Obesity in Children and Teens
The problem of childhood obesity in the United States has grown considerably in recent years. Between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese. Obesity is among the easiest medical conditions to recognize but most difficult to treat. Unhealthy weight gain due to poor diet and lack of exercise is responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year. The annual cost to society for obesity is estimated at nearly $100 billion. Overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults unless they adopt and maintain healthier patterns of eating and exercise. What is obesity? A few extra pounds do not suggest obesity. However they may indicate a tendency to gain weight easily and a need for changes in diet and/or exercise. Generally, a child is not considered obese until the weight is at least 10 percent higher than what is recommended for their height and body type. Obesity most commonly begins between the ages of 5 and 6, or during adolescence. Studies have shown that a child who is obese between the ages of 10 and 13 has an 80 percent chance of becoming an obese adult. What causes obesity? The causes of obesity are complex and include genetic, biological, behavioral and cultural factors. Obesity occurs when a person eats more calories than the body burns up. If one parent is obese, there is a 50 percent chance that their children will also be obese. However, when both parents are obese, their children have an 80 percent chance of being obese. Although certain medical disorders can cause obesity, less than 1 percent of all obesity is caused by physical problems. Obesity in childhood and adolescence can be related to: • • • • • • • • • •
poor eating habits overeating or binging lack of exercise (i.e., couch potato kids) family history of obesity medical illnesses (endocrine, neurological problems) medications (steroids, some psychiatric medications) stressful life events or changes...
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