The Childhood Obesity Epidemic in the United States

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There is a concerning rise in childhood obesity throughout the United States, making it an epidemic in our country. Obesity has become a threat to the health of many children, with rates more than doubling in children and quadrupling in adolescents over the past 30 years. According to Childhood Obesity Facts (2015), the percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period. When discussing obesity, it is important to define the term. Webster’s dictionary defines obesity as an increase in body weight due to excessive accumulation of body fat. It is a condition or disease in which “the natural energy reserve of humans or mammals, which is stored in fat tissue, is expanded far beyond usual levels to the point where it impairs health.” Obesity is most often measured by using the BMI (body mass index), which is calculated by dividing the weight in kilograms by the height squared in meters. A desirable BMI for children to sustain a healthy life is between 18.5 and 25. A child with a BMI over 25.0 kg/m 2 is considered overweight, while a BMI over 30.0kg/m 2 is considered obese, and a BMI over 40 is morbid obesity. According to a survey on childhood obesity (2014), “an estimated 80% of overweight adolescents continue to be obese into adulthood, so the implications of childhood obesity on the nation’s health are huge.” Obesity is a chronic condition that develops as a result of genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. There are many factors that may influence the occurrence of obesity in children, including genetics, unhealthy home environments, the education system, and the food industry. Research has shown that genetics can play a significant role in the development of obesity in children, with studies indicating that a child’s chances of being overweight or obese are increased by 25 percent if their parents are overweight or obese. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015) states that “the latest study from Stanford University has found that having overweight parents is the biggest risk factor for childhood obesity” (para 1).

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