Childhood Obesity FAQs
Reviewed by David Perlstein, MD, FAAP
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Q:Some children are overweight because they have big bones. True or False?
A:False. The idea that anyone is carrying excessive weight due to big bones is a myth. Children and teens who are overweight are simply carrying excessive fatty tissue on their bodies.
Q:Overweight and obese children and teens are at increased risk for developing what types of diseases?
A:Type 2 diabetes. Overweight children and teens have an increased risk for developing a host of diseases and conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, respiratory illnesses, and depression. Linked to overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes is of particular concern. Type 2 diabetes historically was only seen in adults over the age of 45, but now is commonly being diagnosed in overweight and obese children and teens.
Q:What has become a main food criterion for Americans?
A:Convenience. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), convenience is a major factor in American's food choices today. In general, people are consuming more ready-made foods away from home in quick-service, restaurant-type environments, or low-cost, easily prepared meals to cook at home.
Q:Nearly half of the vegetables youngsters eat are what?
A:Fried potatoes. About only 20% of children and teens get the 5 recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables as recommended by the USDA food pyramid. According to the CDC, about half (46%) of vegetables served to people ages 2-19 are fried potatoes.
Q:Another factor that contributes to weight gain and obesity in children is what?
A:Missed breakfasts. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there has been a dramatic decrease in breakfast consumption. In other words, more children are starting their days without breakfast.
Q:How do beverages factor into childhood obesity?
A:Drink too much soda, do not drink enough milk and drink too many sugar-sweetened soft drinks. As kids are consuming less milk, kids are also gulping down the equivalent of nearly three 12-ounce cans of soda per day. High-fructose corn syrup that is used to sweeten many soft drinks is often blamed for its contribution to childhood obesity, though recent research suggests that high-fructose corn syrup gets a bad rap.
Q:Many foods and drinks have hidden calories. True or False?
A:False. Calories are not hidden. Caloric content and other nutritional information may be found on the nutrition facts label, which is located on the package containing food or drink. The label contains specific information about the product in terms of serving size, calories, and nutrient information followed by a footnote outlining how the product stacks up against daily values based on a 2,000 to 2,500 calorie diet.
Q:What does it mean for children to be sedentary?
A:They get little to no exercise. People who are generally inactive and get little to no exercise are said to be sedentary. There are two major causes for the increased number of overweight and obese Americans: lack of physical activity and increased consumption. Leisure time for American children is largely comprised of watching television, playing video games, and computing. Worse, one-third of American teens are not physically active enough, a condition which has been noted to increase with age.
Q:What easily contribute(s) to obesity?
A:Portion sizes. Portion sizes are increasing at every turn. Studies show that people tend to eat more food when faced with larger portions. Food portions are being served or packaged in enormous quantities, often skewing judgment in determining the size of a reasonable serving.
Q:Kids are getting more of their food away from home. True or False?
A:True. Kids are indeed eating outside the home more often. Research proves the correlation between recent changes in children's eating patterns and the obesity epidemic. In general, foods available at fast-food establishments, restaurants, vending machines, and other commercial outlets are associated with poor dietary quality and increased intake of empty and excessive calories. Compared to two years ago, kids are also snacking more and consuming calorie-laden, sweetened beverages that contribute to the adverse dietary effects of consuming food away from home.
Q:Which state has the largest number of obese children and teens?
A:Mississippi. In the United States, Mississippi ranks number one with not only the largest number of extremely heavy children and teens but the largest number of extremely heavy people in general -- and for the seventh straight year.
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