There are thousand of news stories about obesity in this country reaching epidemic levels.
What actually constitutes an epidemic? According to the Merriam- Webster dictionary an epidemic is something a) affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time. b) excessively prevalent. c) characterized by widespread growth.
If you take a look around it won’t be long before you will see exactly what is meant by an obesity epidemic. Adults are one thing – barring a medical condition, they choose to be obese. Children are another thing altogether. Again, with the exception of children with a medical condition, if kids are overweight, obese or morbidly obese – it’s because they are given a lot of the wrong kinds of food to eat and allowed to sit for hours in front of a TV or computer. Kids aren’t responsible for putting food on the table- adults are. They may not pay for the food, but they are paying a price.
Researchers in the Netherlands have found that two out of three severely obese children already have at least one risk factor for heart disease. These are kids between the ages 2 to 18. That means toddlers through teens are already developing what was once considered an older adult disease.
The Dutch study authors assessed heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, diabetes and cholesterol in 500 cases of severely obese children, aged 2 to 18 years.
The authors found that younger boys were more often severely obese compared to older boys, while they found the reverse for girls, according to the study published online July 23 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Overall, two-thirds (67 percent) of the children had at least one risk factor for heart disease. When it came to specific risk factors, 56 percent of the children had high blood pressure, 54 percent had high levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, 14 percent had high blood sugar and just under 1 percent had type 2 diabetes.
In the U.S. there are signs of early heart-disease development among overweight young people. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, just as in the Netherlands, roughly two-thirds of obese U.S. teens have at least one cardiovascular risk factor. More alarmingly, that study found that among all U.S. teens, even those who are not currently overweight, roughly one quarter have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
The Dutch researchers note that out of the hundreds of children diagnosed as severely obese, “Only one child was obese because of a medical cause,” a hypothalamic tumor. The rest, it seems, were obese instead due to unhealthy lifestyle — a risk factor that continues to spread across the globe.
Many experts believe that parents and caregivers can turn this epidemic around through education and lifestyle changes. Reducing the amount of fast food meals and high-sugar drinks is a good beginning.
Schools are already working on creating healthier lunches, and nutrition advice is available online and through some community classes.
One of the best ways to prevent or reverse obesity is through exercise. It can be family oriented and fun. Turning off the TV, stepping away from the computer, or putting the game console down and heading outdoors are small steps that can bring healthy rewards.
We really don’t want our kids to be the first generation that will die sooner from lifestyle related health problems than their parents.