Should I be concerned if my child is overweight or obese?

Yes! Obesity is so much more than an issue of physical appearance, it is a life and health altering condition.

Socially, obese children are often relentlessly teased, less popular, have lower self esteem than healthy weight peers, suffer from higher rates of depression, have poorer body image, do less well in school, and are less likely to go onto college. Premature puberty, a result of obesity in some children, can result is ostracizing, insecurity, and embarrassment. This is particularly distressing for young girls.

Medically, obesity can worsen asthma and lead to obstructive sleep apnea (where a child momentarily stops breathing while asleep). Some children develop type II diabetes, fatty liver disease, gallstones, hypertension or high cholesterol, all direct results of their obesity. Others suffer from painful bone-joint disease, and muscle discomfort from excess weight. Most parents are shocked to learn that an obese child with high triglycerides has the arteries (plaque) of a 45 year old. Furthermore, kids who are overweight at ages 7-13 are at increased risk for developing heart disease in their mid 20’s. Some overweight and obese teens will develop eating disorders, which have their own very serious weight implications.

The long term affects of obesity are well known and include hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, stroke, diabetes, increased incidence of certain cancers, arthritis, fatty liver disease, and gallbladder disease. Many of these diseases begin in childhood. Although they are not necessarily manifested in childhood, do not let this lull you into a false sense of security. Excess weight in early childhood has been linked to earlier and higher death rates in adults (Dietz W. Health consequences of obesity in youth: Childhood predictors of adult disease. Pediatrics 1998;101:518–52).

Consider these alarming statistics

  • The American Heart Association reports that 25% of children between the ages of 5 and 10 show early signs of heart disease, including high blood pressure and cholesterol. Ten percent of teens have early evidence of plaque formation (American Heart Association, Understanding Childhood Obesity, 2010.).
  • With 1 in 8 deaths in America caused by an illness directly related to overweight and obesity, this must not be dismissed! In fact, this is the first generation not expected to live as long as its parents. Obesity is the number one reason for this catastrophic prediction (Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Competition, Infrastructure, and Foreign Commerce Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation United States Senate “The Growing Epidemic of Childhood Obesity” Statement of Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S., Surgeon General, U.S. Public Health Service,  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
  • 66% of all adults (that’s 144 million adults) are overweight or obese (and many of them are raising kids!).
  • Weight concern is the number one health issue of parents today, overshadowing drug, tobacco and alcohol concerns (American Heart Association, Understanding Childhood Obesity, 2010.).