Healthy Children - December 2012


Tackling Childhood Obesity

Obesity is now epidemic in the Unites States. Since 1974, the number of children, aged 6-11 years, who are obese, has increase from 4% to 16%. Add to this number 30% of children in this age range who are considered overweight, and almost ½ of young children are either overweight or obese. Childhood obesity results from an interaction of such factors as: family influences, not enough exercise and heredity.

Obesity is easier to prevent than to treat. It all starts with education to promote proper nutrition in early childhood. This should include a selection of low fat snacks, good exercise and monitoring television viewing.

Health Concerns

  • Obese children have shown an alarming increase in Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes.
  • Many obese children may have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis which are risk factors for heart disease. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of cholesterol, fatty deposits, and other substances on the inner lining of artery walls, which can narrow the arteries, preventing sufficient blood flow to the heart. There is evidence that this buildup begins in childhood, and studies have shown that it can slowly progress into coronary disease in adulthood.
  • Some obese children may suffer from sleep apnea, which can lead to problems with learning and memory.
  • Obese children have high incidence of orthopedic problems. In young children, excess weight can lead to bowing and overgrowth of leg bones.
  • Obese children are often teased which can result in low self-esteem and even depression.


What to do?

  • Be good role models. If adults make healthier food choices and choose to be active rather than sedentary, then their children will most likely do the same.
  • Set guidelines for tv and video time.
  • Plan activities that involve movement.
  • Be supportive. Children need acceptance and encouragement.
  • Eat meals together at the table, not in front of the television.
  • Don’t use food as reward or punishment.
  • Don’t place overweight children on a restrictive diet. The goal is not to lose weight but to help them grow into their diet.