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Childhood Obesity: What Are The Causes?

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Obesity has reached what some feel is epidemic proportions in this country as well as around the world. Today nearly two thirds of American adults are considered overweight or obese. Even more concerning is that 15% of children in this country are considered overweight. Just a few decades ago this number stood at 4%.

We are starting to see diseases that were contracted in adulthood now affecting children and adolescents. Children that are overweight or obese have a much higher chance of dying of heart disease when they get older. This is even affecting the youngest among us with 10% of preschoolers being overweight.

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Being obese has many risk factors for children. Childhood obesity is the leading cause of pediatric hypertension. It also increases the risk of heart disease, childhood diabetes, and osteoarthritis. But the most important consequence may be what is does as far as psychological pressure and peer pressure that may cause periods of depression in a child. Social and peer pressures that a child goes through are the main consequences of childhood obesity.

The causes of childhood obesity are a combination of factors that include genetics, family history, psychological and nutritional. It is true that not all obese infants will turn into obese children and not all obese children will turn into obese adults it is important to understand these risk factors.

What role does family play? Children that are born to parents that are obese have a better chance of either being born obese or developing the condition over time. This can be related to several factors. Genetics could play a role; the parents could have a sedimentary lifestyle and does not include enough physical exercise. Or they may not have developed good nutritional habits.

A lack of activity can also cause a child to be obese. We all know that children in general are much less active than pervious generations. Children now spend more time on computers or watching television than they do in outside activities such as sports. This causes children to become couch potatoes and put on more pounds than is healthy for them. If your child develops these bad habits at an early age it is more likely that being overweight will develop into obesity as they age. We have to make sure that our children are getting the physical activity that they require.

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Nutrition is also a key factor. In today's world of fast and processed foods our children are not getting the proper nutrition that is needed. These foods contain high levels of fat and provide little nutritional value. The surprising thing is that with all the knowledge we have gained in the last few decades in the field of nutrition somehow it is not being utilized. One factor here is that with the huge amount of information available people are confused as to how to interpret it. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the American Cancer Society and The American Heart Association have all come out with guidelines that help people make sense of this.

How does heredity affect obesity? We all know children that get very little exercise and do not eat a nutritious diet but are not overweight or obese. This is why researchers are taking a look at heredity as a factor. We know that infants born to overweight mothers generally gain more weight in the first three months of life than infants born to mothers that are not. Could there be an inborn drive to conserve energy? More research is needed in the area to come to any long term conclusions.

Childhood obesity is much easier to prevent than to fix all the health problems that a generation is going to have to endure because of it. The first step has to be the education of parents. They need to be told the importance of breast feeding, exercise and proper eating habits. They also need to be introduced to low fat snack foods and exactly what proper nutrition for their children entails. In cases where heredity is the problem they need to know how to build self esteem in their children and deal with psychological problems as they arise.

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