What is Making the Next Generation Fat?
By: Brigette King
What is making the next generation fat? Just a decade or so ago the debate of childhood obesity was not even a matter to be discussed. Our grandparents never even questioned the weight of their children. Their children, our parents, ate healthy foods at the family dining table and played outside all day long, but the subject of childhood obesity has gained quite a bit of interest since those days. With the ever so growing popularity of fast foods, the introduction of Play station and Xbox games and the more demanding careers of today's parents, the overdevelopment of both urban and suburban areas our kids are living sedentary lives and are becoming very overweight. The epidemic of childhood obesity is rapidly rising in America. The number of children who are now overweight has tripled since 1980 and the prevalence of obesity in younger children has more than doubled. Overall, approximately 17% or 12.5 million of the children in the United States between the ages of 2 and 19 are already obese (_C_ _enters for Disease Control and Prevention_ _, 2012_). This finding is very disturbing to many Americans and has caused many debates on who is responsible for this rising epidemic and how can we control it.
Childhood obesity is measured by the body mass index (BMI). The BMI is calculated using a child's height and weight. BMI does not measure body fat directly, but it is a reasonable indicator of body fatness for most children. A child's weight status is determined using an age and sex specific percentile for BMI rather than the normal BMI categories which are used to determine an adult BMI. These are used because a child's body composition varies as they age and also varies between boys and girls. Overweight in a child is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and lower than the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. Obesity in a child is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. The causes of childhood obesity are multi-factorial. Obesity in children is caused by a lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating habits, media and marketing campaigns, adverse family conditions, stress and the availability of technology.
Most Americans agree that childhood obesity is more prevalent today than ever before. If you look into the bedroom of an average American child you find video games, a computer, usually a television and possibly some other electronic gadgets. Today American children have access to just about anything they could ever want. They just ask and most parents will buy them whatever they want. If you looked into the same child's room thirty or forty years ago you would have probably found baby dolls, toy trucks and probably even some books. You would have found the neighborhood children outside playing in the kickball or hide and seek in the yard. Children played outside from sun up to sun down. The playing of these physical activities outside has unfortunately been replaced by the inactive high tech toys of today. The kick ball and hide and seek games of thirty years ago have now been replaced with games being played on the Play Station, Xbox or Wii. It is estimated that children in the United States are spending at least twenty five percent of their waking hours watching television and statistically children who watch the most hours of television have the highest incidence of obesity.
If you take another look inside the house of 30 years ago you would find a dad who went to work every day and a mom who stayed home to tend to the household duties and the children. With the rising cost of our day to day living expenses in America, most homes now must have both dad and mom working full time to make ends meet. Over the last two decades there has been an increase in the number of dual income families as more women have entered the workforce and more women...
References: Centers for Disease Control, July 16, 2012, _Overweight and Obesity_.
Herscher, Elaine, Woolston, Chris and Tartamella, Lisa. (2004) _Generation Extra Large._
New York, New York: Basic Books.
Ludwig, David, MD, Ph.D. (2007) _Ending the Food Fight._
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Neumark-Sztainer, Dianne, Ph.D. (2005) "I 'm Like, So Fat!"
New York: The Guilford Press
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, April 19, 2011, _Childhood Obesity._
Retrieved from: http://www.hhs.gov
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