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The risks of being overweight or obese as a child


How does overweight affect children and what are the risks of childhood obesity?

Children today are constantly bombarded with visual images about what it is to be beautiful and what is an ideal body. Social media, movies, and television give conflicting information about diet, exercise, and body size. In the media world, thin, beautiful women and men eat and drink everything yet remain in perfect form.

Furthermore, children are exposed to more and more information, via the Internet, about different types of diets (e.g. juice cleanses, no carb, no fat, no sugar, all meat, no meat, etc.) that are supposed to deliver a perfect body with sculpted abs and defined arms. The sellers of these products or diets do not share what risks they can have to growing and developing bodies.

All this happens while more and more food is processed, food is advertised as a form of entertainment, and targeted marketing campaigns for high-fat, high-sugar, low-nutrient foods are focused on children at younger and younger ages.

Is it any surprise that childhood obesity is growing throughout the developed world?

Information about what is normal has been lost. Children and teens perceive images of models and actors as being “normal.” However, in many cases these people are below normal measures for body mass and would be classified as under-weight. Similarly, children and teens may measure themselves against their peers to determine if their weight is appropriate. Yet, with more and more children and teens being overweight or obese, this too may lead to inaccurate conclusions.

In both America and Europe, the rates of overweight and obese children are worrisome. The US and Europe are experiencing similar rates (17% in the US and 16-22% in Europe) of children with excess weight. Parents of overweight or obese children may see this problem only as an aesthetic issue that can negatively affect children’s self-esteem and social interactions, which is true. However, there are more pressing dangers of being overweight or obese during childhood and adolescence that are being revealed by international studies.

Current studies from both Europe and the Americas found that diabetes diagnosis are skyrocketing among children and youth aged 0-22 years. From 2011-2015, the number of children with a diabetes diagnosis more than doubled at 109%. Children diagnosed with pre-diabetes (also called insulin resistance) also more than doubled at 110%.

Similarly, cardiovascular (heart) and renal (kidney) diseases are also increasing at alarming rates among children and teens that are overweight and obese. Young children, age 6-9 years, are measured with increases in high blood pressure rates at 103%, middle school children at 63% and high school/college students at 75%. Over time, these health impairments can cause permanent damage to the eyes and extremities (e.g. arms and legs) and shorten life spans.

It is understandable that many parents are unaware that their child is overweight or that being overweight or obese may have negative health consequences. Parents who are unsure if their child is overweight or obese may be interested in reading my blog post titled, “How do I know if my child has a healthy weight?". Parents should always seek the advice of their health care professional to help them better understand their child’s health status.

Titles such as overweight and obese may appear to be cosmetic terms, but in reality they identify potential health concerns. Knowing how extra weight can negatively influence a child’s body can be a wonderful motivator to make changes within the family to correct any excess weight issues. Parents are encouraged to work closely with their health care provider to create plans to modify the diet and exercise habits of overweight and obese children to ensure that growth and development are not negatively affected while weight issues are corrected.

It is never too early to get started and even small reductions in a child’s body mass index (BMI) can have positive effects on their overall health.



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Sunday, 15 December 2019

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Dr. Deanna Marie Mason

Calle Téllez, 26, 28007 Madrid
T. +34 912 192 862

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