Childhood Obesity and Nutrition

obese child being examined by a doctor
Photo by  lenabessonova @ Freepik.com

I am just going to be blunt and say what is on my mind – childhood obesity is a huge problem in western society, and it is getting worse and worse each year. As a society we do not like to deny our children. However, by not denying them today, we are setting them up for health problems in the future. Some of our children already suffer from type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome to name a few things that are a direct result of poor nutrition. Allowing your child to eat as much junk food and treats as their young hearts desire is not an act of love on your part. What it is, is a form of neglect at best and a form of abuse at the other end of the spectrum.

 Type 2 diabetes is on the rise among children and teens, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

What causes type 2 diabetes in children?

Type 2 diabetes has been historically known as “adult-onset diabetes” because it typically begins in middle age. type 2 diabetes is a disease caused by insulin resistance, which develops when the body can’t use insulin properly and blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Elevated blood sugar that does not rise to the level of diabetes is known as prediabetes, and is a risk factor for the later development of type 2 diabetes. (1)

Insulin resistance usually starts during puberty. Typically the range is 10–19 years of age. The body becomes less sensitive to insulin during this time of metabolic change, but the reasons why are not well understood, according to research published July 2016 in Current Diabetes Reports. (1)

A child wouldn’t be screened for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes until age 10 or the start of puberty (whichever comes first), according to American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines. But the CDC describes risk factors that may set a child on a path to those conditions years before that, including:

Obesity is among the modifiable risk factors. Between 1971 and 2000 the rate of obesity more than tripled in youth ages 6 to 11 and more than doubled in those ages 12 to 19, from 4 to 15.3 percent for both age ranges, according to the National Academy of Sciences. The CDC reports that obesity in youth ages 2 to 19 stood at 18.5 percent in 2016, affecting about 13.7 million children and adolescents. Hispanic (25.8 percent) and non-Hispanic Black children (22 percent) had higher obesity rates than non-Hispanic white children (14.1 percent). (1)

We can acknowledge there are some conditions beyond our control as parents. but most of them can be prevented through proper nutrition of our children. Excess weight, sedentary lifestyles are your fault as a parent. You make decisions regarding your child’s nutrition, and how active or inactive they might be. When you sit your child down with junk foods in front of a television instead of taking them outside to play, their poor health is on you and you alone.

Parents, you are your child’s ultimate gatekeeper!

Do not even try to push the blame for your child’s obesity related health conditions onto someone else, you are the gatekeeper to their nutrition. You are the one who buys and cooks the food your children eat. What you buy, how you cook and the foods that you eat or refuse to eat all send strong messages about food to your child. To prevent childhood obesity, you should be the prime source of your child’s nutritional education instead of relying on others to do your job for you.

If you want your child to not become obese, and to live a healthy life, you can always get them involved in the kitchen by teaching them how to cook nutritious meals. When you feed them junk foods on a regular basis, you are neglecting your child’s health. Instead of feeding them from the local drive through, you could spend an equal amount of time in the kitchen with them, and you might find that you enjoy their help as they become more skilled in cooking.

Television, the internet and other media are brainwashing your children!

Before your children have even learned to read and write, they have already been influenced by a mind-boggling array of unhealthy messages regarding food and drink. They are barraged by advertisements for foods of little to no nutritional value being consumed by the beautiful people of the media world. It is up to you to counter these unhealthy messages.

Food and beverages are the most advertised products on television programming aimed at kids. Unfortunately, many parents also fall into this trap as well. Most of the products being pushed on television are high in fat and/or sugar and are of low to no nutritional value at all. Many of these advertisements are deceptive in their nature. We find that cereals and non-juice beverages are flavored as being fruity, and they may even show pictures of real fruits. However, many, if not most of these products contain no fruit or juice, and instead rely on artificial flavors and colors from their fruitiness. As a parent, it is up to you to read nutrition and ingredient labels to prevent childhood obesity in your family.

Kids who watch the most television are known to have higher intakes of calories, fat, fried snacks, sweets, and soft drinks. They are also know to consume fewer fruits and vegetables as well.

What your children need to know.

As parents, it is up to us to provide our children not only with well balanced nutrition, but we also need to be educating them about balanced nutrition and how it affects their young bodies. When we educate our children about nutrition, we enlighten and empower them so they will grow to be adults who can make informed food choices and avoid the lure of food fads and other hype.

  • Emphasize food as it relates to life today, If you can reach them with good nutrition messages today, their tomorrows will likely be healthier too. Your child needs to know that eating nutritious foods promote achievement. Children who eat well perform better and achieve higher levels of mastery. A nutritious diet fuels the body for learning, growth, sports and play.
  • According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults and children over the age of two are advised to aim for fitness through regular physical activity and moderate eating. Diets should be be balanced with an emphasis on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low fat dairy foods. Nowhere in that list of foods did you see fast foods and junk foods. These simple nutritional fulfillments can lead to diligence to form into lifetime habits.
  • Teach your children the importance of properly refueling their young bodies. Kids have tremendous energy needs and require frequent meals and snacks of nutritional value, not cookies and cake.
  • Young bodies need to move! Nutrition studies have shown that the current epidemic of childhood obesity is a result of both inactivity and overeating. An intricate balance exists between food and physical activity. A nutrition unit will be decidedly lacking if it fails to present the exercise part of the equation. Children who are allowed to be active outside instead of cooped up in front of televisions with a snack in the hands have fewer behavioral problems. Behavior problems are often the result of an empty stomach or a little body that is malnourished by the poor food choices their parents have given them.

It is well know that obesity has become of the number one health threat to Americans. Childhood obesity has increased dramatically during the past generation, with significant increases in prevalence rates over the last decade. Obesity has clear connections to mental health. Obesity rates are higher among children with behavior problems, depression, and who live in chronic stress related to poverty and under-stimulating environments. Moreover, there is strong evidence for continuity when factors contributing to obesity provide maintenance structures. For example, obese adolescents are fifteen times more likely to be obese as adults than are adolescents who are not obese. The significance of the problem is very clear when we know that fifteen percent of all children in the United States are obese. (2)

Parents, we owe our children better than this.

 

(1) Every Day Health

(2) Obesity in Childhood and Adolescence, Understanding Development and Prevention,                                                         Hiram E. Fitsgerald and Vasiliky Mousouli

4 Comments Add yours

  1. You are so right, David! It’s a huge issue which is not being addressed.

    1. David Yochim says:

      Sadly it is getting worse each passing year.

      1. It is, and I am concerned about my grandson whose mother keeps feeding him junk food while screaming “diet.” He does not crave junk food and enjoys my healthy food when at my table, but I can’t control home life, unfortunately.

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