Diet and Nutrition

Who is Likely to Become Obese?

Who is Likely to Become Obese?

Obesity and being overweight have no boundaries. In America people of all ages, gender and ethnic and racial groups have been affected. This problem has been in existence for over 30 years and is growing.


In 2009 to 2010, almost 70 percent of Americans were obese or overweight according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The survey revealed differences in obese and overweight individuals among various ethnic and racial groups as well as by gender.

Overweight and obesity statistics for women:

  • Black women – 82 percent 
  • Hispanic women – 76 percent 
  • White women – 64 percent

Overweight and obesity statistics for men:

  • Hispanic men – 82 percent
  • White men – 74 percent
  • Black men – 70 percent

Children and teens

Obesity has been on the rise among children and teens. It has actually tripled over the past three decades. In America, one in every six children between the ages of two and 19 is obese, and this was revealed by NHANES 2009 to 2010. Hispanics and blacks have been greatly affected by obesity. So have whites. 

Obesity among children is increasing as obese children are becoming more obese. Obese or overweight preschoolers compared to normal-weight children are five times more likely to develop obesity and be overweight when they grow up. Nutritional disorders in children and adolescents in the United States are most common among children who are overweight. Pediatricians point to this as a common problem.


Consequences of being overweight as a child

Long-term and short-term effects of obesity on overall health is of concern in childhood due to the negative physical health and psychological consequences. 

Examples of negative psychological results:

Problems related to physical health:

  • Asthma
  • Sleep apnea
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Early puberty
  • Hypertension
  • Insulin resistance
  • Increased triglyceride levels in the blood and high total and LDL cholesterol
  • Low HDL cholesterol levels in the blood
  • Orthopedic issues i.e. slipped capital femoral epiphysis and Blount's disease
  • Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (swelling of the liver and fatty infiltration) 

Obese kids are at a higher risk of becoming obese as adults, exposing them to a number of ailments i.e. diabetes, some cancers, stroke, hypertension and cardiovascular ailments. 


Contributors to obesity in children

  • Food choices – Choosing to eat too many foods rich in calories, simple sugars and fats leads to obesity. So does poor vegetables and fruits eating habits.
  • Sedentary activity versus physical activity – Inadequate exercise but plenty of time spent on sedentary activities like watching movies will result in burning less calories and will add to chances of being overweight.
  • Parental obesity – Obese parents are more likely to cause overweight development in their children. Some children can easily become obese due to inherited components. There are several genetic alterations that can cause a child to be overweight although they are rare. Children having genetic risk can develop obesity if they consume too many calories without burning enough calories. Family environments that encourage overeating and no physical activity will be reflected through obesity within the family.   
  • Eating patterns – Irregular eating and skipping of meals will result to increased portions when taking in food.
  • Parenting style – Strict parental control on children's eating habits can cause poor self-regulation of the child’s energy intake.   
  • Diabetes during pregnancy – Type 2 diabetes occurs frequently in babies of diabetic parents. Chances of becoming obese in life is high with Type 2 diabetes.
  • Low birth weight – Epidemiological studies reveal that low birth weight actually poses a major risk for becoming overweight.
  • Too much weight gain when pregnant – Increase in birth weight and obesity later on in life will result due to increase in weight during pregnancy.
  • Formula feeding – Research recommends breast milk over formula milk to avoid the risk of obesity development as the child grows.
  • Physical activity and parental eating norms – Parents living a sedentary lifestyle and who have poor nutrition norms are likely to be copied by their children.    
  • Demographic factors – Evidence shows that there are demographic factors associated with children being overweight. Hispanic and African American kids between the ages of six to 11 years old will be at risk of becoming overweight compared to white children of non-Hispanic parents of the same age group. Pacific Islander and Asian kids were at less risk of becoming overweight.     


How to avoid the obesity epidemic

Change of lifestyle in our working environment, leisure and transportation mode are leading to obesity. It is slowly becoming an epidemic as told by some health officials due to related health problems.  


Why it’s happening

Genes are involved as well as other factors. Foods rich in calories, fattening fast diets and sweets are easy accessibility, particularly in America. The modern lifestyle has also limited the way we were once active, resulting in the buildup of calories due to the lack of burning. 

Health-related problems like stroke, heart ailments and various types of cancer are brought about by obesity. Thus, obesity is even leading to premature deaths. 


How obesity differs from being overweight

These two general terms, obesity and overweight, explain a degree of too much weight that is considered to be unhealthy for one’s body size. Body mass index can determine whether a person is overweight or obese. It simply divides a person’s weight by height in square meters. BMI calculators can be found online.   


Finding a solution

Educating everyone to eat a healthy diet cannot completely control being overweight or obese.

A more integral approach is required according to World Health Organization. This includes:

  • Encouraging workouts and emphasizing healthy diets
  • Coming up with public policies which promote ready access to foods that are high in fiber and low in fat 
  • Training healthcare practitioners to effectively assist people that want to reduce weight and help others manage their weight

Things to do to reduce weight or reduce the risk of gaining weight:

  • Consume more vegetables, fruit, whole grains and nuts
  • Workout moderately for a minimum of 30 minutes daily
  • Reduce on sugary and fatty foods
  • Avoid animal-based fats and use vegetable-based oils


How is obesity diagnosed?

Obesity is diagnosed mostly by Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is mostly used to know if you are overweight or obese. It estimates one’s body fat by comparing one’s weight to his or her height. Health care providers determine one’s risk of contracting weight-gain related ailments using BMI and information on other risk factors.


BMI for adults

BMI calculators determine adults' BMI. Health care providers make use of BMI ranges for indicating one’s weight status. 

  • 18.5 - 24.9 indicates normal weight
  • 25.0 - 29.9 indicates overweight
  • 30.0 - 39.9 indicates obesity
  • 40.0 and above indicates extremely obese

However, BMI just estimates one’s body fat. It cannot calculate the exact amount of body fat and does not take into account the weight of muscle. An athlete can weigh more due to muscles, but not because of too much body fat. Therefore, BMI is not always accurately indicative of what is a healthy weight for each individual.  


BMI for children and teens

When calculating the body mass for a two to 19 year old, BMI will use weight and height and add the gender and age to the calculations. BMI for kids and teens are listed as percentages, unlike specific numbers for adults. The percentage shows a kid’s BMI in relation to other kids' BMI who are the same age and gender. 

Children aged two and above are considered:

  • Healthy when their BMI ranges between five to 85 percent
  • Overweight when their BMI ranges between 85 to 95 percent
  • Obese when their BMI ranges at or above 95 percent


Other ways to measure body fat

There are other ways to measure body fat besides BMI such as calculating waist-to-hip circumference ratio, waist circumference, measuring the skin fold thickness and other techniques like ultrasound, which are more accurate than BMI. If this test is necessary, a health practitioner can assist you.