Childhood obesity is a real problem – one that’s only getting worse. During the past 30 years, the incidence of childhood obesity more than doubled, and obesity in adolescents quadrupled. One of the reasons for the increase is that portions have gotten bigger and bigger over the years. Another is that in our world of modern conveniences, exercise has become unnecessary to daily life, and is therefore often overlooked altogether.
But childhood obesity is a serious problem that must be addressed urgently. Obesity promotes all kinds of health issues, such as:
- Type 2 diabetes – Once known as adult-onset diabetes, this disease is now striking children in increasing numbers.
- Asthma – An obese child is more likely to have asthma than one who is at a healthy weight.
- Heart disease – Early indicators of heart disease can begin as soon as childhood. It is often related to high cholesterol levels, which are associated with obesity and poor eating habits.
- High blood pressure – Obese children are at risk for high blood pressure, which can take a toll on the heart.
- Gallstones – Obese individuals are much more likely to have gallstones.
- Menstrual problems – Overweight or obese girls are more likely to reach puberty earlier, and obesity may also contribute to menstrual irregularities and uterine fibroids later in life.
- Sleep problems – Obese children are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea. This is potentially life-threatening and can, over time, lead to heart failure.
- Metabolic syndrome – Many overweight children develop metabolic syndrome, which is a set of symptoms (obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension, and abnormal lipids) that, together, set the stage for heart problems and type 2 diabetes.
- Social problems – It goes without saying how obese children are often treated by their peers.
But perhaps worst of all, overweight or obese children are highly likely to become overweight or obese adults. The cycle of unhealthy eating habits is extremely difficult to break. Obese children are practically guaranteed a lifetime of fatigue, frustration, and health problems. The good news is that all of these problems are preventable or even reversible. It’s never too early or too late to start learning about nutrition and working toward an optimal diet and a healthy weight.
That’s why it’s so important to not only model healthy eating habits and monitor children’s diets, but also to teach children how to make healthy choices for themselves. Kids can learn to be proactive about their health in various ways, such as using our Show ‘N Tell Nutrition Tools or even learning how to garden. Early nutrition education can make all the difference when it comes to growing up healthy and fit.