The issue of childhood obesity is so severe in America, that in 2009, the US government declared it as a national epidemic. Since then, there have been some preventive measures that have been taken to control this epidemic.

The latest statistics on childhood obesity point out the alarming rate with which it has increased in the last few decades. From a rate of 6.5% in 1990s, to 18.5% as of 2017, the statistics have shown an approximately threefold increase. Well, the reasons for this whirlwind growth aren't hard to find.

Sedentary lifestyle, ubiquitous fast-food chains, and lack of required social 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 and cancers, among several other ailments.
BMI (Body Mass Index)
A child's BMI (Body Mass Index) is an important tool used to determine if the child is overweight, underweight, or at a healthy weight. A BMI of 18.5 to 25 is considered normal. Obesity is numerically defined as a BMI of 30 or more than that for adults. However, in children, obese is categorized as having a BMI greater than or equal to the 95th percentile. So a 10 year old boy having a BMI of 23 will be considered obese.
BMI for Children
In children, underweight is categorized as having a BMI less than the 5th percentile. Normal weight is categorized as having a BMI between the 5th percentile and the 85th percentile. Overweight is categorized as having a BMI between the 85th percentile and 95th percentile. Obese children have a BMI greater than or equal to the 95th percentile.
BMI Calculation
The BMI (Body Mass Index) takes into account the child's height and weight, and is one of the primary indicators of obesity.

The standard formula to calculate a child's BMI is-
BMI = {[weight (pounds)] / [height (inches)]2} x 703.
OR
BMI = {[weight (kilograms)] / [height (meters)]2}
Obesity in Children - A Few Statistics
• Today, 1 among 5 kids is obese.
• Child obesity is most prominent among the age group 12 to 19 and hence it can be stated that the risk of obesity increases with age, even among children.
• More than 70% of the obese youth are at higher risk of heart diseases.
• Obese children are at a higher risk of developing liver diseases, asthma and sleep apnea (problems in breathing while asleep).
• 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 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 in Children
• Genetic disorders like POMC (pro-opimelanocortin) deficiency and LEPR (leptin receptor) deficiency are becoming more and more common nowadays.
• Due to changing environment and lifestyles, genetic mutations are causing fluctuations in hormones responsible for appetite, weight and the overall metabolism of the body.
• One of the prime reasons for obesity in children is their eating habits. Instead of eating healthy fruits and vegetables, children are more inclined towards having processed foods.
• Another reason that is contributing to obesity in children is their dependence on technology, especially for entertainment which causes lack of physical activities, due to no participation in outdoor games.
These were some of the reasons which have led to an increase in the obesity rates of children in America.
Precautions to Avoid Child Obesity
• If you are concerned about your child being overweight or heading towards obesity, you should consult a doctor to assess the eating habits of your child and see if there is a need to make any changes to their diet.
• There are various registered dietitians who can also advise you on a comprehensive weight management program.
• Having a balanced diet, rich in protein and fiber helps greatly in controlling obesity. Cutting down on the intake of sugar and carbohydrates is also effective.
• Regular exercise is extremely crucial for physical fitness. Exercises like swimming are extremely effective as they burn twice the amount of calories burnt by running for the same amount of time. Moreover, such activities are suitable for people of all ages.
• Obesity is also caused due to over eating, to which stress is a contributing factor. It cannot be denied that the lives of children have also become quite stressful these days. Having a peaceful mind will help greatly. Meditation and yoga are extremely effective and convenient tool to achieve this.
• 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 the importance of staying fit and fine.
Rahul Pandita
Last Updated: December 29, 2017