FEATURES: Childhood Obesity Problem Continues To Grow

(Photo courtesy bewhealthadvisor.com)

(Photo courtesy bewhealthadvisor.com)

By Catie Rice – Staff Reporter

Second-grader Nicholas Reeves, who lives in Tennessee, is battling the bulge of child obesity at just eight years old. Reeves is a very active child who loves to play basketball, but weighing 117 pounds has impeded his progress in many ways.

“He can finish eating a meal and then five minutes later he goes in the kitchen saying that he’s hungry again.” Angel Reeves, Nicholas Reeves’ mom said.

Reeves had to have his tonsils removed because the thickness of his neck was causing sleep apnea.

Beyond the emotional toll of taunting and teasing, the stakes for obese children can be as high as for obese grownups.

Reeves is only one of the many children battle with child obesity. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.

Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat,muscle, bone,water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.

Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.

More than two percent of young children were severely obese, five percent of 6-to-11-year-olds were severely obese and 6.5 percent of 12- to 19-year olds were severely obese from 2011 to 2012.

Up to one out of every five children in the U. S. is overweight or obese,

“This generation is on track to be the first generation in America that’s less healthy than their parents,” First Lady Michelle Obama said.

Obese youths are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Children and adolescents who are obese are also at a greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.

Later in life, children who are obese are more likely to become obese adults. Consequently, adult obesity is associated with a number of serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cancer.

Treatment for childhood obesity is based on a child’s age and if he or she has other medical conditions. Usually it includes changes in a child’s diet and level of physical activity. In certain circumstances, treatment may include medications or weight-loss surgery.

Good habits established in childhood help adolescents maintain healthy weight despite the hormonal changes, rapid growth and social influences that often lead to overeating.

Four-year-old New York resident Samantha Stevens is also struggling with obesity. At 54 pounds, Samantha is the biggest girl in her pre-kindergarten class .By the standard medical definition, Stevens is actually counted as obese.

“She eats very slowly and deliberately and finishes everything on her plate,” Stevens’ mom, Lori Cohen, said.

Samantha entered a program on Long Island run by Dolgoff, who set out to help her get healthier in a six-month period.

Dolgoff created a kid-friendly program called “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right.”

“I took every food and divided them into either red light, yellow light and green light categories. I made it fun for the kids.

Green light foods are go. Yellow light foods are slow. And red light foods are bad

The main idea is to get kids, and their parents, to think before they eat.

In today’s society it may be hard for children to make healthy food choices and get enough physical activity. Some bad factors may be,Advertising of less healthy foods,No safe and appealing place, in many communities, to play or be active,and an increase in portion size.

Child obesity is now caused by many other factors like fast-food plus processed food adding in some preservatives, some sugar; a mix of video games, television, computers and our dependency on cars.

Surprisingly, Lack of breastfeeding support affects a child’s weight. Breastfeeding protects against childhood overweight and obesity.However, in the United States, while 75% of mothers start out breastfeeding, only 13% of babies are exclusively breastfed at the end of six months.

A review of studies in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, researchers found that kids who sleep less than the recommended amount of about 13 hours a day at age two are more likely to be obese at age seven.

Lifestyle issues like too little activity and too many calories from food and drinks are the main contributors to childhood obesity but genetic and hormonal factors may play a role as well.

Some kids may turn to food as a coping mechanism for dealing with problems or negative emotions like stress, anxiety, or boredom. In most cases, Children struggling to cope with a divorce or death in the family may eat more as a result.

Also if a child was born into a family of overweight people, he/she may be genetically predisposed to the condition. There are certain genetic diseases and hormonal disorders that can predispose a child to obesity, such as hypothyroidism,Prader-Willi syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome.

Body mass index (BMI), expressed as weight/height2 (kg/m2), is most often used to define overweight and obese conditions. Using a growth chart, a child’s pediatrician will calculate your child’s percentile, and how he/she compares with other children of the same sex and age.

Dr. Gail Nunlee-Bland,a pediatric endocrinologist and director of the diabetes center at Howard University Hospital has seen firsthand the causes and effects of childhood obesity in her own practice.

“It’s just not the child’s problem – and really encouraging families to have more physical activity in their lives, to choose healthier food,” Nunlee-Bland said. “So we really need to work on this in our society so that we can break this vicious cycle.”

Obama, is challenging all of America to turn around the trend in children’s health by putting an end to the epidemic of child obesity. She launched “Let’s Move!” on February 9, 2010.

It was created as a comprehensive initiative dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation called “Let’s Move!” so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams.

The program focuses on five pillars: Creating a healthy start for children, Empowering parents and caregivers, Providing healthy food in schools, Improving access to healthy, affordable foods, and Increasing physical activity.

Since the movement started, Disney announced that it will require all food and beverage products advertised, sponsored, or promoted on various Disney-owned media channels. The U.S. Olympic Committee and several of its national governing bodies have provided beginner athletic programming for free or low cost to more than 1.7 million kids since 2012, and through the Healthier U.S. School Challenge, more than 5,000 schools now meet high standards in nutrition and fitness.

To prevent the chances of becoming overweight, parents should limit their child’s consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, provide plenty of fruits and vegetables, eat meals together as a family as often as possible, limit eating out, especially at fast food restaurants, and limit TV and other electronics to less than two hours a day

Also, parents should be sure their child sees the doctor for wellness checkups at least once a year. During this visit, the doctor measures a child’s height and weight and calculates his or her BMI.

Reeves has set out on a program designed for obese kids. Reeves entered a program led by a team of experts at the Pediatric Weight Management clinic at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Dr. Greg Plemmons monitored his progress.

Plemmons said Reeves was just young enough that his condition was still reversible.The child then met with a physical therapist. At the end of the appointment, he was given a list of individualized goals. Reeves was working on his new healthy goals. He played basketball with his brother while, back in the kitchen, his mom helped him with portion control.

“He is greater than the 95th percentile, and the No. 1 thing that he is at risk for developing as a young adult is type 2 diabetes,” Plemmons said. “That’s the No. 1 thing that we see directly related to obesity. He is also at risk for heart attacks and heart disease. He’s at risk for low self-esteem, he’s at risk for mental health issues.”

Reeves’ story is a prime example of a child who is overweight that is trying to turn his life around.

(Some information cdc.gov, mayoclinic.org, abcnews.com)


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