Thursday, June 28, 2012

Literature review on causes of Obesity in children

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Obesity and overweight are a significant public health problem among children in the United States with the number of overweight adolescents tripling since 1980. The prevalence of obesity among children has also doubled. Current research shows that only that the rates of overweight children have increased, but the weight of overweight children has also gone up. Obesity and overweight is a condition where a child has excessive body fat that has detrimental effect on his/ her health. There is no clear method of diagnosing obesity, and, therefore, obesity is based on the body mass index BMI.
 The acceptable range of BMI in children depends on the age and sex. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies a child obese if his or her BMI is 95% and above. The recent prevalence of obesity among young children has rendered it being recognized as a public health concern. The term overweight has become increasingly popular rather than obesity as it is considered less stigmatizing. The public health considers childhood obesity a health concern due to the many effects it has on the victims. The most immediate effects of obesity in children are psychological and emotional.
Obese children often experience teasing from their peers, and others are discriminated against by both their friends and family. These are serious issues since they have major effects on the victim’s self esteem and self image, and can even lead to depression. Other effects include some life threatening conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Early puberty, liver disease, menarche, anorexia and skin conditions are also disorders associated with obesity. It is believed that obesity affects certain minority children populations. Mexican American and African American adolescents are more likely to be overweight in their young ages.
Long-term consequences include the fact that overweight children have a 70% chance of becoming obese or overweight adults. This is, particularly true if one of the child’s parent is obese. This poses a lot of problem to a nation as obese adults have a higher risk of getting diabetes, high cholesterol, arthritis, asthma and a general bad health status. Getting a clear picture of the causes of obesity in children can avail an opportunity to provide resources and interventions to the prevention of the problem.
Research hypothesis
Causes of childhood overweight and obesity are multifunctional. For example, the main cause of overweight and obesity in adolescents and children is physical inactivity and unhealthy eating habits resulting in excess intake of energy. A combination of the two is a common cause of obesity in children. Other causes that could lead to obesity are genetic and social factors, ethnicity, socioeconomic factors and physical environment. It is worth noting that most causes of obesity and overweight do not work in seclusion, and that is why researchers target more than one cause to help come up with solutions.
It is not possible to separate the effects of a single factor because of the co-linearity of both the variables and research constraints. There is, however, sufficient evidence that the interaction of the factors that lead to obesity have led to an increase in prevalence of obesity among young people, more specifically, children.
Research question
A research question is a statement that emphasizes the phenomenon under study. In this case, an appropriate research question would be, ‘what are the causes of childhood obesity? As seen from the research hypothesis, the causes of childhood obesity cannot be singled out as they seem to interact and work together in young people. It has been shown that in most kids more than one of the above mentioned factors will trigger obesity, and not one independent factor. The only single independent factor that can work alone is perhaps a case whereby both parents to the obese child have obesity.
Study design
This is the method used to collect data to in order to obtain the information needed. Data is collected from the field in a systematic, structured and scientific way. The method of data collection determines the reliability of data. In this research I used interview as my method of data collection, interviews involves interviewing people through asking them question, in order, to get certain information. Other data collection methods include questionnaires and census. The process of data collection provides bases from which to gauge from and make conclusions.
I interviewed a number of obese children from different states of America. My interviewees were multiracial children and their parents. African American, Mexican American and non- Hispanic were my main targets since obesity is prevalent to them than the other races. White children also formed part of my interviewees together with other majority races.
Study sample
In the research only a small part of the total American population was represented in the interviews. This is unlike a census where the total population takes part in the research. The reason why I used a small portion of the population was in order to save both time and cost. It is still a reliable and relatively accurate method of data collection, as it is based on the fact that the findings of a small population represent those of the total population. My sample represented 30% of the total population of obese children in America. It was also a well distributed sample, as they came from different states with different social, cultural and economic backgrounds.
Discussion and results
My research revealed interesting facts about causes of obesity and its prevalence in the United States. It revealed that obesity affects minority groups more than it does to the majority groups. For example, the research results revealed that Mexican American’s and African American’s adolescents are more likely to be obese in their childhood all through to adolescence with the prevalent rate being 21% and 23% respectively. American Indian children also showed a high prevalent rate of about 39% of the total children with obesity.
American Indian children also revealed a higher risk of getting diabetes type 2 than the children of the other race. The findings about obesity prevalence in different races were important in trying to answer the question of ‘what causes obesity in children?’ The question of the causes of obesity as earlier discussed remained a debatable one with the research results showing that no one single factor can be held in isolation.
Nutrition and eating patterns dominated the findings. It was noted that children and adolescents have eating habits that easily led them obese. These groups of people were found to eat more of sweetened drinks and snacks away from home which triggered obesity. The reason why they did this seemed to be the convenience that has increasingly become an American habit. Frequent taking of snacks and sweetened drinks leads to overtaking of calories, which leads to obesity in kids. This habit is common to all American kids regardless of their race or socioeconomic background.
Physical inactivity featured as another leading cause of obesity in children in America. It actually came out as the single underlying factor for the increase in obesity in children. Most American kids with most of them preferring to watch TV rather than go out and play. Most of these kids do not do any form of vigorous activity with 10% being completely inactive. The research revealed that a majority of children in the United States spend up to 25% of their waking hours watching TV. This trend has with no doubt led to the increase of obesity in these children as it does not lead to disburse of any energy. Worse still, most of these children said that they snack a when they sit to watch television.
Another factor that seemed to correlate with obesity in children is the socioeconomic status of a child’s background. This means the occupation, parental income and parental education of the parents of obese children. Children from a high socioeconomic background were less likely to be obese as compared to those from lower socioeconomic background. This factor, however, did not show consistency and the relationship between it and obesity appeared weaker than other factors. Race and ethnicity, on the other hand, remained consistent when comparing obesity prevalence in children. The conclusion about these findings was that race and ethnicity contributed to obesity due to eating patterns of different ethnic groups, sedentary behaviors and cultural attitudes toward body weight.

Parental influences
Most of the children with obesity under the interview revealed some interesting facts about parental influence. This finding was fundamental keeping in mind that the research was about childhood obesity and children are a group of people whose lives’ are influenced by their parent’s choices. To affirm this statement is the fact that infants for example have their feeding habits totally dependent on the parent’s choice. The food that parents make available, the time the kids eat and their interactions with food are in the hands of parents.
If a mother does not breastfeed her young one and chose other food like the formula, she exposes her child to a possibility of becoming obese. The study revealed that parental food preference shapes their children choices even when they are away from home. Children were seen to prefer the foods that their parent’ preferred, meaning, good choices by parents would lead to good choices by children.
The influence of genes in shaping up a child’s life cannot be underestimated. Genetic susceptibility came out a single most factor that can lead to obesity without interactions with the other factors. A good number of obese kids showed a family history of relatives who have similar struggles with body weight. In fact, hereditary factors were seen to contribute to between 5% and 40% of the risk for obesity.
Increase in obesity in America could not be pegged to one single factor and it emerged that it is as a result of a combination of behavioral and environmental factors that can be controlled with the society’s deliberate efforts.
Under-reporting of the total food intake, over reporting physical activity and misreporting what was eaten are the likely scenarios that lead to the limitations of the outcome of the research about causes of childhood obesity. Other limitations included lack of cooperation from my young interviewee’s and parent’s refusal to provide family details.
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