Teenage and childhood obesity is a continuing problem in the United States, but do we really understand its dangers?
Our health care costs are exceeding $177 billion. We are experiencing increased heart disease mortalities, a generation with reduced cognitive development and poor mental health – these are all major risks associated with the present teenage and childhood obesity epidemic. So what are these risks? Let’s review a few of them:
Reduced Brain Function and Cognitive Ability
Numerous studies by the International Institute of Health, the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical have all shown that overweight children with poor diets often perform significantly poorer on cognitive ability tests than their peers who exercise regularly and have healthy, well-balanced diets.
Food doesn’t just fuel our bodies, but it also fuels our minds, and during a child’s critical developmental years, a healthy diet is of ever greater importance. The high-fat, low-nutrition foods that lead to the dangers of childhood obesity are the same types that result in stunted mental development.
Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis
Historically, whenever a child was diagnosed with diabetes, it was recognized as Type 1 (juvenile-onset) diabetes. But, according to the Center for Disease Control, the number of Children being assessed with Type 2 diabetes (generally diet-related) is on the rise and has been so for the past 20 years.
As childhood obesity skyrockets, so do the number of Type 2 diabetes diagnoses. Unfortunately, this affliction in children can often go unrecognized as it is difficult to detect without a blood test.
Being overweight or obese as a child cannot only lead to cardiovascular problems now, but also as an adult. According to a recent study by the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Copenhagen that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, even an increase of 20 extra pounds for 13-year-old boys increased their chances of developing a coronary disease by a staggering 33%.
A 2005 study completed at the University of Rochester show that children diagnosed as obese not only were more likely to develop knee and joint problems, but also to enable gait and lifelong walking difficulties caused by improper joint load and development. They concluded that childhood obesity could result in a greater risk of osteoarthritis and joint deformities.
Mental and Emotional Problems
Some of the hidden dangers of childhood obesity are the effects that carrying too much extra weight can have on a child’s self-esteem and emotional well-being. Overweight children tend to be teased, taunted and generally have a more difficult time socializing among their peers. That can lead to a poor self-image, stunted social skills and lowered emotional development.
As responsible parents and educators we will take action. That action must start now. The longer we weight to help our children the more difficult it becomes.