Facts on Obesity

Obesity is the accumulation of excess or abnormal fat that may impair health. In adults, the BMI (Body Mass Index) is the commonly used index for weight and height classifications. The BMI of a person is measured by dividing his weight against in kilograms against his height in meters squared. In adults obesity defined as follows by the WHO;

• BMI greater than or equal to 25 as overweight

• BMI equal to or greater than 30 as obesity

Age in children plays a significant role in the definition of obesity. Children under the age of five years are considered obese if their weight-for-height is greater than 3 standard deviations in the WHO child growth standard median. The WHO Growth Reference considers children between the ages of 5-19 years obese if their weight-for-height is above 2 standard deviations.

Facts about obesity

In 2016, about 13% of the world’s population was considered obese where out of these figures, 11% were men while 15% were women. In the same year about 41 million, children below 15 years were obese, while 340 million children between the ages of 5-19 years were obese. Obesity has for long been considered a problem in high income countries, however things are now changing as there has recently been a rise in obesity in both middle and low income countries too. For example since 2000, there has been an increase in obesity related cases in Africa where the number has been escalating with an estimated value of 50% in children. In Asia, nearly half of the children under the age of 5 years were considered obese in a data collected in 2016. More deaths have also been linked to obesity and overweight as compared to deaths from underweight related issues.

Causes of obesity

Obesity is mainly caused by the asymmetry in energy levels between calories which is used up and that which is consumed. There has been a global increase in; (a) intake of foods that are energy dense and high in fats.(b) Increase in physical dormancy due to the desk bound nature of the structure of work, urbanization and different forms of transport. Environmental and societal changes have led to changes in both physical patterns and dietary. Lack of support of actions in the health sectors, agriculture, education and transport has also added to some of the changes seen.

A rise in the level of BMI results in a number of communicable diseases such as;

• Cardiovascular diseases (stroke and heart attack).

• Cancer (kidney and colon)

• Musculoskeletal disorders (osteoarthritis)

• Diabetes

The risk of the diseases has also been found to increase with an increase in the levels of BMI. Some disabilities and premature deaths have been linked to childhood obesity where children grew to adulthood with the condition. Obese children also have trouble in breathing, hypertension, and resistance in insulin, fractures increase and psychological effects. Obesity, overweight and other non-communicable disease can be prevented. A community and an environment, which is supportive, are key in the shaping of peoples choices. People can make the best choices in terms of eating healthier foods and regular physical exercises, which will culminate to reduction and prevention of obesity and overweight related issue. At individual levels, one can limit the intake of fats and sugary foods increase the intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains. Individuals should also engage in regular physical activities. In terms of promotion of healthy diets, the food industry can also play significant roles in that it can ensure;

• Processed food have reduced contents in levels of fats and sugar

• All consumers can afford healthy foods.

• Foods intended for children and teenagers have reduced sugar, fats and salts.

• Support of regular physical activities.

Weight Gain For Children – It’s All in the Juice Box

There is no such thing as “hidden calories.” Just look at the nutrition label and you will see in seconds the number of calories, carbs, sugar, protein and fat. The Juice Boxes: 100% Natural Juice and Filled with Calorie and Sugar and can add hundreds of calories a day that are not needed and easily replaced with zero calorie and zero sugar alternatives.

Natural” Fruits Juices are NOT Natural:

Orange juice, grape juice or apple juice whether you squeeze it or Tropicana or Motts squeezes it are not “natural.” Quarts of orange juice or apples do not grow on trees nor do boxes of grape juice grow on vines. It’s the fruit itself that is”natural” and healthy. Squeezing and manipulating the fruit only removes the protective fibers making absorption from the stomach even faster. What you end up with is a highly palatable, convenient and inexpensive drink that has hundreds of extra calories. Coincident with the rise in childhood obesity was the movement of fruit juices from purely breakfast drinks to all day drinks. Children pick up a box of juice as they might pick up and drink a glass of water.

Fruit juice has become the drink of choice for many young children replacing milk and water.

Juice boxes are everywhere-at home, schools, daycare and of course, the vending machines. Juice is being aggressively marketed as a ‘wholesome drink for growing bodies’. It’s the new milk. Packaged in small easy to hold boxes with their own straw they can be carried everywhere. With labels saying how healthy they are and with tastes designed to entice, no wonder there is such a problem. Drinking fruit juices, especially the citrus ones cause rapid rises and falls in blood sugar and need for more and more sugar. Fruit juice contains no fiber and kids that drink them regularly rarely drink water. Not all fruit juices are 100% juice. Some contain high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners as well as artificial colors and preservatives. Most juice boxes have 100 calories and 20 grams of sugar. A child drinking just one juice box a day, similar to soft drinks or sports drinks, will gain 10 lb. in a year if it represents excess calories. Almost no children reduce calories during the day to make up for the added calories of the juice. They quickly become a source of extra calories that were never needed in the first place.

There are “NO Hidden Calories in Beverages:

Calories in drinks are not hidden they’re listed right on the Nutrition Facts label, but many people don’t realize just how many calories beverages can contribute to their daily intake. As you can see in the example below, calories from drinks can really add up. However, the good news is that there area a lot of zero calorie or near zero calorie alternatives. Check the list below to estimate how many calories your children and teens are adding from these drinks:

Calories in 12 and 20 oz. of Sugary Beverages

Type of Beverage

Fruit punch ———– 192 —– 320

100% apple juice — 192 ——300

100% orange juice – 168 —–280

Lemonade – ———–168 —–280

Regular lemon/lime soda – 148 —247

Regular cola – ——————136 —227

Sweetened lemon iced tea – 135– 225

Regular ginger ale ———— 124 –207

Sports drink – ——————–99 —-165

Fitness water- ——————18—— 36

Unsweetened iced tea – ——-2 ——–3

Diet soda (with aspartame)— 0*——– 0*

Carbonated water (unsweetened)- 0—- 0

Water ————————————— 0 —-0

*Some diet soft drinks can contain a small number of calories that are not listed on the nutrition facts label.

( USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference)

Consequence of a single 100-130 calorie drink every day for a year:

Remember that 100 calories a day of any food or beverage adds 10 lbs. weight gain over a year. Combine the calories with all of the sugar in a tasty beverage and you have a disaster to adults, children and teen’s waist line: An extra 100 calories a day translates into a 2 inch increase in waist diameter. Each 2 inches increases obesity related complications by 17%

Normal child and teen weight gain:

With over 33% of children and teens overweight, and 14% actually obese, the extra calories in some of these drinks becomes crucial in reducing childhood obesity. If you look at the tables showing the normal growth and height of children from 6 to 16 years of age, you will see that it is normal of a child to gain about 10 lbs. a year.Adding just a single juice box, a day doubles the weight gain to 20 lb. a year.

No additional weight gain may be the goal:

The concept for many families is not always to look for weight loss in growing children, just an end to extra weight gain may be good enough for some. For others, one needs to simply bring down the yearly weight gain to zero. Very few children and teens actually need to reduce their weight by significant numbers.

The ideal plan is to let normal growth and development result in the overweight child achieving normal weight in a year or two and the normal weight overeating child to remain normal.

Childhood Obesity Is A Solvable Problem

I don’t know if childhood obesity is “rampant” or an “epidemic”. What I DO know is that it does not have to happen to our children.

However, just to put things in perspective, over a recent 30 year period measured by the National Health And Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a study conducted every 10 years to survey the dietary habits and health of U. S. residents, certain changes in childhood obesity came to light. The following increases in numbers of overweight and obese children, as determined by body mass index measurements (BMI), occurred.

*Numbers of children aged 2-5 years increased from 5.0% to 13.9%

*Numbers of children aged 6-11 years increased from 4.0% to 18.8%

*Numbers of children aged 12-19 years increased from 6.1% to 17.4%


As with adults, the simple answer for the individual child is that when children take in more calories than they burn, they gain weight, i.e. become overweight and obese. However, children are influenced by societal factors, just as adults are, but they have less discretionary power to evaluate and decide as to the value of given nutritional and lifestyle choices, even in those cases where they are aware that a choice exists. Additionally, children are strongly influenced by what they are shown and taught by their elders, caregivers, siblings, and parents.

While it would be great if society would make an important enough issue of childhood obesity to turn the trend around, it is commonly the parents who will have the most influence for better or for worse on this issue.

Some common contributing factors to childhood obesity are:

1. Genetics: It has to be conceded that no matter what action parents, society, or the children themselves take, the genetic hand that the child was dealt will have a great impact on the outcome of any choices whether good or bad. However, the good news is that many negative genetic factors can be overcome to at least some extent by wise choices, which we will discuss in a few minutes.

2. Calorie Intake: As with adults, the more calories ingested, the more likely the path to obesity…particularly in the area of such empty calories as sodas and candy sweetened with sugar or corn syrup, for example. Other questionable choices are high fat snacks chosen in place of lower fat, more nutritionally dense snacks.

3. Calories Burned: Children used to burn calories by playing outside with other children, riding bicycles, and doing chores, just to name a few options. Today’s kids often spend hours in front of a computer (like this big kid), only moving to go to the bathroom, get a snack, or to go sit in front of the TV for a few more hours.

4. Parental Influences: This can take many negative forms, not the least of which is the sedentary behavior exhibited by many parents. This trend can be seen in the rising numbers of overweight and obese adults. One of the most lasting and influential impacts on a child will be the examples set by the parents.

In parents’ defense, let it be acknowledged that in today’s family, it is often necessary for both parents to work outside the home. This, combined with the prevalence of fast food, perceived lack of time, stress, and a common lack of knowledge, and/or misconceptions about subjects such as exercise and healthy eating habits makes it easy for parents to provide a completely wrong example for their children, contributing to the children’s’ obesity problems while believing that they are doing everything they can to provide healthy meals and a good home.


If obesity in childhood were something that would end when the child becomes an adult, it would still be a problem. While many still believe the main results are something so apparently simple as low self-esteem, depression, or poor social interactivity, or that the child will simply “grow out of it” there are results more deadly to be concerned about.

Childhood obesity causes and results usually carry over into adulthood predisposing the adult to such problems as higher risks for heart disease, cancer, debilitating effects of arthritis, diabetes, sleep apnea, strokes, and high blood pressure to name a few. Childhood obesity will also commonly result in an earlier onset of these diseases and conditions than would be found in an unfit adult with a fit childhood.

However, for me, one of the worst facts is that these conditions are being seen more and more in the children themselves. They are not waiting for adulthood to begin their attacks.

So, what can be done?


As with adults, the bottom line answer for obese and overweight children is the effective combination of two important lifestyle choices:

1. Regular Exercise

2. Healthy Nutrition

Since parents are generally the most important people in the child’s world, they are the ones who need to accept the first responsibility for turning this problem around, at least in their own children. Some steps they can take are simple yet effective.

They can encourage more outside play, for example. While enrolling a child in some sort of fitness activity such as gymnastics or martial arts can have all sorts of benefits for the child, an active day is the quickest and easiest “exercise” fix. Chores can be assigned, children can be encouraged to walk or bicycle when practical rather than waiting for a ride from Mom or Dad. TV and computer time can be limited, or even “bought” with activity.

While nutrition is a broad subject, basic nutritional choices often come down to “good” versus “bad”. For example, what’s better for your child, a slice of apple pie or an apple? This is not to say that children should always be denied treats, but they should be doled out responsibly, and healthy alternatives should become commonplace in the home.

Last, but not least, few things will help a child improve in health, fitness, happiness or anything else more than a parent’s good example. They ARE watching, you know, and they will behave as you behave…sooner or later!

So, get up off the couch, grab a glove and go play catch with your child…or take them for a walk or a swim. Patch the bicycle tire, or have them take turns with you mowing part of the yard or raking leaves. Some kids are aching to have their parents do SOMETHING with them.

Who knows?

You might even find you are dropping a few pounds yourself!