5 Reasons for Childhood Obesity

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Veer/Wave Break Media Micro

We are having a public health crisis. Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the United States and the statistics are startling. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 are obese, a number that has tripled since 1980. Obesity in children is defined as a body mass index in or above the 95th percentile on the standard growth chart for children of the same age and sex.

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There are multiple health risks for kids who are obese. They can suffer from breathing problems such as sleep apnea and asthma, as well as suffer muscle and joint pain. Kids can also develop high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can eventually lead to cardiovascular disease, and are also at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, these problems can follow obese children throughout their life span.

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According to the CDC, obese children are more likely to become obese adults, which can lead to more serious health problems. In addition to the physical risks, there are the social and psychological problems that often come with childhood obesity. These kids often get teased and bullied about their weight by their peers and can develop low self-esteem and depression.

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There are plenty of factors to blame for childhood obesity. Nikki Brender, a New York City-based registered dietician who specializes in pediatric nutrition, states, "Poor habits start early on. I see many parents adding juice to baby bottles, which introduces babies to sweet tastes too early on and predisposes them to being overweight as a toddler and adolescent." And that is just the beginning. Here are 5 more reasons why children are at risk for obesity as they grow into adolescents.

Mass Production of Cheap Food

"Food companies manipulate surplus crops into nutritionally inferior products that inundate our food supply because they are cheap," says Brender. To keep foods' costs down, manufacturers load cheap ingredients like high fructose corn syrup into our foods. Candy bars, soda, and other packaged, high-calorie foods are often much cheaper than the healthier options in the grocery store, leading parents and children to purchase them instead.

Increasing Intake of High-Calorie Beverages

It seems like every day there is a new energy drink or soda on the market that kids are eager to try. Brender notes, "There is a misconception that juice is actually good for you or is a fruit." The CDC reports that 80 percent of adolescents drink sugar-rich drinks on a daily basis. These beverages offer plenty of unnecessary calories and no nutritional benefit.

Lack of Breast-Feeding Promotion

Breast-feeding continues to be a taboo subject in the United States, especially among the poorer communities where there remains a lack of education about the subject. Brender states, "Breast-feeding promotion is a necessity because breast-feeding can have some protective factors against obesity. Formula-fed babies tend to gain more weight as they are often overfed." With breast-feeding there is less "force feeding" or "finish the bottle" mentality, Brender explains.

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Less Time Spent at The Dinner Table

Families are busier then ever and this has led to a major shift in their daily lives. Parents are working longer hours and kids are pressured to participate in multiple extracurricular activities. This makes sitting down at the dinner table for a home-cooked meal a rare occurrence. Parents are relaying more and more on takeout and restaurants to feed their families.

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General Lack of Nutrition Education

Healthy habits start at home, yet parents are often unaware of healthy eating principles and so their children are never taught them. Luckily, some schools are starting to take initiative by developing nutrition programs that not only teach kids the benefits of eating healthy but also where whole, healthful food comes from through programs that incorporate school gardens and cooking classes.

Click here to see 5 more reasons for childhood obesity

-Sheela Prakash, RD, The Daily Meal