Childhood Obesity (cont.)

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What is the treatment for childhood obesity?

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The treatment for childhood obesity is no different than many diseases -- determine the cause and control or eradicate it. Since the overwhelming number of obese individuals are consuming too many calories relative to their energy expenditure ("burning them off"), therapy is directed toward reversing this metabolic equation. Simply put, consume fewer calories and use more up. There are many dietary programs that attempt to address this issue. None is superior over the long term unless the participant embraces these nutritional changes as part of a larger lifestyle recommitment. Drugs and surgery should be restricted to severe cases of childhood (and adult) obesity.

Can childhood obesity be prevented?

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Benjamin Franklin's famous dictum "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is ironically the perfect approach to childhood obesity. The CDC has recently raised the notion that should the alarming increase in childhood obesity not be reversed, the consequences may make the current pediatric population be the first generation to not exceed the life span of their parents. Studies have indicated that childhood obesity must be attacked prior to the teen years. Twenty percent of obese 4-year-old children will grow up to become obese adults; 80% of obese teens will continue their obesity into adulthood. All of the above reviewed consequences of pediatric obesity are brought forward into the adult years. Here are two amazing observations: (1) children 6 months to 6 years of age watch an average of two hours of television per day; (2) children 8-18 years of age spend an average of seven and a half hours per day involved with entertainment media activity such as television, computer games, video games, and cell phone calls/texting.

Social and cultural changes are necessary to effectively address the pediatric obesity epidemic. A basic approach would entail the following:

  1. Advocate breastfeeding during the first year of life. Studies strongly reinforce that breastfed children have a lower risk of infant, childhood, and adolescent obesity.
  2. Drastically overhaul the school breakfast and lunch programs to favor heart-healthy food choices. Encouraging salad bars, banning sugar drinks, and flavored milk are options.
  3. Guarantee safe neighborhood environments which foster outside play activities.
  4. Limit TV/computer/social-network communication or other activities which encourage sedentary behaviors.
  5. Encourage vigorous physical education programs for 45 minutes daily.
  6. Revamp restaurant portion sizes. Studies had repeatedly demonstrated a link to the rise in pediatric obesity with fast-food restaurants' adoption of supersized portions as well as the bundling of food options (for example, deals for hamburger, french fries, and soda meals).
  7. Encourage the development of activity-friendly infrastructure in communities -- bike lanes, regional parks, etc. Many studies have shown that the social and cultural changes above must be accompanied by a strong family and community support structure, without which these approaches often fall short.

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Childhood Obesity - Diagnosis Question: Was your child diagnosed as overweight or obese? Please discuss your reaction and feelings.
Childhood Obesity - Causes Question: What are the causes of or reasons why your child is overweight or obese?
Childhood Obesity - Treatment Question: If your child is overweight, discuss the treatments, diets, or lifestyle changes you and your child have made.
Childhood Obesity - Prevention Question: If your child has challenges with being overweight or obese, how do you try to prevent it?