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Obesity in Teens

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Obesity in teens has increased dramatically over the past 40 years. Just as the incidence of obesity in adults has increased, obesity in teens now affects anywhere between 16 and 33% of teens.

Obesity in teens and children is defined a little differently than in adults. Obesity in teens is defined as having a body mass index equal to or greater than the 95th percentile for other teens of the same age and gender.

Obesity in teens is more likely to occur if they have obese parents. Having an obese parent puts teens at a 50% increased risk for developing obesity themselves.

The effects of obesity in teens can have far reaching and life long results. Once a teen is obese, they have an 80% risk of being an obese adult. They are also at increased risk for depression and low self-esteem. Many obese teens experience social isolation. Also, a recent study from the centers for disease control found that teens that are obese or even extremely obese are not protected from other risky behaviors such as smoking cigarettes, sexual activity, and alcohol use; in fact, they may be at an increased risk for engaging in thse risky behaviors.

Treatment for obesity in teens must involve the entire family system. Concerned parents can work with their child's pediatrician to develop a healthy diet and exercise program. Working with nutritionists and professional althletic trainers may also be helpful.

Although many complex factors may contribute to the development of obesity in teens, the underlying problem is an energy imbalance in which more calories are consumed than the body can burn off. Increasing activity levels and decresaing caloric intake can create a negative energy balance that will support weight loss.

If left unchecked, obesity in teens will lead to obesity in adults. This puts individuals at increased risk for a variety of negative health outcomes that can be prevented by achieving a normal weight.

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