The Biggest Health Risk for Kids is Childhood Obesity
When it comes to childhood miseries, there is little more tragic than the woe of the overweight child.
From the trauma of taunting and teasing, to the embarrassment and pain of physical limitations, illness, disease and emotional difficulties, children are uniquely vulnerable to lifelong injury from excessive weight carried in the early years.
And all the research seems to indicate that it will indeed be lifelong, because, contrary to age-old belief, heavy children generally do not grow out of their weight. Rather, they grow into it.
With two-thirds of American adults now overweight, it's no surprise that the numbers among children are skyrocketing, as well. That's because, unlike adults, who must make their own dietary choices, children are largely at the effect of the nutritional environment in which they are raised--in the home, in school, in their neighborhoods and communities.
Children are being drawn into obesity unawares, and by the time they're old enough to take more control of their dietary practices, the groundwork has long since been laid; poor eating habits are already entrenched, and the excess weight has already become a fact of life.
Government statistics indicate that only two percent of American children have a diet that actually conforms to the recommendations established with the Food Guide Pyramid, and the average child's daily caloric intake has increased by almost 200 calories a day over the last 15 years, concentrated in foods and beverages high in sugar and simple, low-nutrient carbohydrates.
Almost a quarter of American children are now overweight, with more than 15 percent of both children and adolescents actually clinically obese already.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) classifies children and adolescents in the 85th percentile of weight--that is, those heavier than 85 percent of children their age--as being overweight, while those in the 95th percentile are classified as being severely overweight, or obese.
But whether it's referred to as obese or severely overweight, the consequences are serious. Children who have weight problems, even in early childhood, are twice as likely to be obese in adulthood, and to have the significant health problems associated with obesity. The odds are very slim that they'll reach and maintain normal weight for their lifetimes.
The American Heart Association finds that 25 percent of children aged 5 to 10 already have the early signs of heart disease, including elevated blood cholesterol or high blood pressure. Other studies indicate that as many as 10 percent of adolescents may already have plaque buildup in their arteries.
Type 2 diabetes used to be called "adult onset," but not anymore, since more than half of new cases are now found in children. By the mid '90s, there were ten times as many cases of Type 2 diabetes.
If your child is already overweight, understand that there is hope. In fact, your child's best hope is to start right now! Research shows it's much easier for people to unlearn unhealthy habits as children than it ever will be as adults. The key for kids is the consistency and participation of caring adults in the overweight child's environment.