Obesity is a growing problem among U.S. children. In 1994, one in five children between the ages of 6 and 17 was overweight. This is double the rate of 30 years ago (National Center for Health Statistics, 1999). This adverse trend has potentially profound effects on children's health, including their long-term health. The terms "obese" and "overweight" often are used interchangeably. Technically, "obesity" is the upper end of "overweight." Obesity is clinically diagnosed as: greater than 90th percentile for weight for height; or greater than or equal to the 95th percentile Body Mass Index (BMI), age and sex specific. The gold standard is becoming the BMI, since this is also used for adults.
Obesity has wide-ranging impacts on a child's health. Obesity has been linked to several diseases and conditions in adults, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Many risk factors associated with these diseases, such as high cholesterol, blood pressure and triglyceride levels, can be followed from childhood to adulthood. These points to a potential link between childhood health and long-term adult health. Overweight children are more than two times likely to have high levels of cholesterol. Aortic fatty streaks, the first stages of atherosclerosis, begin to appear in childhood, maybe even as early as three years old. Also, children with triceps skin folds greater than the 70th percentile have significantly higher blood pressures. In the past few years, Type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically among children and adolescents. Experts believe this increase is due to the high rate of overweight and obesity.
One of the biggest concerns is that obese children are more likely to become obese adults, with all of the health, social and psychological ramifications. Three important factors are age of onset, severity, and parental obesity. In a review of literature, Serdula (1993) found the risk for... [continues]
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