When it comes to raising children, there are many things that require parents’ attention. However, the growing number of children suffering from obesity is bringing the issue of health and nutrition to the forefront of many discussions – something many healthcare providers hope will highlight the far-reaching impact of this particular problem.
According to Ben Hermansen, a registered dietitian with Intermountain Medical Group, some of the most recent data suggests that the prevalence of pediatric obesity is 19.3 percent in the United States, or about 14.4 million adolescents and adults. children.
If the numbers aren’t enough to raise alarm bells, the potential risks associated with childhood obesity might be enough to ring the alarm bells. Obese children and adolescents are at risk for a multitude of short- and long-term physiological and even psychological consequences, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver and sleep apnea, as well as increased stress. increased, depressive symptoms and low rates of obesity. self-esteem, according to a January 2023 article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
During his experience as a dietitian, Hermansen has seen a wide range of such cases, and he said it is important for people to recognize that the cause is not always so cut and dry and that the people tend to assume that.
“I think there’s a tendency to summarize the problem of childhood obesity as a matter of poor food choices and inactivity,” Hermansen said. “In reality, obesity has been shown to arise from a wide variety of mechanisms…including genetic factors, environment-gene interactions, socioeconomic status, chemical exposure, evolutionary physiology, disruptors of the intestinal microbiome and epigenetic modifications. »
In other words, it is a complex problem that requires more of parents and health care providers than simply limiting a child’s food intake.
“This is a sensitive issue, especially among children and adolescents,” Hermansen said. “How practitioners approach the subject with families can make all the difference. »
Rather than focusing solely on weight and body mass index, Hermansen said he generally finds it more effective to discuss how each family can cultivate a healthier lifestyle within the family dynamic.
“Research shows that interventions are most effective when the whole family is engaged and involved in making healthier choices,” Hermansen said. “It’s never too late to start making healthy changes.”
This emphasis on a “healthy lifestyle” can help avoid some of the pitfalls that can arise if a parent or healthcare provider attempts to implement a rigid diet for a child or adolescent.
According to American Academy of Pediatrics research shared by Hermansen, teens who “diet” are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder, exacerbating the problem.
“For this reason, it is prudent to ensure that interventions involving children do not include plan elements that result in restrictions, exclusions, isolations, obsessions or practices that label foods as ‘good’ or “bad,” Hermansen said.
Even with all the complexities of this issue, one of the biggest influences on how a child views their body and how they care for it often depends on the behavior they see modeled by the adults in their life.
“Are there times when we as parents criticize our bodies or make comments about someone else’s? Should we praise too much a drop in clothing size? Are we perpetually searching for the next fad diet in the hopes that it will magically solve our problems? » said Hermansen. “Working to overcome these attitudes and behaviors can make a positive difference for us as well as our children. »
This Live wellThe column represents the collaboration between healthcare professionals on the medical staff of our nonprofit hospitals Intermountain Health and The Spectrum & Daily News.
This article originally appeared on St. George Spectrum and Daily News: Living well: A healthy lifestyle is the best way to combat childhood obesity