October 28, 2011
Imagine a generation of U.S citizens that only live to see the age of 46. This is what we have to look forward to if our epidemic of childhood obesity continues. The NAOO reports that 98% of people who are obese in ages 2-19 will not live past the age of 46. Only 2% of those people may live past that age. If the typical American lifestyle does not change, the epidemic of childhood obesity will lead to generations of obese and unhealthy adults. The problem of childhood obesity in the United States is staggering. The NHANES study from 1999 to 2004 showed that 19% of the kids in the U.S. ranging from ages 6-19 are obese. 18 Sept. 2011 (Childhood Obesity Office). That is almost quadruple the amount in 1980. One pediatrician, Gerald Haas, reports statistics that are even higher saying that that approximately 3,200 (40%) of his 8,000 patients are clinically obese. If statistics hold true it is likely that 800 of these kids (25%) will not see their sixteenth birthday. (Juettner 35, 75). Clearly this is a problem that has to be addressed. One of the primary causes of childhood obesity is a poor diet. As many as 75% of the kids and teens in the U.S. consume two or more soft drinks a day. This has caused a 22% increase in sugar calories among teens since 1962, which of course leads to weight gain. (Owens 30). Even more alarming was a study that indicated children ages 2-19 have a diet consisting of nearly 46% fried potatoes. Only about 20 out of 100 kids eat the recommended five or more servings of vegetables each day. (Childhood Obesity Office). Of course fast food restaurants haven’t helped the problem. As lifestyles get busier and more moms work outside the home, families look for quick, easy ways to feed the family. In fact, research shows that nearly one third of the meals eaten by children are from ‘away-from-home’ sources such as fast food and other restaurants. (Childhood Obesity Office).
A second key cause of childhood obesity is the lack of physical exercise by children and teens today. Kids spend more time inside than ever before. The time they could be outside playing and being active is instead spent on cell phones, computers, and watching TV. These are all sedentary activities. On average kids spend around 55 hours per week watching TV, texting, playing on the computer and video games. 27 Oct. 2011 (Shapley). When kids take part in these sedentary activities it slows down their metabolism. This causes less calories and fat to be burned. If kids don’t burn the calories they take in, they gain weight – which can lead to obesity.
In addition to poor eating habits and physical inactivity, a person’s family can often determine if they will or will not be obese. In short, kids with obese parents are more likely to be obese. This is partly because of genetics, but more often it is because of shared eating and exercise habits. If a parent eats high fat, low nutrition foods they are likely to tolerate and even encourage their kids to eat the same way. There are other times where a parent can be overly strict about healthy foods which may cause the child to rebel against the healthy habit. Another common problem is when parents make the child eat everything on their plate instead of teaching them to moderate how much they eat depending on when they feel full or satisfied. According to dietitian Cindy Kramer, family influence on eating habits is the most important, but often the hardest thing to change.
The effects of childhood obesity are severe, especially later in a person’s life. Children that are obese have a 24% higher chance of having Type 2 diabetes. This is very alarming considering in the 1990's Type 2 diabetes was seen in 2% of adults around the age of 48. (Owens 56). Back and joint problems are another issue that people are likely to suffer from at a early age due to childhood obesity. As well as much more serious issues