Fast food, or junk food as some call it, is becoming more popular than ever; it's convenient, predictable and fast. It has become a part of the busy American lifestyle. Eating at McDonalds once every day and spending the rest of the day in a school bench or in front of the computer or television is making today's children fatter and fatter. Overweight is today a bigger problem in the world than starvation. In 1999 13% of the children aged 6 to 11 and 14% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 in the United States were overweight . A recent study, carried out in Sacramento measuring aerobic capacity, body composition, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility in students in the fifth, seventh and ninth grade showed that merely a quarter of the 1.3 million students tested met the state's standards .
The worst thing about being overweight as perceived by children is the social discrimination, resulting in depression and low self-esteem. There are other problems as well. Overweight adolescents have a 70% risk of becoming overweight or obese adults1 and thereby exposing themselves to a number of health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer. In other words, being fat is dangerous to your health.
The overweight problem is caused by two major factors, unhealthy eating patterns and a lack of physical activity. Also, genetics and lifestyles are both playing an important role in determining a child's weight. Sitting around all day and eating junk is what is getting today's children fat. 43% of adolescents are watching more than 2 hours of television every day3. According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, in 2000 more than 26% of adults reported no leisure time physical activity.
Overweight has to be recognized early in children in order to provide necessary help. BMI (Body Mass Index, kg/m2) is a measure of how much body fat one has. To prevent adult-onset obesity one could calculate and plot BMI once a year in all children and adolescents, use change in BMI to determine excessive weight gain in comparison to normal weight gain. This would help to recognize children with overweight problems early. If overweight is recognized early, it is easier to provide help and maybe change patients eating habits as well as their leisure time physical activity.
Since a lot of a child's time is spent in school and a lot of food is consumed there, school plays a very important role. There are a few but important points of how to ensure that school provides healthful foods and beverages. To start with there should be a policy that specifies that all foods and beverages available at school should be in line with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This means getting rid of all vending machines and selling fruit in cafeterias instead of chocolate bars. Schools should also provide more food options that are low in fat, calories, and added sugars. Also, physical classes were everyone...