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Childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is a growing concern and it can lead to other serious health issues at a young age. 

Currently about 17 percent of children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese.  Children are considered to be obese if they are in the top five percent as measured by body mass index or BMI.  Children who are obese are more likely to develop other health conditions, says Dr. Marthe (Marta) dela Cruz, assistant professor of pediatrics at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.  She explains some of the problems usually seen only in adults.

“... we’re seeing an increase in diabetes Type 2 in children, which down the road can lead to cardiovascular problems, renal problems, kidney issues, vision problems and possibly need for dialysis and loss of limbs.  We’re also seeing obstructive sleep apnea in children.”

Dr. dela Cruz says the best treatment for overweight children is prevention.  She recommends healthy eating and correct portion sizes.  She also advises that children increase their amount of physical activity.

“Tips for preventing obesity would be making sure the children are eating a healthy diet -- five fruits and vegetables a day, limiting the sugar-sweetened beverages.  For example, no child really needs to be drinking soda or sports drinks.  We prefer milk and water as drinks for children.”

Dr. dela Cruz recommends that children spend no more than two hours of screen time per day, which includes watching TV and sitting at a computer or video games, and engage in one hour of physical activity.  If children are overweight, they should see their pediatrician or family physician for an evaluation and possible treatment.

Ruth Slottag