Causes of Childhood Obesity Childhood Obesity has become a growing problem with children today. Obesity now affects 17% of all children in the United States-triple the rate from just one generation ago (CDC). There are multiple reasons that more and more children are becoming obese. The decrease in physical activity, along with increased amounts of television, computers, and video games is one. Higher calorie and sugar intake is another reason for the rising numbers. Childhood obesity is a major concern for the next generation.
If the public is not educated on the dangers of childhood obesity it will continue to increase and endanger the lives and future of the children of the tomorrow. Why is the obesity increasing in today’s youth? More families have both caretakers working outside the house now than in the past years. Which means that children are more likely to get driven to school rather then walk or ride their bikes and after school it either leaves children home by themselves, or at after school programs.
One third of children are not getting the recommended levels of moderate or vigorous activity, 10 percent are completely inactive (IOM).
Children of today are spending more and more time sitting inside not doing anything physical compared to a few generations ago. They are also taking in too many calories due to the larger portion sizes, and high sugar intake. In the last, few years schools are trying to or already have succeeded in decreasing the amount of recess or play time the children have during the day, along with cutting after school sports and activities (HHS).
Only about one-third of elementary children have daily physical education, and less than one-fifth have extracurricular physical activity programs at their school (YRBSS).
Forty years ago, kids had playing fields to play on, parks to run around, there was no problem with traffic so they used to go out on the street to play, but that was the past (Fiona MacRae). Today, kids come home because they do not have, or cannot get to a park, or recreation center, and it is not as safe to play outside as it was years ago so there is no physical activity. Without regular daily cardio exercise, studies have shown that children are putting themselves at risk for more heath related problems, which can lead to shorter lifespans.
The way children eat today is much different from even one generation ago. Children are taking in more calories, sugars and eating more foods that are less healthy. Since parents are working when children come home after school, there is no one to monitor what or how much they are eating. Families are also not eating as healthy as they were in the past. Children are eating dinners that are microwaved, or come out of a box; they are eating “Supersized” fast food meals that have little no nutritional values. School lunch programs are also to blame for the rise in the numbers of overweight children.
Research has demonstrated that buying lunch at school significantly increases the risk of becoming overweight. The pervasiveness of school a la carte and vending programs that sell foods and beverages that are high in calories and low in nutrients is well-documented. However, the food provided is constrained by budgetary and regulatory issues largely external to public health concerns. US Department of Agriculture guidelines require school food programs to provide minimum quantities of specific nutrients over a 3- to 7-day span but do not address maximum food amounts (Wilkinson).
Television is playing a big part on how and what are children are eating. They see commercials for drinks that sound and taste good, but the reality is that are loaded with sugars and High consumption of sugar drinks, which have few, if any, nutrients, has been associated with obesity (Vartanian). Thirty years ago, a bottle of Coke was 10 ounces. Today, a kid can get a 64-ounce Big Gulp and when inflation is taken into account, it is cheaper. “Economically, we really encourage people to over consume,” Stang says.
She compares portion sizes in 1957 and today: hamburger patties have gone from one ounce to six; muffins have gone from 1 1/ 2 ounces to half a pound; and movie popcorn has ballooned from three cups to 16 (Cross). Academically, childhood obesity affects how children preform in school. When compared with children who were never obese, boys and girls whose obesity persisted from the start of kindergarten through fifth grade performed worse on the math test, starting in first grade, and their lower performance continued through fifth grade.
For boys whose obesity emerged later (in third or fifth grade), no such differences were found, and for girls who became obese later, poorer math performance was temporary. In addition, for girls who were persistently obese, having fewer social skills explained some part of their poorer math performance. In addition, for both boys and girls who were persistently obese, feeling sadder, lonelier, and more anxious also explained some of their poorer math performance (. Childhood obesity can lead to serious short and long-term health conditions, physical and psychological illness as well as a lower quality of life.
Obese children are more likely to have respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, as well as ear nose and throat conditions. As obese children get older, they have a greater chance of becoming obese adults, which leads to heart disease, stroke, and several types of cancer (Deckelbaum). The immediate consequence of being overweight as perceived by children themselves is social discrimination and low self-esteem. In a recent, study by Schwimmer, et. al. 2003), obese children rated their quality of life with scores as low as those of young cancer patients on chemotherapy. In the study, 106 children aged 5 to 18 filled out a questionnaire used by pediatricians to evaluate quality of life issues. Children were asked to rate things like their ability to walk more than one block, play sports, sleep well, get along with others, and keep up in school. The results indicated that that teasing at school, difficulties playing sports, fatigue, sleep apnea and other obesity-linked problems severely affected obese children’s well-being.