CHILDREN OBESITY IN THE UNITED STATES 1
Childhood Obesity inthe United States
Children obesity poses a huge health problem in America. In theirstudies on obesity prevalence in the country, Ogden,et al., (2014) found that 8% of children between twoand eight years were overweight as of 2014.The situation is getting worse every day. Despite the situation,little is known about the subject because the national data on thepediatric incidence of obesity concentrates on the adolescents asthey transition to adulthood. Obese children experience similarhealth challenges as their adult counterparts. These healthcomplications that target overweight children include elevated bloodpressure and type 2 diabetes. A combination of social, behavioral,psychological, and biological factors contribute to the problem ofhigh weight gain in children.
While many people blame parents for the children obesity problem,research reveals that most meals offered in schools contain fewervegetables and fruits and strikingly high levels of saturated fats. Woo et al., (2014) reports that a 2008 survey conducted by theInstitute of Medicine Committee found that 80% of children ate moresaturated fats than the recommended amount. Additionally, the FederalNutritional Assistance programs resulted in children consuming atleast 500g of excess calories from added sugars and solid fats everyday. Most of these solid fats are never stored in the body, resultingin excess weight. According toSidik & Ahmad (2010), 50% of children in the UnitedStates eat breakfast or lunch in their schools and more that 10% getboth. This shows that a substantial number of children gain excessweight from the poor diet they consume while in the school.
Genetics is one of the factors associated with the high obesity ratesin America. Research shows that there is a higher likelihood that anobese child has parents who have the same condition. However, thelevel of a child’s overweight status is dependent on whether one orboth of his/her parents are obese (Sidik& Ahmad, 2010). This means that certain childrenacquire genes that encourage their bodies to convert most of theexcess energy into fats from their parents.
Besides, studies of identical twins have concluded that some childrenare more efficient in converting the excess dietary energy to fatthan others. A study conducted by Stunkard and colleagues on theprevalence of obesity in children using twins registry from Swedenfound that the identical ones had almost the same weight regardlessof whether they were brought up separately or together(Jou, 2014).The study researched on the weights of 247pairs of identical twins 93 of whom had been raised separately while154 had been brought up together. This shows that some children aremore predisposed to storing most of the excess energy in their bodiesas fat compared to others.
While genetics play a crucial in the issue of obesity in children,the implications of certain behaviors cannot be ignored. Research hasattributed the high-weight intake in children to the consumption ofhigh-energy-dense foods. These are the high-calorie foods most ofwhich contain additional sugar sweeteners. The problem with foodswith high calories is that they also have a high burn rate(Sidik & Ahmad, 2010). This means that childrenought to be engaged in vigorous physical activities if they are toget rid of the calories ingested after eating these foods.
The other factor that has been found to be contributing to thecurrent prevalence of obesity in children is television viewing.Research shows that there is a close correlation between televisionviewing and a child’s BMI(Sidik & Ahmad, 2010). Watching television decreasethe amount of time a child spends in physical activities.Additionally, some behaviors associated with television viewingincrease the likelihood of children becoming obese. For example, theconsumption of junk food is common when a child spends many hourswatching television. Besides, when a child spends a substantialamount of his/her time engaging in activities associated withdecreased energy expenditure such as playing video games, he/she islikely to gain unnecessary weight.
Also, some commissions or omissions by mothers predispose theirchildren to obesity. One such behavior is maternal smoking. Researchshows a higher prevalence of obesity in children of women who smokedduring pregnancy. The other factor associated with the widespreadobesity problem in children is the failure by mothers to breastfeedtheir children for at least six months. Research shows that theprevalence of obesity in children who are given bottled milk isalmost 1.6 times higher compared to their counterparts who arebreastfed for about 3 to 5 months(Sidik & Ahmad, 2010). Breast milk contains lowplasma concentration of insulin that discourages fat deposition.Also, the bioactive factors present in breast milk inhibit the earlydevelopment of adipocytes known to encourage weight gain in children(Sidik & Ahmad, 2010).
In conclusion, children obesity is a pervasive health problem notonly in America but across the globe. Just like their adultcounterparts, obese children face several health complications as aresult of their overweight condition. While the majority of peopleattributes being obese entirely to choices on overeating and failingto exercise, studies in children obesity reveal a wide array offactors that increase a child`s chance of gaining more weight than isnecessary. One of these factors is genetics as studies have shownthat identical twins regardless of whether they are raised separatelyor together have almost the same weight. Other factors includechildren spending more time watching television and consuminghigh-calorie foods. Also, some behaviors exhibiting by women exposetheir children to obesity. These behaviors include failure tobreastfeed their children for the first six months and smoking duringpregnancy.
Jou, C.(2014). The biology and genetics of obesity—A century of inquiries.New England Journal of Medicine, 370(20),1874-1877.
Ogden, C. L.,Carroll, M. D., Kit, B. K., & Flegal, K. M. (2014). Prevalence ofchildhood and adult obesity in the United States,2011-2012. Jama, 311(8),806-814.
Sidik, S. M.,& Ahmad, R. (2010). Childhood obesity: contributing factors,consequences, and intervention. MalaysianJournal of Nutrition, 10(1),13-22.
Woo Baidal,J. A., & Taveras, E. M. (2014). Protecting progress againstchildhood obesity—the National School Lunch Program. NewEngland Journal of Medicine, 371(20),1862-1865.