Are you looking for childhood obesity facts and information about obesity? This guide explores 9 obesity facts to dispel some of the myths that circulate around this sensitive topic.
Fact 1: What Is Childhood Obesity?
What is obesity and what does childhood obesity look like? It’s important to note that not all children who look like they’re carrying extra pounds are necessarily overweight or obese. Other factors, such as their body frame and stage of development (such as puberty) play a role. Children who experience childhood obesity are medically above the normal weight for their age and height, according to the body mass index (BMI). Your child’s doctor can use growth charts, BMI and other medical tests to help pinpoint whether your child’s weight presents a health risk.
Fact 2: Causes of Childhood Obesity
While lifestyle issues such as exercise and diet are major causes of childhood obesity, scientific research shows that genetic and hormonal factors play a significant role as well. Digestive hormones, such as leptin and insulin, as well as oestrogens, androgens and growth hormones from puberty and development, can influence a child’s appetite, metabolism and body fat distribution. In particular, changes in digestive hormones, such as leptin and ghrelin, can influence how hungry a child feels. Children who are obese have hormone levels that encourage body fat to accumulate, so understanding these hormone levels and encouraging a healthy lifestyle are both important parts of treating the obesity.
Fact 3: Prevention of Obesity
The most effective strategy for the prevention of obesity is to improve your entire family’s eating and exercise habits. Here’s how to encourage healthy habits:
- Provide plenty of fruits and vegetables with each meal
- Adjust portion sizes appropriately for age
- Limit eating out, especially at fast food restaurants
- When you eat out, teach your child how to make healthier choices
- Limit your child’s consumption of sugary beverages and foods
- Limit TV and ‘screen time’ to less than 2 hours a day
- Do not allow television or screens for children younger than 2 years old
- Ensure your child gets enough sleep (about 12 hours of sleep for toddlers, 10-12 hours for children aged three to six, 10-11 hours for seven-12 years olds, and 8-9 hours for teenagers)
- Get regular checkups with your GP (at least once a year) to measure your child’s wellbeing and BMI
Fact 4: Childhood Obesity Statistics
According to childhood obesity statistics outlined in the National Health Survey, almost one quarter (24.9%) of Australian children aged between 5-17 years old were overweight or obese in 2017-18 (17% overweight and 8.1% obese). Many obese children become obese adults, especially if one or both parents are obese. About a third (26 to 41%) of obese preschool children continue to be obese as adults, and about half (42 to 63%) of obese schoolage children are obese as adults.
Fact 5: Impact Of Childhood Obesity On Long-Term Health
Childhood obesity can contribute to various health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Fact 6: Mental Health
Childhood obesity often contributes to feelings of poor self-esteem and depression in children and teens.
Fact 7: Risk Factors
There are many factors that combine to increase your child’s risk of becoming overweight:
- An unhealthy diet: A diet that consists mostly of high-calorie, unhealthy foods such as fast food, baked goods, sugary snacks or sugar-filled drinks can trigger weight gain.
- Lack of exercise: Low levels of physical activity, including sedentary activities such as watching TV or playing video games, can contribute to weight gain.
- Family factors: If your family is overweight, your child may be more likely to be overweight themselves. This is especially the case if physical activity isn’t encouraged and unhealthy, high-calorie foods are easily available.
- Psychological factors: Stressful emotions, such as anxiety or boredom, can cause children to overeat. This pattern is often more likely if their parents have similar habits.
- Socioeconomic factors: Some people have limited financial resources that restrict them from purchasing healthy foods. Instead, they might purchase, habitually or out of necessity, convenience foods that offer little nutrition, such as frozen meals.
Fact 8: Physical Complications
Childhood obesity and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a variety of physical complications:
- Type 2 diabetes: Diabetes is a chronic condition that impacts the way your child’s body uses glucose or sugar.
- Metabolic syndrome: Metabolic conditions, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and excess abdominal fat can place a child at higher risk of heart disease and other long-term, chronic health problems.
- High cholesterol and high blood pressure: A poor diet can cause your child to develop high cholesterol or high blood pressure. These factors can contribute to atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in your arteries. This condition causes the arteries to harden and become narrow, possibly triggering a heart attack or stroke later in life.
- Asthma: Overweight or obese children are more likely to experience asthma.
- Sleep disorders: Childhood obesity can contribute to obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: This disorder, which causes fatty deposits to build up in the liver, can lead to scarring and liver damage.
- Bone fractures: Obese children have an increased risk of broken bones, compared to other children.
Fact 9: Social and Emotional Complications
Because children often tease or bully their overweight peers, children suffering from childhood obesity may experience a loss of self-esteem and an increased risk of depression. Overweight children also tend to have more anxiety or experience overwhelming feelings of hopelessness.
For more advice on childhood obesity, or to find out whether your child is at risk, book an appointment with a GP at our state of the art clinics today or contact us on (07) 3711 2880.