Childhood Obesity and Its Alarming Growth

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The number of children who are obese or overweight is growing at an alarming rate. Extra pounds put kids at risk of serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. Childhood obesity also takes an emotional toll. Overweight children are frequently teased and excluded from team activities, which can lead to low self-esteem, negative body image, and depression. However, with the right support, encouragement, and positive role modeling, you can help your child reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Kids who are unhappy with their weight may also be more likely to develop eating disorders and substance abuse problems. Diagnosing and treating weight problems and obesity in children as early as possible may reduce the risk of developing these and other serious medical conditions as they get older. Whatever your children’s weight, though, let them know that you love them and that all you want to do is help them be healthy and happy.

Children grow at different rates at different times, so it is not always easy to tell if a child is overweight. Body mass index (BMI) uses height and weight measurements to estimate how much body fat a child has, and can be used to screen for weight and obesity problems from the age of 2. However, while BMI is usually a good indicator, it is NOT a perfect measure of body fat and can be misleading in some situations. For example, BMI can be difficult to interpret during puberty when children are experiencing periods of rapid growth.

If your child registers a high BMI-for-age measurement, your health care provider may need to perform further assessments to determine if excess fat is a problem. These assessments may include skinfold thickness measurements, plus evaluations of diet, physical activity, family history, and other appropriate health screenings. The doctor may also decide to screen for some of the medical conditions that can be associated with obesity.

Understanding how children become obese or overweight in the first place is an important step toward breaking the cycle. Most cases of childhood obesity are caused by eating too much and exercising too little. Children need enough food to support healthy growth and development. But when they take in more calories than they burn throughout the day, the result is weight gain.