Roots of Childhood Obesity
By Charles Hopkins
Published 09/20/2007 | Nutrition
The causes of childhood obesity can be loosely grouped into both
adjustable and non-adjustable factors. The former include those that
when changes are applied, they can result in children losing weight or
simply remaining physically fit. Concerning the latter, there are very
Among the adjustable factors that impact childhood obesity are lack
of physical activity, a sedentary lifestyle (for example, more TV
viewing than engagement in sports), constant exposure to advertisements
of high calorie junk food, and questionable eating habits.
Every food we eat supplies the human body energy in the form of
calories. When we do not expend these calories, they are stored
internally as fat. The role of exercise and physical activity in
general is to use these excess energy sources in our bodies and, in the
process, decrease our physical girth. This cycle is no different in
Trends in recreational interests for children have changed fairly
dramatically over time. Active participation in sporting activities is
often replaced with video games and TV. Consequently, the hand becomes
the most exercised part of the body! Since the body in low-exertion
movements uses only minimal energy, a significant percentage of body
calories are converted to fat - the result over time is childhood
Today we live in an era of convenience. Instead of walking to
school or to town as children did in prior generations, they can ride a
school bus, use their own vehicles (or have parents do the driving),
and can easily use public transportation when needed. So children's
muscles, rather than being pushed to walk and run, remain relatively
idle. Most of their time is spent sitting with minimal movement.
Thousands of calories lay dormant, and waistlines balloon to obesity.
It does not help children that heavily advertised junk food, such
as chips and soda, are so popular among the snacks available to them.
These types of foods combined with the lack of physical exertion lead
far too many children down a weight retention trap.
Ever notice how much children eat even when they are neither hungry
nor active? And when they do, typically the food is not nutritious.
These two factors alone simultaneously contribute significantly to the
child obesity problem. Such ingrained habits markedly increase their
risk of long-term weight struggles, even well into adulthood.
Concerning non-adjustable childhood obesity factors, the primary is
genetics. Scientists have observed for years that obese children
frequently have obese parents. Thus when a tendency toward obesity is
inherited, concerned parents must provide more stringent measures to
prevent - or at least minimize - obesity in their children. In such
scenarios, regular exercise, a nutritious lifestyle diet, and the other
adjustable obesity factors become all the more critical in their
childhood rearing considerations.
Ultimately, parents must simply accept influences that cannot be
changed (e.g. genetics, flood of junk food commercials) while being
diligent to engage in other available means of helping their children's
general health, particularly in curtailing obesity.