Childhood Obesity

Author: CHOC Pediatrician

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a time when we can learn about ways to prevent obesity and promote physical and mental health in children. According to the CDC, “About 1 in 5 U.S. children are obese. Children with obesity are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and type 2 diabetes. They also have more risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”

When adolescents become overweight, the condition often persists throughout adulthood. However, interventions that promote healthier weights, such as spending more time engaging in physical activity, eating a balanced diet, and establishing good sleep habits, appear more effective in children than adults, underscoring the importance of acting earlier rather than later.

Eating habits, lack of exercise, heredity, family and home environment, and community and social factors can lead to childhood as well as adult obesity. Other potential factors include:

– Too much time spent being inactive
– Lack of sleep
– Lack of access to physical activity and nutritious foods
– Easy access to inexpensive, high calorie foods and sugary beverages

Unaddressed, childhood obesity can become a chronic adult condition that also raises the risks for problems with the digestive system, like heartburn and reflux, as well as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Because obesity can begin in childhood, parents should help their children develop healthy eating and exercise habits early by:

– Providing easy access to nutritious, low-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables
– Making sure drinking water is always available as a no-calorie alternative to sugary drinks
– Limiting juice intake
– Helping children get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day
– Ensuring children’s healthy sleep habits
– Being a healthy role model by eating healthy meals and snacks and exercising daily

“Prevention really starts during pregnancy. Mom should have a healthy weight gain while pregnant and keep as active as she can considering her condition,” says Dr. Vaquero Solans, CHOC Gastroenterologist. She also pointed out that childhood obesity is not a problem that can be solved by medication. “Changes in lifestyle are the best. It’s a combination of healthier diet and promoting physical activity. Nutrition counseling by the pediatrician, a specialist or a dietitian will help.”

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.

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