The Childhood Obesity Pandemic
In the past 20 years, there has been an explosion in childhood obesity in US children aged 2 to 19 years. And globally, it is estimated that 330 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 years as overweight or obese. This health crisis can be blamed on unhealthy lifestyle changes, notably reduced physical activity and consuming more substantial quantities of unhealthy foods.
The impact of childhood obesity has immediate and long-term emotional and physical consequences that have significant adverse effects on the quality of life of children. The authors of one paper found that the quality of life in obese children was similar to those with pediatric cancer or diabetes. As well, there are several psychosocial comorbidities, such as poor self-esteem, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse.
Bad Carbs Equals Weight Gain
Research has confirmed that an excessive intake of refined carbohydrates and processed foods are a significant factor in global childhood obesity. The excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates results in surges of the hormone insulin, which promotes fat storage.
Restrict Frankenstein Fast Foods
There is an emerging association between fast-food restaurants, such as McDonald’s, and the prevalence of obesity and children in several countries outside the United States. For example, a recent study found a strong correlation between the prevalence of overweight and obesity and the number of McDonald’s per region in Brazil. The rapid increase of international fast-food chains has brought along with it the consumption of fast foods and increasing obesity rates globally. Due to the easy availability, taste, and marketing to children, studies are showing a connection to overweight and obesity in children and adolescents. The normalization of fast food consumption by families around the world is problematic for the alarming rate of childhood obesity.
Research has shown that the average child in the US consumes an average of 80 grams of added sugar daily, and sweetened beverages with sugar are associated with increased obesity risk. Consider these 80 grams relative to what the American Heart Association recommends children consume- less than or equal to 25 grams of added sugars per day!
Diet & Lifestyle Changes Work!
Dietary changes with children can work. However, it is best to start familiarizing children with healthy food when they are very young. For example, a recent study found that the most rapid weight gains among obese adolescents occurred between 2 and 6 years of age. Also of concern is that the researchers concluded that most children who were obese at this young age were likely to be obese in adolescence. Research has also demonstrated that the education of children as young as five years of age is vital in modifying risk factors of obesity. The authors of one paper cite research showing that 71% of childhood obesity is due to the family influences on young children, and this would include dietary habits.
There is no question that diet and lifestyle changes can be useful in preventing and treating childhood obesity. A review of several studies demonstrated that diet and lifestyle change in children results in a reduction in obesity. Also, one study that found the daily decrease of sweetened carbonated drinks, fast food, fried foods, soda beverages, and snacks high in fat, sugar, and salt, as well as 50 to 315 minutes of exercise per week, resulted in a decreased body mass index in children. Also, a study done with 9-15-year-olds in 30 low-income areas of Baltimore, found that increasing access and promoting the consumption of low-sugar foods and beverages at wholesalers, small food stores, and recreational centers resulted in the decreasing percent of calories from sweet snacks.
Treat The Whole Child
There are emotional and psychological reasons why children consume excess calories. A good comprehensive plan addresses the physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual needs of children.
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