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Children and Obesity

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Obesity among children has grown substantially over the past few years. It is estimated that between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents in the US are obese.

Obese children are at risk of becoming overweight adults, increasing the probability that they will suffer from weight related illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Studies indicate that a child who is obese between the ages of 10 and 13 stands an 80 percent chance of becoming an obese adult.

What is considered obese?

Children are considered to be obese when their weight is at least 20 percent higher than normal for their particular height and body type. A body fat percentage above 25 percent in boys or above 32 percent in girls is another means to identify obese children.

Obesity usually occurs in childhood between the ages of 5 and 6, or during adolescence. It is normal for children to experience periods of rapid growth, and for their food energy needs to vary during these times. However, a general tendency to gain weight is an indication that more calories are being taken in than the child is able to burn off. Certain medical conditions can also cause obesity in children.

Consequences of obesity

Obese children and adolescents often suffer from poor self-esteem, and are at an increased risk of developing social and emotional problems. Overweight teens often struggle with interpersonal skills at an age when peer relationships are very important.

Children and adolescents who are struggling with weight issues should receive a thorough medical examination by a physician in order to rule out a physical cause for obesity. Young children require healthy, low fat snacks and plenty of physical activity. Older children and adolescents should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle, including exercise and balanced, nutritious meals.

Health care professionals warn against placing an obese child on a strict diet in order to lose weight. Instead, the focus is on allowing the child to grow into his or her body weight over a period of time, while promoting healthy eating patterns and participation in vigorous activity every day.

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