Parents are Responsible for the Childhood Obesity Epidemic
For the past few decades childhood obesity has been on the rise. It isn’t uncommon for children to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. To help tack this problem researchers at the Imperial College London have created an online calculator to determine how likely is a child to become obese. The calculator is able to correctly predict childhood obesity 85% of the time just by entering information about the parents. The factors used to calculate the chance of childhood obesity are parents BMI, number of people in household, occupation of mother, gestational smoking and birth weight.
All of these are factors that are within the control of the parents other than birth weight, and even that can be partially controlled by the mothers weight before pregnancy. If the parents can control all of these factors then this means that parents who care can prevent childhood obesity if they have the right information.
Lets look at the factors and try to figure out what is contributing to obesity:
- Parents BMI – The heavier the parents are, the more likely a child is to be obese as well. This can be partially explained by genetics, but more than likely it is because of diet. A parent will be obese if they eat a crappy diet and they are most likely feeding their child the same crappy diet that they are eating which leads to the child gaining weight as well. Interestingly the fathers BMI has a larger impact on the child’s weight than the mothers.
- Number of people in household – The more people in a household, the lower the chance of obesity. I think there are two things going on here. First, if the child is raised by a single parent then the child doesn’t get as much attention as a 2 parent household so they are more likely to gain weight. Second, the more siblings a child has, the more children are available to play with and run around with playing games and burning calories.
- Maternal Occupation – This is likely a predictor of education level of the mother and is likely correlated with knowledge of health as well as income. The more educated the woman is, the more likely she is to know about the importance of healthy living and if she has a high income then she can afford to buy healthier food.
- Gestational Smoking – We all know that smoking is bad, is it really surprising that a mother smoking while pregnant with a child is going to mess the kid up and lead to the kid being obese? I am curious whether it is actually the hormonal changes to the kid exposed to a smoking mother that causes obesity or just the fact that if a mother is so incredibly irresponsible that she smokes while pregnant then it means she will be an equally as irresponsible parent and neglect to feed the kid properly. My money is on the second option.
- Birth Weight – All kinds of factors affect a child’s birthweight including genetics, the woman’s pre-pregnancy weight, and maternal age. The easiest way to lower your child’s chance of being heavy at birth and obese later in life is to lose weight before you try to have a child.
In the end there are two main factors that impact whether a child is going to become obese, what the kid eats and how much the kid exercises. The reason that children are gaining so much weight is because the average diet in America is getting worse and everyone is less active.
Parents are too busy or lazy too cook a healthy meal for the family, so instead they are relying on instant dinners and fast food which are incredibly unhealthy. Parents should make sure that kids are fed healthy fresh food and avoid junk food most of the time.
In addition to a poor diet, kids are playing on Facebook or their cell phones instead of going outside and playing. Parents should limit the amount of time a kid spends in front of a screen while they are at home. My parents never bought us a Nintendo until I was around 11, so instead we were outside running around with our friends. Parents need to make sure that kids go outside and get exercise instead of sitting behind a laptop or playing video games. If more parents spent time cooking healthy meals for their kids and making sure their kids were active, we wouldn’t have such a huge childhood obesity problem.