We've known for some time that the number of overweight Americans has been on the rise in the past two decades, with 6 out of 10 adults said to be overweight or obese.
What has really shocked a great number of people, however, is just how many obese children and teens there are in the US.
The research has been startling, and a wake- up call for many: Studies show that 80% of children born to two obese parents will themselves become obese, compared with only 14% of children born to normal-weight parents.
Research on identical twins shows similarly high rates of inheritance of weight problems in families.
However, studies comparing the weights of adopted children, with the weights of their biological and adopted parents, indicate that genetic factors are responsible for only about a third of the difference in weight. The rest is associated with environmental factors, such as attitudes towards food in the home, and the amount of fast food and huge portions that are almost synonymous with America as "the land of plenty."
Global rates of obesity have grown as well as a result of people overseas introducing burgers, fries, and soda into their diet. There is nothing really wrong with pizza, for instance, until you start loading it with pounds of cheese and meat on top.
Children see these items as a treat when they are growing up, but by the time they get to be teens, these foods become a staple, not a rare event.
The two factors, therefore, genetics and environment, all make it hard for children to stay slim. Add to that the fact that many schools have cut their physical education classes due to educational timetable constraints, and we have a growing generation of overweight children and teens who need the advice of a physician in order to help them start slimming down.
Weight loss for children is problematic and requires specific medical guidance because they are still growing. They can't simply diet the way adults do and still get all their nutritional needs met.
* In addition, due to their weight, these obese children are actually showing signs of disease that one would normally see only in seriously overweight adults, such as insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, and even high cholesterol. Some are even showing signs of metabolic syndrome, a basket of symptoms that includes; insulin resistance; high blood pressure; obesity; low HDL (helpful) cholesterol; and elevated triglycerides, another component of cholesterol.
* For adults, they would be treated with insulin and cholesterol lowering drugs called statins. However, these are not viable choices for children due to the risk of side effects.
Clearly something has happened in society for childhood and teenaged obesity to be so prominent, and something needs to be done about it safely, and naturally, without drugs if at all possible. Therefore, the parents of children who are obese first need to look to their own health, and what they might be doing to cause this phenomenon.
Then they need to go with their child to consult with a doctor about the effects of obesity on their child and the most safe and effective and natural ways of helping them to lose weight without putting their health and growth at further risk.