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Weighty Issues

Parents can reset the table to encourage more healthful eating habits.


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Poor eating habits; exposure to thousands of food ads each year; the ready availability of high-calorie junk food; increased time at the computer, TV, and other sedentary activities; and less time exercising. We’re all familiar with the causes of teen obesity. Are we as familiar with the consequences?

Nationally, obesity rates for American teens have doubled in the last 30 years. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, between 16 and 33 percent of American children and teens currently are obese. According to The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, 20 percent of our sixth graders are obese; another 18 percent are overweight. And statistics indicate that the majority of these kids will remain obese as adults, perpetuating another overweight generation. That’s because, if both parents are overweight, there’s an 80 percent chance their kids will be, too.

But as First Lady Michelle Obama (for whom fighting obesity is a priority) told the National Restaurant Association in 2010, we can break the cycle: "We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu. We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize quality over quantity. And we can help create a culture—imagine this—where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them."

Physically Unfit

In terms of physical health, excess weight can cause both short- and long-term consequences: orthopedic problems, hypertension, heart disease, and breathing problems. Depression and other psychological problems are common in overweight teens, who also have a greater risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes than their peers of normal weight.

Then there’s the potential for liver damage from carrying too much fat. The American Liver Foundation estimates that 2 to 5 percent of American children over the age of 5, nearly all obese or overweight, have a condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. A handful of obese teens have needed liver transplants as a result.

And since the majority of obese teens probably will remain obese as adults, more of them may need new livers by the time they’re in their 30s and 40s.

There's more, according to obesityhelp.com, “Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome occurs more frequently in obese children and has serious adverse effects on daytime learning and quality of life. More than 50 percent of all teens seeking bariatric surgery have this condition.

See how weight issues can affect your child's future ->

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