Growing Problem of Obesity in America

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Obesity is a growing problem in more developed countries. In the United States, obesity affects 39.8% of the population. In children and adolescents this number is much lower at 20.6% (Child Hood Obesity Facts, 2017). But it is important to understand that 70% percent of adolescents from ages 10-13 will stay obese all through their life (Wati, Pamungkasari, & Dharmawan, 2017). A way of stopping adult obesity is to make sure that the adolescents are not obese themselves. That can be done through school programs that promote physical activity, a stricter diet, daily physical activity and a better sleep schedule. This paper will be examining adolescent obesity. More specifically the causes of adolescent obesity and steps to intervene and prevent adolescent obesity from happening.

Before detailing the problem of adolescent obesity, there needs to be a definition for it. Adolescent obesity can be defined with the Body Mass Index or BMI. The BMI is a calculation that includes a person’s height divided by their weight squared. It is expressed in units of kilograms and meters (kg/m^2). To be considered obese, a person needs to have a BMI above the 95th percentile of all people. The BMI depends on age and sex. Females tend to have more body fat naturally, so a female needs to have a higher BMI to be considered obese. Children and adolescents have a lower BMI on average (Childhood obesity facts, 2017). BMI is not the best tool to access obesity because it does not account to bone size and body fat percentage. An adolescent can be tall and muscular but still appear to be obese even he/she is still obese. A DEXA scan is much more appropriate as it accounts for body fat percentage (Tyson & Frank, 2018).

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Now that obesity is defined, there can be a closer examination on who it is affecting. It is important to state that childhood and adolescent obesity disproportionally effects middle and lower class families. To be exact 18.9% of obese people from the ages 2-19 were from the lowest income group, 19.9 % were from the middle income group, and 10.9% were from the highest income group. This makes sense considering obese people from the highest income group have parents that can afford to hire a personal trainer to ensure that their child is exercising or a personal chef to make sure that their child is eating healthy. The Central for Disease Control also mentions that the likelihood of child and adolescent obesity having obesity decreases with the increasing level of education of the household. This implies that people that are smarter are less likely to let their children be obese. Also, people with higher education tend to make more money which falls into the income and obesity correlation mentioned before (Childhood obesity facts, 2017)

The causes of adolescent obesity is a lack of exercise and poor nutrition. These are exogenous causes for obesity. There is a smaller portion of children and adolescents that are obese to secondary causes. These include genetic disorders and most commonly include hypothyroidism, growth hormone deficiency or Cushing’s syndrome. For these cases, it is important that child or adolescent is diagnosed at a young age to help mitigate the obesity. (Stipancic & Sepec, 2017). Sleep duration has surprising link to adolescent obesity. An article in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes suggests that inadequate sleep duration is link to obesity (Sluggett, Wagner, & Harris, 2018)

Obesity is linked with many other diseases and illnesses like such as abnormal blood pressure, high cholesterol , increases risk of diabetes, and muscoskeletal problem and much more. There are also psychological issues an obese adolescent faces like depression due to low self-esteem. They might not feel as comfortable in their body. Finally, there are social problems. Adolescents with obesity often deal with bullying which could be another cause for depression and that can cause adolescents to eat mote to cope with depression. This is difficult especially for adolescents who are so caught up with self-image and take criticism or bullying too serios hence causing depression (Childhood obesity facts, 2017),

Treatments include a strictly monitored diet which should include more nutrient rich foods. The goal of the diet is to have a patient be in a caloric deficit where the patient burns calories. Dietary consumption of obese adolescents does not need to be strict. Replacing fruits and vegetables with low nutrient foods can be help reduce obesity. One study that took place in Surakarta City from February 2017 to March 2017 shows the effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on obese adolescents. The study was conducted using analytical observation with case control. The study included a sample of 140 students who were in the first and second year of middle school. The split being 80 normal weight students and 60 obese students. The independent variable was fruit and vegetable consumption, mothers’ education, family income and age and the dependent variable was obesity. The study concluded that fruit and vegetable consumption directly correlated with adolescent obesity. This means that more vegetable and fruit intake reduces obesity. Possible explanations include vegetables and fruits having more fiber and thus taking longer to digest. This creates a feeling of being full for longer. Fruits and vegetable are also less calorically dense than candy and other sweets meaning that 100 calories of broccoli is more food than 100 calories of a chocolate bar. Hence, fruits and vegetable making adolescents feel full (Wati, Pamungkasari, & Dharmawan, 2017).

Moving on from dietary restrictions and on to physical activity. There is not question that adolescents with obesity should also be doing physical activity. An article from Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology put it best “Numerous studies have shown that when exercise is used as a primary intervention, significant improvements were demonstrated in numerous parameters such as a decrease fasting insulin, increase in HDL, reduction in body fat, and decreased insulin sensitivity (Tyson & Frank, 2018).” There are different types of ways to exercise. There are cardiovascular activities like running, recreational sports, or even weight lifting. It can be difficult for an uniformed adolescent or his/her parent to decide the most effective exercise is. “High Intensity Interval Exercise is currently advocated for its beneficial effect on body composition and cardio-metabolic health in children and adolescents with obesity (Miguet et al., 2018).” The study done by Miguet M. et al. looks at the effect of high intensity interval exercise on appetite control and subsequent food intake. So basically, the study wanted to know if this form of exercise can suppress appetite. 33 obese adolescents did a high intensity interval exercise and then were told to eat what they wanted after. They also took those same 33 obese adolescents and told them to eat what they wanted after a period of no activity. The study found that food intake was less after high intensity interval exercise than the rest period. Also, people with higher obesities had a higher reduction in food intake after the high intensity interval exercise. These results are very promising. An obsese adolescent doing a high intensity intercal exercise reaps double the benefits. They lose calories doing the high intensity interval exercise and saves calories from its food intake reduction effect. Implementing this into an obese adolescents’ life can be viable and efficient method for fat loss (Miguet et al., 2018).

Not all adolescents like exercise. An adolescent would rather play 3 hours of video games than go outside and exercise for 30 minutes. In the age of video games that promote a sedentary life style, it is important to change tactics so adolescents are more willing to exercise. A “community-based pediatric weight loss program” uses video games that require physical activity. After 10 weeks, the weight loss program displayed decrease in sedentary games played, an increase in hours exercised and decrease in BMI of 0.48 kgm^2 (Tyson & Frank, 2018).

Studies show that using phycological intervention is very useful when making dietary changes. In fact, up to 95% of people lose motivation unless psychological intervention is used. Family intervention is commonly used to help the adolescent lose weight. An adolescent is more likely to stick to a diet and exercise regimen if the whole family is involved. A study done on Hispanic obese children and adolescents showed a reduction in BMI, waist circumference and blood pressure. The study also shows that a reduction in the parents’ BMI predicates a reduction in the adolescent’s BMI (Tyson & Frank, 2018)

If family intervention is not working or the family does not have the time or willingness to conduct the intervention, the adolescent can get involved in community recreational programs which can be offered at schools or parks. Juist 12 months of being involved in such program increases the adolescent’s physical activity which lowers BMI (Tyson & Frank, 2018)

In conclusion, adolescent obesity is prevalent in the United States with about 20.6% of adolescents and teenagers from the age of 12-19 having it. It’s a very serious condition that comes with serious issues in the future like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart diseases and more. 70% of the adolescents of ages 10-13 who are obese will stay obese through their whole life and thusly increasing their chances of getting all the diseases associated with obesity. There are simple solutions to solve this problem. Studies shows that even eating vegetables and fruits or daily exercise can help reduce chances for obesity. In today’s age, it can be harder for parents to convince adolescents to go outside and exercise due to the increasing popularity of sedentary video games. Other measures must be used that incorporate physical activity into video games. Losing weight as an obese adolescent may seem impossible but with the help of their parents and other family members, it can be made easier.

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Growing Problem of Obesity in America. (2021, Oct 29). Retrieved from

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