Researchers have identified a disturbing trend among the world’s children, fortunately, it is preventable. In the last three decades, the number of children in America, that are overweight, has tripled, with one in five children considered obese. With numbers like that, the United States ranks high in regard to its rate of childhood obesity. Research indicates that while the overall rate has changed nominally over the last decade, certain groups have greater obesity rates, particularly among African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.
Worldwide, it is estimated that more than 40 million children under the age of 5, are either overweight or obese. The epidemic recognizes no cultural, social, or economic boundaries, as it affects both wealthy and the poor countries. If the trend continues, by 2020, nearly 9 percent, of children under 5 years of age will be overweight or obese, that’s almost 60 million individuals.
Because of research like this, obesity among children is considered a common nutritional disorder among children in the U.S., and one of the most ubiquitous observed by pediatricians. To determine if a child is overweight, pediatricians use the measure of BMI or Body Mass Index. Once calculated, the number is compared against the CDC’s growth charts, for children of the same sex and age. Those with BMI’s at or above the 95% percentile are considered overweight and those between 85% and 95% are considered at risk for becoming overweight.
There are many reasons to be concerned about obesity in children, from both a psychological and health, point of view. Children can suffer from depression, low self-esteem, poor body image, behavioral and learning problems, and eating disorders. Overweight children run the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and inflammation of the liver. Furthermore, obese children tend to become obese adults, running the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Parents can help children make healthy eating choices by providing fruits and vegetables as snacks instead of processed foods that are high in fat and sugar. Buy, prepare, and eat foods from each of the food groups. Instead of frying, broil, bake, grill, or roast meats. Encourage family activities such as walking, hiking, swimming, and biking. Instead
of shaming a child about their weight, become an active role model for healthy practices, such as supporting an active lifestyle and making healthy food choices.