Childhood and Adolescent Obesity
Today, more than ever, our children are suffering from weight issues and obesity, causing them to develop excess-weight-related health problems earlier in life.
It is estimated that between 16 and 33% of children are obese1. Childhood obesity has its roots in various factors including genetics and poor diet and exercise habits due to our modern, more sedentary lifestyle. Obesity is readily recognized as a disease; often parents, teachers and other caretakers do not acknowledge the severity of obesity and its underlying causes.
Because children’s bodies are often more able to adapt to lifestyle changes than adults, implementing a structured diet and exercise regimen may be more effective in the long-term. Further, education programs about obesity and its ill effects may be more effective than they would be for adults.
For children who are suffering from severe and life-threatening obesity, weight loss surgery may be an option. Bariatric surgery for children and adolescents, however, is a very controversial topic and very few weight loss surgery centers in the United States provide this service. While a child may be better able to recover quickly after surgery, there still is a question about the physical and psychological effects of bariatric surgery on young children. Does bariatric surgery stunt a child’s growth? Can a child follow the necessary lifestyle modifications needed to be successful over the long-term after surgery?
For now, the debate will continue as to how to best manage weight issues in the younger population. Until then, weight management in children and adolescents should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
1The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). Obesity In Children And Teens. Available at: http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/obesity_in_children_and_teens. Accessed March 29, 2012