Weight Gain and Loss in Obese Children

Posted by administrator Tuesday, July 22, 2008

There is considerable hype in the news about the incidence of childhood obesity and the risks. At the present time it is estimated that close to one third of the children of America are overweight to obese. This is astounding as it was as little as fifteen years ago that doctors began to notice the rise in children's weight. As usual, scare stories abound with calls for the government to intervene with new programs, and/or large-scale social changes. But apart from the over-the-top reactions, there are some basic facts that remain.

Food in America is at an all time high for abundance and as a result, all but the poorest individuals are at no risk of starving. At the same time, convenience foods, fast food establishments and snacks are now available to children just about everywhere they turn. Schools now have vending machines filled with high fat snack foods and soda loaded with sugar.

At the same time, the popularity of computer games, Internet activities, and the just plain talking on cell phones, children (and teens) spend a larger percentage of time being sedentary than in decades past. Now, TV and talking on the phone have been popular teen activities for decades. But in the past, fewer channels meant fewer time in front of the TV. More time was spent in exercise and activities that expended calories. The introduction of the Internet and computer games means more time in the chair and less time exercising.

The end result is that children and teenagers today are on average, heavier that their predecessors. Their diet is also higher in fat, carbohydrates and sugars and less in fiber. The overall final result is a stunning rise in obesity in those under the age of 18.

Body mass is measured a bit differently for children than for adults, which is dependent on of their rapidly changing bodies and higher metabolic rates. Children often experience growth spurts that would skew any measurement that used BMI (Body Mass Index) primarily. BMI ,combined with age and gender, tend to create a more accurate picture.

Borderline obesity in an adult results with a BMI of 30 or greater, however, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) charts designate a child as obese at the 95th percentile on Denver pediatric growth charts. 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 and here again the numbers differ by sex. A boy would be considered obese if identified as one whose body fat was 25% or more of total body weight. For girls the number is a bit higher at 32% of body fat. Amazingly, up to 90% of obese children can suffer from pain syndromes such as migraine. The reasons are not quite clear yet.

For adult males the number is roughly 15% for a healthy, fit individual, but for women the number is around 27%. The reason for this is that women naturally carry more body fat as genetically their bodies are designed for childbearing.

In order to promote healthy lifestyle in children and teens, they must reduce body fat and excess weight through diet and exercise. This will involve lifestyle changes and may be easier for younger children whose habits are not ingrained yet. Teenagers may find it more difficult to accept a lifestyle change of less computers and more exercise when their friends are all plugged in to the internet. But all children learn by example, so adults who are healthy and fit will set the pace for the children in their lives. By starting on the road to good health at a young age, it will be easier to maintain in adulthood.

Mary K. Betz MS RPA-C is a practicing Physician Assistant. For more information visit http://www.headache-adviser.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Mary_Betz

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