Childhood Obesity Articles
The Major Concerns of Childhood Obesity and Why Weight Loss Camp Can Help
By Stefanie Hamilton
Childhood obesity has become so prevalent that it’s now considered an epidemic. An estimated 15 percent of all U.S. children are overweight or obese. Evidence of this epidemic can be seen in the sheer number of weight loss camps that have popped up across the nation. While some camps have been around for years, or even decades, many have been started in response to the seemingly out-of-control weight gain happening among kids.
Though there are psychological and emotional risks associated with childhood obesity, there are physical risks as well; health issues that can carry on into adulthood. It is these health issues that are often the focus at weight loss camps.
Though it’s typically found in adults, type 2 diabetes is becoming more common in children. Of the people who have type 2 diabetes, about 80 percent are overweight.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is not able to use insulin effectively. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and is used to move glucose from the bloodstream into the body’s cells where it is used for growth and energy. When insulin is not used effectively, a build-up of glucose occurs in the bloodstream. It is then passed out of the body through urine, and the body loses its main source of fuel.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include frequent urination, fatigue or nausea, weight loss, unusual thirst, and frequent infections. These symptoms develop slowly, and some people may not develop any symptoms at all.
Type 2 diabetes can lead to complications such as heart and blood vessel disease, kidney failure, stroke, and nerve damage. In 2006, it was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in America and one of the top risks of obesity. Heart disease is a broad term used to refer to a wide range of heart-related issues – everything from arrhythmia to heart failure.
In a study conducted through Wake Forest University, researchers found that obesity significantly increases the risk of heart disease. When compared to healthy-weight people who had the same risk factors, signs of heart disease were far more advanced in clinically obese people.
The study also found that, even with the help of medications, obese people had higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol, and higher blood sugar than their healthy-weight counterparts.
Yet another study conducted through the University of Missouri Kansas City, found that the artery walls of obese children resemble those of a 45-year-old adult. Thickening of artery walls can lead to heart attack or stroke if not properly treated.
Sleep apnea is often overlooked in children, as it is most common among middle-aged men. But children can suffer from the disorder, which is characterized by involuntary pauses in breathing that wake the person up. It prevents the sufferer from getting the type of deep sleep necessary to be fully rested.
While enlarged tonsils are often the cause of sleep apnea in children, a child who is obese often has excess tissue in her airway which can cause or aggravate the condition.
Children with sleep apnea may be misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because of their behavior problems and inability to focus. Sleepiness is another daytime symptom of sleep apnea.
Though there are many gastrointestinal diseases caused by obesity, one in particular is becoming more common among obese children: fatty liver disease. Called “non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” it’s characterized by an increase of fat in the liver, general abdominal pain, and raised liver enzymes. If left untreated, it can lead to cirrhosis.
The prevalence of gallstones among obese children is also on the rise. Gallstones are small formations of solid material that develop in the gallbladder and can cause abdominal pain. High cholesterol, a characteristic associated with obesity, increases the risk of gallstones. Studies have found that obesity is a factor in about 50 percent of pediatric gallstone cases.
Though these health issues aren’t attributed exclusively to overweight and obesity, weight is a strongly contributing factor. This is why so many weight loss camps focus on exactly that – weight loss. A teenager who is obese and is able to achieve significant, but healthy weight loss also significantly reduces his risk for these health problems. Diet and exercise professionals know this, which is why so many have helped develop weight loss camp programs or have started weight loss camps of their own.