Obesity is one of the main health problems affecting children in the US. “Since the 1970s, the prevalence (or percentage) of obesity has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2-5 years and adolescents aged 12-19 years, and it has more than tripled for children aged 6-11 years” (Focus On Childhood Obesity, 2006). The current results on the health risks of overweight and obesity confirm that measurements of body circumference are important because excess visceral (intra-abdominal) fat is a potential risk for diseases.
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The main cause of childhood obesity is poor dietary management at home and in schools. Many parents do not know the main rules of a healthy diet and special dietary patterns for children. The same problem is found in many schools and colleges. These institutions propose children fat saturated food with high caloricity and cholesterol levels. This food is cheaper than fruits and vegetables, so limited budgets force many schools to replace healthy diets with fat saturated meals. The results of this problem are diseases and childhood obesity since early years. Helping children make permanent, healthy changes to their eating habits is an essential component in the multidisciplinary approach to the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity, thus neither school nor parents are unable to do it. Critics (Schwartz 2003) state that obese children should “blame the kindergarten teachers, the coaches, the friends and physicians who goad fat people into a maze of diets from which they may never return” (510). Negative energy balance can be induced by a reduction in energy consumed, an increase in energy expended, or a combination of both. In theory, reducing fat stores should be simple; eat less and exercise more.
Another cause of childhood obesity is false advertising and fast food promotion campaigns attracting many young consumers and their parents. Fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Wendy’s popularize and promote unhealthy eating patterns which lead to childhood obesity. Most food sold in such restaurants is fat saturated with high caloricity levels. Despite advertising efforts to promote health-conscious menus or a calorie-free diet, hamburgers and fried potatoes are the most “dangerous” products sold by fast food. Critics admit that: “massive portion sizes, and high energy density; palatability; and high content of saturated and trans fats and low fiber content” lead to obesity problems (Fast Food and Obesity, 2004). The main result of this problem is overweight and overeating, diabetes, and coronary diseases. For many children, fast food becomes a distinctive feature of the American lifestyle. The fast-food lifestyle is dangerous because it results in a disbalance of nutrition and causes eating disorders. Also, 60 percent of obese children aged 5 to 10 years had at least one cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor—such as elevated total cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, or blood pressure—and 25 percent had two or more risk CVD risk factors” (Child Obesity-What Can Schools Do 10). All fast food contains high cholesterol levels which is the primary cause of obesity.
Another cause of obesity is lack of physical activity and psychical training at schools. When the growing problem of overweight and obesity is mentioned, the issues that immediately spring to mind for most people will be food intake and overeating. Until the last 5 years, lack of physical activity has received at best secondary attention. Attributions to gluttony rather than sloth appear to be characteristic of not only the general public but also health professionals and policymakers. General practitioners and practice nurses are much more likely to refer overweight and obese children to exercise specialists. The merits of physical activity are presented in terms of its effectiveness in promoting weight loss. Today, children spend the whole day at school but psychical activity and psychical training are often neglected by the school administration. at home. Children spend the whole evening before computers or watching TV.
These problems lead to sedentary lifestyles and overweight. Throughout the last decade, evidence has accumulated to show that physical activity has a key role to play in both normal weight and obese individuals in terms of reduced risk of mortality and several diseases. “Hispanic (25.9%) and non-Hispanic black (24.1%) children were significantly less likely to participate in organized physical activity compared to non-Hispanic white children (46.6%)” (Childhood Overweight. 2005). Active living represents normality and it is perhaps not surprising that years of sedentary habits lead to loss of functional capacity and increased probability of serious health problems. Physical activity has additional health benefits which include reduced risk of colon cancer and improved physical fitness and psychological well-being.
In sum, childhood obesity is a complex problem caused by such factors as parents’ negligence and lack of education about dietary patterns, fats food and false advertising, and lack of psychical activity. Thus, these causes lead to one problem – an increased number of obese children. There are at least two reasons why increased physical activity may be particularly important for the health of overweight and obese children. First, they are more likely to be in the least active sector of the population and are more prone to excessive time spent in sedentary pursuits such as TV watching. Second, they have a higher risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer, problems that physical activity may successfully help protect against.
Child Obesity-What Can Schools Do? 2001, JOPERD–The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 72 (2), 10.
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Childhood Overweight. The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools. 2005. Web.
Fast Food and Obesity—Is There a Connection? 2004. Web.
Focus On Childhood Obesity. Institute of Medicine. 2006. Web .
Schwartz, H. Fat and Happy? In Susan Kunchandy Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. New York: Longman, 2003, 510-516.