Over the past four decades, the rise in childhood obesity has significantly impacted many children.
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and, according to The Centers for Disease and Control, 1 in every 5 children in the United States suffers from obesity.
Children with obesity are at a higher risk for developing chronic health conditions such as asthma, joint and bone complications, sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes.
They are also at a higher risk for developing heart disease, due to potential high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Children with obesity are more likely to be obese as adults which increases the risk of type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, as well as many types of cancers.
Elaine Montemayor-Gonzalez, a health specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, said eating behaviors, lack of physical activity, metabolism and family genetics are the most individualized factors; however, home environment and social factors play a role in influencing obesity in children.
“One of the most influential risk factors of them all is screen time,” she said. “Too much time spent being inactive while watching TV, scrolling social media or playing video games may also lead to lack of sleep for some children, which is also a risk factor for obesity.
“There is a cycle of events that all lead to the development of obesity. Over the years there has been a trend of inactivity and easy accessibility to inexpensive, high calorie foods and empty calorie beverages”
Montemayor-Gonzalez said parents and role models can help support the healthy growth and development children need to become healthy adults.
“Making health a priority and caring about the quality of the food that your family eats, and how much activity they get is really the first step,” she said. “Seek out help and resources so that you feel supported when making changes for yourself and your family.”
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension suggests the following changes to prevent childhood obesity.
• Physical activity: School-aged youth are recommended to achieve a minimum of 60 minutes or more of physical activity throughout the day.
• Healthy nutrition: Always plan out your meals before grocery shopping to limit the temptations of unhealthy foods. Choose more fruit and vegetables as snacks throughout the day and make them half of your plate for meals.
• Screen time: Boundaries for screen time and social media should always be followed daily. A good balance will help limit inactivity.