Severe Obesity Prevalent Among Children and Adolescents
Childhood obesity has been under scrutiny for nearly three decades. Despite official efforts, childhood obesity remains on the rise and now affects one in five children in the United States. The really bad news is that severe obesity, the serious kind of childhood obesity, is even more prevalent now.
According to a study spearheaded by a Duke Clinical Research Institute scientist, U.S. childhood obesity rates continue unabated, with the biggest rise in severe obesity.
Asheley Skinner, Ph.D., a scientist and an associate professor at Duke, said an estimated 4.5 million children and adolescents have severe obesity. They will require new and intensive efforts to steer them toward a healthier course.
The numbers are quite alarming especially knowing the fact that obesity is linked to worse health and shorter life span among adults.
Disheartening Increase in Severe Obesity
In an analysis of data data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, Dr. Skinner and her colleagues found that for 2013-2014, 33.4 percent of children between the ages of 2 through 19 were overweight.
Across all categories of obesity, a significant increase was cited from 1999 through 2014.
“Most disheartening is the increase in severe obesity.” – Dr. Skinner
The prevalence of severe obesity with BMI 35 or higher had the sharpest increase from the previous reporting period. Among all overweight youngsters in the 2012-14 reporting period, 6.3 percent had a BMI of at least 35 that falls in the category as class II obesity. Another 2.4 percent of those had severe obesity, also referred as class III with a BMI of 40 or more.
The sad thing is, Dr. Skinner highlighted that despite efforts of the US government to address the issue on childhood obesity, there is no sign of a decline in obesity prevalence. In fact, severe obesity remains high among youth.
Unified Approach Crucial on Childhood Obesity Problem
Sarah Armstrong, M.D., a pediatrician and director of the Duke Healthy Lifestyles Program, said reversing the problem of obesity is as difficult one-on-one as it is nationally amid widespread awareness of its ill-effects.
Although there is significant progress in addressing the issue, much more needs to be done, researchers say. Changes across the board will make a big difference including changes in food policy, access to health care and school curriculum. Inclusion of countering obesity in the education curriculum is a wise move as well.
“A lot of things put together can work.” – Dr. Armstrong
Obese Children More Likely to Be Ill
Obese children are not only prone to bullying and discrimination but are also likely to be ill. In fact, obesity is the most prevalent nutritional disease of children and adolescents in the United States. And the downsides of becoming obese are many, including being absent from school due to illness, and the tendency to need more medical care than normal-weight children.
As might be expected, obese children are also more likely to become obese adults. Thus, they are at risk of disability, morbidity, disability and even premature mortality in adulthood.