Childhood Obesity Continues to Rise
Did you know that for the first time ever, children between the ages of 6 to 13 years old are expected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the past thirty years. The average life expectancy of today’s adults, roughly 77 years, is at least four to nine months shorter than it would be if there was no obesity. That means that obesity is already shortening average life spans by a greater rate than accidents, homicides and suicides combined. Unfortunately these statistics are implying that the likelihood of children dying before their parents is on the rise.
With school approaching, parents need to be aware of the growing epidemic in this country, childhood obesity. As an example, here is a portrayal of a boy we will call Johnny. Johnny is born a healthy child, and is quickly introduced to hours of video games, television and all other electronic devices. Johnny discovers chips, junk food, artificially flavored beverages and quickly becomes addicted. Consuming these foods regularly, he goes to school and sits studying for hours and hours a day. His schedule gets so busy; he now begins to eat fast food on the go. At this point he is considered mildly obese and due to the circumstances, Johnny is too tired to exercise. As a result he gains an extra 10 pounds and is now at the point of moderately obese. Johnny now doesn’t engage in any exercise, therefore gains an additional 20-30 pounds. At this point he is now severely obese and clinically depressed. Over this period of time his energy levels, mood and behavior have changed drastically since the introduction of processed/artificial foods, resulting in diagnosis of ADD, ADHD, and several personality disorders.
Fast forward… as an adult, Johnny now is considered clinically obese, on multiple prescription medications with a series of side effects and is faced with a musculoskeletal disease which prevents him from any exercise. He is at risk for Coronary Artery Disease, Pulmonary Disease, kidney failure, liver damage, severe nutrient deficiencies, Diabetes and several types of Cancers which all result in high medical bills and mortality. What went wrong with Johnny?
Obesity in children and adolescents is on the rise. The CDC states, the percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period. Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. Along with caloric imbalance is the consumption of “empty calories”. Processed foods that are high in sugars and low in nutrients are being consumed at an accelerated rate due to the fact that the body craves what it does not have or is not absorbed. Since these foods contain no true nutritional value, the body is never truly satisfied therefore over eating
has become a huge issue in America.
Healthy eating habits have been promoted in schools and the media and recently a program has been adopted nationwide called “The 5-2-1-0 Program”. The program is simple!
Prior to your child entering school it is important to schedule an annual physical with a pediatrician or family doctor. This appointment must include an evaluation of the child’s growth chart.
The chart is easy to follow:
Normal Healthy weight will fall between the 5th – 85th percentile based on height and weight
Overweight will fall between the 85th percentile – less than 95th percentile
Obese will be equal to or greater than the 95th percentile
If your child is in the overweight or obese category you must think of the story of Johnny. Implement “The 5210 Program” or seek help from a physician specializing in obesity management. The time to prevent long term obesity related disease begins in childhood.
Dr. Manoj Mathew is a doctor of medicine and a registered Pharmacist who is Board certified in Family Medicine and a member of the American Society of Bariatric Medicine. Dr. Mathew specializes in obesity and related diseases at MD Weight Loss Low T in Bradenton. To contact Dr. Mathew, call 941-251-4010.