Experts point to many reasons leading to a rise in childhood obesity, like environmental factors, lifestyle preferences and cultural environments. And though obesity is generally thought to be the result of too many calories and fat, researchers are now pointing to the high amount of sugar in soda and juices, larger portion sizes, and a decrease in physical activity as contributing factors to obesity.
How is obesity in children measured anyway?
Currently, body mass index, or BMI chart, is used to decide if a child is overweight or obese. Children with BMIs at or higher than the 85th percentile but below the 95th percentile are considered overweight; BMIs at or above the 95th percentile are considered obese.
Any weight ranging from the 5th percentile to less than the 85th percentile is considered a normal or healthy weight. BMIs are stacked against youth of the same age and sex, since a child’s body composition changes quite a bit as he or she ages.
While using BMI might have some accuracy issues, the number of children who aren’t at a healthy weight is concerning. What’s especially interesting about overweight and obese children is that it’s a relatively new phenomenon. Though there have always been children who weigh more than their peers, it’s only in the last four decades or so that rates have skyrocketed in young people.
Issues Arising From Changes In Family Practices
In the recent decades, family practices have significantly changed, and several of these practices greatly contribute to childhood obesity:
- With a decreasing number of mothers who breast-feed, more infants become obese children as they grow up and are reared on infant formula instead.
- Less children go outside and engage in active play as technologies, such as the television and video games, keep children indoors.
- Rather than walking or biking to a bus-stop or directly to school, more school-age children are driven to school by their parents, reducing physical activity.
- As family sizes decrease, the children’s pester power, their ability to force adults to do what the want, increases. This ability enables them to have easier access to calorie-packed foods, such as candy and soda drinks.
- the social context around family meal-time plays a role in rates of childhood obesity
Children who are obese also are more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol, breathing problems like asthma, joint problems, fatty liver disease, and heartburn.
And then, of course, there are the effects that transcend the physical. Depression and a feeling of low quality of life are more common in young people who are obese. And children who are obese are more likely to be bullied more than their average-weight peers, no matter how good their social skills are.