Child Obesity

The no diet diet

Weight Loss and Child Obesity

Beware! There's considerable hype in the news these days about the high incidence of childhood obesity and the related risks.

Lower body mass index with African Mango PlusAs usual, these scare stories abound with calls for some sort of government intervention and/or the implementation of large-scale social changes. Let's step back for a moment from the over-the-top reactions and take a look at the basic facts of the subject.

With the increase in the availability and lower cost of food in most advanced countries, and the United States in particular, all but the poorest individuals are at little or no risk of starving. At the same time, convenience foods, fast food establishments and snacks everywhere have made it all the more likely that many, children and adults, will consume too many calories.

Add to that today's popularity of computer and Internet activities, and is it any wonder that younger children and teens spend a larger percentage of time being sedentary than in decades past. TV watching and talking on the phone, of course, have been popular for decades, but with the addition of the Internet, total hours of physical activity per week have declined for most.

The result of all this is that children today are, on average, heavier than those of a few decades ago. They also tend to consume more foods that are high in sugars and fat, and less fiber, fruits and vegetables. The net effect is for some, as would be expected, obesity.

Obesity is generally measured somewhat differently for children than for adults, due mostly to their rapidly changing bodies and usually higher basic metabolic rates. Children also will often experience growth spurts that would skew any measurement that used Body Mass Index (BMI) as a primary indicator of obesity. Instead of using BMI alone, it is often looked at in relation to age and gender to create a more accurate picture.

An adult would be considered (borderline) obese with a BMI of 30 or greater. However, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) charts designate a child as obese at the 95th percentile. The two are roughly equivalent, but it's necessary to look at the charts for a more careful breakdown.

Percentage of body fat is another important measurement taken into consideration and, here again, the numbers will generally differ by sex. An obese boy would be identified as one whose body fat was 25% or more of total body weight. For girls, however, the number is 32% of body fat as a percentage of total weight.

One major reason for the difference is simply the biological fact that females naturally have a higher percentage of body fat their entire lives. For adult males the number is roughly 15% for a healthy, fit individual. But for women the number can be around 27%.

Just as with adults, the way for children to reduce body fat and excess weight involves the twin partners of proper diet and regular exercise. This will usually involve some lifestyle changes. Fortunately, these are often easier to implement for younger children, and have the added advantage of establishing good habits that typically carry over into the teen years and beyond.

Start your kids on the road to good health while they are young and it will be easier to maintain into adulthood. Also, if you set the example, you will benefit as well.

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Page Updated 3:23 PM Wednesday 9/2/2015