Obesity is recognized as a worldwide health problem posing a concentrated threat to our youth. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), global childhood obesity has increased more than 10-fold over the past 40 years. Data suggests that nearly 1 in 5 school-age children, aged 6 to 19 in the U.S. has obesity. Despite suggestions that obesity occurring in childhood has leveled in recent years, childhood obesity remains a highly prevalent health condition.
When is a Child Considered Obese?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a child is considered overweight when their Body Mass Index (BMI) is at or above the 85th percentile for age and gender and obese when their BMI is at or above the 95th percentile. In the U.S. alone, about 30% of children are overweight and 17 percent are obese.
The Bigger Problem:
Obesity that occurs in childhood is a powerful predictor of obesity in adulthood. In fact, being obese as a child magnifies the risk 5 times, and is associated with an almost 80% chance of being an obese adult. Obesity impacts almost every system in the body and acts as a catalyst for serious health conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, asthma and even cancer. Additionally, the psychosocial and emotional impact of obesity on a child is significant, demonstrating lower levels of self-esteem, social isolation, and increased risk for bullying.
We need to start to work on understanding nutrition. Not just the concept of protein, carbs and fats, but also the idea of utilizing the nutrients from food to fuel our bodies to meet our goals. What foods can I eat to help me focus better in class? What can I eat that will help me feel stronger and improve my performance at soccer practice? What can I eat to help me feel calmer or to get a more restful sleep? It's important to understand that a child can be overweight or obese and also be undernourished.
Infancy, childhood, and adolescence represent critical time periods that are essential to optimal growth and development. Childhood obesity disrupts this healthy progression. The available data demonstrates large potential for improving nutrition and lifestyle early in life, highlighting Childhood as a window of opportunity. There are effective ways to help your child get healthy and stay healthy. A wide range of factors contribute to childhood obesity and the causes are complex. The good news is, many of these factors are lifestyle choices that can be modified and improved. Change can take place and overweight children can take real steps toward adopting better habits. While this takes a concerted effort by the whole family, childhood obesity can be prevented, and in many cases, reversed.
Trey Bennett, Nurse Practitioner and Founder of Integrative Health Providers struggled with childhood obesity. He saw a dietician, but the advise didn't have the desired effect. He struggled with his health and weight throughout adolescence and adulthood until he discovered Lifestyle Medicine. Now he helps families achieve their health goals with Lifestyle Medicine based on the latest medical evidence. Our Pediatric provider Adina Yodler has a similar history with overcoming health obstacles to discover her optimal health and vitality through Lifestyle Medicine. Ask her about her story! Along with our patients, we are living proof that change is possible and health can prevail!