Childhood obesity continues to be a serious problem in the United States. Over the past 30 years the prevalence of overweight children has tripled. One in three American children remains overweight or obese. More than 12 million young people, aged two to nineteen years, are considered obese. Obese 10-14 year olds have an 80% chance of being obese as adults.
Pediatricians are diagnosing diseases in overweight children that were once thought of, primarily, as “adult” diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension.
Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and some types of cancer can be traced to obesity, poor diet and lack of physical activity.
Surprisingly, a new study shows that parents often underestimate the weight of their own children and do not perceive them as being overweight or obese.
Even for children at a healthy weight, most have unhealthy diets that put them at risk for coronary heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, osteoporosis and other diseases.
Only 2% of children (2 to 19 years) meet the five main recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a healthy diet. These guidelines emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products; includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts; and is low in saturated fats, trans-fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.
Children and teens typically over-consume calories, saturated fat, trans-fat, refined sugars and sodium. They under-consume fruits, vegetables and whole grain products.
Three out of four American high school students do not eat the recommended 5- 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
The reasons for these trends are many:
- 68% of all the meals eaten are outside the home
- Children are not provided the information they need to make good food choices
- Children are bombarded with advertising messages for unhealthy foods
- Children are more sedentary
- Families are busy and skip family meals and/or grab quick food high in calories and fat and low in nutrients
The obesity and diabetes (diabesity) epidemic seems hard to address on a big-picture level. However, research shows that small changes can result in major improvements in the health of individuals. These improvements, in turn, can help to reduce health care costs.
Here are some steps you can take to make your family healthier: