Childhood Obesity

M3A2 Childhood Obesity


Childhood obesity is in epidemic proportion in the United States. For this paper you will locate a research article on childhood obesity.

Your paper should discuss possible causes of childhood obesity, actions to possibly alleviate the problem and ways that sport and exercise are related to the issue.





The physical growth associated with puberty means that the body has special nutritional needs. A typical teenage girl should consume about 2,200 calories per day; a typical boy should consume about 2,700 calories. (The exact levels depend on a number of factors, including body composition, growth rate, and activity level.) Teenagers also need calcium for bone growth and iron to make extra hemoglobin, the matter in red blood cells that carries oxygen. Boys need additional hemoglobin because of their increased muscle mass; girls need hemoglobin to replace that lost during menstruation.


Unfortunately, although many U.S. teenagers consume enough calories each day, too much of their intake consists of fast food rather than well-balanced meals. The result of too many meals of burgers, french fries, and a shake is that teens may get inadequate iron or calcium and far too much sodium and fat. With inadequate iron, teens are often listless and moody; with inadequate calcium, bones may not develop fully, placing the person at risk later in life for osteoporosis.





Many American children and adolescents are overweight. The technical definition of overweight is based on the body mass index (BMI), which is an adjusted ratio of weight to height. Children and adolescents who are in the upper 5% (very heavy for their height) are defined as being overweight. In the past 25 to 30 years, the number of overweight children has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled so that today roughly one child or adolescent out of six is overweight (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010b).



body mass index (BMI) an adjusted ratio of weight to height that is used to define overweight





Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States.


Overweight youngsters are often unpopular and have low self-esteem (Mustillo, Hendrix, & Schafer, 2012; Puhl & Latner, 2007). They are also at risk for many medical problems throughout life, including high blood pressure and diabetes, because the vast majority of overweight children and adolescents become overweight adults (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010b).


Heredity plays an important role in juvenile obesity. For example, in adoption studies, children’s and adolescents’ weight is related to the weight of their biological parents, not the weight of their adoptive parents (Stunkard et al., 1986). Genes may influence obesity by influencing a person’s activity level. Being genetically more prone to inactivity makes it more difficult to burn off calories and easier to gain weight. Heredity may also help set the basal metabolic rate, the speed at which the body consumes calories. Children and adolescents with a slower basal metabolic rate burn off calories less rapidly, making it easier for them to gain weight (Epstein & Cluss, 1986).



basal metabolic rate the speed at which the body consumes calories


The environment is also influential. Television advertising, for example, encourages youth to eat tasty but fattening foods. Parents play a role too. They may inadvertently encourage obesity by emphasizing external eating signals—“finish what’s on your plate!”—rather than internal cues, such as feelings of hunger. Thus, obese children and adolescents may overeat in part because they rely on external cues and disregard internal cues to stop (Coelho et al., 2009; Wansink & Sobal, 2007).

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Obese youth can lose weight. The most effective programs change obese children’s eating habits, encourage them to become more active, and teach them to monitor their eating, exercise, and sedentary behavior. Goals are established in each area and parents are trained to help children meet these goals (Epstein et al., 2007; Foreyt & Goodrick, 1995). However, even after losing weight, many of these children remain overweight. Consequently, it’s best to avoid becoming overweight and obesity in the first place through increased physical activity and good eating habits (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001).


Fast food is not the only risky diet common among adolescents. Many teenage girls worry about their weight and are attracted to the “lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks!” diets advertised on TV and in teen magazines. Many of these diets are unhealthy—they deprive youth of the many substances necessary for growth. Similarly, for philosophical or health reasons, many adolescents decide to eliminate meat from their diets. Vegetarian diets can be healthy for teens, but only when adolescents adjust the rest of their diet to assure that they have adequate sources of protein, calcium, and iron.


Other food-related problems common during adolescence are two eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia.

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