Childhood obesity is a big problem in the United States. According to the Mayo Clinic, childhood obesity is a serious medical condition affecting children and adolescents. It occurs when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. According to the CDC, the percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.
Childhood obesity has immediate and long-term effects on health and well-being. Obese or overweight children are at a high risk of becoming overweight adolescents and adults. These children are at risk of developing medical problems which include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Early heart disease
- Bone and joint problems
- Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea and asthma.
- Skin problems such as acne.
Overweight or obese children are also more prone than others to develop low self-esteem, depression, sadness and stress.
The most common causes for children becoming overweight and obese include lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, genetic factors, or a combination of them all. Other factors include psychological and socioeconomic ones.
Professionals at the Mayo Clinic have said one of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the diet and exercise habits of your entire family.
If you are worried your child is putting on too much weight, talk to your child’s doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, your child's doctor will consider your child's history of growth and development, your family's weight-for-height history and where your child lands on the growth charts. This can help determine if your child's weight is in an unhealthy range.