture where children and youth find little time to play. Therefore, many children and youths rarely have time to put their bodies into exercise. Instead, their physical activity has been reduced as many of them play computer games or watch television for a long time.  In a research carried out by Babooram, Ann and Sharpe (2010, p. 240) a number of obese children who were interviewed in a study revealed that most of them stayed in doors for a long time watching television.  Other obese children were also reported to be watching television and not taking part in anything active at all (Babooram, Ann and Sharpe, 2010, p. 240). Because of such sedentary lifestyles, the levels of obesity have tripled in children and youth.

Unhealthy eating habits are another reason that explains the increase in obesity among the children and youths.  Aznar (2010, p. 395) confirms that many children and adolescents have their meals in “fast food restaurants”, where they have minimal control over the amount of fat they consume.  Many fast food restaurants cook food that all have high levels of fat and sugars, which increase the amount of energy uptake in children and adolescents. In addition, fast food restaurants have a lot of junk food, which attracts children and adolescents alike. Whereas fast food restaurants are necessary in providing food, their meals have a serious implication on the health of children and adolescent. A child or a youth who feed on a lot of sugar or fat has a high potential of exceeding the required levels of energy in the body. Because of this energy imbalance, such persons are predisposed to the danger of being obese. The effect of foods purchased from fast foods underscores the role of unhealthy eating habits like eating of fast foods in causing obesity among the children or youths.

The effect of negative influence of the media has also played a role in increasing the number of obesity in children. In the televisions as well as other media channels, there are numerous advertisement that have been developed to lure children into eating foods that have high amount of fat and sugar ( Aznar. 2010, p. 395).  Most of these advertisements are run in television commercials or other outlets such as advertisement board in supermarkets. Because of the influences of these, most of the children and youth will therefore be lured into taking these foods without realizing the health effects associated with them. In the end, the levels of fat and sugar in the body of children or youth will be far more than what is required. This will lead to the rise in the number of obese children and youths.

Health effects of obesity and overweight in teens and children

The imbalance between the energy consumed and what is spent is the underlying factor that causes obesity among the youth and children. Whereas children and youth can be affected by various health complications, obesity tops on the list. Obesity is considered a health hazard because of the immediate and far reaching affects which move into adulthood (Korbonits, 2008, p. 89).  The widespread of obesity is a great concern because of the various health risks that are associated with its prevalence. Obesity in the children and youth has various consequences which have serious health implications.  Korbonits (2008, p. 90) affirms that obesity can lead to the prevalence of sleep disorders such as the “obstructed sleep syndrome”. This syndrome is known to affect the levels of sleep and rest in children and adolescents, who are obese and overweight. If an individual is obese or overweight, there are high chances for them to acquire this syndrome. The consequences of the syndromes on the body functions of the obese or overweight children are diverse.  Obstructed sleep syndrome can lead to repeated arousal, which can keep someone awake most of the time and daytime alertness. These factors have influence on the activity levels of an individual. With this syndrome caused by being obese or overweight, many children and adolescents with a body mass index of over 30 can experience more health complications (Korbonits, 2008, p. 90).

Studies have indicated that a significant number of teens and children found to have high cholesterol levels are also known to be obese and overweight (Rabin, 2010, para. 3).  The prevalence of obesity and high levels of cholesterol seems to form a perfect correlation. With obesity and overweight, there are high chances those children or teens will have high cholesterol levels than what is required.  With more cholesterol in the body, children and adolescents risk having their blood vessels lined making them thinner. Because of these, other health complications like high blood pressure can develop.  When children or teens are obese, there are chances that many of them will experience cardiovascular diseases caused by increased by construction of blood vessels.

Another effect of obesity and overweight in children is the gastro intestinal complications. This is a health complication termed as “non-alcoholic fatty liver disease” and is characterized by infiltration of the fatty acids into body organs such as the liver (Korbonits, 2008, p. 95).   The prevalence of   non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is of grave concern because of its effect on the liver of children or teens which may become inflamed by fatty acids. Whereas this is a serious health risk, the condition is accelerated by obesity and overweight can result in insulin resistance. With insulin resistance, teens and children are at more danger from being affected adversely health wise.

The effect of obesity in children or teens has the potential of leading to orthopedic   problems (Paxon, 2006, p. 55).  Orthopedic   problems affect the skeletal functioning of persons affected with it. Because of the important role that the human skeletal play in body movement, skeletal complications are more critical as it affects normal body functioning.  Therefore, teens or individuals who are obese or overweight are more likely to experience problems in the skeletal structure inhibiting their ability to play, interact with friends and even go to school.  As a result, teens and children are more likely to experience negative consequences related to the problems on the skeletal structure. The consequences of this can be more harmful to the obese children, as well as their families.

Obesity can also lead to health complications such as asthma in children. In a research that was carried out by Babooram, Ann & Sharpe (2010, p. 235), occurrence of asthma was found to be related to obesity and overweight in teens and children.  Whereas diabetic condition is more prevalent in adults, medical practitioners have identified that many children are being diagnosed with diabetics at an earlier age. Korbonotis (2008, p. 118) argues that type II diabetes is caused by a number of factors such as genetic factors as well as high amount of calories in the body. Teens and children who are obese and having high levels of calories are more likely to develop type II diabetes. Consequently this makes them to be exposed to early death (Rabin, 2010, para. 6). The increase of type II diabetes among the Latinos and Indian population can be associated with obesity and overweight among teens and children (Rabin, 2010, para. 3).

Prevention of obesity and overweight in children

It is evident that obesity and overweight among the teens and children is harmful and associated with various health repercussions. Because of this reasons, it is essential that various strategies be used to combat the prevalence of this obesity and overweight in every society.  According to Waters, Seidell and Swinburn (2010, p. 102), parents have a role to play in the implementation of primary intervention aimed at combating the rise of obesity and overweight. In the fight against obesity and overweight, parents can shape the health of their children through a number of ways. Limiting the number of times children watch the television is a positive step aimed at reducing the effect of sedentary. This can also be done through shortening the amount of hours that teens spend on their computers. Because computer and television acts as substitute for physical activities, reducing the amount of time teens and children spend around them is a sure way of promoting other forms of spending time like taking part in sports (Waters, Seidell and Swinburn, 2010, p. 257). By reducing the amount of time spent watching television and using computers, parents can promote physical activities among children and the teens.

Encouraging children and teens to take part in sports and other forms of physical activities is another strategy that can help reduce obesity and overweight in children. Many cases of obesity and overweight among teens are a result of the lack of physical fitness, where teens and children fail to consume energy in the bodies. Because of such excess energy, children are likely to become obese. However, physical fitness and sport can improve the body metabolism of teens and children (Korbonits, 2008, p. 211).  Through the use of physical exercise and sport, parents can help their children to cut down on energy and this can significantly lead to the drop levels of obesity

Reduction in poor eating habits such as visits to fast food restaurant is a useful strategy that can be used to curb the rise in obesity among children and adolescents.  Whereas as children and teens may have wrong perception about the food being advertised in fast food outlets, parents can limit their children from visiting such outlets (Waters, Seidell and Swinburn, 2010, p. 280). This approach will be useful in reducing the amount of fat and sugar the children are consumer in fast foods. If this is done correctly, the number of children who will be affected by obesity and overweight can be reduced considerably.

The provision of nutritious food is one of the essential steps necessary to prevent the increase in number of teens and children suffering from obesity and side effects that are related to it.  According to Korbonotis (2010, p. 69) consumption of high energy food coupled with limited expenditure of energy is one of the causes of obesity and overweight. With this being the case, parents can reduce the amount of high calorie food being served to children as well as the amount of fat in food. In so doing, parents can be able to cut down on the amount of calories taken by their children and teens. The result of this will lead to safe intake of fats and calories that are likely to have no effect on the body mass index of children. The success of this tactic will be essential in reducing obesity and overweight among teens and children through the serving of well-balanced diet.

Apart for the above named strategies, parents can limit the availability of high-fat and high-sugar snacks to their children as well as teens at home. While snacks with high-fat and high-sugar are preferred to by most children and adolescents, these foodstuffs are responsibility for the increase in calories in the body (Korbonotis, 2008, p. 94).  Because of the potential negative effect of caloric imbalance in the human body and especially in the teens or adolescents, parents who limit access to snacks with high-fat and high-sugar stand a chance of reducing the prevalence of obesity in their children.  Reducing the amount of snacks with high-fat and high-sugar can be effective if other snacks with permitted levels of sugar and fat are encouraged by parents. Based on this policy, parents are more likely to create behavioral changes that will shape positive lifestyles that will improve the health and wellness of teens and children.

Conclusion

Without doubts, prevalence of obesity and overweight among children and teens is one of the leading health concerns around the globe.  The declaration by the World Health Organization of the obesity as a global epidemic can only capture the effect danger that obesity exposes to children and teen alike (Babooram, Ann and Sharpe, 2010, p. 290).  There are number of causes of obesity and overweight among children and adolescents. Many of the obese children or those that are overweight are likely to have had little physical activities, poor feeding habits, fond of sedentary lifestyles and glued to the television or computers for long hours.

The effect of obesity cannot be overestimated, with reference to the health of the teens and children.  Obesity is associated with multiples heath risk such as high levels of cholesterol, hypertension, asthma, type II diabetes, sleep disorder, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. These diseases can lead to the deterioration in the health of teens and children who are obese and overweight.  Based on such negative outcomes, there is need for parents to play a central role in fighting against obesity in children and teens. Parents can reduce the amount of time spent by teens watching television or playing with computers in order for teens to engage themselves in other physical activities that reduce excess calories. Access to food with high fat and high sugar can also be done at home.

Most important, parents can provide children with balanced meals which will allow them to take in enough calories as required. In addition, parents can also limit their children and teens from visiting fast food restaurant where intake of fat and sugar can be difficult to check. Whereas obesity and overweight can lead to devastating effects, parents can mitigate the spread of this health risk through the implementation of the above strategies. As a result, children and teens will enjoy good health and take part in positive roles in the society.

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