Fighting Childhood Obesity

By John Redfern

obesegirlvectorexerciseIn the past 20 years, worldwide figures for obesity have doubled and it has become one of the world’s leading killers, causing, as it does, serious health problems, as people grow older.

For the first time ever, in 2010, more people in the world were recorded as having died from obesity as opposed to starvation.

The more worrying figures related to young people and children. Health experts estimated that nearly 45 million children under the age of five years old were dangerously overweight. To be more accurate the report stated that approximately one-fifth of teens and a quarter of children between 6 and 11 years old were clinically obese. Compare the figure of 25% with one of 7% in 1980 and you can see the scale of the problem. These are worrying figures and seem to be getting worse. So why is it happening?

The figures for the US are equally damning according to Scientific American Magazine. In the three decades since 1980, adolescent obesity has tripled and over one-third of young children and teens are deemed as being obese. This places them as high risk candidates for Type 2 Diabetes, some cardiovascular problems, sleep apnea and bone or joint problems.

The conclusions seemed easy to reach and appeared to relate to the simplistic principle of more calories in than calories out. However it was evident that the levels of physical activity that normally burned them off had stayed pretty constant, and that children were exercising just as much as ever. There are still many opportunities for sporting activity as an individual or as a team player – and perhaps even more than ever before.

It seemed that the main problem seemed to be the poor food choices being made compared to earlier generations. Some reports have particularly highlighted a deficiency in key nutrients as a part of youth diet, despite all the constant advice that is given in this area. Soft drinks in plenty that are easily available, along with multiple fast food outlets must be playing their role in this worrying problem.

obeseboyvectorbellyIt has been clearly determined too, that sleep – or the lack of it – plays an important role. It’s easy to be distracted in this digital age with late night viewing and televisions in most children’s bedrooms. Add to this computer access, game playing, mobile phones with 24/7 access to the internet, phone messaging, and social media – and the undeniable temptation to carry this on late into the night when sleep should be the order of the day – or in this case – the night.

The effects of poor sleep and its effect on all are well researched – and our youth and children are no exception.

The problems relate not only to a decline in health, but also learning skills. Tired children do not make willing, able students and several leading US Universities have produced strong evidence that children’s cognitive functioning is severely affected by conditions such as obesity and various types of sleep disorder. As well as all the health implications it was also seen that poor sleep patterns led to major behavioral problems in the young.

Further detailed studies are currently under way to examine more closely the link between cognitive skills, obesity, and sleep disorders so that new effective treatment programs can be developed in order to arrest the growing severity of the problem.

In essence, less physical activity does not seem to be the problem. However there is a long list of contributory factors that includes the widespread availability of fast food, changes in technology, fewer home-cooked meals, much more low-cost processed foods and increasing sugary drinks served in large sizes as well as the easy access to unhealthy snacks.

The term ‘Supersize Me’ has taken on a real and worrying meaning.

- John Redfern worked for 15 years at leading London Advertising agencies writing on many international products and markets, before moving into a consultancy role, where he has gained long experience of writing on important matters of personal health. John has had in-depth involvement in a broad spectrum of subjects in this area, covering all possible age groups. Through his work as a consultant to SleepPro, John has acquired an in-depth knowledge of snoring and sleep apnoea, and the many serious health problems with which they are so closely associated. In addition, he has spent time developing projects for the NHS, some major educational groups and authorities, and various voluntary organizations and manufacturers whose aim is to focus on family health, fitness and well-being.

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