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11-15-11

Childhood Obesity

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

Currently about 15 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 Phelps, assistant professor of pediatrics at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.  She explains some of the problems usually seen only in adults.

SOUND BITE:    “We’re seeing diabetes Type 2, which is usually related to overweight, at much younger ages.  We’re also seeing obstructive sleep apnea in children who are obese.  The problem is if you are diagnosed at younger ages with these co-morbid conditions, you’ll have problems early on in life.”

Dr. Phelps 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.

SOUND BITE:    “We don’t really want kids to go on diets or lose weight.  They still need to be gaining weight as they are growing taller.  We usually prefer that they just slow down their weight gain.  So lifestyle modifications include healthy eating habits and active lifestyle.”

Dr. Phelps 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.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.