Understanding Childhood Obesity

There have been several American physicians who might have been underestimating the problem of teenage obesity.  This means that as many as 2.1 million teens that already have evidence of dangerous complications of obesity are "slipping" through a dangerous gap in diagnostic measurements. 

Different researchers in the field of preventive medicine at Strong Children’s Research Center of the University of Rochester in New York, is that pediatricians and other physicians measure obesity in teens using the same formula that they use for toddlers and elementary age children…  However, that one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for teens according to several medical studies and institutions.

According to experts, over 155 million kids, or 10% of the world’s children, are either obese or overweight. According to Professor Ricardo Uauy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Head of Public Health Nutrition, "We need urgent action. The time for action is now." As editor he knows the facts. He emphatically says that childhood obesity is becoming a big problem. He has called for a worldwide strategy to halt the escalating growth in global child obesity.

In young children, obesity is identified using growth harts that calculate body mass index (BMI) by charting height and weight and by plotting the calculated BMI to a particular age. "When a child is in the 95th percentile, meaning that child is heavier than 95% of same-age, same-sex children, the child is diagnosed as overweight. 

This growth chart approach works with younger children because "they are growing and changing rapidly, yet those changes during the teen years." Therefore, as children grow up and become more like adults, Tabak thinks that they should be measured using adult standards to define overweight and obesity "which is simply a BMI of more than 25.

To prove her point, Tabak and colleagues analyzed data collected in a large national survey called the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They collected data from 2,392 teens aged 12-19.  She presented the results of the analysis at the American Heart Association 44th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

The survey data included not only BMI but also measurements of waist circumference, blood sugar levels, HDL "good" cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. It was found out that 11% of teens had BMIs of 25 or more, but did not meet the pediatric standard for overweight because their BMI did not put them into 95th percentile or higher. But even if these teens weren’t considerably overweight by pediatric standards, they "did have clear evidence of metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of risk factors that greatly increase the risk for developing heart disease or diabetes or both

It’s important that children as well parents know that obesity will gradually catch up on those individuals who have not been careful with their health. It is important that children have themselves checked up regularly if they suspect that they already have a problem with obesity. The rule of thumb is, if you think you’re overweight or getting there, stay on the safe side-have your checkup and do something about it.


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