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Today childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels. Experts are now estimating that 15% of kids are overweight and another 15% are at risk of becoming overweight. Plus 2/3 of these obese children will end up becoming overweight adults. In the US alone it is thought that between 5-25% of children and teenagers are obese. But the prevalence of obesity in young also varies from ethnic group to ethnic group. It is estimated that 5-7% of white and black children are obese compared with the 12% of Hispanic boys and 19% of Hispanic girls that are thought to suffer from childhood obesity.
But how is childhood obesity defined?
It is defined as an excessive accumulation of body fat. Obesity is normally present in a childhood when the total body weight is more than 25% fat in boys and 32% fat in girls. Although more often than not childhood obesity is often defined as a weight per height ratio which is in excess of 120% of their ideal weight, more often than not the best way of determining fatness is by measuring skin folds. A trained technician will obtain skin fold measurements relatively easily in either the school or clinical setting. It is considered that the optimal skin folds for a boy should be between 10-25mm and for girls 16-30mm.
Unfortunately childhood obesity presents many problems for they child. Not only are they at an increased risk of being obese during adulthood but it can also lead to a number of pediatric hypertensions. These include Type II diabetes mellitus, the increased risk of them suffering from coronary heart disease as well as increased pressure being placed on weight bearing joints. Also a child who is obese will suffer from low self esteem which will affect their relationship with other children and not just their peers.
As with adult obesity, childhood obesity has many multiple causes which center around an imbalance between the energy a child takes in and the energy that they expend. Most likely childhood obesity results from an interaction between nutritional, psychological, familial as well as physiological effects.
The important thing to remember if you have an obese child is to seek help. Do not feel ashamed, you are not alone. Many parents in today’s world are facing the same issue and health care providers can help. Talk to your doctor and consult with a dietician or nutritionist to get and stay on the path to lifetime health for your child.