Saturday, June 07, 2008

Does the Child Obesity Epidemic Level Off in United States?

The ever-increasing rate of childhood obesity has been a headache for many developed countries, including United States. It is believed that overweight or obese children would be subject to a higher risk of getting heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. when they grow older.

In United States, level of overweight or obese children have held steady after rising without interruption since 1980. However, a recent study by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association on May 28, 2008 that roughly 32 per cent of children were overweight or obese in years 2003-04 and 2005-06. This is the first leveled off after a 25-year increase.

The study was based on 8,165 children ages 2 to 19 who participated in nationally- representative government health surveys in year 2003-04 and 2005-06. These surveys are based on in-person measurements rather than relying on children’s own reports, as such, they are regarded as the most accurate reflection of obesity levels.

Does this really mean that we should be optimized about the reverse of the epidemic? The responses vary among health professionals and experts. Some suspects that this could just be a statistical fluke. Others said that if the leveling-off is real, it could be because more schools and parents are emphasizing better eating habits and more exercise. Even so, they felt it would be too early to celebrate.

Most experts are looking forward to the CDC’s analysis of data for 2007-08, which is considered as the best evidence for determining what direction children’s rates are really heading, due next year.

No doubt, many people are trying to do things to help halt the epidemic. For example, some schools are providing better meals and increasing physical education, and as a whole, Americans are more aware of the importance of fruits and vegetables. Nevertheless, there are still children that are ignorance of their health. For instance, an obese child revealed to his doctor that he did not consume a single piece of fresh fruit in 3 days.

Unless a substantial decline in prevalence, the impact of the childhood obesity will continue in coming years. It usually takes many years for the obesity-related medical conditions to transform into life-threatening events like heart attacks and kidney failure.

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