Children nowadays suffer from diseases which were once considered to target mostly adults. Obesity is one such disease. Research has shown that child obesity has risen dramatically in recent years. This is raising grave concern among health care professionals, experts and parents. This paper strives to examine, describe and evaluate the plethora of factors, contributors and consequences of child obesity in the UK and internationally.
Body weight is reflected by a combination of culture, behaviours, education, genes, metabolism, eating habits and social status. Children who carry a lot of excess weight in the form of body fat are classed as being obese. Even though obese ...view middle of the document...
In order to describe obesity in a more comprehensive manner and help distinguish it from being overweight, the concept of Body Mass Index (BMI) was developed. BMI is used to determine whether the ratio between height and weight of an individual is relative to their age and gender.
It is important, however, to understand that BMI is not a fat measurement tool. It generally, though not always, correlates with the amount of body fat. An individual who is carrying more than the average muscle mass for a specific height, for example, will have a higher BMI index but obviously will not be obese. Alignment diagrams for both adults and children have been developed to graphically represent the healthy range when measuring BMI. An individual is considered overweight when their BMI is between 25 and 29. Obesity is defined as a BMI index greater than 30 (NHS Information Centre 2013).
There are various reasons for children becoming overweight but the most noticeable one is diet. Obesity in children is caused by excessive daily caloric intake relative to daily caloric expenditure. Excessive intake of calories is most commonly associated with poor quality food choices – fast food high in calories, for example, but may also result from over-consumption of "healthy foods." It is the simple fact that all excessive calories, regardless of food source quality and origin, will be stored by the body as body fat.
It is important, however, to acknowledge that children living in areas close to fast food restaurants are more at risk of being overweight or obese. As a matter of fact, fast food is the main food source for about 38% of children (Mayor 2014). Recent research shows that when children eat fast food, they actually eat more food all day long. This is due to the fact that fats, sugar and salt in fast food are appealing to a child's taste. The lack of nutrition, mainly fiber, in fast food does not make children feel full after a meal and this is why they eat more later. Fast food also leads to greater consumption of soft carbonated drinks with a lot of added sugar and carbohydrates, and less milk, fruit and vegetables. Watching television while eating also predisposes the child to having an additional portion, as well as spending more time inactively. (Bowman et al. 2004).
This is yet another prime reason for obesity in children - the low levels of daily physical activity. The average child spends a few hours every day watching television. Combining this with the increasing popularity of computer and video games results in a great deal of time spent inactively. Recent studies indicate that only 20% of children experience more than two episodes of physical activity per week (Lobstein et al. 2004).
Parental BMI is also a very significant driver and indicator of children's BMI. Research shows that 24% of boys aged between 2 and 15 living in a household with overweight or obese parents are considered obese compared to 11% of the same age group living in a...