Child­hood obe­sity is still ris­ing

Pakistan Observer - - KARACHI CITY -

ASTUDY pub­lished in the jour­nal Obe sity brings som­bre news about the na­tion’s weight. De­spite ed­u­ca­tional drives and pub­lic health mes­sages, child­hood obe­sity in Amer­ica shows no signs of slow­ing. Cur­rently, more than 1 in 3 Amer­i­cans are classed as obese. De­spite the fact that the health im­pli­ca­tions of obe­sity are well-known by the pop­u­la­tion, the jug­ger­naut con­tin­ues un­abated.

The pic­ture for young people is not much bet­ter; over the past 30 years, the rate of child­hood obe­sity has dou­bled, and ado­les­cent obe­sity has quadru­pled. As of 2012, al­most 18 per­cent of chil­dren aged 6-11 years were obese. The ba­sics be­hind obe­sity are sim­ple to grasp: too many calo­ries en­ter the body, and not enough are burned off.

How­ever, chang­ing the di­etary habits of a na­tion is a slow process. A re­cent study, car­ried out at the Univer­sity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Wake For­est Univer­sity, brings more de­tail about the state of child­hood obe­sity, and, un­for­tu­nately, it does not paint a good pic­ture. “De­spite some other re­cent re­ports, we found no in­di­ca­tion of a de­cline in obe­sity preva­lence in the United States in any group of chil­dren aged 2 through 19,” says Ashe­ley Skin­ner, PhD, who led the team of re­searchers.

The find­ings are not re­stricted only to those chil­dren at the lower end of the obe­sity scale, Skin­ner goes on: “This is par­tic­u­larly true with se­vere obe­sity, which re­mains high, es­pe­cially among ado­les­cents.” Skin­ner and her team scoured data from the Na­tional Health and Nu­tri­tional Ex­am­i­na­tion Sur­vey (NHANES), an on­go­ing project that con­tains decades worth of data across a broad spec­trum of Amer­i­can homes.

The data showed that for chil­dren aged 2-9, be­tween 2013-2014, 33.4 per­cent were over­weight; of those chil­dren, 17.4 per­cent were classed as obese. Those fig­ures were not sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent from the 2011-2012 time frame. More wor­ry­ingly, when taken as a whole, there is a clear, sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant in­crease from 1999-2014. Skin­ner says: “Most dis­heart­en­ing is the in­crease in se­vere obe­sity.” It is the se­vere obe­sity cat­e­gory that shows the steep­est rise in preva­lence.

A body mass in­dex (BMI) of at least 35 is de­fined as class 2 obe­sity; class 3 is a BMI of 40 or more. In the 2011-2012 pe­riod, com­pared with 2013-2014, class 2 obe­sity has in­creased from 5.9 per­cent to 6.3 per­cent and class 3 has risen from 2.1 per­cent to 2.4 per­cent. These obese chil­dren face health is­sues now, and these will only worsen as time goes on, un­less some­thing dras­tic changes their be­hav­iour. Skin­ner says:

“An es­ti­mated 4.5 mil­lion chil­dren and ado­les­cents have se­vere obe­sity, and they will re­quire new and in­ten­sive ef­forts to steer them to­ward a health­ier course. Stud­ies have re­peat­edly shown that obe­sity in child­hood is as­so­ci­ated with worse health and short­ened life­spans as adults.”

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