Children And Obesity

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Childhood obesity may lead to earlier onset of puberty for girls, a U.S. study concludes. The study of 354 girls from 10 different regions in the United States found that increased body fat in girls as young as age 3 and large increases in body fat between the age of 3 and the start of first grade were associated with earlier puberty, defined as the presence of breast development by age 9.


What Is Obesity?
Obesity is a disease that affects nearly one-third of the adult American population (approximately 60 million). The number of overweight and obese Americans has continued to increase since 1960, a trend that is not slowing down. Today, 64.5 percent of adult Americans (about 127 million) are categorized as being overweight or obese. Each year, obesity causes at least 300,000 excess deaths in the U.S., and healthcare costs of American adults with obesity amount to approximately $100 billion.


What Constitutes Obesity In Children?
Doctors use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts or the body mass index to measure a child's weight in relation to his or her height. If you have concerns that your child is overweight or at risk of becoming so, first ask your doctor to review your child's growth charts and medical history with you.


What Are Some Causes Of Childhood Obesity?
There are many factors that contribute to causing child and adolescent obesity - some are modifiable and others are not. According to the American Obesity Association, modifiable causes include:
  • Physical Activity - Lack of regular exercise.
  • Sedentary behavior - High frequency of television viewing, computer usage, and similar behavior that takes up time that can be used for physical activity.
  • Eating Habits - Over-consumption of high-calorie foods. Some eating patterns that have been associated with this behavior are eating when not hungry, eating while watching TV or doing homework.
  • Environment - Some factors are over-exposure to advertising of foods that promote high-calorie foods and lack of recreational facilities.

    Non-changeable causes include:
  • Genetics - Greater risk of obesity has been found in children of obese and overweight parents.


  • How Can You Treat Overweight Children?
    The American Academy of Pediatrics states that for most children, weight loss diets are not recommended because they can interfere with growth in height. Recommend. There are several ways families can help overweight children shed pounds:
  • Families should be educated and empowered through anticipatory guidance to recognize the impact they have on their children's development of lifelong habits of physical activity and nutritious eating.
  • Dietary practices should be fostered that encourage moderation rather than overconsumption, emphasizing healthful choices rather than restrictive eating patterns.
  • Regular physical activity should be consciously promoted, prioritized, and protected within families, schools, and communities.
  • Optimal approaches to prevention need to combine dietary and physical activity interventions.


  • To Learn More About Obesity:
    • The American Obesity Association has more information and resources.

    • You can read more about puberty at the National Institute of Child Health And Human Development.

    • Click here to calculate your Body Mass Index.

    • The American Academy of Pediatrics has resources on childhood obesity.

    • Click here for growth charts from the CDC.

    Action for Healthy Kids is a national-state initiative dedicated to improving the health and educational performance of children through better nutrition and physical activity in schools.

    • You can read an Obesity Report Card from WebMD.

    • Melissa McNamara

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