Childhood obesity in America has been described by many, including the U.S. Surgeon General, as an epidemic. Over 15 percent of children are overweight, an increase of 9 percent since the 1960’s. But what are the consequences of this national problem? How will it affect the next generation, and how can we stop it?
Impaired Learning and Cognitive Development
Numerous studies by the International Institute of Health, Harvard Medical School and many others have proven that a poor diet and lack of exercise not only lead to childhood obesity, but also severely impair a child’s cognitive learning skills and development.
According to a May 2008 study by the Mayo Clinic, the reason your child may not be doing as well in school could be caused by a poor diet rather than lack of school effort.
Children who ate a diet consisting of predominantly fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and complex carbs scored significantly higher on intelligence and cognitive skills tests than their peers who had diets steeped in refined sugars and saturated fats.
Unlike adults, children’s brains are still developing. This means it is critical that they get the healthy diet they need now, before it’s too late. Probably the longest-lasting and hardest-to-repair consequence of childhood obesity in America will be the subsequent learning impairments rooted in this national malaise.
Major Physical Health Problems
Barring any serious heart of lung problems, any 10-year-old child should be able to run the length of a soccer field without running out of breath or experiencing chest pains. The obesity endemic for children is leading to a generation with serious physical impairments ranging from knee and joint issues to diabetes to heart and lung problems.
According to the Surgeon General, over 300,000 Americas will die from obesity-related illnesses and health problems. If childhood obesity isn’t slowed down by intentional lifestyle changes, that number will only increase.
In 2000, the annual cost of excess weight to the U.S. was close to $117 billion in health care costs and lost productivity. So, not only are the health consequences of childhood obesity dire for the individual, they could be potentially financially crippling for the country.
The fundamental reason behind the critical level of childhood obesity in Americas is simple – children are just eating too much non-nutritious “food” and not making the time for sufficient exercise to burn off excess calories. Over the decades, the fundamental needs of people have not really changed, but our habits have.
As a country, we need to begin teaching our children about healthy eating patterns, bringing regular exercise back into the school curriculum, encouraging parents to turn off the television and putting the cover back on the cookie jar.