First, the statistics. About a third of American children are overweight and one-fifth are obese – and the numbers are increasing every year. Surprisingly, not too many parents seem to be concerned about this, or the health risks involved. They seem to suffer from the delusion that it’s just “baby fat” that will melt away as kids get older. But research increasingly shows that fat kids become fat adults, with higher risks for many health problems.
Doctors, conducting ultrasound tests to probe inside their young subjects, found that obese children, as young as 10, had the arteries of 45-year-olds; not to mention other heart abnormalities that greatly raise their risk of heart disease. The studies were reported at an American Heart Association conference recently. The American Academy of Pediatrics determined that obesity is not benign in children and adolescents; and recommended cholesterol-lowering drugs for some children.
A study recently conducted by the Children’s Hospital in Kansas City found that the “vascular age” of obese children was about 30 years older than their actual age. A separate study tied childhood obesity to abnormal enlargement of the left atrium, one of the chambers of the heart. Enlargement is a known risk factor for heart disease, stroke and heart rhythm problems. A third study conducted by the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, also used ultrasound tests and found impairment in the heart’s ability to relax between beats in children who were overweight or obese.
Ironically, the current lean financial times in the United States is actually making Americans fatter. This is because it’s cheaper to get hamburgers and fries from a fast food chain than to but meat and vegetables from a supermarket.
The bottom line, then, is that having fat kids is not an indulgence. By turning a blind eye to your children’s waistlines, you are actually putting their adult lives in danger.