Medical Consequences of childhood Obesity (part 1)
Is Your Child At Risk Of Obesity?
The medical consequences of childhood obesity are real, and affect every segment of our society—and there is no age group or socioeconomic class that is immune. We are at the point where it is getting too costly to take care of people with chronic diseases that can be easily prevented with lifestyle changes. Chronic diseases now account for approximately 75% of all healthcare expenditures. If your child is overweight or obese, there is a 70% chance that the child will become overweight or obese as an adult—increasing the likelihood of suffering from a chronic disease caused by excessive fat. Helping your child to maintain a healthy weight with low body fat could prevent a number of health problems now and in the future, including diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
If your child is obese and at risk of chronic disease, the right time to focus on diet and physical activity is now. You can help prevent the development of a full-blown disease by reducing the silent inflammation responsible for damaging healthy cells, tissues and genetic materials involved in health and longevity. On the other hand, if your child is already a victim of a chronic disease, you can still help to reduce the progression and complications associated with the disease. It’s never too late to start helping children have a better quality of life through proper nutrition regardless of their specific situation. With proper and immediate interventions, it may be possible to reverse the trend towards obesity in children and improve the outcome even for children who are already sick.
Before discussing the diseases linked to obesity, it is important to learn how to determine if your child is indeed obese. Physical appearance is usually a good initial indicator, with excessive abdominal fat generally a sign that your child may be obese. But the best way to determine obesity is to use the scientific method, which can also give you a good idea if your child is at risk of a major health problem.
Using the Mayo Clinic or CDC Charts can help you determine if your child’s weight puts him or her at risk of obesity (MayoClinic.com or www. cdc. gov/growthcharts). For example, a 7 year-old girl who is 49 inches (4 ft. 1 in.) and weighs 84 pounds has a BMI of 24. The BMI is determined using her height and weight. Plotting on the BMI-for-age chart for girls shows her BMI-for-age to be between the 90th and 95th percentiles. In comparison to other girls of the same age, this child is overweight and more likely to become an overweight or obese adult.
But the preferred method of determining obesity is the waistline measurement because it’s simple and easy to do. A measurement of the waistline or abdominal circumference is a powerful way of establishing if your child is obese, and possibly at risk for major health problems. For instance, young girls with a waistline greater than 33 inches and boys greater than 35 inches probably have a greater risk of obesity and health problems than children with smaller waistline measurements.
What Are The Medical Consequences?
When children eat too much fat, sugar and salt, and take in more calories than their body needs on a daily basis, there are consequences— they do not only gain weight and store extra body fat, but also increase their risk of serious health problems. This risk has increased to the point where children today are expected to have a shorter lifespan and a poorer quality of life than their parents. When a five-year-old child weighs as much as an average ten year old, there is something terribly wrong. There may be already an underlying sign of premature aging, as well as a strong indication of silent inflammation that is slowly destroying vital cells and tissues.
Interestingly, children in industrialized Western societies eat substantial amounts of food; yet, they may have serious nutritional deficiencies similar to those seen in impoverished countries. This is the result of eating foods highly refined and stripped of nutrients and fiber, which basically provide calories and very few nutrients. These foods are also high in saturated and trans fats that increase inflammation. The possibility of malnutrition despite a high caloric intake is the reason you should be very concerned if your child is eating these types of foods on a daily basis.
Another important consequence of an improper diet is that there is a gross imbalance of the two most required and essential fats in the body—Omega-3 fatty acids to Omega-6 fatty acids. Both fatty acids are essential because our bodies cannot produce them on their own, and therefore they have to be provided in the diet. These fatty acids are very important for the growth and development of all cells and tissues, and organs, especially the brain and fatty tissues.
The Omega-3 fatty acids produce hormones and chemicals that reduce the level of inflammation in the body, whereas, Omega-6 promotes inflammation in the body. When children primarily eat foods that raise the body levels of Omega-6, the tissues and cells may contain a much higher levels of inflammatory molecules and lesser amounts of the Omega-3 that reduces inflammation. As a result, there is more inflammation throughout their bodies than normal—leading to the appearance of chronic adult diseases in children such as diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes In Kids?
Do you know that type 2 diabetes was once thought to be primarily an adult disease? Today, the disease occurs at an alarming rate in young children. Approximately 500,000 children are diagnosed with the disease in the United States alone. It’s predicted that one out of three American children born in the past 10 years will develop diabetes during their lifetime. Worldwide, the disease has reached an epidemic proportion. It is also not surprising that the increase in type 2 diabetes coincides with the growth and expansion of the fast food industry and the trend towards inactivity among children and adults.
In addition to children developing type 2 diabetes, about one in three obese American children ages 12 to 19 or roughly 2 million children have a pre-diabetic condition known as syndrome X that puts them at risk for full-blown diabetes, heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. The number of children with the condition is steadily rising—making this generation of children extremely vulnerable to premature death from complications due to diabetes. The fact that young children are developing this chronic disease at a rapid rate should be a wakeup call to encourage you to teach your children to decrease their risk factors by reducing abdominal fat, increasing their activity and making better food choices.
This article was excerpted from:
New Prescription for Childhood Obesity
by Billy C Johnson, MD, PhD.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, iUniverse. Copyright 2008. www.iuniverse.com