Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Childhood obesity is characterized by a weight well above the mean for a child's height and age, and obesity reflects a body mass index above the 85th percentile for a child's age and sex. The array of complications in children that are associated with severe obesity, such as fatty liver, high blood pressure, gastroesophageal reflux, orthopedic problems, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and emotional problems.

Childhood obesity results from poor eating habits. Soft drink consumption may also lead to an overweight child. Eating fast food and junk food every day has dominated over healthful food choices, and eating outside the home on a regular basis can cause weight gain.

Children's food choices are also influenced by family meals. Neglecting to eat certain meals completely and skipping breakfast can also result in weight gain. Physically inactive children often become physically inactive adults. Staying physically inactive leaves unused energy in the body, most of which is stored as fat. Many children neglect exercise because they are spending time doing stationary or sedentary activities.

Technological activities are not the only household influences of childhood obesity. A family's low income can affect a child's tendency to gain weight. Children face many biological factors that may result in obesity. Genetic causes are claimed to be a cause of childhood obesity, although this trait is not always passed down to childern.

Various developmental factors can result in obesity. A child's body growth pattern may influence his or her tendency to gain weight. Cushing's syndrome, a condition in which the body contains excess amounts of Cortisol, can also have an influence on obesity in children. Hypothyroidism is a hormonal cause of obesity, but it does not have an appreciable effect on obese people with the condition any more than obese people without the condition.

Obesity may result from behavioral factors such as boredom, sadness, and anxiety — all of which may likewise encroach on a child's health. A positive correlation between obesity and low self-esteem has been highly consistent across studies. Decreased self-esteem has been observed among 19 percent of obese children who reported feeling sad. Nearly half of these children also reported feeling bored, and 21 percent -of them also felt nervous. In comparison, 8 percent of normal-weight children felt sad, 42 percent felt bored, and 12 percent felt nervous.

Stress as well as psychological factors can influence a child's eating habits. Researchers discovered four significant psychological factors to the girls' obesity: dietary restraint, compensatory behaviors, depressive symptoms, and perceived parental obesity. Feelings of depression can cause a child to overeat, although antidepressants seem to have little influence on childhood obesity. Obese children often experience teasing among their peers, which may lead to low self-esteem and depression.

(Sources: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2006; 295:1549-1555; and New England Journal of Medicine, 2007; 357: 2371-2379.)

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