BOOK JOAN

Obesity: Much More Than Just a Weight Problem

Growing up healthy

Growing Up Healthy

Children's Health / / July 10, 2008

Healthy children childhood obesity

We only have to watch kids in school yards (no matter how oversize their pants!), or listen to the nightly news to understand how prevalent obesity has become in our society. Yet, while we're aware of this growing epidemic, 
much of our focus has been on thinness. Children can be cruel, and none of us want our sons and daughters to be ridiculed because they're fat. But our preoccupation with looking good misses the more serious issue: the link between childhood obesity and chronic adult disease.

We now know that obesity is a definite risk factor for a number of diseases, including heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, Type II diabetes, gallbladder disease, and for complications from any type of surgery. Recent studies from researchers highlight the enormity and the seriousness of the obesity epidemic:

  • The Centers for Disease Control tells us that obesity is becoming a national health problem with nearly 15 percent—almost nine million children—now categorized as seriously overweight, and that number is rising. Instead of seeing heart disease occur when our children reach their fifties and sixties, researchers are predicting that our sons and daughters might be subject to heart disease as early as their twenties and thirties.
  • A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed a direct relationship between excess weight and the risk of death from most cancers—the more body fat our children carry, the greater their risk.
  • Researchers from Duke University report that a staggering number of obese children are developing Type II diabetes earlier in their lives, in some cases, during their teenage years.

What can we do about these findings? We need to prevent our children from becoming obese—that means ensuring that they eat nutritious foods and exercise regularly. If they have already started down the path to obesity we need to intervene immediately. If we can prevent a child from becoming an obese adult, we will be making a substantial difference in their lives.

Obesity is a vitally important issue, so let's be clear. Many confuse obesity with a few stubborn pounds—but it's not those extra five pounds everyone wants to lose. According to the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals are considered obese when their weight is 20 percent or more over the maximum desirable for their height. Obesity is also defined as a BMI (body mass index) over 30. Adults with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight, but not obese. In children, obesity is also defined as a BMI equal to or greater than the 95th percentile on the BMI graph.

About The Author
Growing up healthy
In Growing Up Healthy, Joan Lunden, one of America's most trusted journalists and most visible working moms, teams up with Dr. Myron Winick, a leading expert in childhood nutrition, to produce a guide that contains the lifesaving knowledge we all need to shield our children from disease and help them grow into strong, fit adults.
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