Child obesity expert explains why epidemic isn't going away anytime soon
(Medical Xpress) -- Approximately 20 percent of adolescents in the U.S. today are obese or overweight. With the number of obese and overweight younger children close behind, this epidemic has lasting implications for the future.
The difficulty really comes in that once adolescents are obese, they more than likely will remain obese into and through their adulthood. There is no easy fix. It takes time, hard work and a drive to change habits that have been established for a long time, said Garry Sigman, MD, a pediatrician and obesity expert at Loyola University Health System and associate professor of pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
The physical implications of obesity are vast and dangerous. It is a major risk factor for numerous health problems, including cardiovascular disease, skin problems, orthopaedic abnormalities, diabetes and cancer. Just as scary are the psychological and emotional impact obesity will have on children and adolescents.
Obesity in children can lead to a feeling of inadequacy and isolation. Even as young as 5 years old, children can be stigmatized by their peers. This can result in depression or suicidal ideation, especially among adolescent girls. Since food can be comforting, the child may turn to or may already have turned to food to feel better. This is a very circular problem and so when dealing with obesity the whole child mind, body and soul needs to be addressed as well as the environment, Sigman said.
In working with children, Sigman has found that a childs environment and social-cultural factors play an even larger role than genetics in their development of the disease.
Genetics do play some role in whether a child will become obese, but the dramatic numbers and steady increase that we have seen cant be attributed to genetics alone, Sigman said. Whats happening is our lifestyle is not only causing more people to become obese, but the BMIs of a larger part of the population are higher. So, even those who are not genetically prone to the disease are becoming obese."
Some nongenetic behavioral risk factors for children include:
Mother who is obese or diabetic
Mother who smokes
Bottle-feeding on a schedule vs. breast-feeding on demand
Too much screen and sedentary time
Not enough sleep
Portion size of food
Unhealthy snacking, including where, when and what a child eats
Not getting enough physical activity
Not eating enough healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables
Many of these factors are linked to a common feature in the lifestyles of todays youth too much screen time. According Sigman, there is a direct correlation between collective time youths spend in front of a screen and the number of patients who are obese.
Unsupervised TV watching is terrible for kids. It has a hypnotic effect that causes us to move less and burn fewer calories. Eating in front of the TV is made worse by ads for food that make people of all ages have the desire to eat more, even if not hungry, Sigman said.
We move more when we are reading a book or even playing a video game, so both pastimes are better than watching TV, Sigman said. Getting away from the screen and really moving are integral to battling the obesity epidemic and need to be priorities of both parents.
Parents need to limit their children to two hours of screen time at home a day, Sigman said. This needs to be a rule and one thats enforced. Its time consuming for parents and its a lot of hard work, but it really could be a factor in whether you have a healthy child or not."
Screen time also affects a childs sleep, which is another risk factor for obesity. Sigman said there should be no television in a childs room. And close to bedtime, there should be limited access to computers, cell phones, video games, iPods, etc.
Children and adults need less stimulation before bed to allow their bodies and their minds to wind down before going to bed. Its important to include downtime into a childs schedule to ensure a child is getting enough sleep, Sigman said. In addition to screen time, parents should limit a childs vigorous exercise and loud music close to bedtime."
Sigman gives a 3-step plan for parents to start limiting their childs screen time.
Plan it. Make a daily schedule for your kids and be sure to include active after-school play time. Dont forget time for homework.
Model it. If you are sitting on the couch watching TV, so will your kids. So find ways to be active as a family.
Enforce it. Make the planning and the enforcement of it a priority. Plan it together. Look for alternatives to screen time, such as working on a project together, playing a game, taking a walk or even cleaning the house.
Its important for kids to be more active and take responsibility. So why not include cleaning or picking up as part of the daily family schedule? Everyone needs to contribute to make the family function. Kids need to learn at an early age that mom and dad are not servants, Sigman said. They learn that if everyone is expected to pitch in, he said.
Still, Sigman believes it goes beyond the family to whole communities making changes to really make a dent in the epidemic.
We need to create safe places for kids to play outside. Safety is a real issue for parents, Sigman said. Though organized sports are wonderful, they arent for all kids. Kids need free play. They need to be able to run and ride their bikes, but if there arent sidewalks or safe playgrounds, kids are stuck inside on a computer or in front of the TV."
Provided by Loyola University Health System
- Children with bedroom TVs might be at greater obesity risk Apr 29, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Making sure your children get the proper amount of sleep leads to better quality of life Oct 27, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Teens have fewer behavioral issues when parents stay involved Jan 20, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Eyes are windows to more than a child's soul Sep 01, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Coping with back-to-school anxiety Aug 11, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
Can economic incentives such as gift cards, T-shirts, and time off from work motivate members of the public to increase their donations of blood?
Health 1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Family caregivers of older adults with dementia are less stressed and their moods are improved on days when dementia patients receive adult day services (ADS), according to Penn State researchers.
Health 3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Given the implications for the overall health, development, and academic success of children, schools should play a primary role in ensuring that all students have opportunities to engage in at least 60 minutes per day of ...
Health 3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Over 70 per cent of people who hold a personal budget for social care said it led to greater independence and support according to the latest survey.
Health 6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
A new smartphone application, developed by scientists at the University of Ulster, which could help older people engage fully in an increasingly self-serve society, may be ready for use by the end of the ...
Health 7 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Cinnamon: Can the red-brown spice with the unmistakable fragrance and variety of uses offer an important benefit? The common baking spice might hold the key to delaying the onset of –– or warding off ...
4 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Chinese and U.S. scientists have used virus isolated from a person who died from H7N9 avian influenza infection to determine whether the virus could infect and be transmitted between ferrets. Ferrets are often used as a mammalian ...
28 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
By discovering the new mechanism by which estrogen suppresses lipid synthesis in the liver, UC Irvine endocrinologists have revealed a potential new approach toward treating certain liver diseases.
5 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
UCLA researchers examining outcomes for advanced heart-failure patients over the past two decades have found that, coinciding with the increased availability and use of new therapies, overall mortality has decreased and sudden ...
9 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
Aortic arch pulse wave velocity, a measure of arterial stiffness, is a strong independent predictor of disease of the vessels that supply blood to the brain, according to a new study published in the June issue the journal ...
9 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health report they have discovered in mouse studies that a small molecule released in the spinal cord triggers a process that is later experienced in the brain as the sensation of ...
1 hour ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |