Causes and Effects of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the USA

959 words | 4 page(s)

Obesity and overweight have recently come to the forefront of public attention as considerable health problems of modernity. In 2009, the WHO estimated over 300 million people as obese and over one billion – as overweight globally. The increasing attention of medical professionals and laypeople to the issue of obesity stems largely from recognition of the fact that it is not a problem on its own, but rather a trigger mechanism for a wide range of even more serious diseases and dysfunctions, reducing human quality of life and heightening the risk of early death (Bendich and Deckelbaum 28-29). Which is even more alarming, this disease is getting younger; in the USA, every third child is overweight or obese, while children aged 6-19 years old have a four-fold increase in BMI over 95% (Garbarino and Sigman 165). Such evidence definitely signals about the need to develop new approaches to obesity prevention and intervention, especially taking into account that child and adolescent obesity is connected with delays in physical and mental development, and reduced life expectancy.

Child and adult obesity have a variety of causes associated with intricacies and peculiarities of modern lifestyles. Wright and Aronne (730) pointed out that obesity results most frequently from eating fast food, processed and chemically enhanced products, living in the modern “built environment” with significantly decreased physical activity levels. Such trends may be generally described as consumption of more calories and experiencing less energy expenditure. Pearce and Witten (39) also pointed out the pervasive impact of heredity on development of obesity in children, which suggests another explanation to the rising percentage of obese children across the USA, taking into account the long-standing history of obesity as a public health concern in the country. As a result, children, adolescents, and adults become much more exposed to development of obesity as a natural outcome of these factors. Recent research has shown that prevalence of childhood obesity in the USA grows faster than adult obesity trends do, presenting an alarming increase from 6.5% in 1980 to 16.3% in 2004 (Bendich and Deckelbaum 29).

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However, it is also notable that some causes of obesity are not as evident as caloric intake and scarce physical activity are. For instance, Wright and Aronne (730) examined medications that can potentially lead to weight gain, such as psychotropic drugs, diabetic treatment, antihypertensive medications, antihistamines, and protease inhibitors. Another rarely accentuated cause of weight gain is scarcity and irregularity of sleep. Fewer hours of sleep at night have a direct negative impact on the individuals’ BMI, mainly due to the intensification of hunger and appetite resulting from sleep restriction. Furthermore, obesity often has an endocrine source, with endocrine disruptors having a close association with weight. Interestingly, while child and adolescent obesity are mostly predetermined by heredity and lifestyle, adult obesity may also be associated with improper social networking. This way, individuals more frequently become obese in adulthood in case some of their friends, relatives, or spouses are obese (Wright and Aronne 731).

Notwithstanding the abundance of causes that lead to development of obesity in children, adolescents, and adults in the USA, obesity and overweight are associated with a large set of grave health consequences directly connected with the excessive BMI condition. Increased fat intake, especially saturated fat predominant in contemporary fatty products, plays a detrimental role in the increase of serum cholesterol levels and intensifies the risk of cardiovascular complications and coronary artery disease. There is increasing clinical evidence of fat intake’s impact on higher incidence of breast cancer and stimulation of inflammatory adipokines’ production playing a role in the onset of various cancers and type 2 diabetes (Bendich and Deckelbaum 29).

CDC (para. 1) produced a list of diseases commonly regarded as consequences of obesity and overweight, including high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, increased prevalence of gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and breathing problems, body pain and challenges with overall physical functioning, and heightened risk of certain cancers’ development. Sadly, CDC experts also found empirical evidence for the connection of obesity and frequent incidence of mental problems, including clinical depression, anxiety disorders. Hence, obesity is increasingly associated with not only physical, but also mental and psychological functioning problems and abnormalities, creating a huge, complex, and multi-dimensional burden on the USA as a state providing healthcare, and individual US households suffering from the heterogeneous burden of this disease.

As the presented evidence shows, childhood obesity has a far-reaching detrimental effect on human health and well-being; resulting from heredity and lifestyle factors, child and adolescent obesity transforms into adult obesity with time, and leads to a number of chronic health conditions that reduce quality of life and well-being nationally. Adult obesity has a set of different causes, such as taking specific medications, increased and uncontrolled calorie intake, scarcity of sleep, psychological stress, and scarce physical activity. Regardless of the causes, obesity at any age produces a huge set of negative consequences on the individual, family, and national budget, health, and well-being across the USA, and this trend continues showing an upward direction. Hence, there is a need for a new approach to prevention and intervention of obesity at all ages across the USA to improve the national health in the long-term perspective and to achieve a higher quality of life for future generations.

  • Bendich, Adrianne, and Richard J. Deckelbaum. Preventive Nutrition: The Comprehensive Guide for Health Professionals. New York, NY: Springer Science & Business Media, 2009. Print.
  • CDC. “The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.
  • Garbarino, James, and Garry Sigman. A Child’s Right to a Healthy Environment. New York, NY: Springer Science & Business Media, 2010. Print.
  • Pearce, Jamie, and Karen Witten. Geographies of Obesity: Environmental Underpinnings of the Obesity Epidemic. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2010. Print.
  • Wright, M. Suzanne, and Louis J. Aronne. “Causes of Obesity”. Abdominal Imaging 37 (2012): 730-732. Print.

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