Because childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions, our children are at great risk. But we seem to be just casually going about our business. Sure, the alarms have been raised and small changes have been made, but not enough to turn the tide.
And, yes, McDonalds added a few healthy options to please the “noisy minority” but truthfully, how many kids eat apple slices instead of French fries? Heck, if I pull into McDonalds you can bet I am not getting apple slices!
Below are a few statistics that might just raise your eyebrows.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- 16 percent of children (over 9 million) 6-19 years old are overweight or obese — a number that has tripled since 1980. In addition, to the 16 percent of children and teens ages 6 to 19 who were overweight in 1999-2002, another 15 percent were considered at risk of becoming overweight.
- Over the past three decades the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2-5 years and adolescents aged 12-19 years, and it has more than tripled for children aged 6-11 years.
- Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This increases to 80 percent if one or more parent is overweight or obese.
And, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services:
- Forty-three percent of students in grades 9-12 watch television more than two hours per day. Physical activity declines dramatically over the course of adolescence, and girls are significantly less likely than boys to participate regularly in vigorous physical activity.
Adults don’t fair much better. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services:
- Nearly 50 million adults (between the ages of 20 and 74), or 27% of the adult population, are obese; overall more than 108 million adults, or 61% of the adult population are either obese or overweight.
- Over 80% of people with diabetes are overweight or obese.
The Center for Disease Control reports the following on adults:
- Nearly one-third of the US population is obese, 30.5%/ 61.3-million men and women.
- 50% of women aged 20 to 74 are overweight or obese in the US (The National Women’s Health Information Center)
- “By 2015, 75% of adults will be overweight or obese, and 41% will be obese,” according to a recent study by Youfa Wang, PhD, MD, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, USA and May Beydoun, also at Johns Hopkins.
The consequences of this epidemic are staggering not only from a health and quality of life standpoint, but also from a financial one. According to the US Surgeon General, in 2000 the economic cost of obesity in the United States was about $117 billion and 300,000 deaths each year are associated with obesity. And consider this, 32 percent of American schoolchildren are overweight or obese, representing an entire generation that will be saddled with weight-related health problems as it ages. And the economic consequences will continue to escalate as each generation ages.
So, just what are the health implications of childhood obesity?
According to the Center for Disease Control, “being overweight or obese increases the risk of many diseases and health conditions, including the following:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
- Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
- Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)”
These used to be the long term consequences associated with adult obesity. Not any longer. Today we are seeing kids as young as 11 years old with Type 2 Diabetes! And this list doesn’t include the emotional and mental health aspects of obesity. Psychology Today reports, “One study, published in Pediatrics, found that the longer a child is overweight, the more he or she is at risk for depression and other mental health disorders.
Another study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that obese kids were 5.5 times more likely to have an impaired quality of life than healthy kids, putting their life experience on par with that of kids undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer.”
Why this is happening is obvious, the question is how to turn the tides.
Resolving this epidemic is going to take each and every one of us making better and healthier choices for our families. Having to fight advertising and corporate invasions in our school system it is a tough row to plow, but it is a well worth the investment and a first step in order to start turning the tides. But if this is beyond your present scope, you can start by making some changes at home.
Here are some suggestions
- If a weight-loss program is necessary for a particular member of your family, make sure to involve the whole family in adding “healthy choices” so your child doesn’t feel singled out.
- You can encourage healthy eating by serving more fruits and vegetables and buying fewer sodas and high-calorie, high-fat snack or processed foods
- Physical activity can also help your child overcome weight issues as well as improve their overall health.
Our children are our future. By adding a few basic nutritional guidelines to your meal planning, decreasing your household’s junk food intake and adding exercise you just might be surprised at how big of an impact these changes can make on your families ‘weight’ and overall health and wellbeing.