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Experts Warn Childhood Obesity Rates Are Rising

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By Josh Piers - - 5 Mins Read
According to a study that examined obesity in children aged 6 to 11 and was published today in The Journal of Pediatrics, childhood obesity is on the rise. Using information from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies, the researchers examined and contrasted the obesity rates of children in kindergarten through fifth grade in the United States with those of children 20 years earlier. The researchers looked at numerous data points over the course of the study, which involved following kindergarten-age students between 1998 and 2010 through the fifth grade. To calculate the children's body mass index, researchers evaluated their height and weight (BMI). Among the conclusions were: Obesity rates increased by age group. A healthy BMI was present in about 73 percent of kindergarteners in 1998. In 2010, that figure dropped to 69 percent. In 1998, 12 percent of kindergarten-age children and 15% of those who were overweight were considered obese. In 2010, little under 16% of people were obese. Children of color were more likely to be obese than other children, with obesity emerging in 29 percent of fifth-graders. Overall, the researchers concluded that over the 20-year study period, obesity rates rose and developed at younger ages.

A persistent problem

The prevalence of childhood obesity has increased since 2010. Children aged 2 to 19 had an obesity rate of 19 percent from 2017 to 2019. According to University of Georgia researchers, pediatric obesity rates reached a new high during the COVID-19 epidemic. They discovered that visceral fat and arterial stiffness, two risk markers for cardiovascular disease, were more prevalent in children with higher BMIs. Type 2 diabetes was also diagnosed in youngsters at a higher incidence. As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates for kids and teens increased from 19 percent before the pandemic to 22 percent today. Dr. Jennifer Franceschelli Hosterman, DO, an internal medicine and pediatrician who is board certified in obesity medicine and nutritional support, said that technology has evolved and altered how children interact with the outside world. In place of the more customary outside play, she told Healthline, "we see kids on video games, browsing YouTube, and playing virtual reality games with their peers on social media." As a result, fewer kids are engaging in the 60 minutes of physical activity that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends (AAP). The AAP advises parents to enforce media restrictions consistently, safeguard sleep time, have media-free areas, and schedule media-free time each day.

Why does obesity occur?

Obesity is defined by the World Health Organization as an abnormal or excessive buildup of fat that poses a health risk. Overweight is defined as a BMI of over 25, and obesity as a BMI over 30. Dr. Laurie Bostick Cammon, an attending physician at the Pediatric Healthy Lifestyles Center at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California, described obesity as a complicated chronic condition that is brought on by a variety of circumstances. Stress may also contribute to obesity. According to Harvard Health, the term "stress eating" has a lot of merit. Short-term stress may prevent people from feeling hungry, while persistent stress can result in overeating. According to experts, when we are stressed, we release the hormone cortisol, which can make us hungry and frequently tempts us to eat things that are heavy in fat, sugar, or both. "Families and children experienced emotional and financial strain during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Katie Elizabeth Queen, a pediatrician who is in charge of the Our Lady of the Lake Children's Health Weight & Nutrition Center, claims that increased snacking, emotional eating, absence of regulated school meals, and lack of routine all contributed to children gaining more weight.

What can be done?

[caption id="attachment_12067" align="aligncenter" width="761"] Boys were more of an overweight or obesity risk than girls.[/caption] According to experts, lowering obesity rates entails expanding access to nutritious foods and getting enough exercise. They see that prevention is more successful than catching up afterwards. Therefore, communities, schools, families, and physicians all have a part to play. A daily 5-4-3-2-1-0 countdown is advised by Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. This entails: 5 fruits/vegetables per day 4 Give at least 4 compliments a day when your child makes healthy food choices. Focus on the positive. 3 portions of calcium per day for healthy bones. Foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli 2 or fewer hours of screen time per day. Use an app to track screen time 1 or more hours daily of exercise. Get active 0 sweet drinks, including juices and sodas. Have plenty of water “To encourage healthier food choices, I think the best method is to get kids more involved,” suggests Dr. Leah Alexander, FAAP, a New Jersey-based pediatrician and a medical consultant for the website “Mom Loves Best.” “Allowing kids to help with food preparation at home or take a cooking class often encourages them to eat healthy meals,” she told Healthline.