Causes of Increased Childhood Obesity in the 21st Century
Over the last several decades, the issue of childhood obesity has been increasingly brought to the forefront. Part of the reason for this, is because the overall number of children who are overweight or obese have risen dramatically. Evidence of this can be seen with a study that was conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH). They found that the total number of children and teenagers who are obese / overweight is one out of every three. This is the highest amount of young people ever reported in either category. As, the underlying trends have continued to increase dramatically in the last 30 years. This is troubling, because in the future these individuals will more than likely suffer from a number of health issues. A few of the most notable include: hypertension, type two diabetes, liver disease, joint / orthopedic issues and mental illness. To address the problem, requires understanding the causes as to why these numbers have increased so much. Once this occurs, it will offer specific insights as to why this is taking place.
The Causes of Childhood Obesity
Since the 1960's, the total number of obese / overweight children and teenagers have been increasing dramatically. The below table is highlighting the rates of change that have taken place in these categories for the ages of 6 to 19 years old going back to 1963. What is most interesting in these figures, are that the rates of increase have grown dramatically in the total number of children that fall into this category.
Total Percentage of Children and Teenager that are considered to be Overweight or Obese
("Childhood Obesity Statistics," 2011)
The above data is illustrating how the overall trends have become much worse as we move into the 21st century. This is troubling, because it is indicating that there are a number of different factors that are causing these rates to rise exponentially. As there are a host of reasons why, these figures have become so much worse during the early part of the 21st century to include: environmental, social / economic factors, genetics and the use of prescription medication.
One of the major causes of childhood obesity is because of environmental factors. As, advancements in technology and a shift in eating habits have changed the way people are living. What has been happening is that there have been tremendous amounts of improvements in computer and video game technology. This has changed the way that everyone is living their lives and interacting with each other. For children, this means that they do less physical activity and they will often sit in front of the television. In some cases, they are watching over 500 channels from their cable provider or they sitting there playing different videos games. This has caused children to become less active, leading to an increase in obesity rates. ("Causes of Childhood Obesity," 2011)
At the same time, many parents have been working more and spending less time at home. During the course of their busy day, they will often purchase some kind of fast food that is often lacking in nutrition. Once the child begins consuming these foods on a regular basis, is when they are going to want them more. This is the point that they will begin to adopt unhealthy eating habits. When you combine this with the sedentary lifestyle, the child will begin to have problems because of: their poor diet and exercise. These two factors are directly related to changes in regime and advances in technology. During the early part of the 21st century, these rates have become worse with improvements in computers and video games changing everyone's lives. While many different fast food restaurants have been opening more stores and increasing their portion sizes. Over the course of time, this is leading directly to a rise in the total amounts of children who are considered to be overweight or obese. ("Causes of Childhood Obesity," 2011)
Social and Economic Factors
There are a number of different social and economic factors that will have an influence on if a child obesity rates. The most notable include: the income and education levels in the family. What is happening is those children whose parents are considered to be poor and less educated, will have a higher percentage of children that are overweight. The reason why, is eating healthier foods are generally considered to be more expensive in comparison with unhealthy alternatives. For those individuals who are from low income families, this means that their dietary choices are limited. At the same time, the lack of education will more than likely contribute to the parents not focusing on healthy choices. This means that there is no guidance, about if the kinds of foods that are being consumed by children, which will lead to health problems in the future. ("Causes of Childhood Obesity," 2011)
Another indirect consequence of social and economic factors is the lack of affordable health insurance. This is problematic, because children are not able to receive any kind of effective treatment and guidance about the lifestyle choices of the family. Over the course of time, this causes everyone to continue to consume foods that are unhealthy and they are involved little to no exercise during the course of the day. Once this takes place, is when the children will learn these unhealthy habits, as they become a part of their lifestyle. When they become older, this means that they will continue to embrace this approach. These elements are important, because they are showing how the eating habits and lifestyle choices of child will have an impact on their underlying levels of health. If no changes are made, this will cause these individuals to continue to embrace these bad habits in the future. ("Causes of Childhood Obesity," 2011)
Genetics will play a major part in determining if a child will become overweight. The reason why, is because the genes that everyone receives from their parents are deciding the structure and composition of the body. During the process of growing up is when: this will have influence on how tall they are, if they are susceptible to various conditions and how the body develops when it becomes older. As far as obesity is concerned, this means that children who have relatives that overweight are vulnerable to this condition. This is because, the genes that we inherit from our family members will determine how quickly the body will gain and hold weight. ("Causes of Childhood Obesity," 2011)
At the same time, a particular individual is more susceptible to various ailments such as: heart disease, hypertension, high blood pressure and diabetes based upon genetic factors. For someone who is overweight, these issues can become a major problem down road due to their previous family history. This is troubling, because it means that anyone who is predisposed to being overweight will have a greater possibility of seeing a combination these conditions. ("Causes of Childhood Obesity," 2011)
Evidence of this can be seen with a study that was conducted by the University of Chicago. They found that a person's DNA can determine if they have higher chances of being overweight and suffering from type two diabetes. Commenting about what they discovered was lead project researcher Stephen O'Rahilly who said, "Variants around the FTO gene (in our DNA) have consistently been associated with human obesity and artificial manipulation of the fto gene in mice clearly demonstrates that it plays a crucial role in the regulation of body weight." ("Research Links," 2011) This is significant, because it showing how genetics will have an impact on obesity rates. As a result, this is illustrating how: children who have relatives with weight control issues or are impacted by the above ailments will experience greater chances of facing health problems down the road.
The use of various prescription drugs can have a direct impact on if child will gain weight. This is because, these drugs are often given to them on a regular basis to treat some kind of condition that is affecting them (such as: ADD). However, beneath the surface many of these drugs will often cause children to gain weight. This is problematic, because the medication is addressing one issue. But, it is failing to deal with any kind of other health problems that could have an impact on the well-being of the child. ("Causes of Childhood Obesity," 2011)
A good example of this can be seen by looking no further than Celexa. This is an FDA approved anti-depressant that is prescribed for individuals who are suffering from: Bi Polar and anxiety disorders. The basic idea behind taking this drug is that it will help to reduce the underlying amounts of tension in someone by: blocking the serotonin neurotransmitter from reentering the…