The prevalence of obesity has leveled off in the past decade in the US after nearly doubling in the previous two decades, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week. This is good news but not exactly great: One-third of adults — more than 78 million people — in the US are obese, up from 30.5 percent in 1999.
Unfortunately, the obesity rate among boys aged 6 to 19 is up 29 percent. Some 12.5 million children — nearly 1 in 3 — are now obese. Health insurers and employers are now required to pay for the cost of screening children for obesity and providing “appropriate counseling,” though medical professionals are just beginning to explore treatments and programs that might help children not only lose weight, but learn to keep it off, the New York Times reports.
Researchers interviewed by Bloomberg underscore that obesity is a problem which is better prevented, as it is extremely hard to reverse and has been linked to numerous health problems including heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and stroke. Americans spend $147 billion annually on obesity-related health costs. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, points out that,
“Despite all the effort and all the money we’ve put into obesity control, there is no sign the epidemic is abating. If anything, obesity rates are actually inching up, especially in some groups.”
Over the past decade, obesity has increased more in men. 27.5 men were obese at the end of the previous decade but now 35.5 percent are. Obesity prevalence in women has remained about the same in the time period and is currently at 35.8 percent, though women 60 and older have the highest obesity prevalence of any age group, 42.3 percent.
Rise in Childhood Obesity: What Should Be Done?
My teenage son Charlie, who is on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum, is not overweight. But children with disabilities are 38 percent more likely to be overweight than their peers. Due to their diagnoses, children with disabilities may have far fewer physical education classes and not as many opportunities for exercise and recreation. Some may also take medications that have been linked to weight gain. Charlie took one such medication, Risperidone — an increase in appetite is a common side-effect — for some years and indeed gained quite a bit of weight. We worked on Charlie eating a healthy diet (not so easy as he is a picky eater) and exercising daily to address this.. Thankfully, he is no longer taking Risperidone anymore, but the experience definitely alerted us to the dangers of obesity in children.
Jacob Warman, chief of endocrinology at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York, speculates that obesity may be on the rise in boys and at a faster rate than in girls due to “the ever-growing use of video games, the Internet, and electronic devices.” School PE and fitness program certainly emphasize exercise, staying active and eating right but the reality is that, outside of school, kids are drawn to electronic devices (and junk food).
Photo by Roebot
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