Obesity can be described as a medical condition in which an individual’s body fat accumulates to a level that it may cause adverse health effects (Barnes par. 5). Obesity usually leads to decreased life expectancy and increased incidences of associated health problems. Body mass index (BMI) measurement which compares an individual’s body weight to height is used to determine obesity status. Normally, one is considered to be obese if the BMI value is greater than 30 kg/m2 (Gonzalez 13). This paper seeks to describe obesity in children with an emphasis on the causes and various health effects.
Causes of obesity in children
There are several factors that predispose children to obesity. Generally, the condition develops when a child consumes calories that are beyond his/her body’s requirements. There are diverse factors that contribute to the imbalance between calorie intake and body nutrient requirements. These factors may include:
Obesity is frequently observed to run in families. If a child is born in a family whose members are obese then he/she is likely to become obese. The likelihood of developing obesity increases with the increase in the number of family members/relatives who are obese. However, genetics alone does not result in obesity. Obesity will only occur if the child consumes more calories than his/her body requirements even with a genetic predisposition.
Children and adolescents are increasingly relying on fast foods, processed snacks and sugary drinks more than the traditional healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains (Kushner 55). Most of these junk foods tend to have high fat/calorie content and provide minute levels of other important nutrients. There are several lifestyle patterns in which these foods are consumed. Some of the unhealthy habits associated with the consumption of such foods include: eating when one is not hungry; eating while doing some other activities such as doing homework or watching TV; and taking high-energy drinks during sedentary activities like watching movies (Ferry 2). If such habits are not controlled they often result into obesity and the risk of developing other associated health problems.
Children born in families that have low incomes or have jobless parents are likely to consume more calories to maintain a certain levels of activity. In addition, low income or jobless parents may not afford regular balanced and thus result into overreliance on high calorie junk food. Children raised in such families are more likely to develop obesity.
The changes in lifestyles that are attributed to rapid urbanization have led to more and more people leading inactive lifestyles. The increased popularity of computers, video games and TV has caused many children to lead inactive lifestyles (Joseph, Loscalzo and Fauci 32). This trend is more commonly observed in developed nations such as the United States. Statistics indicate that children and teenagers in the US spend approximately three hours a day watching TV. This does not only result in the utilization of less energy but also results into increased intake of snacks and soft drinks.
Most children in the developed nations are also raised in families whose lifestyles are predominantly sedentary. For instance, more than half of all children in the United States are raised by parents who do not conduct regular physical exercises.
Many children are also not taken through physical education. For instance, in the US only one third of all children are provided with daily physical training in schools. Parents are largely to blame as they are more concerned with busy schedules and some even fear for the public safety of their children, consequently denying them a chance to get involved in sports, dance and other school activities. In some cases schools prevent students from entering their campuses after hours to avoid potential liability risks (Ferry 1).
There are some rare occasions when pediatric obesity can result from medical instances. This may be due to hormonal or other imbalances and inherited metabolic disorders. Many children who show linear growth are usually not affected or at risk of developing conditions associated with pediatric obesity (Ferry 1). Additionally, there are certain medications that result into weight gain particularly by altering the way the body processes or stores food (Gonzalez 41).
Effects of obesity in children
Obesity is a growing problem in the US and many other regions of the world. Current statistics indicate that one in every five children and adolescents are overweight and the numbers are still increasing at an alarming rate (Barnes par. 4). Scientists have predicted that the coming generations will live for shorter periods compared to their parents due to obesity. There are several physical and mental effects of childhood obesity both of which can be medically described.
Physical effects of obesity
The medical effects of obesity in children are similar to those observed in adults and include high cholesterol levels, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and sleep apnea (Joseph, Loscalzo and Fauci 29).
There are some conditions that are more likely to occur in adults compared to children. For instance, the risk of developing heart ailments is not as clear in obese children as it is in adults, especially those who do not have any of the previously mentioned conditions. An individual might be overweight as a child and be of normal weight as an adult. Such a individual may not be at risk of developing heart diseases as a result of an obesity episode that was experienced during childhood. The number of obese children who remain with the condition in their adult life is however very high and therefore they continue to carry the risk of developing heart diseases and other obesity associated conditions (Kushner 8).
Psychological effects of childhood obesity
Besides the physical effects of childhood obesity, there are some psychological effects that might be observed. In a certain study, it was established that severely obese children had low quality of life scores that are comparable to those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer (Gonzalez 45). Severely obese children tend to have a low self esteem that is associated with the different forms of social discrimination they experience. In some cases obese children and adolescents tend to get depressed due to loneliness or constant teasing from their peers.
Conclusions and recommendations on how to control childhood obesity
This paper has established that childhood obesity develops due to various factors that may include genetic, poor eating habits and inactive lifestyles. Obesity results into various physical and psychological health effects such as low self esteem, depression, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Childhood obesity can be controlled by proper feeding habits and leading active lifestyles. This includes consumption of low calorie high nutrient foods and more involvement in physical activities (Joseph, Loscalzo and Fauci 65).
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Gonzalez, Berrington. “Body-Mass Index and Mortality among 1.46 Million whites.” NJ Engl. J. Med (2010): 363 (23): 2211-9. Print.
Joseph, et al. Harrison’s principles of internal medicine. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical, 2008. Print.
Kushner, Robert. Treatment of the Obese patient. Totowa: Humana Press, 2007. Print.