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Obesity is a serious problem that has reached epidemic proportions all over the western world.  In particular, the media in North America has as of late been spending a lot of time focussing on the potential adverse health outcomes of Childhood Obesity and Obesity in Teens.  The main purpose of this article is to give a general overview of some of the problems with childhood obesity including a look at the causes of childhood obesity in America, how to get help in preventing child obesity if you are parent or guardian of a child who you think may be overweight or approach obesity.  In general, one should consider this article as the starting point or primer for a more comprehensive look at this important topic in health care in America before moving on to other reputable sources of heath care information.  As always, should you need immediate medical attention or require information regarding a specific medical problem, it is always recommended that other information sources not be used in place of consulting a certified and qualified licensed health care professional such as a family physician.


In general it is thought that obesity in children is rising at an alarming rate all over the world, and according to the Mayo Clinic, in the past two decades the number of overweight children in the United States (that is between the ages of six and eleven) has doubled, and the number of overweight teenagers in the United States has tripled.  However, for parents who need obesity help for their children, they may immediately think of more drastic means of treating obesity such as obesity surgery.  In most cases such extreme cases are entirely unwarranted and this article will attempt to outline some of the more common sense approaches to standard cases of obesity in children.  If you are interested in the topic of “Child Obesity,” or are looking for more study based information on topics such as “Obesity Statistics” or “Research on Obesity” the medical databases of United States government institutions are also readily available sources of information on this topic and can further help parents find ways of dealing with the quite literally growing problem of childhood obesity.


What Causes Obesity?


Although there may in some rare cases be genetic disease such as Prader-Wiilli or Bardet-Biedl syndromes or other potentially medically related causes of childhood obesity there are usually far more common reasons for childhood obesity.  In general the two factors that have combined to create the epidemic that is childhood obesity are sedentary lifestyle and overeating.  Naturally, it is not difficult to see how this may have come from the lifestyle choices that western society seems to promote.  The culture of over consumption along with increasingly sedentary lifestyles has led to the necessary risk factors for obesity occurring across broad swaths of the population.


The causes of obesity may seem all too obvious, and in some ways this is partially why combating obesity is so difficult.  It is not overly difficult to formulate the argument that if the general cultural trends that are leading to unhealthy lifestyle choices are helping to lead people towards obesity then these very same cultural trends might also be contributing to many individuals inability to escape from an unhealthy lifestyle.


However, it is extremely important that obese individuals to their best to lower their weight as childhood obesity causes a significant risk of developing a number of disease and disorders including diabetes, high blood pressure, disease of the liver, skin and respiratory tracks, disorders relating to sleep and even resulting in the early onset of puberty.  In addition, obesity in children can result in a number of psychosocial disorders such as low self-esteem, behaviour or learning problems and even depression.  It is not difficult to see why this might be the case as overweight children commonly become the subject of schoolyard teasing, which can adversely affect their mental and emotional states.  The depression caused by a disrupted social environment can lead overweight children to withdraw from social situations, particularly outdoor activities with their peers which are the very things necessary in order to improve weight and self-image.


How to Treat Obesity?


There are a number of factors that need to be considered when treating obesity, particularly in children.  Diet is a prime factor and it is largely the responsibility of the parent in consultation with their children to ensure that the reasons behind a healthy diet are made clear and the available food choices in the home are of a health sort in order to prevent the making of unhealthy choices.  In general, one should avoid fast food, high-calorie foods such as soft drinks and vending machine snacks.  Avoid high-sugar and high fat foods and desserts.


Given that the choices that parents make can adversely impact their children it is important to involve the entire family in the lifestyle changes necessary to ensure that childhood obesity will be effectively combated, but also to ensure that childhood obesity and obesity in adults be prevented in the first place.  It is also important to note that lifestyle factors are not a one time change or treatment that once completed can be ignored, leading to a resumption of the unhealthy activities that caused the weight gain in the first place.  Rather, it is important to ensure that lifestyle changes are permanent as it is only through a complete change in lifestyle that healthy weight outcomes can be achieved.


In addition to these lifestyle changes, such as increasing exercise and limiting television, there is in extreme cases the availability of weight-loss drugs that are only accessible through prescription.  These drugs include Meridia (sibutramine) and Xenical (orlistat).  Although not often prescribed to children, these drugs can help reduce childhood obesity, but not at the expense of the essential changes in lifestyle including increased exercise and decreased food consumption that are necessary for positive weight outcomes for obese children.  In addition, there are surgical options available for the treatment of obesity, but these are not often considered for children or adolescents as they are still growing and as a result any sort of surgery is generally not recommended.