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Childhood Obesity

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Childhood Obesity

Childhood Obesity is an important issue because of the staggering proportions that this disease has reached in the past few years. Certain genetic factors that are paired with changing the lifestyles and culture has produced kids (and some adults) who are generally not as healthy as people were just a few decades ago. Widespread obesity has been the extreme result of these changes. I chose this topic because I have been working with children for the past two years and plus in have children of my own. I plan to continue working with kids in the future, possibly in a daycare setting. Because schools are seen to an important player in the battle with childhood obesity, it is important that educators are aware of the health risks and that we learn what we can do to the change the situation.

The Center for Disease Control Website distinguishes between the terms overweight and obesity. The term overweight refers to a person with a weight that is high compared to others his or her same height and technically has nothing to do with an individual’s amount of body fat. For example a child may have a higher weight due to having lots of muscle mass. In consideration of this, a source points out that is probably accurate to say that a person is over fat when referring to a condition of having too much body fat.

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Childhood Obesity

Obesity is defined as “an excessively high amount of body fat in relation to lean body mass. The prevalence of obesity in American rose 11% points between 1991 and 2003, especially among African-Americans and young Mexican. The % of overweight children raised an average of 4.1 % for kids between the ages of two and 19. The most extreme cases were found among Mexican and African-Americans. Class 3 obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 40 and is known as morbid obesity. It is most prevalent among African-American women and is also more common among short adults. Three-quarters of adults with Class 3 obesity have another health problem associated with being overweight, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. There are three times as many Class 3 obese people in 2008 as there were in 2000. The debate concerning the cause for obesity has been going on for decades. Thus far there has been no consensus on the main cause, but experts agree that it is probably a combination of factors, both scientific/genetic and cultural/environmental. Recent research has begun to explain many of the scientific causes for childhood obesity. Scientists are learning more about genetics, nutrition and how children bodies work to better understand what is causing this problem. Understanding nutrition is one way to understand the cause of obesity. Simple carbohydrates have what is called a high “glycemic index.” To digest simple carbohydrates the body must produce large amounts of insulin, lowering blood sugar and making kids “feel” hungry. Complex carbohydrates have low glycemic indexes and do not 3
Childhood Obesity require as much insulin to digest so blood sugar does not get lowered as much, and kids do not feel as hungry as soon after eating these foods. An experiment was conducted showing that when children ate foods with a low glycemic index for breakfast, they were not as hungry at lunch and ate less. But children who ate the same amount of breakfast but substituted foods with high glycemic indexes for foods with low ones, they felt hungrier when it came to lunch time. Genetics can also play a role in determining whether a child will become obese, but these factors can also be aggravated by non-genetic factors. One source explains that Obesity most probably results from the interaction of an individual’s genetic makeup with the environment in which the person lives. Behavior and metabolism are two key factors that affect an individual’s weight. Both can be influenced by genetic factors or by other factors. Behavior can be affected by genetics if a person is genetically wired to prefer certain activities like reading or sitting at a desk or certain sugary or fatty foods. But behavior can also be influenced by environmental factors or cultural factors. For example, a child’s culture may make fatty foods readily available or his or her environment may not provide him with a good place to exercise. Metabolism can also be affected by both genetic and non-genetic factors. For example a recent study hypothesizes that the makeup of African –American children is different from that of Caucasian children, making them burn fewer calories when doing a simple activity like sitting. This implies that two children with identical eating and exercise habits might lose weight differently because of a genetic difference. On the other hand, individual’s metabolism can

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Childhood Obesity
Change based on the level of exercise they get meaning that non-genetic factors also play a role in determining metabolism. Some argue, however, that these lifestyle factors are bigger contributors to the increase in obesity, not genetics or science. Dr. Thomas Farley of Tulane University said that Americans lifestyles are not oriented toward physical activity and that it is easier for Americans to eat unhealthy foods than to prepare nutritional meals. Cultural eating habits have changed in America in recent decades, and many experts say this is the root cause of the problem. Some studies show that on average kids now do not necessarily intake more calories than kids in past decades, but they are taking in foods that higher in fats and sugars. In other words, the problem is not necessarily quantity of food butt quality of it. More restaurant food, especially fast food, is being consumed by the American family. Another cause contributing to America’s obesity is the growth of portions. This most clearly seen through the advent of the super-sized meal and king-sized candy bar. In the span of three decades (from 1940s to the 1970s), the number of sodas consumed in a year by a single person increased by 580%; this figure has only continued to go up since that time. Other sources point to a decline in amounts of physical activity among young people as the main cause. A recent study showed that third and fourth graders spend on average 22-24 hours a week watching television and video games. Other studies show that levels of moderate and vigorous activity have dropped off among adolescents.

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Childhood Obesity Children now are less likely to be required to participate in gym class at school or to engage in physical activity outside of school, and they are most likely to spend their time watching television and playing video games. The deterioration of neighborhoods can also lead to obesity because parents do not feel that it is sage for children to play outside. Schools are often charged with the task of helping children lose weight or teaching about nutrition, but there are many obstacles to this plan. Many schools have been forced to cut physical education classes due to budgetary restraints. When they do have programs, there often too much focus on winning rather than participating. This causes many children to associate physical activity with winning and losing in sports, thus alienating them from all physical activity later in life. Another source cites that the presence of a television is a child’s bedroom is a strong predictor of being overweight because it illustrates that the child has access to sedentary activity whenever he or she wants it and will therefore be less likely to seek forms of physical activity. Another lifestyle factor that contributes to childhood obesity is that more parents are working late, leading to fewer family meals and more ordering from restaurants, whose food were generally higher in fat content. But since we have Michelle Obama fighting against childhood obesity fast food restaurants are not that high in fat contents on the kid’s menu. Another environmental factor is that in major cities, there is less room in which kids can play. Some families might be able to send their children to after- school gyms or activities, but those cost money and require transportation, two resources that not all parents have. This leaves children stuck at home watching television and playing video games. 6
Childhood Obesity The effects of this disease on individuals and the country as a whole are also important to consider. The economic cost of supporting an increasingly overweight population with more diseases is another concern. When a child has type 1 diabetes, their pancreas does not produce enough insulin and it must be regulated in another way. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body has to produce so much insulin to regulate all the sugar being taken in that the body’s cells develop a resistance to it. Now obesity has also been linked to the increase of type 2 diabetes in children, especially among minority children. In the past children were not usually screened for type 2 obesity because it was more common among adults in extreme cases. Now extreme cases of obesity are being found in children as well. Joint problems and asthma are also associated with obesity in children. The target audience of my research project is that parents and educators are more concerned about childhood obesity. Many know that this is a problem that they should be addressing, but many are not sure how best to approach the delicate yet serious situation. Many do not realize that some of the small things that have become part of their daily routines are contributing to their children’s health problems. Health risks that is due to childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is a condition characterized by the child having too much fat in the body to an extent of his her health being in danger. In adults, it could be described as a state of having a body mass of more than thirty. Parents feeding them with too many calories bring about obesity in children. The excess calories are converted to fats that accumulate in the child’s body. This child will develop a big body because he or she will add weight and become quite fleshy. 7
Childhood Obesity Obese children are at risk of getting very adverse health effects, some of which are fatal. The study found that high blood pressure in childhood has only a weak predictor of early death and high cholesterol was not associated with premature death, but experts suggested those factors were easier to control with medication. A rare study that tracked thousands of children through adulthood found the heaviest youngsters were more than twice as likely as the thinnest to die prematurely, before age 55, of illness or a self-inflicted injury. Being overweight during childhood and adolescence increase the risk of developing high cholesterol, hypertension, respiratory ailments, orthopedic problems, depression and type 11 diabetes as youth. One disease of particular concerns is Type 11 diabetes, which has linked to overweight and obesity and has increased dramatically in children and adolescents, watching television, using the computers, and playing video games occupy a large % of children’s leisure time, influencing their physical activity levels. Overweight children and adolescents are more likely to become overweight or obese adults. It is an extremely difficult cycle to break. An unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle are known risk factors for the three leading causes of deaths in adults. My goal is to help parents understand all of the different causes of childhood obesity so that we can better combat it in our homes and in the schools. In conclusion, I plan to have a better outlook on the calories that my children as well as the kids that I teach intake as a whole. I will also help parents and school officials to understand the concerns and problems that we face with childhood obesity. I will give parents more information that can read up on to also help solve the problem.

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