A New Calculator May Accurately Predict if Your Child is at Risk for Obesity
What if you could predict your newborn's likelihood of becoming obese? That's exactly what researchers now believe they can do, with a formula called the obesity risk calculator. Enter a few simple factors, including body mass indexes of both parents, number of household members, infant's birth weight, mother's occupation, and whether the mother smoked during pregnancy. Researchers settled on these indicators after following 4,000 children born in Finland, as part of a study that began in 1986. They accurately predicted childhood obesity up to 85 percent of the time, reports Fox News. The research was published Wednesday in PLOS ONE.
If the calculator reveals your child is likely at risk to be obese? Get an early start on building healthy habits, Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin, one of the study's lead authors and a professor of lifecourse epidemiology at London's Imperial College, told Fox News. If your child's obesity risk is, for example, 70 percent, "then we can say for sure that something should be done," Jarvelin said. "The prevention of obesity should be started as early as possible. If [a] child is obese at the age of 6 or 7, it's difficult to make the child lose weight. You have to work really, really hard."
More than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These overweight and obese young people face a greater risk of health problems like heart disease, bone and joint problems, low self-esteem, sleep apnea, and prediabetes, which often leads to type 2 diabetes.
Why We're So Fat: What's Behind the Latest Obesity Rates
It used to be that rich and fat were terms associated with people, not dessert. A portly shape, in fact, signaled the good life. If you ever saw the musical Oliver!, you may recall the number, "Food, Glorious Food," in which a stage full of scrawny orphans pine for the gluttony that money can buy: "Rich gentlemen have it boys, In-di-gestion!" Today, however, we often see the reverse scenario: the leaner your wallet, the fatter you are.
"You have this coexistence of obesity and food insecurity in America," says Susan Blumenthal, former U.S. assistant surgeon general, clinical professor at Georgetown and Tufts University medical schools, and director of the Health and Medicine Program at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. Finding, and affording, healthy food along with safe places to exercise, are among the challenges that low-income populations face.
So perhaps it's not surprising that the statistics released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that Mississippi, the poorest state in America, has the nation's highest obesity rate, at 34.9 percent. States in the South and Midwest, which, in some cases, represent the poorest parts of the country, showed the highest incidences of obesity. While financial health has a bearing on physical health, the correlation is a complicated one. Culture, gender, education, biology, and even politics, play a role. [Read more: Why We're So Fat: What's Behind the Latest Obesity Rates]
Understanding Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity has become so epidemic in this country that kids today risk having shorter life spans than their parents, writes U.S. News blogger Len Saunders. The American Heart Association reports that about one in three American kids is overweight or obese. Those statistics have nearly tripled in about 50 years. As a result, many young children today are plagued with risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, high triglycerides, raised insulin, physical inactivity, and obesity. Many also suffer from low self-esteem and depression. Is there a solution in sight?
First, we need to understand that there is not one magical formula to fix every single overweight child, since gaining weight can be environmental, emotional, physical, or inheritable. Simply put, every child is different and needs a unique plan of action to maintain a healthy weight. Ad campaigns, support from government officials, and even the enthusiasm from First Lady Michelle Obama are all notable, but dramatic change will take place at the grassroots level. Each individual child needs support, consistency, motivation, mentors, tough love, and education on a healthy lifestyle.
According to Sarah Armstrong, a childhood obesity expert at Duke University Medical Center, "Solving childhood obesity is a directive that will require unprecedented levels of cooperation between multiple sectors" from schools and public health agencies to businesses and families. "What is lacking currently is a universally-recognized understanding that childhood obesity is not the sole responsibility of the parent—or, worse yet, the child—to fix." [Read more: Understanding Childhood Obesity]