Childhood obesity is a health concern that has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Typically, obesity is defined as being more than 20 percent over the ideal weight for a particular height and age group. In 2012, greater than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. The trend for obesity is greater in lower income families as compared to more affluent families. According to an article by the New York Times, a slight decline in obesity rates was measured in a few major cities between 2007 and 2011, but these numbers did not span across all cities and the cause of the decline was not clear.
So why is childhood obesity such a huge concern? Obesity in children can lead to several health concerns, some of which are immediate and some of which will affect individuals later in life. It is important to note that the greater the amount a child is overweight, the greater the risk will be for future medical problems.
So what are the different health concerns? Both immediate and long-term health concerns exist with regard to childhood obesity. The immediate health concerns are as follows:
- Heart disease (ex. high blood pressure)
- Abnormal lipid levels
- Metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance)
- Pre-diabetes (high glucose levels which increases the risk of developing diabetes)
- Sleep apnea
- Skin infections
- Bone and joint problems (often times pain in the knees, hips, and back)
- Liver disease
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Menstrual abnormalities
- Severe headaches with visual disturbances
- Social and psychological problems (ex. stigmatization, poor self-esteem)
Some long-term health concerns include the following:
- Obesity as an adult
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Several types of cancer – breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder, thyroid, ovarian, cervical, and prostate cancers, multiple myeloma, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Several of the health concerns from childhood can also carry over into adulthood including asthma, sleep apnea, joint pain, etc.
Stay tuned for our next blog which will discuss ways to prevent childhood obesity.