In the past fifty years, children’s gene have not changed, but obesity has become a true epidemic. All over the united states, more children are seriously overweight than ever before . At the same time, more children are developing the form of diabetes that normally affects only obese adults. Fat babies often become lean children and grow up to be lean adults. But by school age-six or seven- a child who is very overweight is likely to grow into a obese adult, with all the risks that obesity brings, including high blood pressure, heart attacks, and cancer.
Among the many causes of fatness are cutbacks in school physical education programs, neighborhoods that don’t provide safe play areas and recreation programs, and increased television viewing and playing of computer game. Many people think the cause of obesity is thyroid or other hormonal trouble, but this is rarely the case, especially if the child is at least average in height. Several factors can increase a child’s chances of becoming overweight; they include heredity, temperature, appetite, and unhappiness. If both parents are overweight, the child’s chances of becoming obese is as high as 80 percent. This has led many to think of genes as the principal cause of obesity. It’s clear that lifestyle patterns, such as excessive fat intake and inactivity, play an equally important role.
Another key factor is appetite. The child who has a tremendous appetite that runs to rich foods like potato chips, meats, cheese, cake, cookies, and pastry is naturally going to be heavier than the child whose taste runs principally to vegetables, fruit, and grains. But this only raises the question of why some children crave large amounts of rich foods. We don’t understand all the cause of this, but we recognize the children who seem to have been born to be big eaters. They start with a huge appetite at birth and never lose it, whether there are well or sick, calm or worried, whether the food they’re offered is appetizing or not. Perhaps they learn to appreciate fatty foods because those are the sort that are preferred as treats and rewards for good behavior or to express their parents’ love for them. They’re fat by the time they’re two to three months old and often stay that way at least through childhood.
Unhappiness is sometimes a factor. For example, a child who is unhappy in first or second grade may turn to food. This is the period when children draw away from their close emotional dependence on their parents. If they don’t have the knack of making friends with other children, they feel left out in the cold. Eating sweet and rich foods serves as a partial substitute. Worries about schoolwork or other matters sometimes make children see comfort in overeating too.
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