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The latest statistics on childhood obesity point out to the alarming rate with which it has increased in the last few decades. From a rate of 6.5% in 1990s, to around 20% as of 2012, the statistics have shown a three-fold increase. Well, the reasons for this whirlwind growth aren't hard to find. Sedentary lifestyle, ubiquitous fast-food chains, and lack of required support are exactly the factors that have led obesity to be a problem of such enormous proportions. The impact of obesity on physical appearance of a child is much lower than the psychological and health risks associated with it. It puts them to an increased risk of diabetes, high blood-pressure, cardiovascular diseases, among other ailments.

Obesity is numerically defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more than that. The body mass index takes into account the person's height and weight, and is one of the primary indicators of obesity. Obesity is a major cause of various cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancers.

Obesity in Children - A Few Statistics

  • More than 25 million kids in America are obese.
  • Children from low-income families are at increased risk of developing this condition. One out of every seven children from such families is obese.
  • More than 70% of the obese youth are at higher risk of heart diseases.
  • The hospital costs for children which stood at 35 million in the 1980s, have reached to a staggering 127 million today.
  • Type 2 diabetes has reached to the levels of 8-9 %; a two-fold increase from the early 1980s.
  • Obese children are at a higher risk of developing liver diseases, asthma and Sleep Apnea (problems in breathing while sleeping).
  • Children with obesity have a low self-esteem and the chances of developing psychological problems like depression and anxiety are higher.
  • Obese children have lesser concentration levels and get tired easily, which can pose challenges in their education and their participation in other extra-curricular activities.
  • Obese children are subject to a lot of social discrimination and this may cause them to stay away from exercises and social interactions.
  • Most people who complain of arthritis are middle-aged, but obese children are at the risk of developing this disease early on in their lives.
  • Obesity also takes a toll on the financial health of a family as estimates suggest that a family with an obese child spends 30% more in health costs and 77% more in medication costs.

Factors that Contribute to Obesity
  • One of the prime reasons for obesity in children is their eating habits as instead of having healthy fruits and vegetables, children are more inclined to have processed snacks, fried foods, burgers, pizzas etc.
  • Another reason that is contributing to obesity in children is that earlier children used to spend their evenings playing with children of their neighborhood but now they like to spend their time playing video games, watching television and catching up with each other on social networking websites.
  • The lifestyle of Americans has changed to a great extent in the past two decades and it has had a bearing on young children as well. There was a time when children used to bike a few miles to the pool and jog to the local park, but time constraints and safety precautions have limited even these activities.
These were some of the reasons which have led to an increase in the obesity rates in children in America. If you are concerned that your child may be overweight or is heading towards obesity, you can consult a doctor who can assess the eating habits of your child and see if there is a need to make changes to the diet. There are various registered dieticians who can also advise you on a comprehensive weight management program. Awareness is important in the fight against obesity and as a parent, it becomes your responsibility to ensure that your kids are well-informed about this issue.