Obesity means having too much body fat. It is different from being overweight, which means weighing too much. Both terms mean that a person’s weight is greater than what is considered healthy for his or her height. Children grow at different rates, so it isn’t always easy to know when a child is obese or overweight.
Why is childhood obesity considered a health problem?
Doctors and scientists are concerned about the rise of obesity in children and youth because obesity may lead to the following health problems:
Heart disease, caused by:
high cholesterol and/or
high blood pressure
Type 2 diabetes
Childhood obesity is associated with various health-related consequences. Obese children and adolescents may experience immediate health consequences and may be at risk for weight-related health problems in adulthood.
Some consequences of childhood and adolescent overweight are psychosocial. Obese children and adolescents are targets of early and systematic social discrimination.2 The psychological stress of social stigmatization can cause low self-esteem which, in turn, can hinder academic and social functioning, and persist into adulthood.3
Cardiovascular Disease Risks
Obese children and teens have been found to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), including high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and abnormal glucose tolerance. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, almost 60% of overweight children had at least one CVD risk factor while 25 percent of overweight children had two or more CVD risk factors.2
Additional Health Risks
Less common health conditions associated with increased weight include asthma, hepatic steatosis, sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes.
Asthma is a disease of the lungs in which the airways become blocked or narrowed causing breathing difficulty. Studies have identified an association between childhood overweight and asthma.4, 5
Hepatic steatosis is the fatty degeneration of the liver caused by a high concentration of liver enzymes. Weight reduction causes liver enzymes to normalize.2
Sleep apnea is a less common complication of overweight for children and adolescents. Sleep apnea is a sleep-associated breathing disorder defined as the cessation of breathing during sleep that lasts for at least 10 seconds. Sleep apnea is characterized by loud snoring and labored breathing. During sleep apnea, oxygen levels in the blood can fall dramatically. One study estimated that sleep apnea occurs in about 7% of overweight children.6
Type 2 diabetes is increasingly being reported among children and adolescents who are overweight.7 While diabetes and glucose intolerance, a precursor of diabetes, are common health effects of adult obesity, only in recent years has Type 2 diabetes begun to emerge as a health-related problem among children and adolescents. Onset of diabetes in children and adolescents can result in advanced complications such as CVD and kidney failure.8
1 Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Curtin LR, McDowell MA, Tabak CJ, Flegal KM. Prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States, 1999-2004. JAMA 2006;295(13):1549–1555.
2 Dietz W. Health consequences of obesity in youth: Childhood predictors of adult disease.Pediatrics 1998;101:518–525.
3 Swartz MB and Puhl R. Childhood obesity: a societal problem to solve. Obesity Reviews 2003; 4(1):57–71.
4 Rodriguez MA, Winkleby MA, Ahn D, Sundquist J, Kraemer HC. Identification of populations subgroups of children and adolescents with high asthma prevalence: findings from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2002;156:269–275.
5 Luder E, Melnik TA, Dimaio M. Association of being overweight with greater asthma symptoms in inner city black and Hispanic children. J Pediatr 1998;132:699–703.
6 Mallory GB, Fiser DH, Jackson R. Sleep-associated breathing disorders in morbidly obese children and adolescents. J Pediatr 1989;115:892–897.
7 Fagot-Campagna A, Narayan KMV, Imperatore G. Type 2 diabetes in children: exemplifies the growing problem of chronic diseases [Editorial]. BMJ 2001;322:377–378.
8 Must A, Anderson SE. Effects of obesity on morbidity in children and adolescents. Nutr Clin Care2003;6:1;4–11.
Well these are the facts on Childhood obesity,but how do we treat them,Management by Prevention is one of the best cure for childhood obesity and subsequent development of Adult obesity.