On May 19th, we celebrate Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution Day”! We’d like to bring awareness to the topic of childhood obesity. About one in three children and teens in the United States is overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. Childhood obesity is the cause of many health problems never previously seen until adulthood. This includes high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol levels. In addition, obese children are also more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression.
Here are some of the risk factors associated with increasing risk for childhood obesity:
Diet: Frequent consumption of high-caloric fast foods, baked goods, soda, candy, chips, and vending machine snacks contribute to weight gain. Snacking more often is also an issue, making up almost 27% of their daily caloric intake.
Lack of physical activity: Sedentary lifestyle – spending hours sitting behind computers, watching TV, playing video games means fewer calories burned and more likelihood of weight gain.
Psychological factors: We know adults use food as a coping mechanism and children are no different. This is especially true when faced with negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, or even boredom.
Environment: Stocking your fridge with healthy snacks (like cut-up veggies and hummus and fruits) is a much better idea than having candy and chips laying around the house. Kids will go for the healthier choices when provided.
Socio-economic issues: Studies have shown that children from low-income backgrounds are at increased risk for childhood obesity because their parents may not have the time and resources to buy and prepare healthier foods. We all know fast foods are less expensive and more readily available in low-income areas. Fresh foods are harder to find.
Sleep: Researchers have found that kids who sleep less than approximately 13 hours daily are more likely to be obese by age 7. This is due to appetite-regulating hormones, which can cause children to eat more.
Medical conditions: Less common are specific genetic diseases and hormonal disorders, like hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid function) or Cushing’s disorder (a disorder where your adrenal glands produce too much of the hormone cortisol).
Genetics: The truth is if your child was born into a family of overweight people, there is a genetic predisposition to obesity.