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Why is obesity so prevalent, and what can we
do to combat it?
This week, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported
that in 2009, no state had met a
target of reducing obesity prevalence among
adults to 15 percent. Why is obesity so
prevalent in America? And what can we do to
combat the problem? Quattrin, who is leading
than $2.5 million study to
test an innovative program for preventing
and treating obesity in children aged 2 to
5, offers her expert opinion.
Why have obesity rates increased so much
over the past several decades?
Changes in diet and activity levels
have contributed to obesity. People are
eating more, and eating less healthy food
high in calories. In our research, we looked
at the food intake of children 2 to 5 years
old, and 7 out of 10 were consuming
significantly more calories than the
recommended 1,200 per day. There are
children who eat a whole carton of
strawberries, and their parents think that’s
OK. But it is not--too much healthy food can
contribute to the problem, too. Extra
calories, along with low physical activity,
lead to obesity--especially in people with a
predisposition to developing the disease,
and certainly in kids whose parents are
What health problems can childhood obesity
Knee problems, back problems, high
blood pressure and cardiovascular problems
can all result from obesity. Children who
are overweight tend to have poor self esteem
and make fewer friends. It’s important to
remember that health problems due to obesity
can begin early in life. Type 2 diabetes
used to be called adult onset diabetes, but
now many teenagers and children--as young as
8 years old--have the disease.
Are children who are obese more likely to
become adults who are obese?
Yes. Studies have shown that even 2-
to 5-year-old children who are obese have as
high as an 80 percent chance of suffering
from obesity in adulthood if their parents
are overweight. Once the body is used to
eating a certain amount of food, the stomach
no longer sends the proper signals to the
brain to say that you’re full. So when you
try to change habits, it’s a struggle.
What are some simple steps children and
families can take to prevent obesity?
Parents should educate themselves by
finding out their children’s body mass
index, and their own. Young children who
don’t look overweight may still be obese.
Parents also need to be good role models. If
the home environment is such that the
refrigerator and pantry are full of junk
food instead of fruits and vegetables, the
child grows up feeling that’s the way he or
she should eat. Being active is also
important. Park a little further away from
the supermarket. Take the stairs instead of
the elevator. Walk to the store or a
friend’s house. These are simple steps that
can ameliorate and prevent problems.