Fort Worth, Texas,
15:32 PM

Number of Obese Children and Adolescents Reach Record High

Experts say weight loss, healthy lifestyle should include entire family

A new world-wide study shows that 10 times more children and adolescents are considered obese than they were 40 years ago.

The report published in The Lancet states the amount of children and adolescents rose to 124 million in 2016, compared to 11 million in 1975.

More than 20 percent of children in the United States were found to be obese in the age groups of ages 5 to 19 years of age.

While the study focuses on children, experts at Cook Children’s say the parents have to take accountability in keeping their children healthy.

Joel Steelman, M.D., an endocrinologist at Cook Children’s, said unhealthy food choices are more accessible with the increase of fast food choices across the world. These foods are usually higher in sugar and lower in not only nutrition, but cost of the food.

The other factor in the increase in obesity is sedentary behavior. But Dr. Steelman said increasing activity is easier said than done for many families, who are faced with children relying more on electronic media for entertainment and parents facing unsafe environments to let their kids go outside and play. Still, he said changes begin with the entire family making as many health changes as possible.

“Families have to be involved in helping a child with weight management,” Dr. Steelman said. “Often times this is not just a child issue, but a family-wide issue that needs to be addressed. I think that the biggest issue for families though is not to become militant and overly rigid in trying to help a child with weight management. Definitely, no shaming. The things you can do right now are pretty basic. That is changing your diet and encouraging more physical activity. I know it sounds simple, but this seems to be the best solution.”

Don Wilson, M.D., an endocrinologist at Cook Children’s, is the medical director of the Risk Evaluation to Achieve Cardiovascular Health (REACH) Clinic. The clinic is committed to improving the lives and well-being of children who are at risk or affected by obesity.

“The only way to be successful in the struggle with obesity is for all adults and children (with the assistance and encouragement of their parent/caregiver) is to embrace therapeutic lifestyle changes,” Dr. Wilson said. “Success starts with a positive self-image and a ‘can do’ attitude. We in the medical profession can help educate and encourage, but need to avoid blame and comments that demean the victim. Obesity is, and always has been, a disease. It should be treated as such. In general the public needs to understand the short-term and long-term consequences of obesity, including diabetes, premature heart disease, and several forms of obesity-related cancer. Only then will successful management/prevention be achievable.”

Virginia Landrum, a dietitian in clinical nutrition in Gastroenterology at Cook Children’s, said she stresses to parents and children that the entire family must be involved in making changes.

She lets her patients who are working to lose weight not to look at their changes as diet, but as a lifestyle change.

Landrum advises parents to help their kids get healthier by taking these steps:

  1. Help your children be involved in the meal. Let them pick out some healthier food options that they may want to try.
  2. If they are old enough, let them be involved in food prep.
  3. Offer new foods. Studies show it can take as much as 20 times for some children to accept new food options. Landrum said parents may have to start by simply placing the new food item on the plate.
  4. Parents have to set the example. Eat the healthy foods with your child. Let your child watch you eat vegetable. Go outside and walk with your child, play a sport or ride a bike.
  5. Turn off the TV, video games and eat together as a family.
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