Updated: 8/22/18 Did you know that today, about one-third of children and adolescents in the United States are considered overweight or obese, and this number continues to rise? The negative consequences associated with this excess weight in children, ranges from physical to psychological and social. The impact of obesity in childhood can have life-long effects and lead to a shorter life expectancy, making this an extremely important health issue.
For children and adolescents, adult BMI categories are further divided by sex and age, due to changes that occur during growth and development. Growth charts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are used to determine children’s BMI. Children and adolescents with a BMI between the 5th and 85th percentile are considered to be a healthy weight. Children with a BMI between the 85th and 94th percentiles are generally considered to be overweight, and those with a BMI at or above the sex-and age-specific 95th percentile of the population on this growth chart are typically considered obese.
Overweight and obesity are the result of caloric imbalance (too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed) and are influenced by genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.
Childhood overweight and obesity can lead to health consequences into adulthood, and obese children and teens are more likely to become obese adults. Children who are obese have a greater risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and asthma, joint problems, fatty liver disease, gallstones, and heartburn, and psychological issues such as poor self-esteem and depression.
Childhood obesity can be prevented through the actions of children and their parents. Promoting an environment of healthy eating and physical activity for children can help reduce the risk of obesity and the negative consequences that come with this condition.