Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. Children who are obese are above the normal weight for their age and height.
Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once considered adult problems — diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Many obese children become obese adults, especially if one or both parents are obese. Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression.
One of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the eating and exercise habits of your entire family. Treating and preventing childhood obesity helps protect your child’s health now and in the future.
Lifestyle issues — too little activity and too many calories from food and drinks — are the main contributors to childhood obesity. But genetic and hormonal factors might play a role as well. For example, recent research has found that changes in digestive hormones can affect the signals that let you know you’re full.
Many factors — usually working in combination — increase your child’s risk of becoming overweight:
- Diet. Regularly eating high-calorie foods, such as fast foods, baked goods and vending machine snacks, can cause your child to gain weight. Candy and desserts also can cause weight gain, and more and more evidence points to sugary drinks, including fruit juices, as culprits in obesity in some people.
- Lack of exercise. Children who don’t exercise much are more likely to gain weight because they don’t burn as many calories. Too much time spent in sedentary activities, such as watching television or playing video games, also contributes to the problem.
- Family factors. If your child comes from a family of overweight people, he or she may be more likely to put on weight. This is especially true in an environment where high-calorie foods are always available and physical activity isn’t encouraged.
- Psychological factors. Personal, parental and family stress can increase a child’s risk of obesity. Some children overeat to cope with problems or to deal with emotions, such as stress, or to fight boredom. Their parents might have similar tendencies.
- Socioeconomic factors. People in some communities have limited resources and limited access to supermarkets. As a result, they might buy convenience foods that don’t spoil quickly, such as frozen meals, crackers and cookies. Also, people who live in lower income neighborhoods might not have access to a safe place to exercise.
Childhood obesity can have complications for your child’s physical, social and emotional well-being.
- Type 2 diabetes. This chronic condition affects the way your child’s body uses sugar (glucose). Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Metabolic syndrome. This cluster of conditions can put your child at risk of heart disease, diabetes or other health problems. Conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol and excess abdominal fat.
- High cholesterol and high blood pressure. A poor diet can cause your child to develop one or both of these conditions. These factors can contribute to the buildup of plaques in the arteries, which can cause arteries to narrow and harden, possibly leading to a heart attack or stroke later in life.
- Asthma. Children who are overweight or obese might be more likely to have asthma.
- Sleep disorders. Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder in which a child’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This disorder, which usually causes no symptoms, causes fatty deposits to build up in the liver. NAFLD can lead to scarring and liver damage.
- Bone fractures. Obese children are more likely to break bones than are children of normal weight.
Meet The Doctor
Dr. Dan Cardellichio DC, MS, holds a Master of Science Degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport . As an expert in Clinical Nutrition and Functional Medicine., he is, an Adjunct Professor at the University of Bridgeport – Nutrition Institute – where he teaches to advise the next generation of Clinical Nutritionists.
Diabetes, heart health, thyroid disorders, and autoimmune diseases are but a few conditions that functional nutrition plays a vital role. He is a Leader and Educator in the field of Metabolic Nutrition and Functional Biochemistry.
In addition he has extensive experience in treating herniated discs, sprain/strain injuries, complex pain syndromes, and cases involving motor vehicle accidents. Dr. Cardellichio provides a multidisciplinary approach to non-surgical neuro-muscular-skeletal conditions.