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Child Obesity

Child Obesity

According to the US 'CDC' (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Child Obesity levels of children (aged 6-19) are 18% in 2010. This is unacceptable.

World statistics vary massively and there is a large variation in Obesity Levels by country. Some countries (like Japan) have tended to have very low obesity levels historically, although the actual definition varies. Obesity in children is generally measured in terms of Body Mass Index (BMI).

The Child BMI Fallacy

BMI (Body Mass Index) = child's weight in kg / ((child's height in metres)*(child's height in metres))

Many websites mention BMI. It isn't perfect for adults but this is completely misleading for children and should not be used. Even the US CDC' (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) use BMI and they claim that only the top 5% of the child population is obese even if year on year children are getting heavier.

Look at this crazy chart from the American Government's website

Status Percentile Range
Underweight Less than the 5th percentile
Healthy weight 5th percentile to less than the 85th percentile
Overweight 85th to less than the 95th percentile
Obese Equal to or greater than the 95th percentile

So this means that no matter what country you are in, you are compared to others in your country. And exactly 5% of Japanese children are obese and exactly 5% of American kids are obese. But the body fat of American children is much greater than Japanese children.

When a child looks in the mirror, she/he doesn't need to be compared and contrasted to her/his nominal counterparts to say if he is overweight! It is just him and the mirror. Others are irrelevant!

So what should we use? (if BMI is a complete waste of time for children)

Simple. Body Fat percentage! But why do various governments not use this? Simple again. The data is difficult to come by, whereas height and weight are typically easy data to gather.

Having said that, with advances in technology, you can now buy a good Bioelectrical Impedance Analyser (e.g. at http://www.tanita.com/en/personal/ ). From this you can get good approximations of body fat percentages.

Then, once calculated, checkout these charts, values courtesy of www.tanita.com :

FEMALE

Status Percentile Range
Underweight Less than the 5th percentile
Healthy weight 5th percentile to less than the 85th percentile
Overweight 85th to less than the 95th percentile
Obese Equal to or greater than the 95th percentile

MALE

Age Underfat Healthy Overfat Obese
5 0.00 - 13.99 14.00 - 21.99 22.00 - 25.99
  • 26.00
6 0.00 - 13.99 14.00 - 22.99 23.00 - 26.99
  • 27.00
7 0.00 - 12.99 13.00 - 19.99 20.00 - 24.99
  • 25.00
8 0.00 - 12.99 13.00 - 20.99 21.00 - 25.99
  • 26.00
9 0.00 - 12.99 13.00 - 21.99 22.00 - 26.99
  • 27.00
10 0.00 - 12.99 13.00 - 22.99 23.00 - 27.99
  • 28.00
11 0.00 - 12.99 13.00 - 22.99 23.00 - 27.99
  • 28.00
12 0.00 - 12.99 13.00 - 22.99 23.00 - 27.99
  • 28.00
13 0.00 - 11.99 12.00 - 21.99 22.00 - 26.99
  • 27.00
14 0.00 - 11.99 12.00 - 20.99 21.00 - 25.99
  • 26.00
15 0.00 - 10.99 11.00 - 20.99 21.00 - 23.99
  • 24.00
16 0.00 - 9.99 10.00 - 19.99 20.00 - 23.99
  • 24.00
17 0.00 - 9.99 10.00 - 19.99 20.00 - 23.99
  • 24.00
18 0.00 - 9.99 10.00 - 19.99 20.00 - 23.99
  • 24.00
19 0.00 - 8.99 9.00 - 19.99 20.00 - 23.99
  • 24.00

Implications of Increased Obesity Levels

Obese children are a lot more likely to become obese adults

Obesity can lead to adult health problems e.g. heart diseases, strokes, some cancers and type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Obesity can also lead to psychological issues such as low self esteem, sleep problems etc.

Reasons for Obesity

The reason for obesity is quite simple. It is caused by a calorific/energy imbalance i.e. calories (energy) expended is less than calories consumed via food and drink. The types of food and drink are important as well.

Obesity Prevention

Get fit! See our 'FITNESS OVERVIEW' for more information. Typically this will involve lots of fun ongoing exercise for children coupled with balanced, healthy nutrition and lots of rest and sleep. Lack of sleep has been proven to contribute to weight gain too. Minimising computer/tablet/TV/sedentary time is important in today's modern society and just 'getting out and about' as a family.

Conclusion

Parents and guardians should take a personal responsibility for helping their kids get lots of exercise and persuading them to eat the right types of foods. Spending time with children and exercising with them will have the added benefit of getting you in shape too as well as spending quality time with them and enjoying an improved relationship. It should ALWAYS be fun and never be made to seem like a chore.