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ARTICLE Childhood Obesity

Childhood Obesity

Since 1980 the rate of childhood obesity amongst children ages 2-19 has more than doubled. According to the 2007 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, African American students grades 9-12 have a higher rate of obesity and being overweight than any other racial group.


How is childhood obesity defined?

Childhood obesity occurs when a child is well above the average weight for their age and height.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is used on children to determine if they are overweight or obese. The BMI is a tool that measures a child's body fat by taking into consideration the child's height and weight.

The CDC has indicated that the following formula may be used to calculate a child's BMI:

Formula: weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703

Calculate BMI by dividing weight in pounds (lbs) by height in inches (in) squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703.

Example: Weight = 150 lbs, Height = 5'5" (65")

Calculation: [150 (65)2] x 703 = 24.96

Once the BMI is calculated it is plotted on the CDC BMI-for-age growth chart to find which percentile the child is in. A child's percentile is an indication of one child's BMI in relation to other children of the same sex and age within the United States.

Use the following charts to calculate your child's BMI percentile:

Using the following table provided by the CDC, you can determine what your child's percentile indicates about their weight.

Weight Status Category Percentile Range
Underweight Less than the 5th percentile
Healthy weight 5th percentile to less than the 85th percentile
Overweight 85th to less than the 95th percentile
Obese Equal to or greater than the 95th percentile





What are some of its causes?

The main cause of childhood obesity is an unhealthy diet high in sugars, calories, and fat combined with a lack of physical activity. There are a few genetic diseases or hormonal disorders that may result in childhood obesity, but they are very rare.


What health risks are associated with childhood obesity?

The Mayo Clinic has listed the following physical health issues as possible complications of childhood obesity and these include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma and other respiratory problems
  • Sleep disorders
  • Liver disease
  • Early puberty or menarche
  • Eating disorders
  • Skin infections

Obese children may also suffer from emotional and psychological issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.


How can it be prevented?

Help your children develop healthy eating habits early on:

  • Ensure they're eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain
  • Provide them with low-fat or non-fat dairy products
  • Avoid feeding them too much red meat; give them lean meats, poultry, fish, etc. instead
  • Watch the size of their portions, don't let them eat too much
  • Get them in the habit of drinking plenty of water
  • Keep any eye on the sugar content within the juices and sodas you give them
  • Control how much high sugar and high fat foods they eat

Make sure your children are active. This can be done by either encouraging them to run around and play outside while they're home or by enrolling them in various activities like sports, dance, or camps. You may also want to limit the amount of time your children spend doing inactive activities like watching television, playing video games, or spending time on the internet.


What should I do if my child is obese (or has been diagnosed as obese)?

The most common solutions to treating your child's obesity are changing their diet and increasing their level of physical activity. Only in extreme cases may your child need to assistance of medication or weight loss surgery. You should speak with your child's to determine the best way to help your child achieve a healthy weight. It is also important that you set a positive example for your child by eating well and being active with them.


How much daily physical activity should my child have?

Your child should be getting 60 minutes or more of physical activity a day. Most of this activity should comprise of aerobic activity. Such activities may include running, cycling, or swimming. In addition to aerobic activity, your child does need muscle strengthening and bone strengthening activities too. Muscle strengthening may include activities such as sit-ups, push-ups, or gymnastics. Bone strengthening may come from activities such as jumping rope or running. Both muscle and bone strengthening should be worked into the child's physical activity at least three times a week.