Childhood Obesity: Classification, Implications, Causes

Introduction

Obesity in children is dangerous. It does not only affect the children since both parents and society are also affected. It is assumed that just a little weight more than the normal weight in children is harmless. This is a misconception that may lead to increased cases of obesity among children. We can notice nowadays that most of them are suffering in schools because of how they look, scared of others, feeling de-motivated and lesser than others.

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This may reduce their chances to fight and resist obesity. Obesity in children has other effects such as physical effects, psychological or mental effects, and others. The current lifestyles have contributed to the increased cases of obese children. For instance, some parents may opt to buy fast foods for their children in an effort to save time.

These children end up lacking important nutrients required for healthy growth. According to a study conducted in the U.S., one in every three children is overweight. These children suffer from deteriorated physical and mental health. They lack self-esteem, and this leads to depression and reduced self-confidence (Beamer, 2012).

Childhood obesity is a consequence of not doing enough physical activities and eating too much food (calories). Childhood obesity is characterized by a high amount of body fat, which may lead to health complications during adulthood. This happens when the child is above his or her normal weight for his height and age.

Michelle Obama started and established a campaign “Let’s Move Campaign” that aims at finding solutions to curb the issue of obesity in children. This campaign establishes the issues affecting obese children and provides a means of eliminating this problem. It further educates Americans on how they can avoid this issue in the coming years.

This campaign indicates that the lack of physical education lessons in public schools is a cause of obesity. Parents who are not informed about healthy eating and habits also contribute to the increased cases of obese children (Beamer, 2012). Childhood obesity now has become an important factor that must be discussed and resolved. This has been triggered by the increase of obesity-related diseases over the past decades.

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There is a rapid increase in obesity and overweight among pre-school children in developing countries. This has necessitated the search for information regarding the prevention of this condition. This requires that the solutions are done immediately before they become a recurring trend among the future generation.

The action plan involves obese children, their friends, parents, and schools, as well as the media among others. Obese children have been faced with a lack of physical activities by not moving at home. Instead, they just sit and watch TV or play video games. Before, children used to play outside in the garden fields with friends and family members.

The situation has changed and children have started doing passive activities like playing on computers instead of playing the variety of sports activities available. They prefer chatting using the new technologies rather than gathering and playing with each other. All these facts have raised the problem of childhood obesity (Garner, 2010). This paper will discuss the issues of obesity in children. It will outline the causes, effects, and ways of preventing obesity among children.

Background

Obesity is a great health problem that people face in the 21st century. According to the 1999-2002 NHANES survey done in the United States, the number of overweight and obese children has tripled since 1980. These statistics were carried out among preschool children. The statistics show that, over the past 20 years, there have been dramatic increases in childhood obesity. Childhood obesity has become an issue that affects not just a given nation, but an issue of global concern.

Although obesity is among the easiest medical conditions to be aware of; unfortunately, it is hard to treat. Each year, over 300,000 people perish because of overweight complications. This is mainly due to lack of exercise and unhealthy diets. Childhood obesity is a global epidemic that has health public consequences when they become adults.

Young individuals in the U.S. are becoming an inactive generation. This is because they do not like to follow healthier eating habits that are good for their lives. According to the World Health Organization, obesity and overweight is mostly experienced in the developed countries and urbanized populations (Beamer, 2012).

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How to classify obese children

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention created a way to determine a size status of the body called the body mass index (BMI). This was due to the rapid growth of obesity in the United States. This BMI measurement is used to measure by using weight and height to know if the person is underweight, normal, obese, or overweight (obesity in children).

People who record 97% BMI or higher are considered as obese, and the people between 95% and 97% are considered overweight (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008). The result of obesity is the unbalance in calories within the body. It occurs when lots of calories are absorbed compared to those released or burnt. When this happens, the calories are accumulated as fats within the body.

What are the Implications of Childhood Obesity?

An obese child is likely to experience a number of problems ranging from physical inability, social life, and mental and psychological distress, as well as their concentration in studies (Kiess, 2004). Some of these effects can be outlined as follows:

Physical Effects

Researchers state that overweight and obesity effects in children are almost similar as those in adults. Obese children stand a high chance of developing critical health issues that reduce their quality of life. The level of cholesterol in their body is high. Engaging in simple activities is very strenuous to them. The level of cholesterol in the body makes the workload for the cardiac muscles very high. This is encourages the development of hypertension.

There is also a risk of contracting type 2 diabetes, which is common among the adults. They may not experience these diseases as children, but they are very prone to them in the future. The high level of cholesterol in the body makes the obese children experience breathing problems. This can lead to the development of asthma and respiratory problems. This can either be experienced in childhood or later on during adulthood (Kiess, 2004).

Children are normally very active during the day and require a good night’s sleep. This is not the case with obese children. Their sleep is disturbed due to the distraction caused by improper breathing. This is because they experience difficulties in breathing. If this case keeps recurring, then they develop a condition called sleep apnea. This means that they cannot sleep soundly without turning and tossing in bed. This can be troublesome and uncomfortable to the child.

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The other issue affecting obese children is their physical development. The high level of cholesterol affects the way hormones work in their body. Consequently, this leads to children developing adult features earlier than expected. Girls may experience menstruation at a very tender age (Freedman, 2009).

The bones and joints in their body may not be able to support the big mass which can lead to problems with body posture. This can even lead to a permanent effect on the bone structure, and it is not healthy (Akabas, Lederman & Moore, 2012).

Mental and emotional effects

Research shows that being obese is connected to body image issues and poor self-esteem. This is triggered by ridicule from peers and other members of the society. This makes a child feel in adequate and becomes a social misfit. At their age, this has very adverse effects because children are unable to control their emotions. Depression can lead to uninformed actions like suicidal tendencies among the victims. This only serves to add them more misery and consequently affects their mental health.

The situation is bad because their physical shortcoming cannot be hidden, and follows them wherever they go. This implies that the bad feeling is continuous and somehow becomes part of their lives. They might not know what being free of ridicule and emotional distress feels like. This is a bad thing in anyone’s life, and it makes life uninteresting for the young ones who deserve to have lots of fun at their age (Freedman, 2009).

The psychological impact of obesity

Psychological disturbance is among the health complications caused by obesity. When a child is mentally disturbed, this situation affects the child psychologically (Akabas, Lederman & Moore, 2012). A child determines what he or she becomes in life by taking into account what others perceive of him or her. This damages their self-worth, and they become what the society dictates. An example is a case in which a child is labeled as a lazy.

This worsens the situation, and children may feel shy to make friends, which only makes them retreat even further. This may be because of the inability to do simple tasks with ease like associating with the peers. When the child’s friends refer to him or her as lazy, this becomes embedded in the child’s mind, and the child may turn out to be just that – lazy. This reduces the children’s power to define their destiny in life, and they depend on what the society dictates of them. This discrimination makes children develop an inferiority complex and withdraw from interacting with others (Bee & Boyd, 2004).

The bad thing with psychological disturbance in children is that, it follows them even into adulthood. These children develop into adults who are inferior to the rest of the members in the society. They are known to have poorer economic status, experience difficulties in marriages and family lives, as well lower levels of education. This is very unfortunate because it decreases the potential in children. This is not because they are not able, but because it becomes set in their minds that they are lesser than others (Moreno, Pigeot & Ahrens, 2011).

Effects on education

Physical education is the most affected aspect of a child’s education. This is attributed to the strain that it causes on their bodies. An obese child lacks interest in activities that strain the body and prefers passive activities like watching TV. When a child is less interested in the physical activities, the other body organs tend to develop slowly.

These include the heart, the muscles, and the general coordination in the brain and the whole body. When this happens, the child automatically becomes slower in activities that just require simple reasoning. They tend to be slower in technical subjects like mathematics and the science subjects.

Obesity comes with other complications like reduced immune system, diabetes, asthma or even a slow recovery from simple injuries. This means that their class attendance is in adequate that leaves them behind the rest of their classmates. Considering that their learning rate is slower than that of others, missing school only makes it worse and they end up lagging behind their peers (Brownell & Fairburn, 2002).

Some obesity complications like sleep apnea make the children drowsy during the day. Drowsiness means that they cannot focus and concentrate in the classroom. Therefore, they miss the concepts that are taught ion class. Obesity makes them social misfits, and this also affects their education.

When obese children are ridiculed by their peers, they withdraw and end up lacking social skills. The child cannot participate in group activities, which are very important in applying the learnt activities. Group work strengthens the memory of learnt activities. Failing to participate in this means a poor memory which in turn translates to poor grades (Freedman, 2009).

How the society contributes in childhood obesity

Parents play a major role in determining whether their offspring lead a healthy life or not. In a general sense, children eat what their parents eat. Therefore, it is common that children born of obese parents tend to be obese. Genes do not have anything to do with this trend; it is purely attributed to the habits that parents instill in their children (Brownell & Fairburn, 2002).

This is common at the age of five, though some children become obese when younger than this. Such cases are common among parents who do not observe what they feed their children as early as during weaning stage (Sizer, Piché & Whitney, 2012).

Children believe that the parents set the example through what they do. When parents provide junk foods and sweets that add no value to their health, the children may not be persuaded that eating such foods is wrong. On the other hand, if parents make the children believe that some foods are harmful to their bodies, the children trust them and eat these foods sparingly. The influence of parents on their children’s eating habits is very strong. Therefore, parents should be the first to initiate healthy eating habits in their children (Bee & Boyd, 2004).

The learning institutions also play a part in a child’s life, and obesity education is among the lessons that a child gains. Awareness is the best weapon that can be employed to curb the problem of obesity. Learning institutions are inadequate in providing this knowledge. Informing the children may not be of much help in assisting these obese children.

They should work with the parents to ensure that the knowledge they instill in children is practiced at home. They are failing by not involving parents in their children’s learning activities. It is believed that children spent the better part of their lives in school. Therefore, they should get adequate help from these institutions (Östman, Britton & Jonsson, 2004).

Lifestyle has changed many aspects in life; eating habits is one of these factors. Individuals are busy with their careers such that they hardly have time for their personal lives. Parents are very busy that household chores cannot fit into their programs. It is unfortunate that business people have realized this and established fast food joints that provide junk food conveniently and cheaply. This has been a major contribution to the unhealthy eating habits that are common in the United States.

Parents can only afford the junk foods because they are affordable and readily available in relation to the healthy foods. This is due to the hard economic times. Children are fed on these foods, and they end up obese. This can be avoided by if parents can allocate some time to attend to the kids no matter how busy their lives are. Other people are misinformed and associate eating out in these joints with social class. This is not the case because it costs them their health at the end of it all (Foreyt, 2003).

Causes and solutions of obesity in children

Cases of obesity in children have been increasing over the past decades. This is a cause for alarm because this will translate to a similar trend in adults. When the number of obese people increases, cases of health problems increase too. The main cause of obesity is over consumption of foods that add calories in the body.

These calories may not all be utilized in the body and that end up being stored as fats. These fats lead to increased cholesterol levels in the body. Failing to watch what is provided to the children to consume is the cause of all the problems of obesity in children. This situation can be reversed by observing healthy eating habits. Avoiding junk and processed food can be a positive a step towards curbing this problem (Beamer, 2012).

Failure to eat only healthy foods can be attributed to ignorance. However, there are other cases in which people eat junk foods without the knowledge of the effects that such foods have on their bodies and health. These people lack basic education on nutrition and healthy eating habits. This problem can be realized by providing awareness on healthy eating and the problems associated with over consumption of foods. This can be done by integrating this information in the school syllabuses and involving parents. Conducting campaigns on this issue can also increase awareness among the uninformed communities.

Another cause is the availability of junk and processed foods readily and cheaply. These foods have been provided in such a way they fit perfectly well in the lives of the working population (Periara, 2011). They are also available to the school going children in the form of snacks and sweets. Another issue is the technology that has introduced passive activities that do not help the children in exercising. Computer games only engage the mind but do not involve the body physically.

This is a dangerous form of leisure because children move from the classroom to these games. However, they never have time to burn the calories that have been accumulated in their bodies. These unhealthy lifestyles may not be good to the body in general. This issue can be corrected by opting to take fruits and vegetables as a form of snack.

The body gets used to healthy snacking and the desire for the unhealthy foods becomes controllable. Children should be involved in sporting activities and physical education. Limited time should be spent in passive leisure while significant time should be spent on physical leisure (Moreno, Pigeot & Ahrens, 2011).

Conclusion

The issue of obesity in children has attracted a lot of attention due to the health implications experienced in the past. This condition not only affects children during their childhood, but also their adult lives. It practically affects every aspect of life, and thus it should be prevented and eliminated to promote healthy life.

Awareness is a tool that can be used to curb this problem. The communities should be provided with knowledge on how to exercise healthy eating. Parents determine the lifestyles that their children lead. Learning institutions are also significant in curbing obesity. Engaging both children and their parents is effective in assisting obese children to change from this status. Childhood obesity not only affects a child’s life at the childhood stage but also in adolescence and teenage through the adult stage. It affects the whole society because of the costs and dependence that is involved.

Therefore, every member in the society should contribute to fighting obesity and promoting healthy life. The current lifestyle should be adapted to the needs of the family thus ensuring that parents honor their responsibilities in bringing up children. If obesity in children is eliminated, chances are that it will also cease to exist among the grown-ups. This is because most of the obese adults developed this condition during childhood.

References

Akabas, S. R., Lederman, S. A., & Moore, B. J. (2012). Textbook of obesity: Biological, psychological, and cultural influences. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.

Beamer, T. (2012). Obesity in Children (Ages Six to Twelve) in Relation to School Cafeterias. Web.

Bee, H. L. & Boyd, D. R. (2004). The developing child. Boston: Pearson Education.

Brownell, K. D. & Fairburn, C. G. (2002). Eating disorders and obesity: A comprehensive handbook. New York, NY [u.a.: Guilford Press.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2008). Overweight and Obesity. Web.

Foreyt, J. P. (2003). Lifestyle obesity management. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Pub.

Garner, V. (2010). Childhood Obesity. Web.

Kiess, W. (2004). Obesity in childhood and adolescence: 24 tables. Basel [u.a.: Karger.

Moreno, A. L., Pigeot, I., & Ahrens, W. (2011). Epidemiology of obesity in children and adolescents: Prevalence and etiology. New York: Springer.

Östman, J., Britton, M., & Jonsson, E. (2004). Treating and preventing obesity. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH.

Periara, L. (2011). Child obesity and malnutrition. Web.

Sizer, F. S., Piché, L. A., & Whitney, E. N. (2012). Nutrition: Concepts and controversies. Toronto: Nelson Education.

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