Childhood Obesity in America

Controlling Childhood Obesity in America By Jessica Spencer English 102 Dr. Grimes 1 May 2006 Outline Thesis statement: Childhood obesity in American can be controlled if a healthy lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating can be incorporated into each child’s day. I. Childhood obesity in America A. Growing epidemic 1. Statistics 2. Problems 3. Define epidemic B. Advertisements 1. Fast food 2. Sesame Street 3. Groups II. Safety issues A. Safety seats 1. Statistics 2. Price B. Junk food/fast food 1. Trans fat 2. Portion sizes III. Health A. Body mass index (BMI) . Accurate/not 2. School system Spencer i 3. Psychological effects a) Depression b) Stress c) Low self esteem 4. Physical effects a) Diabetes b) High blood pressure c) Asthma, etc IV. Activities A. Sedentary lifestyles 1. Exercise 2. Television 3. Computers 4. Video Games B. Environment V. Genetics A. Leptin B. Cortizol C. Hyperthyroidism VI. Argument – not genetic linked A. Dr. Aylesworth B. Specific gene VII. Controlling Spencer ii A. Exercise B. Lifestyle change C. Food D. Who? 1. Parents 2. Churches 3. Schools 4. Communities 5. Government

Spencer iii Controlling Childhood Obesity in America America is now filled with children who are overweight or medically obese. According to the American Obesity Association, obesity is close to passing smoking as the number one cause of preventable death (par. 2). Nine million American children over the age of six (including teenagers) are overweight or obese (par. 4). According to Demian McLean, obesity in children has doubled in the United States for children ages 2 to 5, and has tripled in children ages 6 to 11 in the past 30 years (par. 6).

A child with a BMI over 85 percent is considered overweight and someone with a BMI over 95 percent is at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other weight-related diseases (Weiss, par. 6). “Obesity is clinically diagnosed as greater than 90th percentile for weight for height; or greater than or equal to the 95th percentile Body Mass Index (BMI), age and sex specific” (par. 12). According to Eric Peters, ten percent of the quarter of overweight American preschoolers are considered medically obese and have a much greater risk of developing dangerous illnesses (par. 5).

It is mind boggling to think about how parents try to protect their children from outside risks but they do not seem too concerned when their child is visibly overweight. Childhood obesity is becoming a rapidly progressing epidemic everyday. Karen Karaszkiewicz states that there are several factors that contribute to obesity in children, but at the most basic level, weight gain is caused by either increases in calorie intake or by decreases in physical activity (par. 8). Many children are slightly overweight because of the way that their bodies are maturing but health officials still consider them obese.

With all of the health issues that come along with being obese, children should be taught at an early age about the benefits of eating healthy and maintaining an active lifestyle. If parents would teach their children healthy Spencer 1 habits by following that advice themselves, childhood obesity definitely would not be as big a problem as it is today; otherwise, the future generations will be growing larger than the present. There are many other theories as to what contributes to obesity, such as genetics, the environment, too much television, or video games.

According to the Surgeon General, 43% of adolescents watch more than 2 hours of television each day (par. 4). A few of the physically life threatening illnesses are type-2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Depression and low-self esteem are the mental threats. Childhood obesity in American can be controlled if a healthy lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating can be incorporated into each child’s day. In America, obesity has become a growing epidemic. According to Marian-Webster dictionary, an epidemic is “an outbreak or product of sudden rapid spread, growth, or development; specifically: a atural population suddenly and greatly enlarged. ” Childhood obesity in America can be controlled if a healthy lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating can be incorporated into each child’s day. Advertisements have a big impact on the spread of childhood obesity. According to Common Sense Media, one food commercial is shown every five minutes during Saturday morning cartoons (par. 2). McDonald’s commercials has cute little costumed people running around eating Happy Meals, candy commercials use cool visual effects, and other products use celebrity endorsements to get their points across.

According to Ellen Bernstein, in 2004, food and beverage companies spent over $10 billion on marketing fattening products directly to American youngsters (par. 3). Sesame Street introduced the Cookie Monster in 1972 on the Public Broadcasting Service (par. 1). The Cookie Monster sang about cookies and sweets for over 30 years and some say that was a Spencer 2 contribution to the rise in childhood obesity (par. 1). “Healthy Habits for Life” was introduced in April 2005, having a segment in each episode with Cookie Monster and his friends eating healthy foods and talking about the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle (par. ). Millions of people remember waking up every morning and watching Sesame Street while they were getting ready for school, so it is no wonder that the Cookie Monster might have had such an impact on the child population. In 2005, President Bill Clinton, Nickelodeon, and the American Heart Association sat up a program called Alliance for a Healthier Generation (par. 9). This program gave out more information to the public on the harm of being obese and gave children information on what is healthy through a public awareness campaign (par. 10).

According to Demian McLean, close to 282,000 children between the ages of 3 and 6 may be riding in ill-fitting car restraints or maybe even none at all because the children are too large to fit into the seats (par. 1). Children are becoming too overweight at such young ages that they are needing oversized car safety devices in order to ride in an automobile. Some of these children are weighing 40 pounds or more. According to Eric Peters, one out of every six children ages 1 to 6 are too heavy to fit into the standard car safety seat and are needing the new extra-large seats (par. ). These oversized seats are almost three times the price of a normal child seat and are designed to hold a child who weighs up to 80 pounds (par. 6). Children who come from poor families may not have the money needed to buy these pricey oversized seats and this could cause serious illness or death to the child if they were involved in an accident. A child who is not properly restrained in a car is 54 percent more likely to die in a crash than a child who is restrained properly (McLean, par. 6). The National Highway Traffic Safety Spencer 3

Administration (NHTSA) is looking into new policies and regulations that would apply to these new oversized car seats and are using crash dummies that weigh an additional 20 pounds (par. 6). If children continue to be overweight, the few skinny children who are left might be subject to harm because they will have to use the large car seats that they do not fit in properly (par. 12). Children are constantly surrounded by junk food and fast food. When children do eat unhealthy foods, they eat them extremely too fast and the body is not able to break down the food properly.

School cafeterias are filled with unhealthy, sugary snacks that children are allowed to eat. According to Susan DeFord, school systems in Maryland adopted a new wellness policy in March that removed foods that do not provide much nutritional value and added more recess time (par. 4). Any type of sugary snack that is given out at school parties will be strictly limited and there will no longer be candy given out as a reward in classes (par. 1). Soft drinks will no longer be available for purchase or brought to elementary schools in Maryland (par. 8).

The community is split down the middle with this decision because some see it as a good idea but others see it as a loss in profit (par. 11). According to Children’s Hospital-Boston, children are now eating fast food at least once a week and in large proportions (par. 3). Fast food has lots of calories, no fiber, refined starch, high sugar, and is consumed too fast for the body to register all of the extra calories it is taking in (par. 4). McDonald’s kids’ meals come with a cheeseburger, hamburger, or 4 chicken nuggets, fries, and a soft drink.

Now McDonald’s also has a mighty kid’s meal that comes with a double burger or 6 chicken nuggets, fries, Spencer 4 and a drink, which has double the calories and fat. Soft drinks are a major cause of obesity because they are one hundred percent sugar. “A study of the fast-food chains’ (KFC and McDonald’s) products around the world found remarkably wide variations in trans fat content from country to country, from city to city within the same nation, and from restaurant to restaurant in the same city” (Bleier, par. 4). The main cause of this difference is the cooking oil that is used (par. ). Vegetable oil has much more trans fat than other types of oil and cost less (par. 5). BMI (body mass index) is the calculation of a person’s height and weight to verify if they are overweight. Many believe this procedure is not very effective because a fit and active person with a lot of muscle might have a reading that shows they are overweight because the BMI does not account for amount of exercise done daily and muscle. Dr. Chris Aylesworth, an assistant professor of biology at Ferrum College, told me in a personal interview that BMI is a good indicator that there might be a problem.

Even if you usually register a 27 but register 29 at a later date, although someone may be overweight on the scale of BMI that does not mean that they are not metabolically fit which means they probably could lose a little weight but they are not so overweight tat they are at risk for diseases (interview). According to Laura Weiss, a bill in Maryland is wanting to check, in schools, children’s BMI in first, third, fifth, and eighth grades and give their parents confidential “report cards” with their BMI score (par. 2).

Many health officials believe that schools are not the appropriate place to conduct these tests and that schools should just focus on physical education and keeping healthy school meals (par. 5). Clinical psychologist Margo Maine states “There is no science that supports that BMI Spencer 5 is a prime indicator of health, especially for children whose growth is uneven. ” She also states that this could lead to an increase in bullying because the BMI scores can easily become public knowledge if people are not careful (par. 7). Being obese as a child has psychological effects as well as physical health effects.

Children who are obese tend to be teased and bullied much more than a child who is skinny. Depression is much more prevalent in children who are teased at school for being overweight. These children also develop low self-esteem, which can slow their social development. Stress can cause obesity but it can also be a side effect of being obese. According to Jennifer Simmons, children who are obese as a child are much more likely to develop “diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, asthma, stroke and cancer” (qtd. in par. 2). According to Dr.

Rebecca Moran, the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that physicians consider screening all obese children over two years of age for elevated cholesterol levels (par. 5). Metabolic syndrome has been seen in children as young as 4 and is a “group of health problems that include too much fat around the waist, elevated blood pressure, high triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and low HDL cholesterol” (par. 7). Eating too much junk food, fast food, and not exercising do contribute to the rise in obesity but there are other factors that might be involved.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that an energy imbalance, calorie consumption, calories used, environment, and also genetics might all be linked to obesity (par. 2). “Energy imbalance is when the number of calories consumed is not equal to the number of calories used and weight gain results (qtd. in par. 5). Energy imbalance is caused by personal choices concerning physical activity and calorie consumption. Portion sizes Spencer 6 have increased and people are now eating double what they used to. When the body does not burn off the extra calories consumed, the body stores the excess calories as fat (par. ). Calories can be used up by exercising and exercise does not have to be streneous work such as following a work out video or running laps (par. 10). Thirty minutes of any type of leisurely movement, 5 times a week is suggested (par. 10). This could involve taking the dog for a walk, hiking, swimming, rollerblading, dancing, playing ping pong, basketball, and many other activities that children enjoy. Enviornment plays a big role because everyone is in a different environment and some people can walk places while others have to drive.

Some people fight for the par. king spot closest to the front door at stores because they do not want to walk a lot. Genetics does play a role in obesity when it comes to Bardet-Biedl syndorme and Prader-Willi syndrome (par. 13). According to Dr. Chris Aylesworth, the Leptin genes is a feedback mechanism that tells the body when it is hungry and when it should eat because it is located in the adapose cells (fat cells) and some people have a lack of these genes in their body (interview). Cortizol levels control fat production (interview).

For example, the diet pill Cortislim that is being advertised on television is supposed to slow down fat production in the body (interview). Hyperthyroidism is another problem in which there is less action of the thyroid and this causes people to become overweight (interview). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, certain drugs that people take, such as steroids and some antidepressents, cause weight gain (par. 14). According to Leann Birch, a professor of human development and family studies at Penn State said, Spencer 7 People are overweight due to personal choices, but this isn’t applicable to small children, this is a problem for which families, communities and corporations must bear responsibility for changing social norms to promote healthy lifestyles. ” (qtd. in Karaszkiewicz, par. 5) Source: Karaszkiewicz, Karen. “Group to address childhood obesity. ” The Digital Collegian. 12 Oct 2004. 28 Apr 2006. www. collegian. psu. edu/ archive/2004/10/10-12-0…. Dr. Chris Aylesworth stated that he does not believe that genetics is a direct link or that there is some faulty gene that causes obesity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Despite obesity having strong genetic determinants, the genetic composition of the population does not change rapidly. Therefore, the large increase in… [obesity] must reflect major changes in non-genetic factors. ” (qtd. in par. 18) Spencer 8 Studies have shown that there is a possible link between obesity and genetics but there is no sure way to define it. If a parent is obese their child has a greater risk of becoming obese but that is not neccesarily because of genetics.

It is more likely because the child sees the parent living a sedentary lifestyle and making unhealthy eating choices so that is what the child does as well. But if you look at a child who is obese and has two healthy parents, I think it becomes clear that genetics is not involved. According to the Surgeon General, weight control of children should be watched by physicians and must be considered a lifelong effort (par. 16). When a child does go on a “diet” it is important for the child to try to maintain the weight they are at now and as they grow taller they will naturally slim down to their appropriate weight (par. ). Many parents may think it is a good idea to give their children diet pills but diet pills are suggested for people over eighteen and only work when execise is incorporated. Limiting access to junk food, soft drinks, television, computer, and video games will help with obesity in children. Parents, churches, schools, communities, and the government must all act together to try and slow the progress of this devistating epidemic. Parents should watch what their children eat, monitor how much time children are spending inside using electronic devices, and encourage their children to stay active.

Churches should incorporate special activities with their youth groups that involve healthy eating and staying active. Schools need to work on the nutritional values of their foods and allow more time for gym class and recess. Communities need to have safer parks, trails, and more sidewalks so that children who live in the area can be safe and stay healthy. The government needs to put stricter rules and regulations on fast food industries as well as advertisements. If all of these things are done, by 2015 the United States will not have Spencer 9 uch a high obesity rate among children and future generations will have a better chance of living a long, healthy, and successful life. Spencer 10 Works Cited Aylesworth, Chris DVM. Personal interview. 25 Apr. 2006. Bernstein, Ellen. “Confronting Childhood Obesity. ” Britannica Book of the Year, 2006. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 13 Apr. 2006. http://0-search. eb. com. library. acaweb. org:80/eb/article-9403613. Bleier, Karen. “What’s in that french fry? Fat varies by city. ” MSNBC 12 Apr 2006 28 Apr 2006. http://msnbc. msn. com/id/12287818/. “BMI — Body Mass Index: About BMI for Children and Teens. ” 22 Mar. 2006.

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Ed. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. 9th ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005. 465- 72. Tanneeru, Manav. “Obesity: A looming national threat?. ” CNN. com. 24 Mar. 2006. 13 Apr. 2006. http://www. cnn. com/2006/HEALTH/diet. fitness/03/24/obesity/html. “The Surgeon General’s Call To Action To Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity. ” United States Department of Health and Human Services. 28 Apr 2006 http://www. surgeongeneral. gov/topics/obesity/calltoaction/fact_adolescents. htm. Weiss, Laura B. “Bill Aims to Reign in Childhood Obesity. ” School Library Journal. (2006). 11 Apr. 2006. Spencer 13