The prevalence of childhood obesity worldwide has shown a sharp increase in the last several decades. Obesity is defined as an excessive accumulation of fat that is associated with serious health risks, such as heart problems, cancer, diabetes, and stroke. In the U.S. currently, about 14% of 2-5-year-olds, 18% of 6-11-year-olds, and 21% of 12-19-year-olds qualify as obese. Unfortunately, obesity has a strong tendency to continue or "track" into adulthood.
Although there are genetic contributors to overweight and obesity, the remarkable recent increase in this syndrome is explained—as you would expect—largely by both an increase in physical inactivity (and screen time) and an increase in consumption of calories. Sometimes it seems that anything that is fun for you is bad!
Two Big Contributors
Increase in screen time: The biggest and most readily available screen to hit the market, of course, was and is TV. Some studies have indicated, for example, that for every extra hour of TV a person watches per day, they can expect to gain 1-2% extra in bodyweight. Since the advent of TV, other readily available, at-home, and activity-reducing screens have included computers, cell phones, ipads and more.
Increase in caloric intake: While physical calorie-burning activities have been declining, caloric intake has been going in the other direction. There are now so many really, really tasty things to eat and drink! And with modern marketing, these items are now so easy to get—and so hard to avoid! Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), such as non-diet sodas, fruit juices and waters, sports drinks, and sweetened coffees and teas are all over the place. And who has time to cook anymore? Consumption of food away from home (FAFH) has skyrocketed. Convenience helps us overlook the salt, fat, and sugar content—as well as the portion sizes.
How Do We Make It Better?
Reducing overweight and obesity problems is, to say the least, a tough challenge. Research, however, has pointed out some both necessary and promising qualifications for successful treatment to occur.
First of all, restriction diets alone don't work. Second, you can't really successfully deal with an obese child unless you also work with the child's parents, who often share the same problem. Third, a healthy and regular breakfast has to be part of a good diet. And finally, intelligent calorie management has to be supplemented by a program of regular physical activity.
Watch the video below as Dr. Phelan discusses:
- Healthy ways to help fight childhood obesity
- One of the biggest challenges that impacts our society overall - FAFH (food away from home)
- Ways that obesity can impact a child's self-esteem
- How to talk to your kids if they are being bullied about their body