How obesity affects children

Obesity can negatively affect a child’s physical and psychological well-being. Teasing by peers can lead to depression and anxiety. Many children who are teased about their weight will try restrictive dieting at an early age. Research has shown severe caloric restriction can, and often does, lead to eating disorders. Perhaps the biggest danger of childhood obesity is that it significantly raises the risk of adult obesity. Fat cells multiply during two growth periods, early childhood and adolescence, and overeating during those times increases the number of fat cells. After adolescence, fat cells tend to increase in size rather than number. Obese children are more likely to have high cholesterol levels and an increased risk for developing high blood pressure, clogged arteries, damaged hearts, and liver damage in adulthood.

How many deaths are attributed to obesity each year…

The CDC reports “Overweight and physical inactivity account for more than 300,000 premature deaths each year in the United States, second only to tobacco-related deaths.” People with BMI over 30 have a 50 percent to 100 percent increased risk for death compared with individuals with a BMI between 20 and 25.

…And what new health risks have emerged?

A recent study published in the British Journal of Cancer reports excess body weight increases the risk of developing kidney cancer for both men and women. The study shows morbidly obese (BMI over 40) people were more than twice as likely to develop kidney cancer when compared with normal weight individuals. The researchers estimate about 29 percent of all kidney cancers among women, and about 27 percent of these cancers among men can be blamed on excess body weight.

Are Americans Worried?

Both individuals and society are worried about the obesity epidemic. People who are overweight often feel lethargic, sick, and have low self-esteem. Society feels pain in the form of economic and health care costs. Health care providers feel frustrated, and helpless in their attempts to treat obesity. Insurance companies and HMOs feel the pain of fewer profits, and public health experts feel frustrated with a culture that, despite its good intentions, is slow to change behaviors.

The experts’ advice is for people to eat less and move more but many individuals are looking for a quick, easy and cheap fix for their weight problems. While neither one is happening, the rates of obesity continue to rise. Until the responsibility is shared between overweight and obese individuals and the society as a whole, this nation will undoubtedly remain “overstuffed.”

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