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Childhood Obesity - Essay Example

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Childhood Obesity Introduction Childhood obesity is one of the most significant health issues that the United States confronts today. The number of obese children in the country has increased considerably vis-a-vis the 1970’s. As things stand, close to one-third of all U.S…
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Childhood Obesity
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Childhood Obesity

The American Academy of Pediatrics terms childhood obesity as an ‘unprecedented burden’ on the children’s health. The unnecessary weight gain, primarily due to poor diet and lack of exercise, accounts for as many as 300,000 deaths each year.  It is estimated Obesity costs the society, on an annual basis, nearly $ 90 billion (Stewart 2009). Methodology for Determining Childhood Obesity To determine whether a child is overweight or obese, the body mass index (BMI), a measure that uses a child's weight and height, is calculated. Body mass index (BMI) is expressed as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (kg/m2). The BMI is a realistic estimation of body fatness for most children and teens even though it does not measure body fat directly. Unlike the BMI categories used for adults, a child's weight status is determined with the help of an age and sex specific percentile for BMI. This methodology is adopted because the children's body composition varies as they age and differs for boys and girls. In normal parlance, the terms ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ are used interchangeably. However there is a technical difference. Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and lower than the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex while obesity refers to the BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex (Milne 2007). Risks Associated with Childhood Obesity Obesity is associated with numerous risks for children not only when they are young but also during their later life. Obese children are susceptible to having high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as heightened risk of impaired glucose tolerance. Close to 70 percent of obese children have at least one additional risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (Frieden 2010). Such children are more prone to contracting Type II diabetes, breathing problems and asthma. Obese children are also known to have medical conditions like joint problems, musculoskeletal discomfort, fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastro-esophageal reflux. The adverse effects of obese continue even as these children grow. As adolescents, obese children have a greater chance of encountering social and psychological problems resulting in poor self-esteem. It is a myth that plump babies naturally outgrow their baby fat. The reality is that excess weight tends to persist in later life as well. There is empirical evidence that establishes the fact that obese children are more likely to become obese adults and this obesity in adulthood is prone to be more severe. Children who are obese at age six have a 50 percent higher chance of being obese as adults, irrespective of the parental obesity status. Four-fifth of obese children at ages 10-15 also tend to be obese at age 25 (Frieden 2010). The obesity in adulthood leads to a serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and is even responsible for some cancers (Berger 2006). Causes of Childhood Obesity In simple parlance, childhood obesity is the consequence of consuming more calories than an individual can burn. Many factors, biological, economic, and social, converge and are responsible for childhood obesity. Each of these factors has a significant influence on the type of food ingestion, method of food preparation as well as on food consumption (Procter 2008). Various experts have put forth numerous causes of childhood obesity ... Read More
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