The Childhood Obesity Epidemic in the United States

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There is an alarming 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. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. 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.(Childhood Obesity Facts, 2015)

What is Obesity?

Obesity is defined by Webster’s dictionary as increase body weight due to excessive accumulation of body fat. It is a condition or disease in which the “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). BMI 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. A BMI over 30.0kg/m 2 is considered obese, and a BMI over 40 is morbid obesity. “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”. (Survey on childhood obesity, 2014). Obesity is a chronic condition that develops as a result of genetic, behavioral and environmental factors.

Causes of Childhood Obesity

There are many factors that may influence the occurrence of obesity in children. These factors can be broad and may vary depending on the individual child. Research has shown the impact genetics has had on the development of obesity in children as well as unhealthy home environments. Other external factors may include the education system and the food industry, because of their promotion of unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity in children.

The Role of Genetics:

Genetics can play a huge role in the development of obesity in children. Studies have shown that obesity can be inherited. 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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